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Getting on with the CRL

There seems to have been a bit of a “passive aggressive ding dong” going on between Mayor Len Brown and Prime Minister John Key over the City Rail Link in recent months. Back in February, Mayor Brown proposed to “kick start” the CRL by building the first section under the downtown shopping mall and some way up Albert Street. Then shortly after the Elliott Street tower was announced, bringing further pressure on starting the project sooner rather than later.

Yet so far it seems the government hasn’t taken the bait, although critically in the PM’s official response to an earlier start he noted the following:

Your letter also outlined some projects, many being undertaken by the private sector that could be affected by the City Rail Link and raised the question of whether an opportunity existed to reduce disruption to the CBD and some of these projects.

I indicated in the meeting with you that I would be getting some advice on the issues you raise. I am in the process of receiving advice including on the possible impact on some of the projects you cite.

That seems like a fairly deliberate effort on behalf of the PM to leave the door slightly ajar for a change of heart. So let’s look at the major issue, which is the relationship between the timing of any redevelopment of the current Downtown Shopping Mall and the CRL project. Originally Auckland Transport was to buy this site, because construction of the CRL requires the demolition of the entire shopping mall as it passes through the area as a “cut and cover” tunnel. However, a deal was done between Auckland Transport and the site owners – Precinct Properties – so that the site wouldn’t need to be acquired, there’d just be some good co-ordination so that the tunnels could be built and Precinct’s redevelopment could occur.

The map below shows how the CRL tunnels pass directly underneath Precinct’s site, with the area shaded red indicating where a consented high-rise tower is proposed:

downtown-mall-siteIt doesn’t take a genius to work out that the tunnels need to be built before any development can take place. It seems simply impossible to build the tunnels without completely destroying everything on the site above – which means that essentially any redevelopment is delayed until the tunnels are completed. Let’s just say if I were Precinct Properties I’d be pretty pissed off with the government’s attitude at the moment.

So what’s a way to work around this issue? As proposed by the Mayor in February, it seemed like the Council’s plan was to fully fund the initial section of the project (potentially including going under Customs Street perhaps?) at a cost of around $250 million. Given the Council plans to spend close to $200m on CRL in the 2014/15 year it appear like such an outlay is fairly affordable. The government doesn’t want to spend money on CRL until 2020, but it’s not like they’re being asked to in this plan so I struggle to see the problem.

Perhaps the Mayor is concerned that government’s rough promise of a “50/50 split” in the cost of the project only applies to any money spent after 2020 – as that’s when they think the project is required. The risk of building the first section without government support seems to be a worry that they don’t front up with their $125 million come 2020, which is an understandable concern. But surely a bit of clever negotiation could resolve this and both parties can come away happy – Len Brown because he’s finally put a spade in the ground and started his flagship project, and the government because they don’t hold up a major redevelopment, don’t have to spend any money yet and bask in a bit of election year good press over not standing in the way of a very popular project.

Everyone wins. Let’s just get on with it.

86 comments to Getting on with the CRL

  • simon

    Ironic that Mr Key and Brownlee came up two mondays for the official turning on of the electric power for the new trains and in the herald the following it was announced that two weeks of hearings for the fast tracking of puhoi to wellsford rons was commencing at at cost of 725 million and their contribution to CRL is only a couple of h

  • Christopher T

    Precinct obviously need to recruit a couple more National party hacks on their board and they really have to get their chairman to go a couple of ‘charity’ golf rounds with Mr Key. It’s increasingly a truism that National is only ‘pro-business’ so long as it’s their business and you’d think they’d be keen to realise the opportunities that would open up to them by getting into bed with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

    • Neil

      Precinct hasn’t been a very successful investment for the Abu Dhabi in recent years, and so they may not be keen to increase their investment until returns increase. This means that Precinct may not be in a hurry to start their Downtown project.

    • obi

      It isn’t central government’s job to facilitate property development in Auckland. They took a lot of flack when they worked with Sky City to develop a convention center in Auckland, so I can’t imagine they’re that keen to repeat the process. Especially if Precinct are owned by Abu Dhabi… that’d just be gifting Cunliffe and Norman an opportunity to rant on about foreign ownership of land, and the government doing a favour for wealthy Arabs. There would be claims of corruption, and anyone with an Arab name that had ever donated to National would be hauled in to the media as evidence of the corruption.

