Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Auckland eyes $1 billion climate action package

Auckland Council has adopted a proposed budget that includes a 10-year $1.045 billion Climate Action Package, with the document now set to open for public feedback on 28 February.

Mayor, Phil Goff said the Annual Budget puts a strong focus on tackling climate change, while responding to the immediate financial pressures faced by council and continuing critical investment in strengthening Auckland’s infrastructure.

“We are already experiencing the impacts of climate change—2021 was the hottest year in New Zealand since records began 110 years ago and we are seeing increasingly frequent extreme weather such as droughts and flooding,” he said.

“Funding raised by the proposed Climate Action Targeted Rate will lay the foundation for the urgent action we need to take to avoid our children and grandchildren becoming the victims of a climate disaster. At a cost of around $1.10 a week for the median-value residential property, it will attract co-funding from government and is a critical investment in our kids’ futures.

“Aucklanders have told us repeatedly they want us to do more to address the climate crisis, so I encourage everyone to get involved and have their say on our proposals.”

As part of the annual budget consultation, Aucklanders will be asked whether they support a Climate Action Targeted Rate, allowing for a $1.045 billion spend over the next 10 years on a series of targeted climate actions to reduce emissions and support adaptation.

Funds from the rate would improve low carbon public transport choice for over one million Aucklanders, allow safer streets for walking and cycling and greener neighbourhoods in communities that need it most. This would also generate wide regional benefits and address inequity in the provision of services, Council said in a statement.

It said the budget also responds to uncertainty created by COVID-19 and unfavourable shifts in major economic influences which are putting pressure on the council’s finances, seeking to build in flexibility to manage the unpredictable impacts of these conditions.

Aucklanders will be asked for their feedback on the council’s three main priorities which are climate action, managing budget pressures and waste minimisation reform.

Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee chair, Councillor Desley Simpson, says the pandemic has changed the way residents live, work and enjoy the city, so the budget needs to adapt accordingly.

“This budget is designed to prepare the council to weather ongoing economic headwinds. Aucklanders are acutely aware of the pressures we are dealing with, as increases in inflation and cost increases affect the household budget as well. We want to hear Aucklanders views on how we navigate this next phase, so I encourage them to participate in the consultation,” she said.

This budget proposes a two-phase approach to “budget challenges”. The availability of $127 million for Auckland in the coming financial year as the first tranche of the Government’s ‘better off’ funding package, means the council doesn’t need to take drastic action now, it said.

To address the ongoing operating budget impacts the council is proposing to implement $15 million of permanent cost reductions in the form of efficiency saving and low priority service reductions across the Auckland Council group in 2023/2024, growing to $30 million a year from 2024/2025 onwards. To support this the council is consulting on a set of expenditure prioritisation criteria to ensure there is transparency on how service reduction decisions are made.

The budget proposes keeping the previously agreed average general rates increase at 3.5% for 2022/2023.

When the budget document opens for public feedback between 28 Feb and 28 March, Aucklanders will also be asked for their views on a move to a region-wide rates-funded refuse collection service, as a means towards a more cost effective, equitable and climate friendly waste minimisation service. The system would offer three rubbish bin sizes to suit the needs of every household.

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