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National; we have a problem

In yesterday’s post Matt covered this recent article by Brian Rudman.

The crux of the issue is that the National Government – under the guise of the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill – is proposing to remove Auckland Transport’s obligations to Auckland Council.

In the brave new world created by the LTMA Bill, Auckland Transport will have to develop a Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) that “is consistent with” the Government Policy Statement on Transport. In contrast, this RLTP need only to consider the regional transport objectives established by Auckland Council.

For those who are not used to Big Brother policy-speak, “consider” is what you do when you flip through a report looking at the pictures before turfing it in the recycling bin.

The relevant section of the Bill is shown below (page 15).

RLTP requirements2

Hence, the Bill proposes to establish a clear policy hierarchy, where central government’s GPS has precedence over Auckland Council’s transport objectives. The change in hierarchy is subtle but oh so significant.

The Bill then goes on to explicitly remove Auckland Transport’s ability (established in the LGACA 2009, when Auckland Council was formed) to delegate responsibilities for developing the RLTP (either in part or in whole) to Auckland Council:

Delegation

Consequential indeed. The intended (and practical) effect of the proposed legislative changes is that Auckland Transport becomes an implementation tool for the National Government, rather than one of the Auckland Council. On a superficial level this immediately renders the term “Council Controlled Organisation” (CCO) something of a misnomer – Auckland Transport may as well just merge with the Auckland offices of the MoT and NZTA and be done with it.

I think there are, however, deeper and more fundamental issues with the proposed legislative amendments. In my opinion, one of the primary issues with the LTMA Bill – as it is currently drafted – is the degree to which it undermines the (already tenuous) connection between taxation and representation. This connection has been a bedrock of conservative political thinking ever since the American War of Independence.

More specifically, the thinking behind the LTMA Bill fails to acknowledge that it is the people of Auckland who collectively pay for transport projects in our region, by way of user charges and local taxes (actually Auckland historically more than pays for its transport projects – to the benefit of other regions).

One might argue, then, that Central Government does not actually “fund” transport in Auckland in any meaningful sense – they simply distribute hypothecated fuel excise duties that are collected from users. It is actually Local Government that does most of the “funding” – insofar as the money they contribute is collected not from users but instead via taxes. The collection and application of these funds are subsequently open to normal democratic debate.

In my view, one of the fundamental tasks of the Central and Local Government agencies involved in funding transport is identifying projects that align with the preferences of the people who might use, or be impacted by, the transport system. In turn, I have not seen much evidence to suggest that Central Government is better placed to represent the preferences of these people. In fact most people view transport as one of the key functions of Local Government.

There is also no reason to expect that preferences are homogenous at the national level. People in Auckland, for example, are likely to have different transport preferences from people who live in Rangitikei. The former probably walk/cycle and use public transport considerably more than the latter.

Differences in preferences are one reason why certain types of people choose to live in cities, and vice versa in rural areas. Put simply, people will partly “self-select” their location based on how it reflects their transport preferences. This might imply that Local Government is actually better placed to understand transport needs than Central Government.

Moreover, in most parts of New Zealand the majority of travel demands are regional or local, rather than national. The last time I looked, approximately 90% of the vehicles using Auckland’s state highway network, for example, were associated with regional/local travel demands. Put simply, most of our travel occurs locally or regionally.

All this seems to suggest that Local Government should have quite a bit of say on how transport funds are applied.

The underlying principle being invoked here is called the principle of subsidiarity. This principle is embedded in European Law and seems to hold general appeal across the political spectrum, for quite understandable reasons. In short, the principle argues for governance functions to be devolved to the lowest possible level at which they can be delivered effectively and efficiently.

Last year the NZ Productivity Commission – instigated by the National Government – produced this issues paper on local government regulatory performance. The paper discussed – and generally extolled – the merits of subsidiarity. The section of their report titled “Factors that may be relevant in allocating regulatory roles” (pg. 28) contains this cutesy diagram:

NZPC on subsidiarity

What this illustrates is that the “local customised” approach to public policy more accurately reflects differences in the population’s underlying preferences. And that – put simply – makes the affected people better off. In contrast, the “one-size-fits-all” approach to setting transport policy, which is what the LTMA Bill proposes for Auckland, is likely to result in some people – especially those who use public transport and who walk/cycle – much less happy.

