Turn off AT’s money tap: my letter to Mayor Wayne Brown
19 October 2022
Mayor-elect of Auckland.
Level 27, 135 Albert Street
Dear Mr Mayor,
As discussed with Mr Matthews am writing in regard to Auckland Transport (AT). Specifically the Inner West Cycleways and Street Improvements Project. These proposed improvements run from Point Chevalier to Great North Road.
Like so many Aucklanders I share your concerns with the performance of AT (and fully endorse your ‘change of approach’ instructions to AT). Auckland Transport has a truly dreadful public image but In my experience this has not unduly concerned directors and senior managers (almost all of whom are personally unknown to the public). This attitude is revealing of the culture of the organisation. I therefore strongly support your determination to instil public accountability and financial discipline in the way AT operates.
In the longer term, it is my view that the legislation (the Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Act2009) establishing Auckland Transport as a council controlled organisation is flawed and has long been in need of review. However, in the meantime, as you have made clear, AT’s behaviour needs to be corrected now to meet the reasonable expectations of the citizens of Auckland who pay for it.
Furthermore AT ‘s role in the serious financial difficulties Auckland Council has got itself into should never be underestimated. As a Weekend Herald special investigation entitled ‘Super Rich in the Super City – the companies pocketing $10b of ratepayers money’ revealed, $10b from the ‘Super City’ over ten years had gone to 20 favoured corporates, mainly Australian owned. The article states ‘Figures provided by the council group under the Official Information Act show Auckland Transport accounts for about $7b of the $10b spend. Auckland Council $2b and Watercare $1b.’
Last Monday evening I attended an impromptu gathering of over 30 local business and residents from the iconic Grey Lynn parade of shops and apartments. These folk are alarmed at Auckland Transport’s announced intentions to remove and restrict street parking outside their shops. They are not the only ones. In August I attended a similar meeting of small business owners and church leaders on nearby Surrey Crescent. The project which is causing so much public concern has been pushed by AT since at least 2017 when tens of millions of dollars were spent on a very poorly designed cycleway in West Lynn, Richmond Road (which included a bus stop projecting out into the roadway) and Garnet Road. I understand considerably more funds were expended to correct failings in the original construction and design.
This has all been a boon for favoured construction companies – not so good for residents and ratepayers and especially small businesses.
I am writing about the next phase of this ‘road improvement’ project which is evidently in two parts extending from Point Chevalier to Great North Road. It is this project which is seriously concerning many people in my electorate. They are adamant traffic flows are working perfectly fine right now and relatively safely. There have been just two fatal accidents in the area in the last ten years. Every single local business and resident at this week’s meeting claimed to have not been engaged in any manner at all during the project proposal phase – AT’s community validation for the whole project relies on a couple of hundred ‘have your say’ anonymous comments.
The budgeted cost for this stage of the project is $76m. Given the level of public opposition to this project and others – the North Harbour cycleway project is another example – and given the extremely serious state of the council budget I request that you instruct management of Auckland Transport to put this project on hold and order the council Treasury department to halt funding to AT for these projects until further notice. AT’s role in the Council’s current financial difficulties has been understated but AT is spending some 70% of the council’s funds and has been doing this since the inception of the ‘Super City’ (nearly $10b). AT’s multiple ‘make work’ road construction projects has significantly contributed to the city’s construction labour and materials capacity problem, has driven up prices of these with impacts throughout the whole construction sector and yet many are of very questionable merit and as you know many are deeply unpopular with Aucklanders.
A moratorium on AT’s myriad non-urgent construction works until an open book audit and operational review is I believe essential. Turn off the money tap.
I am happy if you wish to help prepare and table a notice of motion to formally support mayoral instructions at the first working meeting of the Governing Body.
Waitematā & Gulf