Fuel tax still on wish list

By: Blogger

April was a busy month, with lots of things happening. Not all of them were welcome. The weather bombs in March and April – where over five weeks we got more than six months rainfall – tested our systems.

While events that limited the capacity of Ardmore’s Water Treatment Plant may have been unprecedented, the clear message from the risk it potentially posed shows that we need to build more resilience into our clean water supply. Having safe, healthy water is fundamental.

The World Masters Games in late April is the biggest event in Auckland since the Rugby World Cup. The right to hold the Games was won by Auckland against cities from 15 other cities around the world. With 28,000 participants from over 100 countries, it was the change for Auckland to mark itself out as an exciting and hospitable city. It was an event staged over 45 locations that enabled Aucklanders and visitors alike to celebrate sport and send the message that age is not a barrier to engaging with it. Our oldest competitor was 101 years old! It is estimated that the Games brought over $30 million in spending to Auckland, including 240,000 visitor nights.

On other fronts, I have been engaging with Government on the need for it to enable Auckland to fund the pressing infrastructure needs created as the city grows by over 800 people (and cars!) a week. Discussions with the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance about allowing Auckland to access the Housing Infrastructure Fund of $1b have been quite helpful, but the amount we actually need is many times this level.

Some in Government feel that we should be putting rates up substantially to pay for infrastructure, but this would mean rate increases of around 16 percent a year. I don’t think that massive rates increases are the way to fund our share of meeting infrastructure needs and I don’t want to do that. A road pricing system would be much more sensible. I haven’t given up on a regional fuel tax as a better option, as it is easy and quick to do and cheap to administer.

Auckland is prepared to pay its share. However I am mindful of the fact that the growth occurring in Auckland hugely benefits central government through greater income and company tax and GST. Government wants Auckland to grow rapidly but they should be prepared to match population growth with funding to allow infrastructure to meet the extra needs imposed on it.

We have big challenges ahead of us. However I would rather have growth than stagnation as a challenge. Our problems arise in part because Auckland is attractive as a great city to live in. Central Government and the city need to work together to make sure that we can deal with growth pressures and maintain the quality of life in the city we live in and love.


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