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How much say should Local Boards have?

Transport makes a major impact in the lives of everyone and goes far deeper than how quick and easy it is to from A to B, it more than any other single thing impacts on how ‘liveable’ a city is. Transport is also the biggest single cost for the city accounting for about half of the expected capital costs and one third of the operational costs for the council in the draft long term plan. When the current structure for the city was set up by the government a year and a half ago one of the key bits was to set up Auckland transport as a single body to deal with all transport matters in the region and there was good reason for doing so. There had historically been a huge amount of bickering by local politicians who were so focused on only looking after their own patch that they couldn’t see the big picture. In fact this was one of the things that helped to kill off earlier incarnations of the CRL as the government of the day played the different borough councils off against each other to create disagreement over the project from within the region.

The current structure centralises almost all of these decisions in one place and allows for decisions to be made at a more regional which should also help to provide a lot more consistency across the region but it seems trouble is stirring. The local boards are getting upset with this and are appear to be trying to wrestle to get more control in how our transport dollars are spent in their areas along with a greater say in regional project. I guess this shouldn’t really be a surprise, most politicians throughout history have always want to increase the level of control they have, especially when big sums of money is involved. What I am worried that we could be starting to head back to the old days where disagreement at a local level could create big impacts for the whole region and I’m even more worried that the current government could use this disagreement to stall projects it doesn’t like, projects like the CRL.

This issue was highlighted once again the other day with an interesting piece in The Aucklander which looked at the views of some of the local boards on transport spending. Most were pretty standard and didn’t through up many surprises but perhaps the most interesting and concerning response was from the Orakei board.

We want to engage directly with Auckland Transport to develop our own long-term vision for transport in the Orakei area to influence region-wide transport planning. We support new and improved infrastructure for local projects, including the Tamaki Drive corridor and Ellerslie/Panmure Highway – as well as the promotion of travel choices, including walking and cycling. We would like to see train station to service Selwyn College and provide a more convenient connection for people living close to the Poerewa Valley. Funding of major projects will have to be achieved without increasing rates by more than the council’s rate of inflation. We advocate planning for a third rail line to be added to the South Eastern rail link. We do not support a rail link to the airport. Until passenger numbers reach 35 million per annum, it will be unaffordable. If it is contemplated it should be connected via Wiri, not Onehunga so it will pass close by suburbs to the east of the CBD. We support continued planning for a second harbour crossing, but do not support rail to Orewa. We would like to see a budget allocated to trial feeder bus services to rail. We listed motorway tolling as the fourth priority for addressing the shortfall. We don’t know what number could come out of each option and we believe it is not a question of motorway tolling or rates or getting value out of assets that Auckland Council own. The Government already fund about 50 per cent of approved roading and public transport projects so we believe that this level of funding should continue. Rail related projects are a special case but we feel Aucklanders should receive the same comparative funding as Wellingtonians. We believe all funding options other than rates must be explored in partnership with the Government.

What I am most concerned about is that the board want to develop their own transport plan for the area to ‘influence region-wide transport planning’. My concern stems from the risk that what is good for Orakei is not always good for the whole region, as an example one of their listed projects is a train station at Selwyn College. At first glance it seems to make sense, allowing more people to access and make use of the rail network sounds like a good thing but as soon as you look at things a bit more then the decision isn’t so clear cut. Here is an idea of where the proposed station would be:

The station is in a gulley with no easy access options, this would require either expensive property acquisition and/or and expensive road link from down from Kohimarama Rd. This would also make it difficult to serve with feeder buses which would limit it’s catchment to those within walking distance as park n ride would be even more expensive. There would also be issues for things like security and maintenance. Probably the biggest issue though would be impact it would have on travel times for everyone south of the station. The vast majority of the patronage comes from south of the proposed station and even with our new EMUs, stopping at the station would add at least a minute, probably more due to it’s close proximity to Meadowbank, to the timetable. This is unlikely to be of any concern to the Orakei board who are only focused on their own area but the impacts are something that need to be carefully weighed up before any decision is made, something only a regional body can really do.

