Election could be game-changer

By: Wayne Walker

The upcoming election is an outstanding opportunity for Auckland. As the political parties try and outdo each other with policy offers for Auckland, Auckland voters have choices.

Long standing problems in housing, transport, funding tools, over-crowded classrooms, homelessness, health, and more are being addressed. The parties know that the Auckland vote is critical to the election.

Regardless of which parties get to form the Government, there are a number of game-changers from which the Hibiscus Coast stands to benefit.

For Auckland a regional fuel tax makes absolute sense. The homework has already been done. We know it is quick to implement, cheap to run and makes a big financial contribution to solving Auckland’s – and Hibiscus Coast and North Shore transport financing. Plus it sends the right signals and incentives to use public transport, electric vehicles and discourages fuels that contribute to pollution and carbon emissions.

Light rail to the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast can get a jump-start from the fuel tax and there may yet be announcements for a busway extension – at least shoulder lanes – north to Silverdale.

The heavy rail commitments being made to electrify the track south to Pukekohe and third rail line (and ideally a fourth) between Wiri and Westfield can’t come soon enough as more population growth pushes south. We also need heavy rail to the airport – which is truly rapid transit. Light rail is good too – but slow because the tram stops often on the way and juggling big luggage bags on trams is hard work and clumsy. I can’t see many Hibiscus Coast airport travelers wanting a long tram trip to the airport – but a combination of fast rail and/or rapid direct bus would be great.

Getting more commitments to assist in financing, de-risking and building homes and apartments will go a long way to solving the housing problems everywhere in Auckland including the Hibiscus Coast. Homes are still too expensive for first home buyers.

We can and must do better to achieve much more quantum change than simply incremental improvements. Sure, we have a number of projects that will make a difference to mobility. The $700 million motorway and busway work that starts next year will help sort the Greville/Constellation bottleneck and lift busway patronage. The Curley Ave/East Coast Road connection has a $150 million green light. Then there’s a $28 million new pipeline for the sewage treatment plant at Army Bay that keeps up with wastewater requirements (which was made public in a story in Hibiscus Matters in November, 2015). Much of the spending that occurs in our area is not obvious.

Battling for improvements is a big focus of what I do on Council – for the Hibiscus Coast and Albany Ward and Auckland as a whole. The election brings the hard work together because it’s when the projects, the money and the policies are up for commitment.
Without the lead-in work on reports, agenda items, options, budgets and planning there wouldn’t be the likelihood of parties picking up on policies for improvements on the Hibiscus Coast and elsewhere that can happen. Especially given the huge immigration into Auckland – we’ve seen 900 extra people every week – it is crucial that Auckland gets its fair share of election policies and budget.

On a personal note, I’d like to pay tribute to John Drury who died recently. John was a steadfast battler for Orewa. He worked hard to make Orewa a liveable place for people, fought against the proliferation of Nautilus-like high-rises and for affordable rates. We need more people like John to stand up for their communities.

Having lived and raised our family on the Hibiscus Coast over the last three decades I know that so many of the things we take for granted were made possible by people who had the vision, conviction and found the support to make them happen.
Here’s hoping this election makes for a better Hibiscus Coast and Auckland.

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