The Kaipatiki Local Board is licking its wounds after having three of its key projects delayed by Auckland Transport.
A Beach Haven ferry service has been stalled by three years, and the completion of town-centre upgrades in Birkenhead and Glenfield by more than 10 years.
The board hopes to get things back on track sooner, but will have to break the projects up into “bite-sized pieces” and reprioritise its budget.
It passed a resolution at a meeting on June 27, saying it “totally opposes and absolutely rejects” the hold-ups.
Chairwoman Lindsay Waugh has made it clear to Auckland Council that her board feels marginalised.
In May, she presented Mayor Len Brown with a cake highlighting the fact that of Auckland’s 21 local boards, Kaipatiki receives the least amount of money per person. The stunt fell on deaf ears and the latest developments were “yet another setback”.
The Local Board had agreed to fund 52 per cent of the cost for the Birkenhead town centre upgrade and 81 per cent for Glenfield’s. That amounted to a council-approved $3.15m for Birkenhead and $1.4m for Glenfield.
Auckland Transport’s contribution was to have been $2.9m for Birkenhead and $314,000 for Glenfield. But AT’s contribution has now fallen off its 10-year plan.
Ms Waugh says Birkenhead hasn’t had a makeover for 20 years and needs parking realignments, improved access between Rawene carpark and Mokoia Rd, and more social space. Glenfield’s main road was due for a new bus station and Bentley Ave for a realignment. Those projects were aimed at linking work being done by Auckland Transport on Glenfield Rd.
The chairwoman says Auckland Council allocated town centre budgets to Auckland Transport, but cost savings and a focus on roading infrastructure meant they dropped off the list of priorities.
“We’ve questioned whether the budget should even be with them [Auckland Transport] at all. In a perfect world it should have been mapped to the local board.”
She says the board had persuaded residents that there was value in deferring the town-centre upgrades to align with the transport budget. The idea was to cause the least amount of disruption and complete the work in one go – supposedly an aim of the council mergers – but the broken promise has caused “consternation”.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan says changes in funding allocation arose after a May meeting that considered a report by the Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) hearings panel, following the consultation process for Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan.
The agency’s operating expenditure was down by $45 million in the 2012-13 year, and capital expenditure needed to be cut by 3 per cent until 2014 and 2015. Efficiency savings would help, but “some reduction in service levels and deferment of capital projects is inevitable”.
In an ideal world the town centre upgrade and the ferry project would have happened at once, he said. “It was realistic and it was originally intended that the projects would align. However, the projects fell out of alignment when Auckland Transport had to respond to budget cuts that came at the last minute.”
Beach Haven wharf – no ferries here.
Ms Waugh says the ferry service has been promised since the 1970s.
“It’s been on again, off again. It was prioritised by North Shore City Council and ARTA [Auckland Regional Transport Authority], then deferred – locals became cynical.
“Based on information provided to us by Auckland Transport, we promised people the ferry would be running by the end of this year. For them to now hold back funding for another three years breaches the faith the community has in us.”
The service is critical to take pressure off roads, Ms Waugh says.
“We’ve got a population of 88,000 with virtually no access to the popular northern busway. Our public transport access is not as direct as other communities.”
She says T3 lanes have improved traffic on Onewa Rd, but bus lanes don’t start until Highbury and the artery remains pressured.
Mr Hannan acknowledges the community’s concern. “It was fully Auckland Transport’s intention that the ferry service would commence in the current year, and this has long been public information,” he says.
“However, the budget situation has changed the landscape and, in the final version of the RLTP, Auckland Transport has had to delay many projects across the entire region.”
Beach Haven Birkdale Residents Association treasurer John Christianson says residents were told a ferry service would be in operation by the end of 2010.
“We’ve got to the stage where we don’t believe them. The Local Board has been misled and residents have lost faith in Auckland Council.”
Mr Christianson is puzzled by a decision to start a ferry service to Hobsonville without including Beach Haven – a decision that also irks Ms Waugh, who points out Hobsonville isn’t a fully established community.
“The original proposal was to start both services at the same time,” says Mr Christianson.
“If you’re sending a ferry from Auckland it might as well stop in at Beach Haven as well – it’s on the way and it’s an established suburb.”
Mr Hannan says Hobsonville Land Company has contributed a “significant” amount of money for its ferry service infrastructure, although it is Auckland Transport’s view that Beach Haven should be a part of that.
“Both destinations should be commenced together as a Hobsonville service would not be viable without a Beach Haven stop,” he says.
Ms Waugh says the board has made a presentation to Auckland Transport about the importance of a Beach Haven service.
“The Mayor is giving it traction to make it a project that will come on stream sooner,” she says. “A lot of work is being done to try and find a budget to reinstate it.”
Mr Hannan says funding discussions are continuing and budgets are being reviewed.
“While it is premature to give any concrete commitments, Auckland Transport is very mindful of the importance of the Beach Haven-Hobsonville ferry, not just to the Local Board but to the public transport network.
“Auckland Transport will be doing its best to ensure that this can be considered for reinstatement in the current financial year.”
POOL OF FUNDS
Local boards can apply for funds from a newly created $10 million pool for capital projects that can be drawn upon over several years – Kaipatiki is entitled to about $500,000 a year – but the money can’t be used to bring forward Auckland Transport projects.
Ms Waugh says it appears her board’s funding budgets have been lost to help create the $10 million fund.
“It rewards those who did not prioritise transport-related projects and penalises those who did,” she says. “We lose our town centre money, then compete to get it back while others get a windfall from their share of the $10 million.”
She says there’s been a history of underinvestment in the area, which she had also observed as a Birkenhead-Northcote Community Board member under the former North Shore City Council.
The funding flaws are part of the Supercity finding its feet, she says. “It’s like playing 3D chess with six players. It’s a challenge for us to pull it together, but we’re not going to sit back and let that inequity become entrenched for the next 10 years.”
Auckland Transport denies town centre upgrades have been sacrificed.
“A number of projects across Auckland have had adjustments made to their timing and priority,” says Mr Hannan. “Town centre upgrades were not specifically targeted by the requirement to allocate the $10 million capital fund.”
Birkenhead Town Centre Association chairman Ian McHardy says he is disappointed by the loss of funding, especially after the local board had identified legacy funding from North Shore City Council which had “somehow” shifted into the main council’s coffers.
“There seems to be a communication gap between the council and its council-controlled organisations [CCOs], and its stated objective of enhancing town centres as its economic development partners to drive the ‘vibrant city’ ambition.”
He says total turnover for Birkenhead Village has increased by more than $3.2 million over the past three years, so the association is clearly doing its job.
Mr McHardy says Birkenhead Town Centre Association members put their money where their mouth is by paying a targeted rate to fund the community’s activities.
“Is it too much to ask that council and its CCO not only do the same but also put back what they had earlier committed?”
Written by: Andre Hueber
Photo/s: Janna Dixon
Published by: The Aucklander