The process of councils consulting on and adopting their long-term plans has concluded. Long-term plans are councils’ 10-year budgets which are renewed every three years. The themes of emissions and climate change, environment, infrastructure, COVID-19 impacts and recovery have been consistent across the plans, with rates rises remaining a contentious issue for ratepayers. Some commentators have expressed their amazement as to how easily councils can increase rates – often significantly – with negligible to no pushback from those who pay them.

Alongside long-term plans, regional councils and Auckland Transport have also adopted their respective regional land transport plans (RLTPs). RLTPs lay out a region’s land transport objectives, policies, priorities and measures for at least 10 years. They include capital as well as operational spending and identify a range of projects, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail. Some much bigger and potentially contentious projects, even projects without confirmed funding, can be timed for later years and then again pushed out in the following iteration resulting in a vicious cycle.

In the case of Auckland, a decision to introduce congestion charging will have significant implications for the RLTP; not only will there be a need for infrastructure to establish and run a pricing scheme, but increased investment will also be needed to cater for the increased mode shift that will result from congestion charging. The newly adopted RLTP does not include the cost of implementing congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee is undertaking an inquiry into congestion pricing in Auckland at the request of Transport Minister Hon Michael Wood. We made a high-level submission in May. The select committee is expected to report back later this year.