I’d suggest the National Government has a major problem on its hands, and one that is entirely of its own making. How do National reconcile the LTMA Bill with the concepts of taxation/representation, as well as the more general principle of subsidiarity? In my opinion you can’t; what is being proposed in the LTMA Bill is nothing less than a naked power grab.

I’m actually rather outraged by what is being proposed here. As an Aucklander who is interested in transport, I’d like all the National MPs in Auckland to front up and tell us why they think it’s appropriate for Central Government to place their transport agenda ahead of Auckland’s democratically elected councillors.

Can Aucklanders not decide for ourselves what sort of transport projects our rates and fuel excise duties should fund? Or does Nanny National always know best? And I have not even mentioned land use and transport integration, which is another strong argument for retaining Auckland Transport’s obligations to Auckland Council.

If you’re as concerned as I am by what is proposed in the LTMA Bill then I’d suggest you send your local National MP (listed below [source]) an email and let them know how you feel, or possibly just point them to this post. Go well.

National MPs in Auckland

82 comments to National; we have a problem

  • Noodle

    While outrage is definitely justified, at the end of the day Auckland Transport doesn’t have any of its own revenue streams (except parking which doesn’t cover much). This means they rely on Council’s funding through the Long Term Plan to do anything. If council does or does not want something they have a pretty powerful lever still.

    • Stu Donovan

      not sure I agree – while Council can, in principle, withhold funding it’s very difficult in practice. It’s akin to throwing the transport toys out of the proverbial cot.

      It would also simply provide a reason for AT – egged on the Central Government no doubt – to cut funding for w/c and PT services. Remember that highways are 100% funded by NZTA so would go ahead regardless.

      Indeed, if AC withholds local contributions then under a strict interpretation of NZTA’s Farebox Recovery Policy, public transport services would have to be pulled. So I don’t think withholding funds is a realistic option for AC.

      • patrick m

        However Stu if this did come to a head the situation could get very “1981ish”.

        Yes the government could withhold their contributions which would have 2 consequence – Massive civil disobedience bringing the city to a stand still, or massive traffic disruption bringing the city to a standstill. Either way its Loose Loose for the Nat’s. A positive, maybe the rest of the country will finally awaken to the importance of Auckland.

        • Stu Donovan

          yes, although I’d like to think that even if this legislation was to pass the “lose-lose” outcome you describe would be relatively unlikely to occur, mainly because it would not be in anyone’s interest.

    • Im afraid i totally agree with you, they rely on Council’s funding.

  • Frank

    Isn’t National in favour of LESS government regulation? They are getting more nanny-state than Labour ever was…

    • Stu Donovan

      One would normally think so yes. When National were elected in 2008 I was reasonably optimistic (even though I must admit I did not vote for them) that they would focus their efforts on addressing economically important issues, and winding back harmful regulation where necessary.

      That optimism has quickly given way to a sense of utter disillusionment with the tack they are taking.

      While unrelated to this issue, the legislation that was recently passed with regard to payments to disabled care givers is utter bile. You can read more about it here (http://publicaddress.net/onpoint/what-andrew-geddis-said-but-shorter-and-with/).

      I can’t help but feel that National are beginning to exhibit a very callous/arrogant authoritarian streak.

      • Geoff Houtman

        When the previous PM did this she got kicked out, I see no reason why this will not occur next year too.

        Us voters can only stomach so much bull…

  • obi

    How is this different to health? DHBs are tasked with implementing national government health policies as well as local priorities. They’re not free to pursue their own policies entirely, and they don’t take direction from city councils. The answer can’t reasonably include references to funding… money is taken off tax and ratepayers and given to the operating agencies to spend in both cases, and the exact route it takes from payer to spender isn’t material.