      Auckland Council is more than able to work with Auckland property developers to integrate Auckland infrastructure projects. So the ball is in Brown’s court, and he has dropped it. Again. Maybe there would be progress if the developers recruited some Labour Party hacks to their board? Or gave Brown some more stuff for his private gym, or some free hotel overnights, or a Jacuzzi or something?

      • James B

        No one gave Brown stuff for his private gym. The equipment was lent to the office of the Mayor. When Len Brown leaves office he doesn’t get to to keep the equipment.

        • obi

          When you say “lent”, you mean that the equipment was funded from the Council’s leisure budget and then diverted to the mayor. Money that should have been used to maintain Council public leisure centers was instead used to provision a private gym for the mayor. It doesn’t really matter if the used equipment is gifted back to the leisure services people in a few years time.

          If the mayor wants a private gym, then the Council needs to make a specific budget allocation. Council budgets aren’t a general slush fund that can be diverted to pay for freebies for councillors.

      • If the Downtown Mall were perched on top of the equivalent of the Victoria Park Tunnel or Waterview Connection, do you think the government would be hesitating? If this was a roading project the government would be wading in there and heralding their “constructive interaction with private investors”.

        The government’s is nothing to do with the points you have raised. It has to do with the fact that committing unreservedly to the project at this stage would be them concedning it is a good idea and give them no wriggle room later to get out.

        The National government has called rapid rail in Auckland since 1949 and they arent giving up now.

        • Sorry – “killed rapid rail”

        • obi

          The National-led government has committed to building the tunnel and given a start date. They’ve also announced specific conditions that would cause that start date to be brought forward. The government has been pretty good at delivering (or at least attempting to deliver) what it promised, which is one of the reasons they’re seen as trustworthy and still ride high in polls. They wouldn’t want to lose this reputation by “wriggling” out of something as minor as a commitment to build some rail infrastructure. Key won’t even back out of his superannuation age promise, even though that isn’t tenable over the long term and is a major issue.

          I suspect that if a private sector (and overseas owned) property developer had asked the government to bring forward some VPT or Waterview-related construction by six years in order to suit the developer’s commercial interests, then the answer would have been “no, this is your problem”. I don’t believe that has happened with any of the government’s priority road programs. Surely there would be at least one example given all the road construction going on.

          Talking about promises… Cunliffe has promised that all government buildings under four stories will be built in wood. Does that mean that (assuming that Labour wins this year) the CRL stations will be built entirely of wood?

          “The National government has called rapid rail in Auckland since 1949 and they arent giving up now.”

          I have no idea what that sentence means. What happened in 1949, and what significance does it have 65 years later? I don’t even know who was mayor of Auckland or prime minister then.

          • The CRL stations are each more than four stories.

          • lefty

            obi: Can we agree that bringing the CRL investment forward would be a good thing, whether it allows other projects to get off the ground earlier or not?

            If we can get to a common ground on when construction should begin, perhaps a solution to the political consequences of that can then be worked out?

          • “I have no idea what that sentence means” – Really it is a pretty basic English sentence.

            The 1949 National government killed the European style rail plan for Auckland (an extension of the already successfully built Wellington project) and started building the motorways instead (http://www.thesustainabilitysociety.org.nz/conference/2007/papers/HARRIS-Lost%20City.pdf).

            The National governments of the 70s and 80s killed the proposed rapid rail project. This despite Muldoon saying at the time that rapid rail was inevitable for Auckland – but come 2014 we are still debating the merits. Best place to read about that is Robinson’s biography published recently.

          • obi

            Lefty… Definitely makes sense, and probably shouldn’t be difficult since the place will be a construction site anyway. You’re essentially just building some tunnels in to the basement of the building under construction, and then probably extending them across the road to join them up with Britomart. I was objecting to Christopher T’s assertion that this was a central government issue that could be sorted out by donating money to National or playing golf with John Key.

            I’m also still firmly of the belief that a city the size of Auckland can take some responsibility for its own affairs. The Council has a huge budget and is responsible for delivering a lot of services. It isn’t just a lobby group to central government.

