Brian Rudman was in fine form in yesterday’s NZ Herald, highlighting that behind all the fancy words of the National Land Transport Programme, both Auckland and public transport get a pretty raw deal:
In Auckland’s case, of the $3.37 billion Mr Brownlee plans to invest, $816 million comes from Auckland Council.
When this shared funding is taken into account, the Government’s claimed love affair with public transport – support up 21 per cent, according to NZTA – suddenly looks rather weak. Of the $802 million expenditure highlighted for Auckland public transport, nearly half ($365 million) comes from ratepayers. As for building and maintaining local Auckland roads, it’s almost a dead heat, with NZTA paying $301 million and Auckland Council $295 million.
Wading through the small print, it quickly emerges that expenditure on vital public transport infrastructure over the next three years nationally will be a miserable $115 million, a 31 per cent drop on the previous three years. What enables NZTA to claim a 21 per cent increase in public transport spending is they’ve combined this low infrastructure spend with a 35 per cent increase in payments for public transport “services”. This $830 million covers investment in new rolling stock, “and increased track access charges”, the latter being the Government’s way of gouging more money out of Auckland ratepayers for the hire of the public railroads we need to run our trains on.
NZTA really has tried to be quite sneaky in their reporting of PT funding, by lumping together PT services and PT infrastructure, then saying that together their funding level has gone up. While that’s true, it masks a really big drop in PT infrastructure funding – with most of the services increase being eaten up by EMU loan repayments and increased track access charges.
Auckland also gets a pretty raw deal when it comes to our share of the funding pie – getting a lower proportion of the transport spend than our contribution and a lower in terms of our population:
What’s worse, Aucklanders have been dorked again. Despite talk of Auckland doing well out of the new transport budget, the truth is we’ve been short-changed. Again. As the home of roughly one-third of New Zealanders, and the payers of at least 33 per cent of central taxes and petrol imposts, the $2.6 billion of NZTA cash to be spent in Auckland represents 28 per cent of NZTA’s funding. On a per capita basis, we should be getting another $500 million at least.
Another thing to consider is population growth. Between 1996 and 2006, over half of all New Zealand’s population growth was in Auckland:
In the future this dominance of the country’s population growth only increases:
With population growth being one of the most important arguments for “more transport infrastructure in the future”, the fact that Auckland gets only a quarter of the country’s transport spending becomes even more unfair. Sadly there’s nothing new in the story of Auckland missing out when it comes to transport spending. Rudman continues:
But what’s new. In 1991, after an earlier battle for a light rail service, regional councillors calculated that Aucklanders then paid $150 million a year in fuel taxes but only got $84 million back in central transport funding. More recently, Green Party researchers have calculated that in the 15 years to 2005, Aucklanders paid $7.022 billion in fuel taxes and the like but only got back $3.222 billion in transport-related expenditure – less than half what they put in.
In the past year or two of the Clark Labour Government, government transport funding finally started to match Auckland’s contribution. This week’s proposal is a retreat to the short-changing of past years. It is also a refusal to accept the Government’s own evidence showing that Aucklanders – and New Zealanders – want a greater emphasis on public transport.
And finally, perhaps the greatest irony of all that Rudman points out relates to the fact that in most parts of the country, traffic simply isn’t increasing.
The big ticket item is once again the maintenance and building of state highways. Together that comes to just over $5 billion. That’s more than five times the public transport spend. This despite NZTA graphs, based on more than 100 survey points across the highway network, showing that motorway traffic has plateaued. NZTA’s own gurus have discovered motorway traffic peaked around 2003 after steadily climbing since the monitoring began in 1989. A year or two later, heavy traffic followed suit.
So let’s summarise:
- Public transport infrastructure spending is down 31%, even though PT trips have increased by 7% across the whole country in the past three years (and around a 20% increase in Auckland’s patronage growth in that time)
- The biggest chunk of the NLTP funds are being spent on new state highways, even thought traffic growth rates are negligible since around 2005
- Auckland gets 28% of the transport spend, even though we’re 33% of the population and well over half the country’s population growth
Rudman’s article really highlights that, despite all its pretty words and big numbers, the NLTP is bad news for public transport, bad news for Auckland just a further example of how utterly stupid our transport policy is in this country at the moment.