Vic Crone’s policies do not add up
Victoria Crone Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski
Vic Crone is the preferred Mayoral candidate for Auckland city this election year of Auckland Future, which essentially is the National Party. Auckland Future requires all candidates to pledge to cap rates increases at 2% per annum on average for all residential ratepayers over the next three years as well as cutting $500 million of so called waste over the remainder of the 10 year budget to 2025 and reducing staff costs by 5-10% over the next three years and cap staff numbers at current levels.
I seem to recall hearing this sort of promise being made repeatedly by right wing candidates over many, many election campaigns. None have succeeded.
The big question is how will this be achieved? I am all for savings being found and for Auckland Council becoming more efficient. But a lot of the spend that is complained about are small items that have very little effect on the rates bill. The big ticket items are the transport and infrastructure projects and Auckland is already showing signs of stress caused by projects that have been pared back or delayed past their optimal level.
Vic Crone has started to give some idea of how she will make savings and also what she will do about transport projects. She recently released this press release which contained this passage:
I will progress six key projects in Council’s 10-year plan. They include accelerating Mill Road and AMETI, along with bringing Penlink, Lake Road, the North Western busway, and electrification of rail to Pukekohe into the 10-year plan.
This announcement will be funded through:
Recycled funds from at least $500m savings in the 10-year plan – part of her fiscal policy;
Working with the government to secure funding options for key projects;
Seeking a Public Private Partnership for the Mill Road and Penlink projects;
Tolls on Mill Road and Penlink which have existing alternative routes.
There are some interesting features to this release. Firstly she talks about “recycling funds from at least $500m savings in the 10-year plan”. This obviously refers to the Auckland Future pledge. But if the money is saved but then spent it is not saved. I wonder what National will think about her policy which is effectively a repudiation of the pledge.
This is a point that was addressed in a recent Radio New Zealand article which contained this passage:
A pledge by the centre-right to cut Auckland Council’s budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars will not necessarily result in rates being cut.
Mayoral hopeful Vic Crone and the National Party-backed Auckland Future unveiled in April a pledge promising to cut wasteful spending by $500 million over eight years.
The fiscal responsibility policy, to which all Auckland Future candidates would be bound, promised wasteful back office spending would be cut, residential rates rises held at an average 2 percent, staff costs cut and debt reduced at a faster rate.
But in her newly-released transport policy, Vic Crone talks about recycling the $500m cuts to accelerate some key transport projects.
Ms Crone said she chose not to spell out in April that the savings would be spent elsewhere. However the pledge to cap rate rises at 2 percent remained.
“It was always the intent and I did allude to it, but clearly I wasn’t going to launch my fiscal and transport policy at the same time so it’s about making sure we get the campaign timing right as well.
“That money was always going to be invested in infrastructure for Auckland.”
Secondly the choice of projects is very road intensive. The Penlink project has been described as being a motorway to a culdesac. There is little growth planned for the area the motorway would serve. It’s merits are really underwhelming and it appears to be designed to provide for local rather than regional interests. And the Australian experience of PPP tolled motorways, and a PPP is proposed for Penlink, is not good.
If Victoria was really interested in saving money she should investigate Generation Zero’s proposed Congestion Free Network which provides a PT and walking and cycling centric transport system with much less emphasis on road. The proposal is said to be able to save billions of dollars over the next few decades. The North Western Busway is included but Penlink is not.
And she should be more careful with her language. Pledging to cut rates but then spending the savings on Council projects is a sure fire way to bring your campaign into disrepute.