    • obi

      Or, now that I think about it, how is this different to education? School boards have to teach the national curriculum. They consult with local communities and parents, but they’re not free to teach what they like… no matter how important democracy and subsidiarity is.

    • Stu Donovan

      It’s very different, for the reasons outlined in the post. Health is funded from general taxes; transport is not.

      Instead, transport is funded by a combination of hypothecated user charges and local rates, both of which are a funding mechanism that would seem to place a greater emphasis on local input than health.

      In saying that, in many places (e.g. Sweden) there is considerably more regional/local input into health and education.

      • Oh and the US, Australia, and the UK. NZ is already uniquely over-centralised.

        This is totally outrageous. Why on earth should a libertarian party support this. What a crook Banks and traitor is.

        This government seems to be taking Fiji as it’s role model; how much more anti-democratic can they get?

        • Filde

          Aye Patrick; “This is totally outrageous. Why on earth should a libertarian party support this. What a crook Banks and traitor is”. In truth you are correct, and I think this may be why the ACT Party are doing so poorly is because they have lost a heck of a lot of integrity. Unfortunately, the ACT Party are politicians in a extremely vulnerable position who are attempting to keep their heads above water by compromise (let National do this if we can do this). I think they should be doing the opposite and sticking to the core values, something the Greens did very very well.

          For the record, don’t let crony capitalists tar your thoughts of libertarians too badly…

        • Lloyd

          Actually, no, NZ is not unique – the UK is also incredibly centralised. Councils are not free to set their own council tax levels (rates) outside of a very narrow band dictated by Whitehall. In fact business rates are paid from councils to Whitehall and then redistributed back to councils.

          There is much use of national town planning policies, leaving councils with very little to do other than tinker around the edges. Yes, councils do run schools, but the NHS (public health) is also notoriously centralised.

          This article provides more detail: http://www.economist.com/node/14750203

        • Stu Donovan

          Perhaps we should run a campaign to get Banks voting against this Bill? After all, the Act Party should not be supporting this sort of legislation, assuming that they’re being consistent with their values.

      • obi

        “both of which are a funding mechanism that would seem to place a greater emphasis on local input than health”

        Local input isn’t the same as local strategy and standards. Take water, for instance. Is it right for the national government to put in place water quality standards, and then leave it up to local rates-funded agencies to meet those standards? Or how to meet a national strategy objective that everyone should have access to clean water? I think you’re arguing that water quality standards should be a matter for councils and national government should stay out of the issue.

        Similarly, domestic building consents are provided by councils and paid for by house builders, but building standards are set down by the national government. Is the policy that all houses should be built to a safe national standard a case of the government “taking Fiji as it’s role model”? And a “naked power grab”?

        • Stu Donovan

          I’m not arguing about water standards at all – it’s not my area of expertise and this is the first time it’s even been mentioned. Either way, it’s not particularly relevant.

          With regards to local input versus national standards – we already have the latter in transport. It’s called the National Land Transport Programme and it’s where NZTA identifies the projects that it will fund, based on the criteria established in the GPS. So there is already a HUGE amount (too much I would argue) of central government involvement in transport – and this legislation just reduces local input even further,

          “naked power grab” – yup, that’s what it seems like.

          P.s. I don’t get the reference to Fiji.

        • Bryce P

          Wrong argument Obi. In your scenario, the government is telling you what to build not just how. The roading standards such as Austroads, are the same as the building standards.

        • Kevyn

          The water quality (and air quality for that matter) situation is actually precisely what Stu has been arguing. Central government sets the standards and local government works out how to achieve them and how to fund the necessary improvements. The same approach could be taken with transport if central government set standards for congestion, safety, noise, etc and AT made it happen.

          • Stu Donovan

            yes that is the approach that I would support. Central Government sets standards, performance measures, and collects/distributes revenues, whereas local government applies those revenues to projects that have local democratic support.

          • Steve D

            If central government set a standard for transport based on congestion (i.e. travel times for private vehicles), we’d only ever get more motorways. As with George D’s example of DHBs below, the person who sets the standard has all the real power.

