A joint report by the government and Auckland Council has identified a $5.9 billion shortfall in the transport funding Auckland needs for the next decade.
The latest report updates work undertaken as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) to understand the required level of transport investment required.
“However, we know that Auckland’s recent and projected population growth is higher than originally forecast,” Transport Minister Simon Bridges admits.
The ATAP report released in September 2016 set out an agreed strategic approach to the development of Auckland’s transport system alongside an indicative package of transport investments.
Since ATAP concluded, Statistics NZ has released revised population projections which indicate that Auckland’s population will increase by 100,000 more people by 2028 compared to the projections used in ATAP.
ATAP agencies were accordingly asked to provide an update of how much additional funding may be required in the first decade to meet the challenges of growth.
The update identifies an additional $1.9 billion of transport investment will be needed over the ten year period.
“This is $1.1 billion less than the amount previously identified by Auckland Council,” Bridges notes.
The total funding required for the decade is estimated to be $25.9 billion, of which $20 billion has already been committed by central government ($13 billion) and Auckland Council ($7 billion).
“That leaves about $5.9 billion to be sourced from the government, council and the private sector over the next ten-year period,” Bridges adds.
Faster growth is now expected to occur in North and South Auckland, requiring some transport investment to be brought forward to support the housing development in these areas.
“We will also need to bring forward transport investment to accommodate additional public transport demand.”
Key initiatives from the first decade package that would be brought forward into the next three years with this extra funding include:
- advancing development of the “next generation” of State highway projects, including the SH16/SH18 interchange, Southern Motorway widening between Papakura and Drury, improved Eastern Airport Access (SH20B) and the Northwestern Busway.
- accelerating Auckland Transport’s programme, targeting high priority and well developed investments including the Mill Road, AMETI Eastern Busway and associated Reeves Road flyover, the earlier purchase of new electric trains, along with earlier completion of key city centre bus lanes and interchanges.
- completing approximately $250 million of rail network infrastructure upgrades to cater for ongoing rapid growth in rail use and increasing freight volumes, including an additional track from Westfield to Wiri and a variety of key network resilience and performance upgrades.
“Current and committed investments include $3.4 billion for the City Rail Link, $1.85 billion for the East-West Link, and up to $1 billion in upgrades to the Northern and Southern motorway corridors,” Bridges says.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has welcomed agreement with government to spend more on Auckland transport infrastructure and bring forward major transport projects.
“Unprecedented population growth has outstripped previous projections and the need to invest in our transport infrastructure more quickly is critical.
“Auckland adds 45,000 people a year and our transport system is not coping,” Goff admits.
“Council and government have identified the need to lift transport spending from $24 billion to nearly $27 billion and bring forward a range of major projects to address growing transport congestion.
“I particularly welcome the commitment of $1.2 billion in the first decade to mass-transit on the isthmus, which I believe will be light rail.
“Busways in West and East Auckland and on the Northern motorway will relieve traffic congestion by providing effective public transport alternatives.
“Penlink is also being considered as a tolled PPP road and new arterial routes are funded to service greenfields development.”
The increased budget and projects now go to council and government, and are expected to be formally agreed.
Bridging the funding gap of $5.9 billion is now being negotiated between council and government.
Goff welcomes the minister’s statement that government “has enough headroom in its budget” to make a larger contribution to funding Auckland’s transport infrastructure.
“The hundreds of extra cars being added to Auckland’s roads each week paying more petrol taxes and road user charges will help fund the new projects.
“Auckland has to meet its fair share of the cost and we are considering the best options for how we do that.
“Road pricing such as congestion charging, tolls or a fuel tax in my view better reflect costs falling where there are benefits to the users of transport infrastructure than general rates,” Goff believes.
“We are also exploring other options including targeted rates and value uplift.”