By Steve Forbes
Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere says if he wins the battle for the Super City’s top job he’ll be hopping on a plane bound for Wellington to put pressure on the Government.
He says Aucklanders shouldn’t be expected to pick up the tab for the city’s massive infrastructure costs and he wants a mandate to ditch the Regional Fuel Tax.
Since announcing his run for office he has promised to sell the Ports of Auckland, privatise 49% of Watercare, scrap the Regional Fuel Tax, build a new harbour bridge, revise the City Rail Link, build a new tram-train system spanning the city, scrap the Government’s planned light rail project and freeze rates. He’s unashamedly made some massive promises, but can he realistically deliver on them?
“They aren’t massive promises. I’ve promised to rebuild the balance sheet of the city. To do that will require multiple tools like releasing 49% of the equity in Watercare,” Tamihere says.
Regional Fuel Tax
But when asked if his promise of scrapping the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax is realistic considering under the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Act he would need the support of both the Auckland Council and the Government, he’s more evasive.
“I don’t know the answer to that question until the 13th of October. I’m seeking the mandate of Aucklanders for that reason. Aucklanders helped rebuild Christchurch willingly, we’ve fixed Kaikoura willingly, we’ve repaired Wellington willingly and we’ve put $3 billion into the Provincial Growth Fund, which Aucklanders can’t get a hand near. Everywhere you look Auckland’s being penalised.
“The 11.5 cents a litre Goff petrol tax has been levied solely on this city and on its citizens because they are Aucklanders. Aucklanders will cop a petrol tax of that amount if every other city has it levied on them. If not, it has to go.”
However, he’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he thinks he can repeal a policy that took an act of Parliament to enact and is projected to bring in $150 million per annum in revenue until 2028 for the Auckland Council to fund transport projects. But Tamihere says that’s why he’s campaigning on it.
“Will I get the support of council for it? I’m getting the support of Aucklanders first and then I’ll go downtown with the ruling and governing body and they would be very, very hard pressed to turn that back as a council. Once council approve that that negotiation is on, Chris Fletcher and I will be on a plane to Wellington and we’ll sort a number of things out because Wellington has us in a headlock.”
He says Auckland is a massive driver of New Zealand’s economic growth, but it isn’t getting its fair share. And it’s the one thing that Tamihere and incumbent Mayor Phil Goff, who is standing for re-election, seem to agree on.
The difference seems to be how they plan to achieve it. With Tamihere, at least during the campaign, he's taking a more confrontational approach. Goff appears to be trying be more diplomatic.
In July the Productivity Commission's draft report on the funding and financing of local government called for new funding options for the country’s councils to help them meet a growing range of costs. The commission said the rising cost pressures for infrastructure, climate change, tourism and the growing responsibilities placed on local authorities by central government, means councils can’t rely on rates alone to pay for them. The report also highlighted the growing demands on local authorities in areas like Auckland.
Tamihere says since the economic restructuring of the 1980s and 1990s and privatisation of the Ministry of Works, local government has been left to foot the bill for too much of the country’s infrastructure.
“We’ve mined the most out of that policy, but it no longer works, it’s broken and as Aucklanders we want our fair share of our taxes deployed now back in our city. We want to build our city and we don’t want Wellington determining the timeline and the amount of money we get back. So we have to have a grown-up conversation about changing that orthodoxy.”
Time for change?
He says Auckland should pressure central government for more.
“Unless we use Auckland’s leverage to fix a number of problems we’ve got caused by central government planning we’re in big difficulty.”
And he claims as an independent with running mate and shadow deputy mayor Christine Fletcher he can make it happen.
“I wasn’t chosen by the ruling council of the Labour Party to stand for Mayor in Auckland, I am an independent. I’m having a go with Christine Fletcher to change the whole narrative.”
Voting papers for this year's election will be sent out from September 20 and will need to be filled in and posted in time to reach the electoral office by 12pm on Saturday, October 12. For further information on standing as a candidate contact your local council go to www.vote2019.co.nz, or contact your electoral officer.