Monday, February 13, 2012

Len's Grand Plan

Len Brown has a Grand Plan for the lucky residents of Auckland. Bernard Orsman from the NZ Herald reports:

Higher petrol prices, road tolls and even a rise in GST are being dangled in front of Aucklanders as options to pay for a $2.4 billion inner-city rail loop and other transport projects.

Mayor Len Brown today releases a long-awaited discussion paper on transport funding options to stop dodging what he says are the tough decisions to get Auckland moving.

"We just can't do the same old, same old and just meander along and postpone everything to another generation," he said.

"We know what we have got to do, but that requires Aucklanders putting some real skin in the game."

Mr Brown said Aucklanders - faced with a rapidly growing population and an already congested roading network - had to make some hard decisions to meet a $10-15 billion shortfall for a package of major transport projects over the next 30 years.

This is on top of $50 billion of largely road-user charges and rates budgeted to be spent on transport over 30 years.

Mr Brown has launched a debate with 13 options for Aucklanders to respond to between February 24 and March 23, including tolling new roads, regionwide tolls, tolls on congested roads, a regional fuel tax, higher parking charges and raising rates.

The mayor has also put more novel options on the table, including higher income taxes and a rise in GST for Aucklanders, a hotel/motel bed tax and raising the airport departure tax.

Has Len Brown lost the plot? And is his Grand Plan no more than Grand-Standing, not to mention electoral annihilation?

Brown has already drawn trenchant criticism from the hard Left which worked hard to put him in the Mayoral Office. His refusal to direct Ports of Auckland to kowtow to the Maritime Union, and the Council's District Court proceedings against the Occupy protesters saw him labelled, among other things as a traitor to the Left, and as a scab.

It already seems highly unlikely that unions such as Matt McCarten's Unite outfit will walk the streets of South and West Auckland again to ensure that the Labour-aligned Len Brown is elected next year. Surely measures such as those being proposed by Brown will only draw further scorn from the Left, given that they will disadvantage Auckland's less affluent people the most.

And it seems that there is little appetite from the Government towards Brown's Grand Plan; read on:

Last night, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said Mr Brown had put together a discussion document to take to his community, but it was not a joint document with the Government.

"I have made it very clear to Len that anything that requires a change in central government policy is not something the Auckland Council can direct.

"I think fuel taxes are significant at the moment and would be reluctant to look at increases there."

The Auckland Council would need Government approval to proceed with new cash sources such as tolls.

Mr Brownlee reiterated the view of his predecessor, Steven Joyce, who last year ruled out a regional fuel tax and had "significant reservations" about tolls and congestion charges.

Mr Joyce said motorists already contributed about 11 per cent of their fuel taxes to public transport.

There's no doubting Brown's enthusiasm for the things that he is proposing, but he is going to need government support, and at the moment that doesn't seem to be forthcoming. And without it, neither may be a second term as mayor for Len Brown.


pdm said...

Mayor Brown further confirms why he is known as `Looney Len'.

Sir Loin said...

Surely user pays via toll roads aligns with right of centre policy ? I can see nothing wrong with toll roads if the tolls go directly into building / operating the roads. Toll roads are the same as private healthcare. Any central government objection is simply cowardice.

James Stephenson said...

@Sir Loin - tolls on new roads is one thing, but how is toll roads to pay for a train line nobody wants "user pays"?

Quintin Hogg said...

In this case no will mean no.

Keeping Stock said...

@ James and Quintin; agree wholeheartedly with both suggestions. And having just used public transport to get from Greenlane to the airport, it was perfectly acceptable. I even arrived early!