Brown unveils black budget

Len Brown
Len Brown
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has released the first draft of a new 10-year budget that includes $2.8 billion of cuts to capital projects.

The budget included overall rates increases of 2.5 per cent in the first two years and 3.5 per cent thereafter.

The draft budget is a high level document that contains little detail of looming cuts.

However Mr Brown has signalled a $3 billion cut to new transport projects and $800 million to parks and community facilities.

He said the council's accounts were in an excellent shape after four years of balanced budgets.

Mr Brown said he was responding to three messages - keeping rates low, controlling debt and fixing transport.

Mr Brown said under current funding arrangements the council would have to forgo transport projects, including most local and arterial roading projects, most park and ride facilities and the northwestern busway.

He said later this year he would present a funding proposal for a more ambitious fully integrated transport network.

This will include options for tolls, congestion charges and regional fuel taxes.

The draft budget does not include a funding package for the $2.4 billion city rail link.

The proposed cuts are on a scale never witnessed in Auckland before.

As well as trimming $2.8 billion of capital works over the next 10 years, to keep rates at 2.5 per cent the budget must cut spending costs, starting at $90 million in 2015-2016, rising to $630 million by 2024-2025.

With an average rates rise of 3.5 per cent, the reduction in running costs is $75 million in 2015-2016 and $430 million by 2024-2045.

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Mr Brown made an election promise to hold rates to 2.5 per cent this term and reiterated this in January by saying he was determined that 2.5 per cent average rates rise is the "new ceiling".

Last month, Mr Brown signalled big budget cuts were in the pipeline to put rates and debt on an "affordable" and "sustainable" path.

An end to inorganic rubbish collections, reducing library hours, less mowing of parks and cutting cultural festivals and events were among the options for cuts floated on July 7.

The only sacrosanct project in the 10-year budget is the $2.4 billion city rail link, which Mr Brown has still to produce a funding plan for.

Last week, hundreds of capital projects totalling about $300 million were deferred by the council in this year's budget to address pressures in the 10-year budget.

These included core services, including $10.1 million less being spent on the city's dilapidated stormwater system and Auckland Transport targeting bus lanes and rail projects in Parnell and Pukekohe.

As well as big projects, $35 million of local projects are being deferred, including a skate park at Riverhead, $84,377 for a new playground and toilet upgrades in Mangere East, $5786 for litter bins and $1.9 million for a renewal of Mt Albert town centre.

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