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Our unbalanced transport spending

The madness of our current transport spending priorities have been highlighted a lot in recent weeks, even getting a pretty good airing on the National Party aligned Kiwiblog, thanks to a superb Guest Post by Green Party transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter. Behind the scenes, Labour Party transport spokesperson Phil Twyford has also been digging up a whole pile of interesting information through written questions to Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee. In particular, a series of questions compare the amount of money NZTA is spending on new and improved state highways in Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury with the amount of money being spent on public transport infrastructure in each of those three cities.

I think it’s good to focus on NZ’s three biggest cities, as obviously that’s where the need for public transport infrastructure is always going to be most concentrated. The numbers are, shall we say, mind-bogglingly lop-sided: While it’s important to remember that rail track infrastructure is not included in PT infrastructure spending – for some strange reason – there’s a huge imbalance here. The public transport infrastructure funding pool is used for things like integrated ticketing, bus priority projects, ferry terminal upgrades, rail station improvements and similar projects. Let’s put the difference between the two funding totals in another format: Even I am surprised to see how unbalanced the spending is between these two funding pools.

19 comments to Our unbalanced transport spending

  • LucyJH

    it would be interesting to see the rail infrastructure spend in there as well. I think it would still be a huge imbalance. I wonder if Phil could ask the Minister about that as well? Or would he claim it was an operational matter for Kiwirail to deal with.

  • Matt

    Is the huge disparity between CHC and the others in any way related to the rebuild? Or is there something deeper in play, such as CHC’s council-owned-and-operated PT being significantly cheaper than the bastard-neoliberal-child PT model in use in AKL and WLG?

    • Ingolfson

      I would suggest the disparity for Christchurch lies in the fact that CERA rules Christchurch at the moment, not something so limited as an elected local Council, and Mr Brownlee isn’t having them do any PT…

    • Kevin

      The disparity for Christchurch is not surprising. First of all, total transport spend is well below Wellington, even though Christchurch has a higher population. This has always been the case – earthquakes or no earthquakes – it has nothing to do with CERA. And before the Southern Motorway kicked off there was virtually no spending on ‘new and improved state highways’, so the situation for the past 20 years is far worse than the figures suggest. Second of all, there is no train system to sink money into – so the reasons for the disparity are pretty obvious.

      • bbc

        It does have a lot to do with CERA and Brownlee who are taking over the planning of the long-term rebuild from the council – Brownlee stated that they’d put the transport plans to the side. No surprises there since the transport plans were full of low-speed streets, trams and improved PT. None of which Brownlee is having a bar of.

      • Kegan

        “even though Christchurch has a higher population”

        Due to a series of unfortunate events that is no longer the case.

        • Matt


          “even though Christchurch has a higher population”

          Due to a series of unfortunate events that is no longer the case.

          Depends what you’re comparing it with. The June 2011 population estimate for Wellington City is 200k, for Christchurch it’s 367k. That’s a really long way for CHC’s population to fall to be lower than Wellington City. However, given that the Wellington PT spend will be over Greater Wellington, which is the Hutts, Wellington City, and Porirua, Christhurch’s population is well short of the combined total of over 450k.

          • Kegan

            Was thinking of urban areas rather than artificial local govt areas. Stats NZ estimates for June last year were Wellington Urban 393,400 and Christchurch Urban 380,900 (and Wellington doesn’t include Kapiti – ~40k urban). Before the quakes Christchurch urban population was slightly ahead of Wellington.

    • Mr Anderson

      The difference is in capital spend not PT services so the way PT is operated in Christchurch compared to Auckland & Wellington shouldn’t make a difference.

    • Gian

      That’s a private train. The boss is Ferrari’s boss. It has 3 different “Classi” of tickets and the layout is such that more well off travellers don’t have to smell the odour of other’s poverty. Not really an example of Public Transport

  • Mike

    In Wellington 80% of the expenditure on big, new projects has a low BCR, so is poor value for money in NZTA’s terms; and 97% of the big project expenditure over the next ten years is on state highway construction. See http://wellingtontransport.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/submission-points-on-the-draft-regional-land-transport-programme/ for more information.

    • Neville

      The low BCR is a function of the terrain. Putting a road/rail on flat land is far cheaper than building through hills so for the same benefits the BCR is much lower because of the lower costs. This is a drawback of the BCR, it is bias to doing cheap projects and doesn’t take in to account that a project has a low BCR because of the difficulty of the build. This results in the ‘easy’ builds getting build and the ‘hard’ ones never being built. This results in, say, parts of the Waikato expressway being build, but Dome Valley not being build, not because the benefits are different but the build costs are higher. The ultimate result is motorways on the plains and tracks in the hills.

      • Peter M

        That is true to an extent, but obviously if a project is really expensive then we want to ensure that it provides sufficient benefits to warrant such a high cost. There is a legitimate argument, to an extent, of lumping together more and less cost effective parts of a project together so that it happens as a more complete whole, with the cheap bits helping to justify the more expensive bits.

        But if you take that to extremes, like doing a BCR for all the RoNS projects as a whole you’re really just being sneaky and spending a lot of money on very low value projects.

  • The voting public dont care two hoots about the disparity between PT and Highway spend. Its the issue of too much money being spent on unecessary roading projects that should instead be spent on other vote winning items such as health and education…thats what will get the present government removed from office in 2014 and that is where the guns should be aimed. Hopefully, unemployment will rise over the next 2 years, to a level high enough to be of concern to joe public, further highlighting the present government’s out-of-touch-with-reality spending habits.

    • cateye

      “Hopefully unemployment will rise”? – so that a new govt can come in and improve it? Perhaps you could hope for something less destructive…
      The most used PT mode is buses which for the most part do not use much more infrastructure than the roads so I am not surprised that these figures are starkly different (esp. excl. rail infrastructure spending).

      How much of that new and improved state highways is in the rural areas within the council boundaries? And also would a large amount of local road spending further increase the difference in your comparison?

  • BD

    The government use the Christchurch earthquake as an excuse not too investment money in public transport which they already hate doing as it is!

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