A Selwyn Train station is only one specific issue and these types of requests aren’t limited just to the Orakei board but it is something I am really worried about. I can see that if the Orakei board is allowed their own transport plan then each of the other local boards will want the same which could very easily lead us to making the same mistakes as in the past. When it comes to how much say local boards have on transport matters, my view is they should be able to lobby for specific improvements in their area but developing their transport plans should not be allowed. These are of course only my views but I’m keen to hear what you think.

36 comments to How much say should Local Boards have?

  • Ben

    Right so from The Aucklander quote thing we can see what Cameron Brewer’s policy is for transport – he might as well just say it and say “I am running against Len Brown next year” and put the city out of its misery… Also knowing that Board Chair Desley Simpson would of been running that line in The Aucklander I wonder who the actual Ward Councillor is over there – Brewer or Simpson. (Sorry you two if you are reading this, but while I get along with you two well enough concerns such as what Matt has posted here will have my eyebrows raised)

    To the article at hand: “‘influence region-wide transport planning’” I just have a conversation with Matt over regional vs patch issues via email – needless to say I wont paste my thoughts on that here as it can be found in my blog any-way.

    The station itself is a separate issue and post – what I am commenting here is what Orakei Local Board are up to.

    Summing up what I had a massive rant in my own blog I, basically what I had at the LTP Forum was patch issues and Councillors dealing with patch (that should of been dealt with at LTP Local Board hearings) rather than regional issues (which should of been dealt with at the forum I was in). It seems Orakei is doing the very opposite and dealing with regional while it should be dealing with patch issues.

    [When it comes to how much say local boards have on transport matters, my view is they should be able to lobby for specific improvements in their area but developing their transport plans should not be allowed.] Absolutely 1000% correct there Matt. My local board Papakura is lobbying for specific improvements such as the Walter Road park and ride Rail Station; now it did pass general comment on the regional issues but none of this regional plan stuff like Orakei are doing. Focus on your area and allow your Councillor to do plans and work for the regional stuff (nothing stop lobbying the ward councillor though).

    Divide and Conquer via the Local Boards which basically nullifies the main and primary Governing Body in effective decision making. Btw Orakei is not the only guilty, come of the inner-suburb Local Boards released views durring the POAL unrest when they shouldn’t of basically in my view undermining and interfering with the main Governing Body who’s issue it was…

    So the 2013 campaign has kicked off with Orakei taking the lead from the Starting Blocks? :P

    [and now back to the post I was writing on QLD Local Elections :P]

    • Geoff Houtman

      Ben, I’m pretty sure the Local Board you infer gave the Governing Body/ Mayor 3 months to sort the POAL thing.

      Three months of giant clusterfuck nothing.

      Then the Local Board spoke up. They had to- they seem to be the only people looking after us…

      Some Local Boards are ready to take a greater role in transport issues, some may never be. Politically it’s tricky explaining that to the slower Boards.

      • Matt

        Local boards should never have a greater role in regional transport decisions than they already do. Never. Why? Because they exist to advocate for a single area, and as we’ve already seen from the Orakei Board they are highly susceptible to local concerns dominating and interfering with wider concerns: the Remuera Road bus lanes issue affects buses from beyond the Orakei board’s area, for example.

        Similarly, their stance on the airport rail line is entirely about benefit to their area (properly a matter for their consideration) with no concern for the desperate need for better public transport in the south-western suburbs through with an extension to the Onehunga line would pass. If they’re not going to take a regional view – and they shouldn’t because it’s not their purpose – they should confine their concerns to local issues that strictly affect the board’s area. Matters of the functioning of the transport network are not of their concern, they are quite properly the concern of regional authorities.

        • Matt

          I should point out that I’m particularly loathe to give the Orakei Local Board any say over anything to do with transport because their predecessor board carries a significant amount of blame for Jane Bishop’s death. That area is tainted with unbending worship of the private automobile above all other forms of transport.

          They also don’t give a damn about the estimated $20m cost of the proposed Selwyn station, but they’ll be the first to bitch to high heaven if something like a targeted rate were introduced to make those the station would benefit actually pay for the bloody thing.

      • Ben

        What about Port of Auckland?

