The ARC has adopted its Draft Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) 2009-19 and is inviting the public to comment.
ARC Chairman Mike Lee says the development of the draft plan has been challenging given the uncertainty created by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and eleventh-hour changes required following the Government's withdrawal of expected revenue from the regional fuel tax.
"Earlier this year ARC was poised to progress major public transport developments through the regional fuel tax, including new electric trains, new rail stations and ferry terminals, and integrated ticketing. While we are very pleased the Government has pledged to electrify the Auckland rail network, we are concerned that a $202 million funding shortfall remains. That could mean some projects will take longer to implement while others may not happen at all.
"The Council did consider raising a loan to pay for these projects. However, we believe the average 15 per cent additional rate increase required to repay the debt would be too much for ratepayers to bear and is therefore, unacceptable.
"Our alternative option has been to assume that the Government's commitment to KiwiRail meant it would also take on all rail-related assets and capital projects from 1 July 2009, and that the ARC would continue to fund bus, ferry and multi-modal projects."
With this in mind the draft LTCCP proposes a $55 million capital expenditure programme to pay for an integrated, smartcard ticketing system for rail, bus and ferry services in the Auckland region from 2010/11, and new ferry terminals at Hobsonville, Beach Haven and Bayswater. Other service improvements may be delayed or abandoned pending a report from ARTA regarding transport priorities.
"Auckland local authorities have devoted more than a decade of work and more than $400 million of Auckland ratepayer money to turn around and rebuild a long-neglected rail system," said Mr Lee. "Real progress is at last being made with rail patronage up from 2.5 million passenger trips per year five years ago to about 8 million today. It's essential this work doesn't stall and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure cohesion and alignment with Auckland's urban development."
The ARC has proposed an average rates increase below the 4.95 percent originally proposed in previous plans.
"We are extremely mindful of the impact the global recession is having on ratepayers," said Mr Lee. "Councillors have rejected the pay increase proposed by the Remuneration Authority and are suggesting an average rating increase of 3.92 per cent."
Mr Lee said the Council is legally bound to consult with the public on its long-term priorities and plans in spite of current uncertainties.
"Our draft 10-year plan is as prudent and sensible as possible at a time of great uncertainty. We acknowledge some things may need to change once we have more information but the draft LTCCP is still a useful document and worthy of consideration and comment."
Other key initiatives proposed include:
* the acquisition of additional parkland to protect additional coastal habitats
* the continuing redevelopment of Wynyard Quarter through Auckland Regional Holdings and Sea+City Projects Ltd
* plans for a cruise ship terminal in Auckland
* developing an open sanctuary at Shakespear Regional Park and a kayak trail along the southeast coast between Omana and Waharau regional parks
* a pilot scheme to assist not-for-profit organisations with resource consent fees
* progressing the One Plan: Regional Infrastructure Plan
* a rates remission extension on land where people voluntarily protect open space through a wider range of covenants
* the discontinuation of the annual resource consent holder's $100 administration fee.
Copies of the Draft Long-Term Council Community Plan 2009-19 will be available for viewing from next week at the ARC's main Pitt St office, the Arataki Visitor Centre, the Auckland Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre and public libraries around the region. The document includes the Council's Draft Annual Plan 2009/10 and Proposed Scheduled of Administrative Charges 2009/10.
The document and submission form are posted on the ARC's website www..arc.govt.nz for reading or downloading. They will also be available by calling the ARC's call centre on 09 366 2000 or 0800 80 60 40 if outside the greater Auckland free calling area.
The public has a month to comment from Monday 6 April until submissions close at 5pm on Wednesday 6 May. Submissions can be made online or posted using a detached or downloaded submission form included in the body of the document. Public hearings will be held in late May and the Council will then consider all written and verbal submissions before adopting the final LTCCP 2009-19 on 22 June 2009.