The Government’s September announcement of transport funding streams for the next 3 years – made through the NZ Transport Authority – will cause Hamilton City serious funding shortfall problems in some areas of transport delivery.
There are significant bus fare increases being brought in as a direct result of cuts to previously indicated bus operational subsidies, and also the proposed axing of a number of cycling and walking projects we had approved in our LTCCP over the next 3 years – again as a result of direct cuts to subsidy funding that was previously available.
The Government has made available only a 3% cost increase to EW for bus services in the current year – when normal costs for existing services (i.e. no new services included) are predicted to rise by 7%. Future years will receive no increases at all. As a result EW is proposing to increase main bus fares from December 2009 by between 12% and 30%, with further significant increases being planned for July 2010 and July 2011. None of the planned new services will be able to be introduced, including connections to new suburbs, and some existing services are under threat.
The shortfall in the amount needed to meet the normal bus operations EW had predicted for Hamilton is only a few $million over the next 3 years, while at the same time $billions of new money has been allocated for s State Highway upgrade that will help Hamiltonians reach the Auckland Motorway traffic jam 5 minutes earlier. The fantastic growth in bus patronage that Hamilton has experienced in the last 5 years will be in jeopardy as a result of this short-sighted policy.
More than half of our planned cycleway and walkway/cycleway projects over the next 3 years will have to be either delayed or completely scrapped as a result of no subsidy money at all being made available for them. It is likely that all of the projects we do undertake over this time will be through 100% ratepayer funding.
At the same time, the community transport work, such as the organisation and promotion of the successful walking school buses, has only received guaranteed funding for the current year, with nothing yet allocated for the following two years and a review into that whole area of work being conducted.
It is reasonable for Governments to cut their cloth according to their means – if you haven’t got the income, you have to be financially careful. But to significantly increase spending in the very largest area of expenditure, while hacking at the rats and mice that in some communities – like Hamilton – can make a real difference is, as the old adage suggests: “penny wise and pound foolish.” The Government’s spending decisions show a philosophical bias that will make it very hard for Hamilton to implement its transport strategies, and will cost us in the long run.