Auckland: Fixing Transport and Saving Libraries

Auckland Council is currently consulting on their 10-year budget (you can have your say at www.shapeauckland.co.nz). Two of the key issues Auckland Council are asking about are transport and rates. It’s an important opportunity for all Aucklanders to have a say, because the decisions made as a result of the consultation will affect everyone — all those who use the transport network to get around, and all those who pay rates (whether directly or via rent).

I’d like to briefly talk about two aspects of the consultation, transport and libraries.

Transport

Transport one of the biggest issues Auckland is facing. In the 10-year budget, the Council presents us with just two options:

  1. Basic Transport Network – The projects in the Basic Transport Network can be funded from the existing rates budget, but it won’t support our growing demand for transport so we’ll end up with exacerbated congestion and poor alternatives to car-based travel.
  2. Auckland Plan Transport Network – The Auckland Plan includes a long list of all the projects inherited from the previous city councils in the region, but doesn’t attempt to prioritise between them. As a result the proposed investment is expensive and requires alternative revenue streams.

However, these two options offer a false choice. While Auckland Council is taking an all-or-nothing approach, Generation Zero have come up with a third option: the Essential Transport Budget. In a nutshell, the Essential Budget includes all the projects of the Basic Transport Network, plus investment in key public transport, walking and cycling projects that will provide Aucklanders with congestion-free alternatives for getting around the city. By prioritising spending in these areas, the Essential Budget ends up significantly cheaper than the Auckland Plan Network.

Gen Zero have written a series of posts about the Essential Budget on TransportBlog, and more detail is also available at www.fixourcity.co.nz. If you want to submit in support of the Essential Budget you can do so here.

Libraries

The second issue that concerns me in the 10-year budget consultation is presented as a single sentence buried deep within the Local Board Priorities section.

A Council-led proposal to “reduce and standardise library opening hours” means that many areas will either see reduced opening hours or require top-up funding from local boards to maintain existing opening hours.

I know the Council is concerned about tight budgets right now, but as someone who has a great love and respect for libraries and librarians, and who believes library opening hours are already too short, I’m horrified that the Council is proposing to cut library hours. The savings are minimal and the costs are too great.

Libraries provide life-lines for people who are out of work, who may have limited computer literacy or no access to the internet at home.

Libraries are community spaces, safe havens. They give everyone equal access to information, and they come with librarians who can help us find the useful information.

Libraries give us free things and then let us return them when we no longer need them.

Being able to read — and to read for pleasure — gives children better prospects for their future. Not only are communication and the written word increasingly important for jobs in the modern world, but low literacy is correlated with a higher likelihood of going to prison.

Reading fiction in particular helps to foster empathy, imagination and innovation.

Neil Gaiman gave an excellent speech a couple of years ago that covers all these points and so much more; I suggest you have a read.

 

But back to the issue at hand: Consultation on Auckland’s 10-year budget is only open for another week, so get in quick at www.shapeauckland.co.nz!

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