        That issue of POAL is one I could probably write a Masters Thesis on with the commentary and crude 3d renderings (still working on those over time) I have run since the begining of the year and still run to this day and beyond with me waiting for that POAL Review.

        Matt I see you are critical of OLB, your opinion and an interesting one to read.

        Geoff I stand by my points on OLB sticking its nose in where it shouldnt. Their “victory” with Remurea Road and the bus lane being downgraded to T3 lanes will be a case-in point on why. Do Howick and Eastern Buses use that road for services to and from Panmure, Botany and Howick? Because if so then well I am going to side with Matt on this one. OLB’s foray into transport for their area where it should of been a Regional Issue and decision (aka The Governing Body) might have well just buggered up another Local Board’s area because of consequences from the Remurea Road decision.

        However I have covered Local and Regional goverance in a blog post of mine. Needless to say the system is not perfect and needs some work.

        • Matt

          H&E buses all use Great South Road, but there are buses into Glen Innes that use Remuera Road and GI is not part of the OLB area.

          • Ben

            As I thought Matt, so OLB could of buggered a quality bus transit route down Remurea Road for those travelling to and from G.I by switching out to a T2/3? lane?

            If so, someone one is going to be feeling rightfully “annoyed” (that being you Matt :P )

          • Matt

            I don’t live in GI or use Remuera Road so it doesn’t affect me in either direction, but someone has to point out that OLB’s position affects people who use public transport to transit the OLB area. It’s not a decision that solely affects OLB’s constituents, but they don’t care because it’s only poor people from GI whose buses pass through.

  • Peter M

    I think there’s always going to be some tension between AT and the Local Boards over issues like transport. I remember John Roughan writing on the formation of AT made an interesting observation that transport has just so many debates over the “how” things are done (as opposed to something like Watercare where we don’t really care how the water gets to the tap, as long as it’s done cheaply and effectively). That means politicking over transport is inevitable – and not necessarily a bad thing at all.

    For every Orakei Local Board there’s also a Waitemata Local Board, who are enormously enlightened when it comes to transport matters. It would probably be a very good thing if the Waitemata Local Board had more say over transport matters, but to give them more say we need to give Orakei more say. And vice versa of course.

    I suspect that the role of Local Boards will probably be tweaked over time as we learn how to best utilise them.

    • Ben

      And that is where the catch is; Give one Local Board more and the rest will pipe up wanting more until we basically have what we had pre-super city and the Governing Body nothing more than a rubber stamping exercise.

      The current governance structure is some-what flawed compared to what the Royal Commission of Enquiry recommended where At Large councillors would act as a counter-balance to proactive Local Boards like Orakei.

      However I feel of Orakei LB want a say on regional issues it should probably lobby their ward councillor to do so on their behalf rather than directly to the main Governing Body.

      You’re right Peter though, the role of LBs will most likely get tweaked over time – and hope they do to :)

  • Scott

    I think region wide approach to transport is the way to go.

    Most people want low volumes of slow moving traffic near where they live, and to be able to travel fast when they travel through other areas.

    Likewise most area’s will want tight RTN station spacing, with sparse station spacing between there area and key trip destinations.

    For example I would love a train station near the Parnell baths. Great for me, but really hardly worth slowing the entire eastern line for a station which has a catchment that is approx 70% water.

    I think the hard decisions to make an optimal network won’t happen if local boards are given too much say.

  • Max

    Having helped the Waitemata Local Board with some occasional advice on walking and cycling, I am obviously biased in my opinions, but I think it is hugely frustrating for a Local Board to want to do the right thing, and constantly get locals coming up to them and say “can’t you do something about…” (transport after all is a hugely local matter, whether the particular transport link is regional or not) – and then find as a Local Board member that Auckland Transport has the ability to essentially ignore all you are doing.

    You are left with local boards either feeling (and being perceived) as powerless on transport (as above, a key issue their constituents care about) or having to essentially wheedle, deal, talk and influence their way into the decisions of the AT Board and the Transport committee.

