City Rial Link: Sucking Money from Rodney

Herald CRL ArticleGOLDEN CHANCE LOST TO DIG AUCKLAND OUT OF CRL HOLE

6 May 2019

Auckland Council failed to take-up a golden opportunity last Thursday to put the government under political pressure to renegotiate Auckland out of its shonky 50/50 payment deal for the city rail link.

Auckland ratepayers should not be paying another cent towards this project, and central government needs to step up to the plate and fund 100 per cent of the CRL project, as they do for every other city rail project throughout the country.

Mike Lee, Christine Fletcher and myself were the only three Councillors to oppose the $1 billion bailout of the CRL project in favour of central government picking up the tab.

As a city Councillor I would have never voted through Len Brown’s CRL deal. Aucklanders are angry realising they were hoodwinked by a purposely low-balled price just to get the CRL approved.

Ratepayers are also resentful about being financially shackled into a shonky partnership deal with central government, having to pick up half the costs regardless of how much the price blows out.

Instead of calling out the public transport supportive Labour led coalition to get in behind and fairly fund the city’s biggest infrastructure project, Mayor Goff buckled under the disguise of his private chats with Minister Twyford being rejected and restarting post a renegotiation period could possibly mean contractors walking away from the project.

Construction firms are desperately seeking work in a competitive market, so I for one certainly don’t swallow the argument put forward that construction firms would walk away from a $4.4 billion pay cheque.

Councillors were effectively strong-armed into approving the $1 billion overrun without knowing who actually owns the CRL assets, who is paying for the ongoing running costs or how much the ongoing running costs will be. That’s completely unacceptable.

In the private sector people would have been held to account for such a fiasco and heads would have rolled.

The CRL is already sucking money away from desperately needed projects outside of the CBD and these outer communities are effectively subsidizing the CRL. This unfair treatment of those ratepayers will worsen now that even more rates are required to prop up the central rail loop.

I believe most Aucklanders would prefer stopping the project now and restarting post renegotiations if this meant less cost to them and more local projects getting done.

The opportunity for the leadership of Auckland to fight for Auckland was squandered.

As the chief executive of Infrastructure New Zealand said part of the CRL blowout has been due to political pressure to underplay the estimated costs so voters weren’t scared off by its price tag.

In other words, intentionally pulling the wool over ratepayers’ eyes.

Sure the project has to be completed now that it’s started, however, this 50/50 split nonsense needed to be whacked on the head. Aucklanders aren’t being treated fairly.

It would be naive to believe that local projects and core Council services aren’t already suffering because the financial drain on rates into the CRL and that this won’t now worsen.

I am predicting the project will blow out further to $5 billion and Auckland ratepayers will regrettably be paying again.

  • Cr Greg Sayers, Rodney ward Councillor, Auckland Council.