          • conan

            “If central government set a standard for transport based on congestion (i.e. travel times for private vehicles), we’d only ever get more motorways.”

            That’s completely untrue. Expanding PT options can give some of those currently using private vehicles the choice not to use them for their chosen journey. All other things been equal the removal of the the vehicles of the new PT user decreases travel time for other private vehicle users. As we know (because of school holidays) a 5% reduction in peak traffic in Auckland results in massive decreases in traffic times.

            So next time someone tells you ‘only 4% of journeys are by train’, think about the effect of those 4% of journeys being added to the road network.

          • Kevyn

            If the government set a congestion standard it would have to take the same approach used for setting drinking water standards. First they would need scientists to establish the acceptable limits, which being based on physiology rather than psychology, would be equally applicable in Alexandra, Ashburton and Auckland. Auckland would be expected to emulate Alexandra and Ashburton rather than Alexandra and Ashburton emulating Auckland’s more motorways “solution”. Co-location of blue collar housing and workplaces, now there’s a radical thought for a motorway city :)

          • Greg N

            Kevyn,
            You mean it would set a congestion standard in the same way the Government tackles other “big” problems like:

            1. how it decides which road projects are to become RoNS
            2. the housing affordability problem being due to nothing else but high land prices
            3. that a roads first and only transport strategy is good for all NZ
            4. allocating fuel tax to road projects only, and then doing so without using cost benefit ratios or business cases
            5. assuming that growth in vehicle traffic will always go upwards no matter what else is happening in the economy or elsewhere

          • Kevyn

            Ah, no, I mean if the process of setting national standards for congestion was the same as that currently required by statute for setting air and water standards. Of course the current government is more likely to change the way air and water quality standards are set so that they deliver whatever is wanted by their sponsors.

        • Starnius

          “Is it right for the national government to put in place water quality standards”

          Straw man argument. Water is water, and there is, with some small areas like fluoridation, an objective standard that 99% of everyone can agree on.

          On transport, the responses as to what is “correct” response and investment into fixing transport issues, are hugely varied, and have huge direct influences on people, the way a central government telling local councils HOW to reach a certain water standard would never have. Which is why the locals need representation and ability to choose.

      • George D

        In the last decade, DHBs were given considerable latitude to set their own agendas and respond to the diverse health needs of the populations they serve. Some have younger populations, others older, others have different ethnic mixes with different needs, etc. Much of that has been taken away. Since National have come in, they’ve been asked to prioritise a narrow set of indicators (such as elective surgery) which constitute a small part of what they do. They’ve also had much less funding to focus on preventative health measures, which save considerable amounts over the medium and long term.

        How does this compare with the Government taking over regional transport policy and fitting it to narrowly defined objectives that ignore trends? Pretty closely. Like Stu, I was not ever a voter, but expected a lighter hand, not the directive one we’re seeing now.

    • Waspman

      The big difference with Health and Education spending is one is not stuck in a mindless traffic jam created by too many cars on ever growing roads all over Auckland. The National Party don’t realise this and don’t care about Auckland as a lot of their MP’s are from rural NZ and the ones who live in Auckland tow the party line. I thought we voted in democratic local body elections, to fix our traffic problems largely because this central government doesn’t have a clue!

      National think the answer lies by expanding the problem with more roads and more cars. In fact at the moment Waterview and bits of Mt Roskill and Mt Albert are being destroyed by a motorway and its going very close if not partialluy through a school and right smack next to a hospital ironically.

  • SteveC

    when is the public consultation phase of this bill likely to be?

    • It’s already been, it was after the consultation period where the council said that it was undemocratic that it was strengthened to remove the ability of AT to delegate the RLTP to the council

    • The focus was on changes to the LTMA. Changes to the Local Government Amendment Act weren’t in scope of submissions. Third reading of the bill is in June, so it isn’t a done deal yet. David Bennett is the Chair of the Select Committee looking at this. Jamie-Lee Ross is also in the Committee so both their names need to be added to the list. In fact all the Commitee need to get the message on this one.