          • obi

            Goosoid: “Really it is a pretty basic English sentence.”

            Actually it wasn’t, although you later corrected it to replace the word “called” with “killed”.

            Labour governments of the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s had plenty of opportunity to extend rail in Auckland if that were a priority, so I’m not sure why you allocate all the blame to the National governments. In fact, it was the Bolger/Shipley government which approved Britomart in the late 1990s even if it were opened after the 1999 election which gave us the Clark government. Since then there has been bipartisan support for rail in Auckland. Labour planned electrification, but National delivered it. And National has given the go ahead for the CRL. Therefore you could almost say Brownlee will be remembered as the father of Auckland’s modern rail system, except Christine Fletcher beat him to the title.

          • obi, on the day it carries its first revenue service the CRL will carry more people than will travel on the Steven Joyce Memorial Holiday Highway that same day, and that’s just based on current patronage levels. One of these things is being fully funded by the government, come hell or high water, and regardless of the possible alternatives that will deliver most of the benefits for a far lower cost. Why should Auckland Council be expected to put itself in a position of starting work on hugely expensive capital project that will benefit more people than the SJMHH ever will without committed government support on day one? It’s the lunatic haste of the SJMHH contrasted with the “nah, she’ll be right, mate, it’ll wait” attitude towards the CRL that really rankles people here, given that the SJMHH is completely unnecessary by any rational, impartial analysis whilst there is no other way to deliver the outcomes of the CRL except by completing the project.

          • They did Obi. In each of those decades rail expansion projects were initiated under Labour governments and cancelled under National governments.

          • obi

            Nick R: “They did Obi. In each of those decades rail expansion projects were initiated under Labour governments and cancelled under National governments.”

            Not being in my 70s, I’m not really aware of what went on in the 1950s. But I was around during the 1984-90 Labour government. I don’t recall them ever proposing major rail improvements in Auckland. I do recall the fuss around closing rail workshops all around the country, including Wanganui where Russel Marshall had promised to resign if the workshop closed. A promise which he didn’t keep. But anyway, they were in power for six years. Are you saying that they had a grand plan for Auckland rail, but didn’t manage to either start construction or even sign contracts within those six years? That is complete incompetence. But also indicative that it wasn’t actually a priority for them.

            The fact remains that the first major post-war enhancement to Auckland railways was planned and approved by the Bolger/Shipley government. Other people may have had plans, but if so they weren’t competent enough to bring any to execution. So, well done National!

          • “Not being in my 70s, I’m not really aware of what went on in the 1950s” – Well I am in my late 30s and I know what happened because I took the time to read about it. Such as reading the paper that I sent you the link to.

            Wilful ignorance is never an excuse for forming an opinion on incorrect information.

            No, the 1984 government didnt do anything on rail. But then they were kind of pre-occupied with basically revolutionizing the entire NZ economy – it was in effect our Perestroika. However in general, Labour has been the pro-rail, pro-state led development party. As you will see if you read the paper I linked to.

            NZ is possibly unique in having abandoned state led development for a wholly free market approach – disastrously I would say.

      • ps1

        I’m just sick of the whole election ready. Both parties using community money and manipulating projects to leverage their positions. We just need the right thing done. It should have nothing to do with left or right.. So build it!
        And second – Ms Bennett released a policy about beneficiaries housing that focused on the West yesterday. I’ve yet to fully read and understand it – so welcome some comment – but surely connecting the city is vital to create a city for all. The people of the West are not going to be an outsource solution for Auckland’s poor – unconnected to the city for jobs . They need to do the right thing so South and West have an equal chance at success and we have a regional success not the growing gap of rich and poor.

        • Steve D

          > I’m just sick of the whole election ready.

          Where America goes, we go, possibly a few decades later. Election campaigns here used to last a few weeks, but I think it’s just going to get longer and longer, to the sort of multi-year campaigns US presidential candidates engage in.

          I think John Key’s habit of announcing election dates well in advance was perhaps a good thing on balance, but it does mean that everyone gets into “campaign mode” a lot earlier.

  • Ari

    I don’t think central government will want to commit to anything, but I don’t see why not. It would simply take it away from being an election issue. Not that the CRL is likely to be an election issue. Even Aucklanders don’t really understand it as the single most important infrastructure investment in Auckland and possibly the country.

