Opinion from Councillor Cameron Brewer
Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s release today of the Central City Future Access Study is an extensive piece of work but it still won’t be enough to convince the Government to jointly fund the $2.86b City Rail Link. Not securing any financial commitment from Wellington has been the proposed project’s biggest failing in the last two years.
Whether you love the City Rail Link or not, the reality is this report brings the project no closer. The CRL remains largely unfunded because the Mayor has so far failed to convince the Government, suburban ratepayers, and Auckland drivers to pay for it.
The CRL seems further away now than when the Mayor was elected in October 2010 when the project was reported to cost $1.5 billion. We’re now 26 months on, the cost has nearly doubled and its funding remains completely uncertain.
The Mayor has visited Wellington every month for the last two years, but he has still to convince the Cabinet which at the end of the day holds the purse strings. It’s like someone who’s dead keen to buy a new car but has yet to convince the bank manager. Until then, it’s a pipe dream.
Two years ago Aucklanders were promised a City Rail Link in 2015, rail to the airport in 2020, and rail to Albany in 2025. We’ll we’re nearly into 2013 and the City Rail Link is miles off featuring in any NZTA National Land Transport Programme.
A lot of Aucklanders are worried that the Mayor is putting too many eggs into one basket and that he hasn’t got the public transport balance right particularly when you consider that more than 90% of Aucklanders don’t even live or work in the CBD. Some are worried that by pouring 80% of the region’s 10-year public transport infrastructure budget into the CRL, it will mean much less expenditure for the likes of new bus lanes and ferry terminals.
While New Zealand taxpayers have far so escaped any significant costs associated with the City Rail Link, it’s costing Auckland ratepayers $461m of borrowed money in the next three years alone in costs associated with securing the route.
Before committing ratepayers to a quarter of billion dollars for the CRL in Auckland Council’s 2013/14 Annual Plan, the Mayor needs to give Aucklanders concrete assurances that he’s got the Government on board before the council signs off next year’s budget on 27 June 2013. Ratepayers deserve nothing less.