  • Mike

    This is entirely consistent with the current government’s disregard/disdain for local government – see ECan, CERA, Basin Reserve etc.

    But it’s actually all a bit academic: the RLTP is just a submission to NZTA on the NLTP, which NZTA can (and has) happily ignore.

    • I think you’re a tad confused. This Bill is black-letter law, and compels Auckland Transport to follow the diktats of the government as laid out in the Government Policy Statement. Nothing to do with the RLTP or NZTA.

      • Mike

        Sorry, but it’s not me that’s confused.

        The section in question is about preparation of the RLTP, the only function of which is as input to NZTA’s NLTP.

        So the statement that it’s “nothing to do with the RLTP or NZTA” is just plain wrong.

  • It also needs to be remembered that this goes both ways. National won’t be in power forever and when things change, they are giving a future govt the same powers.

    • Stu Donovan

      Precisely. It’s in all our long term interests to have transport policy that is relatively insensitive to the whimsies of changes in central government. The fact that National don’t see this makes me all the angrier – because this type of self-interested legislation just leads to a downward political spiral.

    • conan

      That’s the really interesting thing about this. The current government seems to be progressing at pace on many of its policies seemingly worried that this could be its last term, yet is putting in place legislation that will provide any new government the ability to dictate a direction that National would not be happy with.

      After all didn’t Gerry Brownlee once say that the Greens wanted to rip up the roads and have us all in horse and carts (or was it square wheels?). This just the tool for that.

  • Kevyn

    National is in favour of less regulation…of business but not of local government.

    As for Stu’s claim that “(actually Auckland historically more than pays for its transport projects – to the benefit of other regions)”, this is perfectly true and is a natural consequence of the subsidies paid for local road maintenance which is only weakly related to light vehicle traffic volumes. One of the original purposes of the petrol tax was to relieve county ratepayers of the costs created by through traffic, a particularly big problem before roads were tarsealed. Hence all cities and “the larger boroughs” have historically lost half of their petrol taxes to adjacent counties. In Auckland’s case, because the Auckland highway district was so small and the most urbanised, the benefitting counties were mostly in Northland. Since Northland’s roads are shown on the 1927 Main Highways map as being “impassable in wet weather” one must question how much Auckland airport would be contributing to the Auckland economy if those “subsidies” had not been paid by Auckland motorists. Since Waikato, Taranaki, Canterbury and Southland have all lost greater proportions of the petrol taxes to other regions it should possibly come as no surprise that Canterbury and Auckland have been the first regions to feel the winds of change. But then the other regions are home to MRP, fracking and the smelter so perhaps National thinks it can undermine local democracy more creatively in those regions.

    The above comment regarding the interconnectedness of regional economies does justify the Government having control of State Highways but the subsidies to local councils for road improvements were always coordinated and controlled through District Highways Boards and Regional Planning Authorities, for the very reasons outlined by Stu.

    • Stu Donovan

      Great stuff Kevyn thanks for this historical insight. And I agree – there is good reason why funds are collected and administered centrally. But there’s also good reasons why projects are identified regionally.

      That approach would seem to deliver efficiency and equity, by way of central government involvement, while ensuring funds were used in a way that was consistent with local preferences.

      It’s shame National want to move us away from this balanced/reasonable approach to transport funding and investment

    • And which regions have benefited the most? Wellington by chance?

      • Kevyn

        Only Northland, Gisborne and West Coast have received a lot more from the road fund than they’ve paid in. But Wellington (and maybe Dunedin) has definitely benefited most in terms of how little of it’s petrol taxes were taken away. If the Government investments in Wellington’s commuter rail are included, since they all happened when half the petrol tax was going to the Consolidated Account, then Wellington does become the only populous region to get more than it paid for.

        • Stu Donovan

          You, dear sir, are a gold mine of historical transport goodness. Would you care to write us some guest post(s) discussing the history of land transport funding in NZ? I know you have some stuff on your blog which I read a while back, but it seems like a good time to dust it off and get it out there.

