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Transport package under spotlight as authorities’ deadline looms

Local authorities in the Auckland region are meeting to formally decide their responses to the government’s package to develop the region’s transport network.

The package, released on December 12, is conditional on all territorial local authorities and the Auckland Regional Council agreeing to the new governance arrangements.

The transport package provides an extra $1.62 billion in funding during the next 10 years and proposes a new Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA).

The eight authorities’ meetings finish on February 9, and government wants to take the package to Cabinet in March, for legislation to be through by July.

Legislation might have to be amended or enacted to form ARTA and establish Auckland regional holding companies.

As well, Infrastructure Auckland (IA) needs to be divested of its transport responsibilities and needs new rules for governing its storm water fund.

However, their officers have been poring over it and can say that the package provides 60 per cent of the funding needed by the region to implement its transport strategy, ie, to deliver integrated and efficient transport networks and services.

They also note that there may be little benefit in having ARTA making decisions on local roads, when state highways and rail decisions (involving government agencies Transit and Trackco) are left outside the mix.

And officers are concerned that new funds will not be made available until regional transport and other plans are updated, a potentially time-consuming process, say the local authorities’ chief executives.

The major recommendations include asking the government to:

• consider introducing further new funding mechanisms, including road pricing, to help bridge the funding gap and deliver sustainable long term funding;

• make sure all future work on tolling is carried out jointly by the government and the region;

• remove the link between making changes to regional and district plans and the flow of new funds, to avoid delaying the start of projects already set to go;

• seriously consider integrating the functions of Transit and Trackco into the new regional governance structure.

Several recommendations are made to help with the establishment of ARTA.