Is Len on the right track?

Central Leader - - OPINION -

Those who lived through it will re­mem­ber Mayor Rob­bie’s near de­spair in the 1960s when his newly fin­ished pet project, the Manukau sewage sys­tem, gave off un­ex­pected nightly clouds of chok­ing and burn­ing fumes.

It was a nightmare for him, asth­mat­ics and home own­ers. It black­ened his project and houses as far away as Re­muera and to the south of Man­gere.

There won’t be fumes off the pro­jected Auck­land rail link project – but there will be sparks and emo­tional heat from an un­ex­pected aftermath.

In the great days of steam, when the night ex­press stopped at places like Te Kuiti and Frank­ton, a rail­way man walked the length of the train tap­ping wheels with a spe­cial ham­mer while pas­sen­gers stormed the re­fresh­ment counter for pies and black tea.

I don’t know why. Per­haps more time on the prepa­ra­tions – and the equiv­a­lent of that tap­ping process – would pick up pos­si­ble prob­lems and ben­e­fit plan­ning, fund­ing and con­struc­tion of the new rail sys­tem.

What it doesn’t need is un­nec­es­sary hus­tling by the mayor to keep his own­er­ship of the plan in­tact should ratepay­ers with long mem­o­ries, for one thing or an­other, vote him out as mayor in 2016.

Par­tic­u­larly, when the coun­cil must dig deep to si­mul­ta­ne­ously save $2.8 bil­lion over the next decade.

Coun­cil­lors are deal­ing with what has been re­ported as com­ing af­ter four years of big spend­ing from Mr Brown who dou­bles as city trea­surer.

City debt has in­creased by 87 per cent, from $3.9 bil­lion to $7.3 bill. House­holds have had rate in­creases of up to 38 per cent.

If Auck­land was a com­pany and ratepay­ers were share­hold­ers, their bud­gets would be hard hit by that debt which the city must cope with – and Mr Brown would be asked to ex­plain. Or else. Have ratepay­ers ever been asked for their views on debt that high?

If, as is sug­gested, the mayor holds the spend­ing reins as the city trea­surer, then the fig­ures make plain that this new spend­ing process isn’t work­ing.

The fi­nan­cial state of the coun­cil can be read as a break­down in the ac­cepted duty of in­di­vid­ual coun­cil­lors to mon­i­tor and, where nec­es­sary, re­con­sider de­ci­sions al­ready made.

The coun­cil is buy­ing prop­er­ties for the City Rail Link which has not yet been ap­proved. Dick Quax says ‘‘it’s silly’’.

More than that, crous.

With $35 mil­lion al­ready spent on houses and businesses – 27 of the 73 needed for un­der­ground ser­vices and sur­face en­trances – the coun­cil will need to spend around $100 mil­lion to clinch the route for the $2.86 bil­lion rail link.

The Govern­ment is com­mit­ted to split­ting that cost with the coun­cil, but won’t hand over its share un­til 2020 un­less rail use and em­ploy­ment force a change.

it’s ludi-

Brown wants the project be­gun in 2016.

His rea­son, apart from giv­ing him a more com­fort­able place in the city his­tory: That an early start would cut dis­rup­tion and, in his words, ‘‘pro­vide a more ef­fec­tive and in­vest­ment-friendly ap­proach’’ in the de­vel­op­ment of the CBD above the rail link and around its en­trances.

Per­haps more time in the prepa­ra­tions – and the equiv­a­lent of that wheel tap­ping process on fund­ing and plan­ning – would pick up pos­si­ble prob­lems in the fund­ing and con­struc­tion.

What it doesn’t need is un­nec­es­sary hus­tling by the mayor, ir­ri­tat­ing the Govern­ment, as if he’s keep­ing long term own­er­ship of the plan should ratepay­ers with long mem­o­ries vote him out in two years.

Time

for David Lange’s fa­mous diet in cri­sis-like as­pects of Roger­nomics – ‘‘a cuppa tea’’.

Af­ter all, John Key has ex­pe­ri­ence of (pub­lic) cups drunk with fringe politi­cians to solve prob­lems.

Grand plan: Light rail, as seen here in Por­tu­gal is part of the mayor’s Auck­land wish list. But is it time to sit back and re­think the con­cept?

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