  • Warren S

    Tactically the Government have seen fit to embrace the project even though they are currently not prepared to commit monies until 2020. In order to ensure those National voters who support the City rail link (and many ‘thinking’ National supporters do) continue to vote National it would be very easy for the Government to advance their embracement of the project and and an early commencement, without having to front up with too much money too soon. John Key – Think very carefully about it!!!!!

  • George D

    It looks to me that Aucklanders make this an election issue, it will happen. If they do not, some time in early 2017 John Key will promise to start it if elected for a fourth term.

  • I agree Matt. The cost of the CRL tunnel can be spread over a number of years. Whether the Govt contributes all of their half before or after 2020 is neither here nor there, as long as the agreement is in place.

    I think Auckland Council need to think more about the ownership structure of the tunnel / track. If Auckland Council is going to at least part fund it, what impact will this have on the $20m + annually that Auckland pays Kiwirail in track access fees? The CRL has the potential to at least double the frequency of trains. It would be manifestly unfair if KR effectively get to charge more in track access fees because Auckland Council has paid to increase the capacity.

    There is a strong argument that Kiwirail should be the ones funding and building the tunnel. They could then recoup the cost in track access fees after the tunnel is built. Given that KiwiRail struggles to find the funds to maintain its existing track, let alone build new track, this is obviously going to be wishful thinking though.

    • Cam yes in fact the cost of the CRL will have to be spread out over time. It’s not a single project, and can and should be staged in order to minimise disruption to the city. Ideally this first stage should take the first part of the cut and cover tunnel work across Customs St into Albert St.

      Enabling the upgrade of Customs St to occur and the next stage, south of that intersection to proceed later without affecting this important east-west surface route.

      Bite it into chunks, desirable both financially and programmatically. And the sooner the start the better, especially for the new above ground work.

      • Kevyn

        It doesn’t matter when the Government pays its share of the cost this year or in twenty years, the fact that the Government would be committing a future Government to make that payment means that, under the ‘no surprises’ Crown accounting system the cost would be included in this year’s budget as though the money had been spent this year. That’s why a few years ago the earthquakes added $9bn to the Government’s deficit in a single year even though the spending was being committed over a minimum of five years.

        English has already made it painfully clear he is going to produce a surplus no matter how hard it hurts individual councils and ratepayers finances. The cost sharing “agreement” the Christchurch City councillors were “persuaded” to sign saved the Government $650m, which got English his paper thin surplus for this year, but at the expense of leaving CCC penniless and in hock up to it’s eyeballs. If he’s prepared to rummage through the rucksack of a city with a broken jaw while pretending to assist then image how he’ll treat a healthy, growing lad of a city.

        There are no born and bred Aucklanders in this Cabinet so Auckland’s time as teacher’s pet has been and gone, Now its “mum and dad” investors who get all the Government largesse. However, if CRL becomes the number one issue Aucklanders are voting on, then magic will happen, but watch carefully to see what gets taken away with the other hand, ie some other rail (or Auckland) investment of $125m currently committed before 2020 will be ‘deferred’ or ‘reprioritised’.

        • obi

          Kevyn: “There are no born and bred Aucklanders in this Cabinet”

          Nikki Kaye. Jonathan Coleman. Amy Adams. Sam Lotu-Iiga was born in Samoa but grew up in Auckland, which is not an unusual thing for Pasifika people to do. And Simon Bridges, Maurice Williamson, and Paula Bennett were all born in Auckland even if they did some of their growing up elsewhere in the country. That isn’t too much lower than what you’d expect per capita, and reflects the fact that National hold pretty much every electorate outside of Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and South and West Auckland.

          Is Christchurch really in debt? I thought the council there still owned substantial assets. The rest of the country shouldn’t be forced to borrow even more than the huge amount they’re already borrowing, just so that Christchurch CC can hang on to its airport shares.

          • Kevyn

            Obi, The rest of the country is $40bn RICHER because of the Canterbury earthquakes, because it’s foreign owned insurers who are paying most of the bill and that gets added straight onto the GDP (see RBNZ Bulletin Sept 2012). You do realise that the government’s $15bn includes $13bn sourced from insurers don’t you (EQC’s reserve fund, GST on rebuilds/repairs, payouts to Crown entities like the DHB and housing NZ)? So the only people actually being financially penalised are those living in Canterbury.

