In an opinion piece in this morning’s Herald Michael Barnett of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce expresses his most unequivocal support for the City Rail Link [CRL] yet. It seems that the Centre City Future Access Study [CCFAS] has given Barnett and the Chamber’s members the final nudge needed to not only see the need for this project but also confidently call for it against the government’s expressed position:
“I represent a group of business leaders who strongly support the principle of the city rail link and accelerating other long-agreed key transport projects. If it is going to require new faces at the table with central Government to explain their urgency to helping drive Auckland’s economic growth agenda, then we would welcome a meeting with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to find a solution.”
“…the view within business is that it needs to happen sooner rather than later. It therefore doesn’t help that a central government agency becomes a roadblock to its progress.”
It really shows that it is only this government that sees improving Transit in Auckland through a party political lens. Perhaps such strong support for the CRL from a group that can generally be expected to agree with National Party policy and that they express their frustration with what they see as its political ‘blockage’ should lead to a rethink in Wellington.
“By putting political parameters around our decision-making, all we end up achieving is to deny ourselves the chance of making progress to confirm a solution and accelerate action.”
“The recent transport report showing Auckland faces a looming congestion crisis in the city centre if we don’t invest in improving rail and bus systems once again reinforced what has been abundantly clear for a number of years. We need more people out of cars and into public transport. In order to do that, we need a good and efficient network.”
It is great to see such an influential group calling for the CRL expressly in order to support the economic performance of the city because this government’s policy has always seemed one that at very best shows little understanding of the economics of cities. Largely conceiving them as nothing other than obstacles to the movement of bulky goods from the countryside rather than as centres of economic value and wealth creation in themselves.
“Removing roadblocks to allow for decisive action on Auckland’s critically important economic growth agenda is emerging as the top issue facing the city in early 2013.”
The rest of the article shows an interesting softening in attitude to the Green Party too by this business group so perhaps in their frustration they are casting around for other parties they feel they may be able to work with…?
Preceding Barnett’s column was a media release by another business group the Employers and Manufacturers Association: Auckland’s Central Rail Loop Must be Fast Tracked. Again the support for the project is because of its economic impact.
“Without far more investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure there’s no way we can lift exports from 30 to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025.
“Auckland’s GDP is growing at 2.4 per cent a year currently, but long before 2025 the people we need to house and transport to and from work for our export campaign will be stuck in the traffic far from where their jobs are.
“But more than this, the CRL is itself an engine of growth for the coherent development of the city.
Again emphasising a very large gulf between what business people in Auckland believe is needed to support a successful economy and our government’s view.
From another perspective yesterday’s Herald on Sunday ran this piece from opinion writer Kerre Woodham: Nats Run out of Petrol. While she falls short of connecting the dots between the aggressive pace and high cost of the RoNS programme and the recently announced petrol tax increases she does point to an increasing level of frustration among ordinary New Zealanders with the policies of the Key Government, suggesting that this tax rise might just be a bit of a last straw for a number of people.
I thought John Key said that by cutting income tax rates we would be able to stimulate the economy. Guess that didn’t work. I thought Key said that he would be able to stem the flow of New Zealanders to Australia by building a competitive economy and offering after-tax earnings on a par with those across the ditch. Well, that hasn’t worked, either.
I guess the problem is that having so politicised transport investment it may be all but impossible for Brownlee and Joyce to change their position on the CRL now. Especially after Brownlee’s petulant reaction to the CCFAS as surely this was the best opportunity to shift position with grace; the report was made in response to their request and involved central government agencies and ministries. They could have, with some justification, claimed ownership of this process that led to such a clear outline of the need for the CRL if they had only responded with objectivity and openmindedness.
But then there’s the real problem: The RoNS, and in particular the pace of the programme, as it is sucking every penny out of a declining fund. The Road User Forum’s quiescence over the rise in RUC and FEDs shows how completely on board this assertive lobby group are with the government’s policy of total investment in State Highways. I doubt there is any room for the government to waiver in their promises to big trucking by moving even 10% of the funding to the CRL and away from the trucking subsidy. And that’s all we are talking about too, around 10% of the recently announced RoNS programme.
Lastly we come to Brian Rudman’s somewhat grumpy little complaint about terminology also in today’s Herald. The L in CRL does stand for Link and not Loop but Rudman, perhaps in a fit of silly season column filling, goes to some length to explain his insistence on inaccuracy . Even going as far as appealing to the ‘L’ system in Chicago as precedence. Sorry to be a pedant Brian, but it isn’t know as The Loop, that is the name of the central city area contained within the loop of the tracks; the system itself is called the ‘L’ [for Elevated]. But I think we can all agree with Rudman when he says this:
If I thought changing the name would persuade the naysayers to change their minds, I’d happily abandon the offending word. But it wouldn’t, and anyway, gaining popular support is not the issue. A poll last month says 64 per cent of Aucklanders support the loop/link. It’s the Prime Minister and his Transport Minister who need convincing, and somehow I don’t think it’s the name that’s holding them back.
Lastly I’m a little appalled at putting up a post with no pictures so here’s a little festive number; some drinking but no driving was involved in its creation-promise….
Merry Christmas from the ATB editorial team, thank you for all your comments and contributions in 2012 [which has been a huge year for readership] and remember to avoid driving north on SH1 on the 27 December or you will be both in for a hot and dull time in your car and be adding to the Herald’s annual front page Holiday Highway pump piece. And we look forward to *seeing* you all again next year. Onward.