21 December 2020. Have you wondered why Auckland’s roads look patchy and seemingly not that well maintained. Even sealed roads are falling apart at different locations around the district.
Have you ever wondered to yourself if that is the roading contractor’s quality of workmanship, or if it was a case of not enough money being spent?
The unequivocal answer was given by Auckland Transport’s Chief Executive Officer to the Mayor and Councillors last month. In an unmistakable plea he said Auckland Council was choking the required financing required to renew and maintain Auckland’s roading network.
He explained since the start of the Super City existing repairs were having to be withheld when they were due because inadequate funding was being allocated.
Auckland Transport said it was indisputable that roads were deteriorating and effectively going backwards. The situation was c͟r͟i͟t͟i͟c͟a͟l͟ and the problem was now clearly visible to residents, ratepayers and visitors across Auckland.
To be clear, Auckland Transport maintain are all the roads, except for SH16, SH1, etc. The State Highways are maintained by central government’s NZTA organisation.
However, for years Auckland Transport has requested a budget of $420 million per annum. Auckland Transport explained they were consistently only being allocated $170 million per annum by Auckland Council. I understand Rodney has been receiving $1.2 million of that. The shortfall is staggering and goes a long way to explaining why roading contractors are forced to often carry out minimal low quality repairs.
So while Auckland is merrily spending $1.1 billion a year on building n͟e͟w͟ glossy transport projects, 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙤 𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣 e͟x͟i͟s͟t͟i͟n͟g͟ 𝙧𝙤𝙖𝙙𝙨, 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙣𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙡𝙮 𝙝𝙞𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙨, 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙣 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙘𝙞𝙡’𝙨 𝘼𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙨 𝙝𝙚𝙚𝙡.
It was in 2018 when the Auckland Council introduced an additional tax on Aucklander’s called the Regional Fuel Tax. This was to improve the transport infrastructure.
Last year Auckland Council received $129 million from the fuel tax but only spent $89 million of it citing there was the need to carry out planning work before spending the money.
This year Auckland Council received $148m and spent even less at $79m, so what’s happened to the unspent $109 million?
Ratepayers may be shocked to learn the Council can in turn use the unspent transport money on its own daily operational expenses or for financing its ballooning debt.
When my investigations uncovered these inconvenient facts I was so outraged I 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒃𝒍𝒆𝒘 the figures to the Auditor General. The Auditor General acknowledged my concerns about the inequity of such an approach by Auckland Council but said it was not illegal.
Surely such an accounting practice is wrong and all Regional Fuel Tax money should be spent on transport related projects now. Our roading problems are real now!
The issues are well understood, along with the fact that $150m pa is being collected – so why the delay in getting the money allocated and spent?
If the standard of roading is to improve then fuel taxes need to be used the way the public was promised to solve today’s issues, not in 5, 7, or 10 years from now. I will continue to pursue this on the public’s behalf.