Auckland Transport refuses to provide any information about where hundreds of thousands of dollars in wharf tax collected on Waiheke each year is spent.
Gulf News sent questions to the Auckland Council transport organisation requesting information about wharf tax gathering and spending but was informed a request would need to be made under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
Five weeks later, Auckland Transport replied to the official information request.
However, the responses shed little light on concerns raised by Waiheke Local Board chairperson Paul Walden that Waiheke commuters are paying large amounts of wharf tax, yet seeing little spending on wharves or other transport facilities at Matiatia.
“How much was spent on the maintenance and operation of Waiheke wharves in 2015?” Gulf News asked.
“Expenditure is reported on the Hauraki Gulf Islands Network as a whole, rather than on specific wharves,” Auckland Transport’s general manager AT Metro Mark Lambert replied.
He supplied no information on the amount Auckland Transport spent on wharves on Waiheke or on the entire network, which includes Matiatia, Kennedy Point, Orapiu, Tryphena, Whangaparapara, Rakino, and Okupu.
“Is the wharf tax collected on Waiheke used for the maintenance and operation of Waiheke wharves or on all wharves in the gulf?” Gulf News asked.
“The Hauraki Gulf Island network is maintained as a network,” Mr Lambert replied.
He did clarify that wharf tax is needed to cover the costs of “cleaning and security, maintenance, facilities management, overheads, administration costs, labour costs for centralised support functions amongst other things”.
Mr Walden is frustrated that Auckland Transport is similarly refusing to provide information to the local board about the wharf tax revenue it collects.
“This is a tax which is collected from Waiheke and we’re entitled to know how much is collected and what it is used for.
“The local board holds significant concerns when Auckland Transport says they have no mechanism to demonstrate how much money they’re collecting or whether the ferry companies, which are responsible for collecting it, are even paying it or are paying it at the right level.”
Following an earlier Gulf News official information request, Auckland Transport revealed that 51 cents in wharf tax is collected on every trip to and from Waiheke and other islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
After numerous requests from the local board, Auckland Transport supplied figures in February showing that wharf tax collected in the Hauraki Gulf was $1,711,000 in 2008, but was apparently only $1,352,000 in 2015.
Mr Walden says the figures showing that wharf tax levels are dropping make “no sense” given that visitor numbers are rapidly increasing.
Credit card data shows a 44% increase in visitor spending on Waiheke from 2013 to 2015, he says.
Waiheke bus passenger numbers are also generally increasing, with 66,341 passengers in March 2015 compared with 77,405 in March 2016, according to Auckland Transport figures.
Although the information about declining wharf tax collection over the past seven years was supplied by Auckland Transport, Mr Lambert says “overall the revenue for the Hauraki Gulf Islands has remained stable” since 2010.
“However, at Waiheke, both patronage and revenue have increased,” he says.
Mr Walden is concerned that Waiheke wharf tax is being used to upgrade other wharves in the gulf, such as a new wharf on Great Barrier Island.
“The Waiheke wharf tax is intended to pay for transport infrastructure at Matiatia.
“We have a need now for improvements in the car park and the whole area needs attention but we’re told by Auckland Transport that there’s no money to do anything.
“There should be multi millions of dollars sitting in the bank for works at Matiatia,” he says.
In March, Auckland Transport recorded 233,138 passengers at Matiatia and 47,607 at Kennedy Point, bringing ferry passenger numbers to 280,745.
This suggests that $143,164 in wharf tax should have been collected for the month. • Rose Davis

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