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Cutbacks may see plans fall away

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
Francis Mortimer
FRANCIS MORTIMER: Mt Albert Residents Association co-chairman.

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There are fears Mt Albert town centre could miss out on a long awaited upgrade as Auckland Council looks to make savings.

The state of the town centre is declining and the renewal project has been promised for at least a decade.

"It seems to be one of those things that gets put on hold every time the council needs money," Mt Albert Residents' Association co-chairman Francis Mortimer says.

Last year the Albert-Eden Local Board announced the project was finally kicking into gear when a long-term ground lease was secured for what is now a carpark, next to 911 New North Rd.

The carpark is to be turned into a plaza linking the train station with the shopping area at a cost of $5 million.

A connecting bridge is to be built from the train station.

More work is being done to secure other ground leases and detailed design concepts are expected to be released shortly.

Funding for the project is expected over the next three financial years.

But residents are worried not all of the money will be available as Auckland Council seeks to save $2.8 billion in its 2015 to 2025 Long Term Plan.

Savings are needed to keep rate increases between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent.

"We were told categorically that the money was secured," Mt Albert Residents' Association member Catherine Goodwin says.

"Now we're told that any certainty around future funding is lost," she says.

The project is what is needed to breathe life into Mt Albert, Mortimer says.

"All that is happening is that Mt Albert shopping centre is declining. Business has moved away.

"We need some clarity about what will happen and when the budget will be allocated," he says.

The residents' association is frustrated they haven't had clarification from the local board, but board chairman Peter Haynes says it has no more information to give.

The council announced in June that $23 million is being set aside in its annual plan for this financial year to fund renewal projects in town centres including Mt Albert.

Mayor Len Brown is set to release his initial proposal for the next Long Term Plan next month.

At the same time, consultation is underway on local board plans which set the priorities for Auckland's 21 wards.

The Mt Albert renewal project is at the forefront of Albert-Eden's plan, Haynes says.

Submitting on this document is the best way for residents to make their priorities clear, he says.

The board shares the frustrations of the residents over the time it has taken to get the project moving, he says.

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Local board plan submissions close on August 6. Visit shapeauckland.co.nz for more information.

- Central Leader

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