  • BBC

    I remember the issue of AT not following the desires of AC being a major issue during the consultation period of the super city legislation and it being explicitly added in that they needed to adhere to it. These recent actions just smack of National being upset at John Banks not winning and that Len Brown isn’t following their roads only ideals. So clearly their solution is to simply remove the ability of Len Brown and Auckland Council to have any say on transport what so ever. It also in effect pretty much kills off any further investment in PT, walking or cycling in Auckland, since we’ll be restricted to approximately 3% of our transport rates being spent in those areas. I guess unless there’s a change in government in 3 years this new bill also solves all of the funding issues for non-roading projects, cancel them, as there never will be any money available to fund them. Furthermore, it basically kills off all the alternative funding sources that AC have proposed for projects like the City Rail Link, even if we were able to raise x hundred million a year, AT is legally unable to spend it on anything but more roads and motorways. Bravo National, even I didn’t think you’d sink this low. I do applaud you for your ingenuity however, and thanks to the media lapdogs like NZ Herald this change has barely been reported.

  • Swan

    I do think this legislation is short sighted and pretty outrageous. But, to be just a little bit fair, the govt has had to deal with a council that campaigned on things that it couldn’t deliver. Instead it turned to the govt. So the council was trying to have it exactly the other way around.

    • Stu Donovan

      hmm. Not sure I follow that line of argument.

      In NZ, local/regional councils can put forward whatever transport projects they like, which in turn are considered by NZTA as part of the NLTP (to be funded from the NLTF). There’s no prima facie reason why AC should not be allowed to put forward the CRL, for example, because they don’t know what NZTA will/won’t fund (the GPS ranges for activity classes are, after all, “indicative”). There’s no way of knowing, in advance, whether something will be funded.

      I think it’s is entirely possible (at least in an ideal world where public servants are independent from the Government) that the CRL case put forward by AC could be so compelling that NZTA agreed to fund it – and re-jigged the GPS funding allocations accordingly.

      On the other hand it’s NZTA’s right to decline funding for any project. That’s the system – it’s not “the other way around”. I don’t think there is an equivalent action that AC could take that was equivalent to what National are doing, given parliamentary sovereignty and all that guff.

      • Swan

        Yes agreed it isn’t the same in effect – central govt has the real power after all. My point was more the council trying to dictate to the govt – the govt hasnt taken kindly to this.

        The current mayor didn’t campaign on presenting the CRL to the govt, he campaigned on delivering it. Got the punters hopes up etc and tried to use this political leverage to force the governments hand. Asking for money for NZs most expensive transport project in recent history (by some margin) is a bit different to applying for cash to widen an arterial.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hmm … but I guess I’m saying that local politicians do have a right to campaign on transport projects, perhaps more so (but certainly no less than) than central government. Whether Len over-sold the case or whether National are being unduly resistant to a good idea is something for the electorate to judge in local/central elections.

          I actually don’t see anything wrong with what Len has done – the punters, as you say, can now chose whether to believe Len’s version of events or whether they agree with National’s view of the world. Much the same way as John Banks campaigned on the Eastern Highway.

          Personally I would prefer if pollies did not pick projects at all. But that’s a separate debate!

          • Swan

            Agreed with your last point – oh for transfund.

            Politicians can campaign on whatever platform they like, but generally (when it comes to campaigning for executive functions in any case), one would expect them to campaign on initiatives they can actually action.

            But yeah in any case the govt should either take functions away from the council transparently, if that is what they want to do, not have AT as this floating agency that could end up being very unaccountable.

          • Stu Donovan

            Completely agree Swan – I’d suggest that the Government either incorporate AT into MoT and NZTA, or leave it with the Council. The middle ground that is proposed in the LTMA, where AC funds and appoints AT’s board, but the latter obeys the Government’s strategic direction above all other considerations, is non transparent.

            Oh for Transfund indeed!

  • tuktuk

    ‘Asking for money for NZs most expensive transport project in recent history (by some margin)’

    What a load of crap! The CRL was/is being presented as a complete package. The SH20 Western Ring Road and many other road projects such as Waikato Expressway are broken into bite size bits and built over a number of years. When you add them up, they add up to considerably more than the CRL.