    You may think that’s the right way – that the Local Boards should be ADVOCATES for their area, not DECISIONMAKERS. However, with such enormous amounts of power contentrated upwards, first to 10 Councillors for all of Auckland, then to an almost independent AT, then to a MoT in Wellington, all pulling the strongs… is this democracy? I think the Local Board needs statutorily defined transport powers. Not the ability to make calls like on a train station themselves obviously, or the power to turn regional bus lanes into T2 lanes. But I would, for example, strongly support a chunk of the funding (say, 10% of all the transport money spent in a board) to come under the power of the Local Board. Because FUNDING control, at the end of the day, is one of the two places where power lies. Keep the REGULATORY / designation powers regional, so a local board can’t just make or unmake something like the Eastern Transport Corridor. But give the Local Boards some heft to actually do what they should do: represent their own people in a way that is more than saying “Pretty please…”.

    • Matt L

      I can understand that they may be getting frustrated but where do you draw the line? If you were to limit their influence to non regionally important roads/infrastructure then I bet they would still not be happy simply due to the fact that it is normally the regional type infrastructure that people want upgraded the most. There has to be a limit somewhere so where should that be?

      • Max

        Right now they have NO funding and NO regulatory influence. How about we draw the line a little bit higher than rock bottom? Don’t get me wrong, I see your concern – but you seem to be to be barking up the wrong tree* – the influence that you should be worried about sits in Wellington, and does regular violence to Auckland’s transport wishes. Your Local Board may also want stuff that you / the regional transport network perspective would not quite agree with, but at least they are local (unlike Welly) and elected (unlike Council staff). So giving them a say in the matter (though not THE say) seems fully appropriate to me.

        *(the image is not supposed to be derogatory of course)

        • Max

          I am talking of TRANSPORT funding and regulatory influence of course. They do have some influence and money in the other areas, though I understand it is still very, very limited.

    • Jeremy

      You’ll find that they don’t have statutory powers because this structure was abit of a fudge. However the best people to decide the roles they should have is the mayor and deputy mayor (not Government) worked out over time (as above posts say) when issues arise.

    • Matt

      the power to turn regional bus lanes into T2 lanes

      Nobody should have that power. Bus lanes should be sacrosanct. That AT meekly rolled over and asked for a belly-scratch when the Orakei Local Board barked about bus lanes was sickening to watch, and the OLB should’ve been told to take a flying leap. AT needs to grow some balls and decide whether it supports bus lanes unconditionally or otherwise. If otherwise, don’t even bother creating them.

      A local board should have power to decide things like bus stop placement (within boundaries set at a regional level about minimum and maximum distance between stops along a contiguous road), for example, or designate space for a park-and-ride, and should absolutely be funded to maintain footpaths within their area (subject to that funding authority being revoked if they don’t maintain all footpaths to the same standard, to avoid the likes of the OLB having gold-plated footpaths in Remuera while letting footpaths in Glendowie turn into rutted goat tracks. And yes I actually do think they would do that, because complaints about differential levels of footpath and road maintenance within the Auckland City area were heard before Megatropolis was created). Beyond that, though, you’re getting to the point where their decisions will have an impact on transport beyond the boundaries of the board area.

      • Max

        So what is wrong with giving each board a pro-rata (per person in the area) share of the transport CAPEX? Say 10% of the city’s transport CAPEX is being decided on by the boards? To do with whatever they feel works best for their board (as long as their proposed expenditure does not contradict regional plans of course)?

        Of course that would massively increase their influence, and in some ways it would give them more influence than the Council currently has (which has to go through all the various hurdles that Auckland Transport puts up to their requests when Council wants to make detailed decision, rather than stick to the high-level decisions that Rodney Hide allowed them).

        It’s all just a thought experiment. But I think it’s a worthwile thought. Local democracy shouldn’t just be a talkfest, where the best one can hope for is that your local policitians are skilled enough in bending the ears of the next tier of politicians higher up. The local body should have some actual influence. And better for that influence to be aboveboard, rather than depend on the Local Board politicians having key connections.

        • Matt

          Nothing wrong with it in principle, though I would question 10% of the budget going on bus stops and footpaths, about the only areas where I think local boards should be able to decide their own priorities. If we gave them responsibility for road surface maintenance, which would grant them more of the budget, there would have to be very strict controls (with strongly-enforced penalties) for inequitable distribution within the area.

