Thursday, June 20, 2024

Council backs Mayor’s billion dollar climate budget

Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff’s Climate Action Budget has been supported by a clear majority of councillors, with the Budget set to be formally adopted on 29 June.

The Climate Action Budget will enable more than $1 billion of investment to reduce emissions and tackle climate change across Auckland.

It will include more than $600 million to deliver new and extended frequent bus routes throughout the region, 79 new electric or hydrogen buses, six to seven new electric and low-emissions ferries, 35km of improved footpaths and pedestrian crossings, cycling and walking connections and thousands of new large native trees in predominantly low-income areas that lack extensive canopy coverage.

Mayor Goff says the Climate Action Budget lays the foundation to deliver on the ambitious Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan, and backs Auckland Council’s Climate Emergency declaration with resources to tackle the problem of climate change.

“This budget will lay the groundwork for the urgent action we need to take to avert a climate disaster and ensure a stable climate and a sustainable future for future generations,” he says.

“It will enable a more than half-billion-dollar boost to the bus network and will see a million Aucklanders living within 500m of a fast and frequent bus route.

Other changes, including accelerating the transition to a low-emissions ferry fleet and building 18km of safe cycle facilities to link critical gaps in the current network, will also help reduce emissions and provide safe transport choices for our communities.

“To address a long-standing inequity in Auckland’s tree canopy coverage, almost 15,000 large (1m-1.5m) native trees will be planted, with a focus on parks, playgrounds and streets in low-income areas. This will make our neighbourhoods greener and more attractive, as well as more resilient to high temperatures,” Mayor Goff said.

The climate action programmes in the Budget will be funded by a Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) that will generate $574 million over 10 years and seek to leverage a further $482 million in co-funding from central government and other sources.

“For a person with a median-value home worth more than $1 million, the CATR will represent a contribution of around $1.12 per week. That’s a relatively small sum that will deliver real benefits by reducing emissions and pollution, easing traffic congestion and making Auckland a greener, more climate-friendly city,” Mayor Goff says.

“Thank you to the thousands of Aucklanders who made their voices heard during the consultation period and strongly supported our climate action plans, and the overwhelming majority of local boards which supported it. With 68 per cent of submitters in favour and an independent survey of 4000 Aucklanders showing a strong margin of support, there was a strong mandate from our communities to adopt the Climate Action Targeted Rate.

“Even in challenging economic times it is really important that urgent action is taken now on climate change to secure the future of our children and grandchildren and I thank all those who supported this proposal.”

Councillors also supported a range of other budget measures to ensure the ongoing sustainability and prudent management of council finances. These include:

  • using the full $127 million of the first tranche of the government’s Three Waters ‘better off’ funding available to Auckland from 1 July 2022. This, with current operating headroom, will enable Council to manage operating pressures in 2022/2023 resulting from COVID-19-driven revenue loss projection and increased interest rates and inflation, without material changes to services
  • a capital deferral of $230 million over the next three years, which will ensure that all critical and high-risk projects as well as projects that strongly support growth and climate action are not delayed. Despite the proposed deferral, the average capital investment over the next three years is still $650 million more than the average over the last four years
  • reducing low-priority spending while seeking increased efficiencies in service delivery from 2023/2024 onwards.

Finance and Performance Committee Chair Councillor, Desley Simpson says, “The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and the increasingly uncertain economic environment have meant we had to make some hard calls and tough decisions with this budget.

“We will continue to look for ways to reprioritise spending to ensure ratepayers receive value for money, including through finding efficiencies, deferring some non-essential capital projects.

“At the same time, we will continue to invest strongly in the essential services and infrastructure that Aucklanders value and rely on.”

The Climate Action Budget will be formally adopted by council’s Governing Body on 29 June and will come into effect on 1 July.

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