After a comparatively short campaign, thanks to the Rugby World Cup, the election is upon us tomorrow. I have previously written about the transport policies of National, Labour and the Greens in separate posts so I won’t go over those again. Perhaps the most significant shift in transport policy over the past three years has been from Labour, who have shifted their emphasis away from so much of a roads focus to a more balanced viewpoint on transport.
Obviously transport policies form but a small portion of why people choose to vote the way they do. This situation frustrates me somewhat, not necessarily because people should take transport policy into greater consideration when making their voting choice – even I can recognise that there are many more important issues that would decide your vote – but because central government holds the purse-strings on transport decisions to such a great extent. In contrast, transport is a very high priority issue for people voting in local government elections, yet councils typically find themselves unable to implement their plans if central government doesn’t come to the party. A fundamental transport policy I would like to see in the future is giving local government more say over transport matters generally – because I think that would be more democratic.
As I noted above, the changes to Labour’s transport mindset over the past three years has been significant and is greatly welcomed. I think that the election of Len Brown last year on a strong public transport mandate has given Labour the confidence that even though only a relatively small minority of people actually use public transport on a daily basis, a much greater chunk of the population recognises that, particularly in Auckland, a more balanced world-class transport system is essential for reducing the impact of congestion and helping Auckland become a truly world-class city. I have gotten to know a number of excellent “up and coming” Labour MPs over the past three years and I’m confident that their transport policy will continue to move in the right direction in the future.
While the Green Party’s transport policy has always been excellent, one thing that really excites me about their prospects is the quality of MPs that may be brought into parliament if the Greens’ vote can match their recent polling (something which has traditionally been a challenge for them). In particular, at number 13 on the Green Party list (requiring around 10.5% of the vote, or more if NZ First reaches 5%) is Julie Anne-Genter, a transport planner by profession. Julie’s knowledge about the impact of things like parking policies on transport trends and land-use patterns is huge – as you can see in the video below.
While many aspects of National’s transport policy continue to disappoint me, in particular the cutting of funding for public transport infrastructure over the next decade in the Government Policy Statement, I have at least been heartened by many of their billboards including mention of “rail”, along with roads and broadband as key parts of their investment in infrastructure. We must also remember some of the good things National has done: like providing $90 million to enable the order of a much larger set of electric trains and the $500 million for the infrastructure part of electrification – which has come out of general government funds rather than having to be repaid through a regional fuel tax (not that I think a regional fuel tax is a bad idea, but Wellington’s electrification infrastructure was paid for by central government so it seemed unfair that Auckland’s wasn’t).
Finally, it’s extremely important to remember that there are restrictions on what we can and cannot discuss tomorrow, in terms of the election. The Electoral Act 1993 very importantly restricts electoral advertising on Election Day – which extends to internet media such as this blog. Russell Brown has an informative post up explaining the situation and I’m going to largely approach things the way he has suggested. It’s not just a legal issue though, as one of the greatest things about New Zealand’s democracy is how we can vote without a gun to our head or without any pressure over which way to vote on that particular day. So a few things to keep in mind:
• Tomorrow we must not discuss the election in a way that is likely to influence people’s votes.
• It is OK to discuss voting experiences we had (i.e. the process) and to encourage people to vote.
• After 7pm (when polling booths close) is it OK to start discussing results.
If I have the time and energy I may post results updates throughout tomorrow evening.
Please, do remember to vote