          • Max

            Matt, you are thinking way too small.

            Transport funding also goes on such little things like intersection safety upgrades, new local cycleways and footpaths, new pedestrian and cycling overbridges or bridges over creeks, better streetlighting, parking improvements, cycle parking, crash barriers, new pedestrian crossings, removal of pinch points or installation of traffic calming… all things Local Boards should have a strong say in, and for which 10% of the CAPEX surely would not be too much.

            Yes of course this money has to come from somewhere – from the general transport CAPEX budget. It isn’t a call for MORE money so much as saying they should have some say in how the bigger pot is divided up.

          • Matt

            removal of pinch points

            You mean like the one where Jane Bishop died after the OLB’s predecessor objected to the removal of four parking spaces? The history of that particular area’s local governance is what makes me loathe to give local boards much power to decide anything of importance, because it’ll mean giving the OLB that same power and they’ve not demonstrated that they’re any better than the last lot in terms of giving a shit about anyone who’s not a rich motorist.

        • Mr Anderson

          As there’s only a limited bucket of funds, obviously such a set up would mean taking money away from somewhere else – somewhere likely to have higher regional benefits.

          Not that that’s necessarily a reason against giving the local boards more say. Just saying the money has to come from somewhere.

  • Matt L

    I guess you could easily argue that any arterial road, any road that travels through a town centre, any road that has a bus route on it or even any road that is part of the regional cycling network is regionally significant and so would fall outside the jurisdiction of the local board. That would only really leave local streets under their control and for the most part would be restricted to footpath upgrades and traffic calming measures which still wouldn’t leave much real control

    • Matt

      still wouldn’t leave much real control

      And that’s a problem why, exactly? Auckland is a single city, supposedly, for the purposes of dealing to all the inconsistencies in approach that the previous models have had. To give local boards power to carry out actions that would impact on any kind of through route is just going back to the ways of old, with the added “bonus” of the bodies getting their money from a collective pot instead of raising it straight out of their local area. The more power the likes of OLB are given the more they will want. Give an inch to those buggers and they’ll take your whole wallet.

  • Sean

    It’s obvious from reading their comments that local boards have no business deciding regional transport planning priorities, as they will inevitably be self-serving. Why should the Orakei local board feel entitled to comment on whether or not rail goes to Orewa? (What if the Orewa community did want a rail line?)

    Even when they advocate for their own interests they seem shortsighted. Even if an Airport line doesn’t go through the eastern suburbs, it’s only a short train ride from the eastern suburbs to the CBD, where they could transfer. Not worth raising a fuss about.

    • Max

      So you don’t believe that elected local politicians should have any say in what happens transport-wise in their area? You even begrudge them ANY sort of input? A very technocratic view (“We know what to do, trust us”).

      That’s exactly what Wellington is doing to Auckland – “We know what to do (motorways) – trust us”.

      Don’t confuse the need for regional decisionmaking with the right of people to democratically influence what happens in theit neighborhood.

      • Sean

        I didn’t say that. You will note that I was careful to say only that they had no place in *regional* planning. As far as local planning goes, of course they should have a say – although exactly how is a thorny question that I leave to others.

        This doesn’t change the fact that I think that their wish to have a train to the airport via the eastern suburbs is unrealistic at best and selfish at worst.

      • Matt

        Give them input into regional decision-making, sure, but there’s actually very, very little that can be decided at a local level for transport that doesn’t have an effect outside the local board’s area. Add a few bus stops on a road? Suddenly the buses are going slower because they have to stop more often. Take a few away, and suddenly patronage will drop because the bus catchment shrinks. Designating and constructing new roads is tied directly to land-use planning, and that’s very properly a regional function.

        You’ve said you’re biased because in your experience Waitemata LB is forward-thinking and proactive, but for each Waitemata there’s an Orakei and giving power to one means giving the same power to the other (especially since OLB would go and bleat to National and get statutory powers if they weren’t given as much power by the Council as was delegated to Waitemata). And as with employment law, we have to regulate to the level of the lowest common denominator rather than for the most enlightened and progressive.