            The eathquakes have increased the Crown’s nett indebtedness by $0.5bn, thats what happens when EQC has to sell it’s $3.6bn of 6%p.a. Government Bonds back to the government 6 years early and the government is able borrow at only 3%p.a. to fund the buy back. That fella Key’s really pulled the wool over your eyes.

          • obi

            The rest of the country isn’t richer, because the insurance payouts go straight to Christchurch. GDP is a measure of the size of the economy. If the increase in economic activity that is measured by GDP takes place in Canterbury, then it is Canterbury that benefits.

            Your figures are all over the place. Some of the claims you’re making aren’t very coherent. I suspect your agenda is to prove to yourself that Christchurch is being victimised by the rest of the country, in which case there isn’t anything anyone here can say that will change your mind. However, the point remains that “There are no born and bred Aucklanders in this Cabinet” isn’t even slightly true, and five minutes research would have shown that to be the case.

          • John Polkinghorne

            Kevyn, no part of NZ is richer because of the earthquakes. Insurers are footing a big part of the bill, but will (partly) recoup that over time through the higher premiums they’re charging. That future cash outflow is a cost to the country. The amount the government and councils are spending to rebuild the city is a cost to the country. Wiping out the EQC fund is a cost to the country; it was Kiwis’ money, just like the superannuation fund. The earthquakes cost us plenty. People living in Canterbury are also penalised; apart from any knocks to their quality of life from the earthquakes themselves and the damage they caused, they’re also taking on a lot more debt through the council.
            Anyway, I don’t think this really has much to do with the CRL.

          • Kevyn

            John, you are correct that the annual impact on GDP will turn negative by the end of this decade, running at up to $2bn per year through to 2040, but the nett inflow will be between $5bn and $7bn in each of the next four years. That is why all of NZ is currently richer and why our rock star economy is really a one-hit wonder that is going to tank after the 2017 election.That is one very important reason why this is relevant to funding the CRL and good reason for Auckland Council to get started while lenders are still keen to lend to NZ councils.

            The EQC fund was a cost to the country spread over the last 70 years. Hopefully rebuilding it will also be able to happen over 70 years.

            The amount the Government is spending, excluding EQC, payouts from insurers and funding commitments for schools, hospitals and bus exchange predating the earthquakes is approx $7bn, which is approx $1bn more than the GST on the total earthquake spending. Ergo the nett cost to taxpayers is $1bn, assuming none of the green frame or red zone land is sold.

            So, no the earthquakes haven’t cost you plenty – yet. But they could cost everybody plenty during the 2020s and 2030s. One important fact about insurers is that they all had reserves funds to cover a major 1 in 1000 year catastrophe plus plenty of reinsurance. What they got was a 1 in 9000 year catastrophe (GNS, 2008) so repaying the bailouts they received from their Australian parents and rebuilding reserves are the main reasons for the outflow of funds and why they happen over such a long time frame so as to get the tax credits on both sides of the Tasman for as long as possible.

            The least well known fact about the financial side of the repairs is that the Local Authority Protection Program was supposed to fund the 40% not funded by the government but the damage bill exceeded LAPP’s reinsurance by $650 million. Under the CDEM Act the crown is obligated to pick up as much of that shortfall as is needed to ensure that Council can recover in a timely and financially viable manner. Maybe if the Government wasn’t hell-bent on having oversized anchor projects (a bit like the holiday highway) then everything might be ok.

          • Kevyn

            Obi, Your lack of compassion is astounding. I suspect your agenda is to prove to yourself that Christchurch isn’t being victimised by the rest of the country, in which case there isn’t anything anyone here can say that will change your mind.

            As for “There are no born and bred Aucklanders in this Cabinet”, I stand corrected… “There are no born and bred Aucklanders in influential positions in this Cabinet”.

          • conan

            “Obi, Your lack of compassion is astounding”

            Eh? You’ve changed the subject, posted a bunch of very confusing figures and now Obi is showing no compassion? I’m not sure exactly where you are getting that from. Obi doesn’t seem to have an agenda here and is asking you to justify yours. Attacking him isn’t quite the same is it?

