This blog has long been critical of the government for its Roads of National Significance (RoNS) program. This not because of political ideology (us bloggers have different political views) but because many of them they are being progressed under the guise of improving the economy despite the evidence suggesting that many of them, like Puhoi to Wellsford, don’t pass basic economic tests. There are also more questions about them with things like petrol frequently bouncing to new highs while at the same time traffic volumes on state highways continuing to remain largely flat. Local councils are also getting agitated as funding pressures start to bite due to more and more funding get diverted away to help pay for these massive roads. Pressure is likely to continue with the news the other day that fuel excise tax was likely increase again to help keep the funding going along with the NZTA being allowed to take out even more lending to pay for things. As time has gone on MPs and others have started increasing the level of noise talking out against the projects and the mainstream media are now starting to get on board with many of the messages.
Yesterday saw transport minister Gerry Brownlee fronted up to The Nation on TV3 to discuss the RoNS.
Gerry has been in politics long enough to be able to fairly easily answer these questions but he and his colleagues must be getting concerned about the direction things are going. The pressure against them continues to mount and will likely only keep doing so and I believe that this was one of the key reasons Gerry was given the portfolio rather than hand it to a Junior minister like has often happened in the past.
It is also interesting to hear some of his comments about how projects like the Harbour bridge wouldn’t have stacked up to a cost benefit analysis yet it was built anyway, there aren’t many who would say that on the whole it was bad for Auckland. What he is really suggesting is that we can’t fully capture the benefits of certain projects through the economic analysis alone which I agree with him on however he continues to argue that the CRL must stack up economically. To me that is just another thing that confirms that what is and isn’t being supported by this government is purely based on ideology with the reasoning being changed to suit the situation.
On the CRL it was perhaps the least negative I have seen him talk about the project. The City Centre Future Access Study, which Gerry makes reference to, seeks to answer many of the questions that the former transport minister asked about the project. It is in full swing and closely involves Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, the Ministry of Transport and NZTA. Pehaps the two government agencies are starting to realise that the alternatives they suggested like just using more buses simply won’t work and are passing that on to Gerry so he doesn’t get egg on his face in the future (one can hope anyway).