New Stations Put Extra Pressure on Ratepayers

The Herald reports that it looks most likely that ratepayers will be picking up the funding shortfall created by the axing of the regional fuel tax:

Money has been assured for new Auckland railway stations, but at extra cost to ratepayers, after the Government’s cancellation of a regional fuel tax for motorists.

An integrated public transport ticketing project will also be scaled back under Auckland Regional Council budget decisions made yesterday.

Although regional rates will be held to an average 3.93 per cent next year, as originally programmed, the council has approved a revised 10-year funding plan including annual rises of up to 6.73 per cent by 2014. Its new schedule would lift the average rates bill from $336.79 this year to $350.03 next year.

Chairman Mike Lee acknowledged a council-imposed rates rise ceiling of no more than 5 per cent honoured since 2005 would be breached in three of the next 10 years, from 2013 to 2015.

He acknowledged that the budget commitments would be inherited next year by the new Auckland Council, at which point he said their impact on overall rates would be “fairly minimal”, equating to annual rises of under 1 per cent.

Although the council made an assumption in March that it would have to hand control of most of the stations to the Government to overcome a $202 million funding hole left by the aborted fuel tax, chief executive Peter Winder yesterday disclosed compromises to avert that. These followed agreement by the Transport Agency to:

  • Pay a 60 per cent subsidy for new railway stations including at Newmarket, New Lynn, Manukau, Onehunga, Grafton and Avondale.
  • Make a $5 million grant towards costs already incurred by the council on Newmarket Station.
  • Lend the council $32.8 million over four years to pay for six new six-car diesel trains already on order from KiwiRail until the Government buys electric rolling stock.

Mr Winder said those concessions would still close only 22 per cent of the funding gap… [more]

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