          • Kevyn

            conan, my original comment used chch to illustrate why the government cant commit to part fund the CRL in the future without it showing up in this year’s accounts. Obi’s reply took things off on a tangent. His lack of compassion was taken from his inference that Christchurch needs to be bankrupt before it can ask for help from the rest of the country. If Obi genuinely believes that the costs to the government that have been reported in the media are the actual nett costs ( ie the $9bn deficit a couple of years ago, the $4.8bn borrowing and the current $15bn rebuild contribution are all gross costs, in each case the nett cost is one-tenth of those amounts) then I unreservedly apologise for saying he lacks compassion when all he lacks is sufficient data.

          • obi

            Kevyn…It isn’t a matter of Christchurch (by which I assume you mean the City Council) entering bankruptcy. But that we shouldn’t be borrowing when Christchurch is sitting on assets. How is that just? If my real life neighbour was down on his luck and asked me to help him, then I would show compassion. But if it meant I had to borrow the money to give to him AND he owned a bunch of shares that he wanted to hang on to, then I’d suggest selling the shares and helping himself.

            As for the figures… You’ve pulled together a whole lot of different figures to arrive at a nonsense result. For instance, the way you’ve used GST to suggest that the government’s contribution to Christchurch is less than it is. Christchurch people would be paying GST regardless of whether they were buying 4×2 and plaster, or the normal stuff they’d normally buy. Similarly, Christchurch people continue to consume government services like health and education that are paid for out of taxation. You’ve arbitrarily decided that all tax paid in Christchurch should be allocated to your notional Christchurch rebuilding account. So it doesn’t matter how many figures you toss around… your result is flawed because you don’t understand how public finances or the NZ economy work.

          • Kevyn

            Obi, Your neighbour, if he is a financial advisor, might respond as follows: If CCHLs asset valuations are as wide of the mark as Treasury’s asset valuations of the recently partially privatised Crown assets then the council would have to sell its entire investment portfolio to cover the costs created by the under reinsurance of LAPP. The council would then need to increase rates by 15%, or proportionately reduce spending, to cover the foregone dividends and it would have to pay higher interest rates on its other substantial borrowings (to cover insurance valuation cock-ups which central government quite rightly should not be paying for) due its credit rating being downgraded to reflect its reduced financial assets and revenues. Depending on the discount rate applied, selling the assets and borrowing have more or less the same costs over 20 years, and in both cases the biggest cost is the indirect one of an inability to invest in capital improvements within that 20 year period, as all the councils funds are committed to paying for earthquake repairs and deferred maintenance during the rebuild decade. That means there is also an impact on Government revenues that can be assessed against the cost of borrowing to assist Christchurch.

            Your second paragraph misses the point. Because of the earthquakes the government has to spend $15bn that it otherwise would not have had to spend. Because of the earthquakes the government will receive $6bn in GST that it otherwise would not have received. Therefore whilst the gross cost to the Crown is $15bn, the nett cost is only $9bn. This is most definitely not a simple case of “Christchurch people would be paying GST regardless of whether they were buying 4×2 and plaster, or the normal stuff they’d normally buy.”, it is a simple case of there being $40bn of spending occurring which would not have occurred without the earthquakes. I have never at any point in this discussion claimed that ALL tax paid in Christchurch should be allocated to a notional Christchurch rebuilding account, merely that the Crown’s windfall GST tax on the rebuild has to be included in the accounting in order to arrive at the NETT cost to the Crown. Likewise the direct insurance payouts for damaged Crown owned assets, and the EQC costs being funded by liquidating the investment assets of the Natural Disaster Fund, and the capital investments already budgeted for prior to the earthquakes all need to be included in the accounts to arrive at the NETT cost to taxpayers other than the insurance companies and property owners funding the majority of the rebuild. As those amounts sum to $8bn, the nett amount that ordinary taxpayers are contributing is $1bn. Now, if you show this thread to your accountant I’m sure they can expand on it and maybe even show you examples of how other Governments in the past have used this very common gross/nett tactic to create the impression that reallocated money is new money or that a $6bn surplus really isn’t a surplus. They might even teach you how public finances and economies work better than any economics lecturer could ever do.

