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Auckland Council wants Government to fund full costs of Eastern Busway after losing fuel tax

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Mar 2024, 2:28pm
An artist's impression of the Eastern Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga.
An artist's impression of the Eastern Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga.

Auckland Council wants Government to fund full costs of Eastern Busway after losing fuel tax

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Mar 2024, 2:28pm

Auckland Council has hit back over the loss of the Regional Fuel Tax, telling the Government to pay the full cost of the Eastern Busway.

The Government has axed the tax, leaving the council $1.2 billion short in revenue and subsidies to spend on transport projects over the next three years.

What’s more, the Government has instructed the council to use $210m of $360m in unspent funds from the tax to go towards the Eastern Busway.

Councillor Julie Fairey put forward the motion to seek the Government to fully fund the busway, saying she supported its completion but was uncomfortable with central government “effectively telling us what we will and won’t prioritise in our own city”.

Councillor Julie Fairey put forward the motion to seek the Government to fully fund the busway. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Councillor Julie Fairey put forward the motion to seek the Government to fully fund the busway. Photo / Jason Oxenham

“Now we are told we have less funding and we have to spend it on a specific project that central government prefers, which happens to align with some people’s electorate boundaries,” said Fairey.

The partially completed busway between Panmure and Botany runs through the Pakuranga electorate of Transport Minister Simeon Brown and the Botany electorate of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

Several councillors shared Fairey’s disappointment and frustration with the Government over the issue, with councilor Shane Henderson saying he was feeling disempowered with decisions “being made for us”.

The motion was passed by 11 votes to six with three abstentions, including Mayor Wayne Brown, who said he had the job of fronting the Government over the issue.

Auckland Transport bosses at today’s transport and infrastructure committee meeting said the $1.2 billion loss of revenue and subsidies from the axing of the Regional Fuel Tax will mean some projects will be stopped and others reduced in scope.

They said the $360m of unspent funds from the tax will provide $210m for the Eastern Busway, and $75m for new trains and stabling for the City Rail Link.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown alongside a section of the Eastern Busway that the council wants the Government to fully fund. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Transport Minister Simeon Brown alongside a section of the Eastern Busway that the council wants the Government to fully fund. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Chief finance officer Mark Laing said AT was required by the Government to use unspent tax money on the Eastern Busway and new trains/stabling.

That left just $75m for costs associated with the opening the CRL in 2026, Eastern Busway services and new train services, and roading projects.

In light of the cuts, AT is reviewing its capital programme, which may not be limited to projects funded by the fuel tax.

AT chief executive Dean Kimpton said AT is not in a position yet to say what projects would be impacted by the loss of the fuel tax.

He said some projects will stop and some will be reduced in scope unless other funding sources make it up.

When the Government flagged the end of the fuel tax last month, Mayor Wayne Brown formally requested AT to immediately stop work on projects funded by the tax.

“Auckland Transport must not assume that RFT funding will simply be replaced by higher council rates or debt,” Brown said.

The Herald is seeking comment from Simeon Brown.

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