Viewpoint – Farewell from Phil

Covid-19 has presented us all with enormous challenges over the past two and a half years, including a $900 million hit to Auckland Council’s revenue. Despite this, we have made strong progress on the issues facing our city and region. It was great to see the Warkworth Community Transport Hub open in June, which will make it easier for people in the area to get around by public transport. In 2020, Auckland Council bought 95ha of prime land on the Mahurangi Harbour to add to the existing Mahurangi East Regional Park, and last year 154ha of coastal land was vested to Council to extend Te Ārai Regional Park. Across the region, we are increasing our investment in critical environmental, housing and transport infrastructure, working to protect and sustain our beautiful natural environment, planting millions of native trees and taking action to clean up our beaches and harbours.
Last month, Auckland councillors supported my proposal for a Climate Action Budget by a strong majority.

The Climate Action Budget will enable more than $1 billion of investment to help us achieve our emissions reduction goals and respond to the impacts of climate change. This includes more than $600 million to deliver new and extended frequent bus routes throughout the region, 79 new electric or hydrogen buses, six to seven new electric and low-emissions ferries, 35km of improved footpaths and pedestrian crossings, cycling and walking connections, and thousands of new large native trees in predominantly low-income areas that lack extensive canopy coverage.

This work will lay the foundation for the urgent action we need to take to avert a climate disaster that will otherwise damage the lives of our children and grandchildren.

The climate action programmes in the Budget will be funded by a Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) that will generate $574 million over 10 years and seek to leverage a further $482 million in co-funding from central government and other sources. For a person with a median-value home worth more than $1 million, the CATR will represent a contribution of around $1.12 per week. For a relatively small sum, that will deliver significant benefits by reducing emissions, plus the major co-benefits of cutting air pollution and alleviating traffic congestion, and it will make Auckland a more sustainable and liveable city.

We know Aucklanders support climate action. Just under 70 per cent of the more than 9000 submissions to Council during consultation backed the Climate Action Targeted Rate and an independent survey of 4000 Aucklanders showed a strong margin of support for the rate. Recent catastrophic flooding in Australia and increasingly extreme weather events in Auckland and around New Zealand are driving home the fact that – even in challenging economic conditions – climate action is urgently necessary, and we have to act without delay to secure a stable climate and a sustainable world for future generations.

The Climate Action Budget will be my final budget as Mayor. Thank you to Mahurangi Matters readers and to all the residents of the Mahurangi area who have placed their trust in me over two terms. It has been an immense privilege to serve as Mayor and I’m proud of what we have achieved for Aucklanders.