  • Dave B (Wellington)

    So encouraging to see that a PLAN exists, and that new developments can only proceed on the basis that they fit in with that plan. If this was Wellington (where, since the 1970’s, there has been no plan to do anything to extend rail), that tower block would just get built without a thought or care that it might block a potential route for a railway extension.

  • Sailor Boy

    Iam wondering whether key is keeping this up his sleeve in case he needs greens or nz first come election day?

    • Steve D

      If National needed the Greens, then logically the Greens could also put Labour into government, so why wouldn’t they just do that?

      I also don’t think the CRL is going to be high on Winston’s shopping list, especially given that NZ First’s support mainly comes from outside Auckland.

      • Sailor Boy

        I am thinking of a situation where national, act/conservative and greens could form a government, but labour would need greens nz first & maori. Labour would struggle to form that coalition, but Nationsl could probably agree to stop issuing drill permits and fund the crl and that would be enough.

        • Matthew

          I don’t speak for all members, but a coalition with National or Act? Come off it. It’d be like stepping in dog shit.

        • Steve D

          So if Labour needed all of Greens, NZ First, and the Maori Party (and presumably Hone Dotcom’s InterMana Party), any one of those parties could go with the other side. In your scenario, that’d be National + Act + any Conservatives there might be + any Peter Dunnes there might be + one of those three parties you mentioned.

          NZ First and the Maori Party both seem like way more likely candidates, since both have been in coalition with National before, whereas the Greens have explicitly ruled it out, and most of their members, supporters, and probably a good fraction of the caucus, would go ballistic over putting National in.

          I think it’d be incredibly unlikely, and if it did happen it’d be the end of the Green Party as its mostly left-wing supporters fled to Labour, Mana, and possibly a new party emerging to fill the void. I’d bet cold hard cash that fresh elections would happen before a Green-National coalition.

          • Sailor Boy

            Greens worked with National 2008-11 on the right conditions I could see a coalition happening.

            And your situation wasn’t quite what I am thinking. I am thinking National, and either ACT or the conservatives (I can’t see both getting in) needing 5 members or so to form a stable government. The Greens could be in a really powerful position and the concessions extracted could be worth the sour taste

          • It is very unlikely the Greens could work with CCCP, because of the social-liberal policies the Green Party espouses, or with Act because of the classic-fiscal-liberal policies the Green Party espouses. There would not be enough concessions to go around and keep everyone happy. CCCP will demand the return of the right to belt one’s kids, which the Greens would never swallow. Act would want more attacks on education, and the Greens will never sign on to a government that pursues such policies.
            Then there are the policies of National itself, such as roads-heavy transport development, promoting the extraction of carbon-based fuels for economic reasons, further attacks on workers’ rights and collective bargaining…

            The Greens are the most-principle party in Parliament, bar none. They are mostly very much into evidence-based policy, which puts them heavily at odds with the right of the spectrum, and they’re also very socially liberal which puts them at odds with the authoritarian end of the spectrum. Whilst the Greens have policy overlaps with both Act (calling the RODS the supid waste of money that they are) and CCCP (against the asset sales), they are polar opposites on more than they’re in agreement.

          • Sailor Boy

            You think that national would rather force another election? They will look like goons.

          • There was no coalition between National and the Greens in 2008. There wasn’t even an agreement on confidence and supply (which is all that National have with UF, Act and MP now). There was simply a very short Memorandum of Understanding about the two parties working together on three policy areas. That’s as close as the Greens have ever got to National, and it’s not very close. In fact, it’s very explicit that they have separate identities and are completely free to diss each other at any time.

            Core Greens policies are completely incompatible with Act, CCCP and National party policies as currently articulated. It’s not that National would want to trigger a new election, it’s that they may well just be unable to get the numbers. That doesn’t mean a new election unless the other parties could not come to an agreement that put a Labour-lead grouping into power.
            CCCP is not going to back down on being allowed to beat your kids, and neither is the Green Party. Act is not going to back down on importing more failed educational experiments from overseas in the name “choice” and “the market”, and neither is the Green Party. National is not going to back down on being roads-centric economic vandals who wouldn’t know environmental sustainability if it got dropped on the middle of the Cabinet table, and neither is the Green Party. You will not get a coalition when the parties are fundamentally incompatible, and you will not get a confidence and supply agreement if the policies required by some support parties are fundamentally at odds with bottom-line policies of the other parties.