    So – does AT/AC have authorisation (and funding) to finish the business case for the CRL? Or indeed any further work on route designation and other aspects?
    If, the answer is a no, there are going to be a steady stream of redundancies as the work dries up.

    • Swan

      Well hardly a load of crap. Most people in the biz would define Cambridge bypass, sh20 to 1 etc as individual projects. You could probably argue that waterview/ causeway/ st lukes is the one project but even all that will not come close to the CRL (despite being the current record holder as it were).

      To a certain extent it is just definitions, but in terms of a rate of spend the CRL would unequivocally be out in front. That matters a lot for the NLTF with its current funding model.

      • Starnius

        Swan, Waterview ALONE almost equates the CRL’s complete costs, and that doesn’t even include Lincoln Road, SH18, SH18-SH1 and various other projects on said Western Ring route, being built in about the same time frame length the CRL would be built. Don’t try to bull**** people by repeating wrong facts.

  • Patrick m

    Sh20 western ring route has always been a single project. Just check the old transit website. Oh it is broken down into bit size chunks do they can do a bit at a time- manukau connect, manukau harbor duplication, dominion rd extension, upper harbor motorway (which they further did in 3 parts), various interchange and sh16 upgrades, and of coarse waterview itself. 1 umbrella project done a bit at a time. How many billions again?

    A different, but not state highway example -the glen field rd upgrade. Still under the umbrella of glue field rd upgrade but done in 3 contagious components.

    Let’s not even visit the holiday highway. So no the rail link is by no means the single largest transport infrastucture project.

    • Swan

      When we are talking about funding for transport projects, they are granted at the project level. Each project on The WRR has been evaluated on its individual merits which includes contribution to a strategy. That is why waterview is last – it is the expensive bit that’s main value derives from the other parts. But MHX, the Mt Roskill extension etc have been of benefit since they opened. Take ALPURT for example. The one project was split into three. Each project was then assessed on merits and only the first two were built (until the environment court made them build the third). The govt has considering not building waterview when the costs were projecting much higher than they now are.

      • Steve D

        The CRL could easily be divided up in such a way too – one project for the tunnel and track, three separate projects for the stations, various other small projects around the network, and a project to buy more rolling stock. Then you can justify each separate project as contributing to the strategy of increasing train frequencies and expanding rail coverage in the central city.

        But cutting up a transport project into small parts but justifying each one by their contribution of contributing to the “strategy” of building all of them is just a stupid trick. What you’re really doing is building one big project and you might as well admit it. NZTA sort of admit this with the RoNS, by grouping them into corridors – the Western Ring Route, Wellington Airport to Levin, the Waikato Expressway etc., even if they involve projects that aren’t even physically connected.

        • Swan

          It’s not stupid. The reality of it is the costs are spread out over time with the benefits being realised incremtally. You could do it with the CRL, but it would depend on how much additional cost you incurr in doing so. Trying to build stations around two live rail tunnels may be expensive, I don’t know.

          • Steve D

            It’s a stupid trick to claim that parts of a larger project stack up on their own, but justify each of them on the grounds that they are part of the larger strategy of building the whole thing. The City Rail Link is not a bigger project than the Western Ring Route, which is the fair comparison.

          • Swan

            There is considerable sense in building Aotea Station and the tunnel itself and operating the network while the two deep stations are completed.
            1. to get the main benefits of the project earlier which are to the whole network
            2. in order to spread to cost of whole project
            3. and to spread the skill and material demand

            Furthermore the often quoted 2.86 billion includes all sorts of other things not central to the CRL itself like double tracking the line to Onehunga and new trains in 2030 similar related but not contiguous aspects of the highway network would never be put onto the cost of any motorway.

            We are getting reports that the core project itself is likely to come in under 2billion.

          • Gary

            Patrick, it is a shame that this project wasn’t quoted just as the core by itself; may be with only Aotea station only and provisions for the other stations later as separate budgets. Why was this not done to make it more palatable? Was this due to national influence? Guess it is too late now as most of the public have the higher figure in their minds.

