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Mayor Goff outlines billion-dollar climate action package

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An ambitious $1 billion climate action package to reduce carbon emissions and deliver more buses, ferries, cycling and walking and urban tree canopy is the signature policy in Mayor Phil Goff’s proposal for Auckland Council’s Annual Budget 2022/23, released today.

It is proposed to be funded by a Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) that will raise around $574 million over 10 years, ringfenced for direct climate action in Tāmaki Makaurau. Funds raised through the CATR will be leveraged to seek to unlock a further $471 million through central government co-funding and other sources.

"Long after COVID-19 ceases to be a major threat to us, there will be the ongoing crisis caused by climate change. We can’t afford to put off any longer the action needed to avoid a climate disaster," Mayor Goff says.

"Auckland Council voted unanimously to declare a Climate Emergency in 2019, and we have already committed an extra $15 million a year to climate action through our Recovery Budget. We’re not starting from scratch, but we also know that we are not doing enough. A recent progress report on our Climate Action Plan states that Auckland’s emissions are not remotely tracking in line with our target to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

"The Climate Action Targeted Rate adds weight, meaning and mana to our Climate Emergency declaration and will guarantee direct and ringfenced funding to cut our emissions up until 2032, including a more than half-billion-dollar boost to deliver new and frequent bus services across the region.

"This would mean 170,000 more Aucklanders - 10 per cent of the population - not previously well served by public transport would live within 500 metres of a frequent bus route.

"Encouraging a shift to public transport is the most effective way of reducing transport emissions, which make up more than 40 per cent of our city’s emissions profile," says Mayor Goff.

The new funding would also provide:

$122 million to progress decarbonisation of the ferry fleet, which accounts for 21 per cent of Auckland’s emissions from public transport

$228 million for walking and cycling

$13.3 million for urban ngahere, māra kai (food gardens) and tiny forests

"For a person with a median-value home worth $1.18 million, the Climate Action Targeted Rate will represent a contribution of around $1.10 a week.

"While nobody relishes the idea of paying more rates, we’ve heard clearly from Aucklanders that they want us to do more on climate change and to improve our public transport system. We must be able to say to future generations that we used every tool in the toolbox to tackle the climate crisis.

"The Climate Action Targeted Rate ensures transparency and guarantees that every cent raised will go directly to climate action for our city.

"The principles for allocating this funding are simple. Funded projects must have high impact and wide regional benefit, address inequity, and start fast.

"As well as cutting emissions, the Climate Action Targeted Rate will deliver significant co-benefits throughout Auckland. It provides a widespread improvement in bus services across the city including new or more frequent services throughout the north, south, east, and west; will plant 15,000 mature native trees in urban areas, 4000 trees and plants for new tiny forests; māra kai and bush remnant extensions; allows us to accelerate decarbonisation of our ferry fleet; and adds new cycling and walking connections.

"It will reduce existing inequalities by ensuring increased services for lower-income areas, enabling more people in these areas to travel by public transport, on foot, or by bike, addressing the equity impacts of future congestion charges. It also provides more green spaces and trees for areas that currently have lower canopy coverage, greening and protecting those areas from heat exposure.

"The Climate Action Targeted Rate alone does not solve all our climate challenges. Rather, it lays the foundation necessary to enable the urgent changes we need and will help us deliver on the commitments we’ve made."

Other budget measures

Mayor Goff is proposing to keep rates rises at the previously signalled 3.5 per cent, as agreed in the 10-year Budget, and to maintain council’s current capital investment profile to deliver the critical infrastructure Auckland needs.

"Tough decisions taken in our Emergency and Recovery budgets, including reducing staff numbers, cutting non-essential spending, and imposing a $90 million annual savings target on top of the $120 million saved in the Emergency Budget have helped shore up our financial position, enabling us to return rates rises to 3.5 per cent," he says.

"However, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, compounded by rapidly emerging inflation and higher interest rates is putting pressure on our finances. We need to continue our drive for efficiencies and reduced spending to ensure ongoing value for money for ratepayers. Cost pressures means that we need to focus in the coming financial year on long-term cost savings to offset cost pressures from inflation and to deal with potential future risks.

"I also propose to maintain our current capital investment profile over the next three years This will ensure that all the critical infrastructure investments we are committed to will be able to continue; however, some lower-priority projects may take longer to deliver to help us manage costs due to rising inflation.

"This budget responds to the significant financial pressures caused by COVID-19 while putting forward a package of ambitious and fully funded action to tackle climate change.

"Strong action on climate is critical. As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland has a responsibility to combat climate change and reduce emissions so we can protect our children and grandchildren from the most severe impacts of global heating."

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