Google Michigan roads and you will see the worst roads in the USA. Michigan’s roads are funded primarily from fuel taxes, but as vehicles become more efficient less tax is being collected. It is politically difficult to raise the tax because their fuel is already expensive, being the furthest state from where oil is produced and refined. Worldwide, the trend is towards cleaner energy. Electric vehicles use the same roads but are currently exempt from fuel tax and road user charges.
Auckland Council declared a Climate Emergency last year, so the Mayor’s proposal for the next 10-year budget includes spending on mitigating the effects of climate change. I say, we have our own more immediate crisis, and that is of failing infrastructure. Auckland Transport (AT) engineers tell us that they have insufficient budget to maintain roads to an adequate standard. They say they need a budget that allows them to maintain and renew 12 per cent of the roading network each year. The current allocation only achieves about half of that. The result? Our roads are increasingly becoming degraded, and it didn’t start recently. Decades of underinvestment means we are losing the battle. AT and their contractors are nearly always in a reactive phase of maintenance, rather than proactive and planned.
As Local Board members, we bear the brunt of customer dissatisfaction, but we don’t hold the purse strings, tender contracts, or set the terms. These are all undertaken by AT, which has its own board of directors. Its funding is allocated by the Governing Body of Auckland Council.
That is why in the upcoming Long Term Plan (the Council’s 10 year budget), we are once again advocating for increased funding for road maintenance, as well as a better spend of the road sealing budget. We have heard time and again that these are your highest priorities, and we agree. This is core Council business and they are failing on this most fundamental service.
What we really need now is for Rodney residents to submit, in volume, on the Long Term Plan when it comes out for consultation from February 22 to March 22 next year, and support the Rodney Local Board’s advocacy, so that the Governing Body hears this message loud and clear.
I do hope that our councillors have the courage to face the challenge of a $1 billion shortfall due to Covid-19 border restrictions on the country. Income from Auckland Airport, Ports of Auckland and bookings of our large venues and stadia, has been decimated. This hole can’t simply be plugged by cost cutting, staff cuts and salary reductions alone. Some brave decisions must be made to prevent Auckland from looking like Michigan, and we may all have to shoulder a piece of the burden to get this city back on its feet. To not do so will inevitably lead to higher costs and rates hikes further down the line.
Beth Houlbrooke, Rodney Local Board