          • tuktuk

            Seems to me that a big re-think is needed (again!) on marketing for the CRL. It would be good for Len Brown to start consistently quoting the lower figure of under $2 billion for the CRL to the media. This will have to come from the councillor’s mouths – if it appears that AT won’t be able to say anything, but what it is told to say by the govt.

          • Yes we need the business case to be done based on all the drilling data etc….

          • Sailor Boy

            We also need the councillors to really come out swinging and consistently say 5 minute frequencies on all lines, the ability to move over 88,000 people an hour.

          • Good thought, also how presently Auckland has the 3000th* best rail system in the world, post CRL we’ll be in the top 50*. People love stuff like that.

            *both numbers pulled out of thin air but real life equivalents will exist

  • The ammendments are to ensure that Auckland Council cannot fund the CRL as clearly government is not supportive of it.

    Apart from this blog there is actually very little technical detail or modelling data on how the CRL will operate. So clearly government is concerned that what is being proposed has some fundamental flaws and that it is unlikely to produce the projected peak time passenger movements.

    Government needs NZTA to analyse the CRL and state technical reasons why it will not fund it. Introducing busy body nanny state legislation is the wrong way to get rid of the CRL.

    • Patrick M

      You just described perfectly the hypocricy of this government. Now if only they would apply this exact same process to the holiday highway!

      • Good point, now Government can use rate payers money to bring foward their own pet projects. The holiday holiday is the most expensive solution to a non-existant problem. I have no issues with straightening out some of the danger spots on that stretch of road but the PR on its economic benefits is ridiculous.

    • Toa, sort of right, the government just has ‘faith’ that one mode is always right and the other always wrong. This is based on on their personal views and experience as drivers. There is no understanding about cities nor any sophistication about different needs and a changing world. This is a very certain and closed minded group with little curiousity or depth of thought.

      I think you’ll find that NZTA are much more in favour of the CRL than anyone in cabinet.

  • Topcat

    Can we ask Cameron Brewer for a comment.? He seems to have an opinion on everything else.

    • Stu Donovan

      Good question – I will be inviting all of the MPs from different parties to speak on this issue; may as well extend that to local government politicians as well.

    • Greg N

      Topcat,
      Heres my “proforma answer” you’ll get for any question you ask Cameron Brewer (who is my local elected council member so I am more than entitled to poke the Borax here).

      Questioner: “Mr Bewer whats is your opinion on X”
      Brewer: “Well, to start with its all Len Browns fault as Mayor for not being divisive and not inclusive enough.”
      Q: “What do you mean by that, can we have a recent example?”
      B: “Well to start with he has not been fostering a very good relationship with the Government. The recent housing accord which has been brought into existence recently is an example of how the Central Government is having to come way more than half way to try and meet Len Browns wishes when Len as leader of the the Auckland Council should be more attune the the needs of Central Government as leader of the countries largest city. This situation is obviously showing a complete failure of the Mayor to grasp the housing issues facing my constituents, The Unitary Plan debacle is another example of how Len is leading Auckland down the garden path towards a future of failure. We should be bending over backwards to ensure that whatever the Government wants to do is given the green light as soon as possible. And lets not even talk about the Rail Loop being funded by rates and tolls, another example of the ‘loopy left’ ideas we as elected representatives of this city have to put up with again and again coming from Len Brown.”
      Q: “Thank you Mr Brewer for your input. Can I take it you will be running for Mayor this election?”
      B: “No comment, but I can say “watch this space – and my Blog as I will be making a big announcement about something soon.”

  • Geoff Houtman

    The CCO s have never been controlled by the Council. See- Ports of Auckland, Waterfront Ak, ATEED etc…

    We are still living in Rodney’s Auckland. He appointed the boards of all the CCOs and Doug McKay right?

  • Sacha

    “Seems to me that a big re-think is needed (again!) on marketing for the CRL”

    Little evidence of any in the first place. Agreeing a few useful key talking points is hardly rocket science.

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