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.