  • Greg N

    OLBs position (having been to a few meetings and read even more meeting minutes), is that the pro-rata thing is desireable, and that the pro-rate is not per-head but by $ of rates paid.
    As the OLB point out to themselves time and time again, the OLB residents pay more than their fair share of rate $ yet, generally get less than that amount back in spending in the OLB area.

    As for gold-plated footpaths – yeah I notice that all the streets of Remmers have the old Basalt block style kerbings, even as they are ripped up from other areas of the old ACC – officially to provide “reserve” kerbing (for those more affluent suburbs with that style of kerbing one assumes) logically to replace those loosened by Remuera tractors running over them.

    And on a side note, I note that some of new footpaths laid in Remuera in the last year or so are now being ripped up to have Fibre cabling installed underneath them. Wonder who is paying for that? (us via AC/AT or Chorus as chief digger-upperer of the footpaths?)

    • Matt

      If anything the pro-rata should be based on a strictly neutral metric such as square metres of road surface (which will, to some extent, capture the relative importance of particular roads over others) or kilometres of bus route. That avoids giving excess benefit to any particular local area and ensures that none of them get to gold-plate their footpaths or road surfaces relative to other parts of the city. For areas with particular heritage or other needs, such as the CBD or Newmarket, an appropriate formula could doubtless be established to account for the higher costs of maintaining the appropriate surface.

      The OLB clearly has a very inflated sense of self-worth, though we already knew that. They have almost no arterial roads in their patch, as opposed to the “lower-class” LB areas that encompass the likes of Onehunga (Church Street, Neilson Street), East Tamaki/Papatoetoe, and Henderson (Lincoln Road, Universal Drive).

      • Max

        You are concentrating way too much on one board whose comments and political stance you don’t seem to like. This is a much more generic question. One board may have policies you like, the next not. THAT SHOULD NOT MATTER in how much political say over local (and to a degree regional) influence over transport a local board has.

        And even if you absolutely hate their transport politics, they have been elected (likely at least partly on the basis of those policies, and they will certainly be judged on them next time).

        As for pro-rataing transport spend on the basis of existing bus routes or length of roads. Good heavens, why not skew the scale a bit more? That’s as bad as saying “Kiwis like to drive, so let’s build more roads”. Why should an area get more funding because it has gotten more funding (and thus more roads or buses or whatnot) in the past? That just perpetuates inequality, and inhibits needed investment.

        Orakei’s “pro rata based on rates paid” is actually fairer than yoru example, Matt, even though I don’t support it (I think richer areas have a duty to support poorer areas). I think the only fair pro rata rule is by population.

        • Matt

          I think the only fair pro rata rule is by population.

          Oh, yes, absolutely. Let’s ask all the rural boards how they feel about having their various maintenance budgets handed out on the basis of population alone. My proposal for doing it based on road area in need of maintaining recognises that some areas have few people and lots of roads while others have lots of people and not so many roads.

        • Matt

          I don’t support giving local boards any authority to designate or construct new roads, by the way, because that’s a function properly handled at the regional level because it’s tied into land-use planning and has impacts on the wider transport network. So your talk of “let’s build roads” is nonsense, because the LB cannot increase their budget by building more roads.
          As for the length of a bus route, if there’s a regional standard for bus stop spacing then it’s absolutely vital to allow sufficient budget to construct and maintain a compliant number of bus stops along that route.

          • Geoff Houtman

            Surely Local Boards can have input into the placement of a local bus stop?

          • Matt

            Absolutely. But, again, their placement has an impact on regional services. Too frequent and buses are always stopping, too infrequent and people won’t use buses because it’s too far to walk to a stop. Even something as “simple” as placing bus stops is not something that a local board can do in isolation of the rest of Auckland. Hence the suggestion of having a regional standard for minimum and maximum spacing and then leaving local boards to figure out where best to place stops within their area while keeping to the standard.

  • Geoff Houtman

    Update time? A part 2 post maybe?

    The Aucklander appears to be doing a 3 part series on LBs and their transport ideology.

    Waitemata and a couple of the Shavian ones seem very on the ball…

    http://www.theaucklander.co.nz/news/transport-funding-preferences-part-two/1374635/#comments

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