Emergency Budget 2020/21. Mayor slashes unsealed road sealing by massive 70%!

7 July 2020. Mayor Phil Goff has had voted through his Emergency Budget which responds to a $750 million fiscal hole caused by the Covid-19 crisis and the urgent need for more water infrastructure to avoid increased water restrictions.

The Covid-19 lockdown has had a huge impact on Aucklanders and many businesses and, like many, Auckland Council has also taken a severe financial hit with a revenue shortfall of $475m this financial year and on top of this, it now has to find a further $224m for new water infrastructure to reduce the risk of severe water restrictions.

“Cuts have been made in services and investment in some infrastructure projects has been deferred, reducing spending by hundreds of millions of dollars,’ said Mayor Goff.

These cuts include cancelling, or deferring, a number of investment programmes in the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP -10 Year Budget), which is the controlling overall funding document for Auckland Transport, and makes up a significant part of the Mayor’s overall 10 Year Budget. 

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One of the larger budget cuts has been to the regional Unsealed Road Improvement Program. This is the budget for sealing and upgrading Auckland’s unsealed roading network. The budget was reduced by 70% plummeting from $124 million to $40 million as part of Mayor’s recommendations. 

The next opportunity to re-set these budgets will be in the next 10 Year Budget refresh in 2024.

Rodney ward Councillor Greg Sayers explained it was important for the public to understand he had worked collaboratively with the Rodney Local Board, and particularly with the Board of Directors of Auckland Transport, and had won to have the Unsealed Road Improvement Program budget increased to $124 million.

He said the budget was around $3 million a year when he was first elected to office and it had taken a huge effort to have the money quadrupled.

“The cut in the Mayor’s budget is excessive for Auckland’s rural communities,” he said. “As I explained to the Mayor, rural ratepayers pay their rates too, but unlike their city cousins they do not receive of the standard Council investments such as investment into water, sewage or even footpath infrastructure. The only significant asset Council provides for them is their roads, and most are still third-world, unsafe, and either not sealed or not well enough maintained.”

Sayers said the public feedback was clear from Rodney’s residents, including those from the rural sector, saying they were not supportive of the Emergency Budget. He said he chose to support his communities’ wishes and voted against the budget, as did a minority of other Councillors. 

In 2018 the Rodney Local Board voted to rate Rodney ratepayers an additional transport targeted rate. This is a rate is not paid by any other ratepayers across Auckland. It raises $43 million ring-fenced for the Rodney Local Board’s discretionary spending – but could be spent on bus stops and bus services, park-and-ride community transport hub facilities or sealing unsealed roads, according to its public consultation documents. 

The Rodney Local Board excluded road sealing from its priorities when it decided its spending priorities. “This has proved very unpopular, especially when people living on unsealed roads pay close to half of the $43 million collected,” says  Sayers. “The local board can re-prioritize spending onto unsealed roads at anytime it chooses.”

Auckland Transport is responsible for the management and maintenance of around 7,300km of the road network across all of Auckland. Approximately 800km of the network is unsealed and is operated as gravel roads. Around 80% of Auckland’s gravel roads are within the Rodney area. The remaining 20% is located mainly in Franklin, Great Barrier Island, Waiheke Island, and Waitakere.