Auckland Mayor Phil Goff makes the case for his proposed climate action rate – an extra $1.12 a week for median ratepayers over the next 10 years
A signature policy of Auckland Council’s Annual Budget—now out for public consultation—is my proposal for a major Climate Action Package that aims to reduce carbon emissions and deliver more buses, low-emissions ferries, cycling and walking infrastructure and urban tree canopy for Auckland.
In this article I want to outline some of the thinking behind the Climate Action Package, including how it will be funded, what it will deliver for our city, what is necessary for it to be adopted by council, and what else we need to do to achieve our climate ambitions.
Background to the Climate Action Package
Auckland Council voted unanimously to declare a Climate Emergency in 2019, signalling councillors’ commitment to putting climate change at the front of our decision-making. Councillors also unanimously adopted Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan in 2020, reaffirming our commitment to halving Auckland’s total emissions by 2030 and reducing transport emissions by 64 per cent over the same period.
We have made progress, including allocating a further $150 million to climate action as part of the 10-year Budget, stopping the purchase of diesel buses, and progressing our investment in new public transport infrastructure.
But we are clearly not doing enough. A progress report late last year said Auckland’s emissions are not remotely tracking in line with our target of a 50 percent reduction by 2030. We need to do more—much more—if we are to have any chance of averting a climate disaster that will severely impact our children and grandchildren.
Funding our climate action: the Climate Action Targeted Rate
To accelerate climate action in Auckland, I have proposed a Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) of around $1.12 a week for the owner of a median-value residential property (now worth over $1 million). This rate will raise around $574 million over 10 years and will seek to unlock a further $471 million through central government co-funding and other sources. It’s a small weekly sum to pay, but it will enable a significant investment in climate action and in our children and grandchildren’s futures.
The proposed Climate Action Targeted Rate is similar to the existing Water Quality and Natural Environment targeted rates which over the past five years have enabled massive investments to clean up our beaches and waterways and protect native species.
These rates have received strong support from Aucklanders, who are seeing the results in beaches made safe for swimming, walking tracks reopened, precious native species protected from predators and more. They are fully transparent, meaning all the money raised must be spent on water quality or natural environment projects, and the small weekly sum they represent to individual ratepayers allows us to make significant investment in improving outcomes across Auckland.
The Climate Action Targeted Rate will be similar, with all funding raised ring fenced for direct climate action to cut our emissions and respond to extreme heat, and with significant co-benefits such as much improved public transport services leading to less congestion. It will add weight, meaning and mana to our Climate Emergency declaration and enable us to walk the talk on our climate commitments—acknowledging that there is still much more to do.
What the Climate Action Package will deliver
With the billion-dollar funding boost provided by the Climate Action Package we can significantly expand our climate action, including:
– More than $600 million invested in 79 new or improved bus services, as well the procurement of 79 additional low-emission electric or hydrogen buses. This investment will deliver improved services accessible by more than a million Aucklanders in the north, south, east and west of the city and see 170,000 more Aucklanders—10 per cent of the population—brought within 500m of a frequent bus route. Encouraging a shift to public transport is the most effective way of reducing transport emissions, which make up more than 40 per cent of our city’s emissions profile
– 10 new frequent bus services and service improvements in every ward in Auckland
– $122 million to progress decarbonisation of the ferry fleet, which accounts for 21 per cent of Auckland’s emissions from public transport
– $228 million for walking and cycling, to make it safer and easier for people to get around the city by bike or on foot. This will include an additional 42km of safe cycle facilities plus a new safe cycling network in New Lynn
– $13.3 million for urban ngāhere (forest), including 14,800 native mature trees with a focus on areas with the most heat vulnerability and lowest canopy cover. This will make reduce the impact of extreme heat and make Auckland a greener, more beautiful place.
Thinking beyond emissions reduction: regional co-benefits and tackling inequality
Climate change is not only an environmental issue. It also has significant implications for our most vulnerable communities, and as climate impacts increase, we run the risk of exacerbating existing inequality.
To address this, projects in the Climate Action Package have been chosen to address existing inequities and deliver wide regional benefits as well as emissions reduction. For example, investment in new bus routes and upgrades to existing services focuses on south Auckland, which has historically been under served by public transport. Similarly, tree planting will focus on areas that currently lack tree coverage—which generally correspond to lower socioeconomic areas, themselves at greater vulnerability to climate change.
At the same time, all of Auckland will benefit from the regional emissions reductions, and all of the 21 local board areas will receive direct benefits from the package.
Next steps: Consultation, deliberation and voting
Public consultation on the Climate Action Targeted Rate is open from February 28 to March 28 at akhaveyoursay.nz. Councillors will then review feedback from members of the public, interest groups, and others before debating the proposed budget in workshops and meetings later this year and making a decision on whether to support the budget and the Climate Action Package at a meeting in June.
I’ve been clear from the start that this is not the beginning and end point for climate action in this city. It’s a springboard for further action that will help us reach our climate targets. Your feedback on the Climate Action Package is important and will influence whether it is adopted. I encourage you to tell us what you think during the consultation—suggestions for other steps that council could take, including how we could go further and faster towards achieving emissions reductions, are always welcome.
However, we can’t afford to let perfect be the enemy of good.
If we don’t get this package over the line, our climate progress will be stalled for at least another year while our ever diminishing runway for action shrinks more. Auckland Council can always add to or supersede the Climate Action Package in future budgets, but catching up on lost ground will get harder with every day that passes—and the crisis is urgent.
If the Climate Action Targeted Rate is unsuccessful, there is every chance that genuine climate action at the regional level could be put in the political ‘too hard’ basket by future mayors and councillors, putting the sustainable future that our children deserve at risk. It needs your support.
Public consultation on Auckland Council’s proposed Annual Budget 2022/2023 opens on 28 February and runs until 28 March. Feedback to akhaveyoursay.nz