          • Steve D

            @Sailor Boy:

            > Greens worked with National 2008-11 on the right conditions I could see a coalition happening.

            They “worked” with National on some specific policy areas. They didn’t agree to vote for confidence and supply. Even if the Greens had provided confidence (which would have been pretty shocking, too), they wouldn’t have made the difference, and National didn’t need them, since National already had a majority with ACT’s support.

            There’s a huge difference between working with a party, and using your balance of power to put them into government.

            In all seriousness, if National+ACT/Conservatives are five seats short of a majority, they’ll probably do a deal with Winston. If somehow they can’t manage that, Labour would do Winston a deal instead – and on those numbers, Labour wouldn’t need the Maori Party.

            > The Greens could be in a really powerful position and the concessions extracted could be worth the sour taste

            I can’t speak for the Greens, but my guess is that most of their supporters, if it came down to it, would prefer a Labour government that shut the Greens out completely, to a National government that gave the Greens some concessions. Matt Clouds laid out just a few of the differences.

            What’s to give, anyway? The Nats have to not just offer something, but offer something that Labour wouldn’t. Labour’s already going to fund the CRL and reintroduce a semi-meaningful ETS. They’re closer to the Greens on almost every issue.

            Is National really going to go further than that? Ban oil and gas prospecting? Ban mining? Drastically cut State Highway funding? Not. Gonna. Happen.

          • mfwic

            I think Labour would probably ignore the Greens as Helen Clarke did, even if they need confidence and supply because the Greens have no choice but to support Labour. That is the weakness of being on the extreme. It is the middle that decides Governments.

          • The Greens aren’t extreme. That’s a dud meme.

          • mfwic

            ok comparatively extreme if there is such a thing. They are to the left of Labour so can be ignored. As Rodney Hide has said Labour can either cosy up to the Greens or slap them. Slapping them will win votes in the middle, cosying might get votes on the left. There is only one way into power.

          • “As Rodney Hide said …”

            There’s your problem. As if he has said anything worth listening to.

          • Steve D

            > They are to the left of Labour so can be ignored. As Rodney Hide has said…

            If only National applied the mirror image of that logic and had ignored Rodney Hide and the other ACTites after him.

          • Bryce P

            The Greens of today are not the Greens of 10 years ago in the same way the Labour today does not resemble the days of Rogernomics.

          • mfwic

            (Horrors the evil man quoted Rodney Hide- we must cleanse, we must cleanse!) His point is still a sound one. Each time Labour cooperates with the Greens Labour looks weaker and the Greens look stronger and the middle votes National. The only way to a centre left government is to attack the Greens with vigour. Labour needs to show some strength or risk seeing their support vanish. Given the people the Greens put in the Parliament it should be like shooting fish in a barrel.

          • Matthew

            mfwic Bollocks.

            Cooperation between politicians is good if the results are positive. Mindless partisanship is not productive. Also non-productive is stupid irrational fear of the Greens. Judge all politicians on their merit. Like I do with Rodney.

            That’s all you have offered, mindless irrational fear.

          • mfwic

            So try and be specific. Where am I wrong? Labour is sandwiched between the Greens on the left and National on the right (with NZ First a niche party for grumpy people). Labour either moves right and expands the centre left share and maybe even governs or they move left and “work with” the Greens and the centre left shrinks and National governs. The best option is to attack the Greens, point out they have never governed on been part of a government, point out they are the far left of the Parliamentary parties. The Greens have no choice but provide support on confidence and supply because lets face it no one else is going to work with them.

          • Matthew

            You went wrong thinking that the political spectrum is plotted on a single axis.

          • mfwic

            Plot it on 8 axes if you want. Labour can’t govern until they take votes off National, Act, NZ First or the Maori Party. Cozying to the Greens probably is going to get them there. Smacking the Greens as hard as they can looks like a good option. There is no downside as the Greens wont be supporting National anytime soon. Everytime they cooperate National must be delighted as they know it weakens Labour and ensures a centre right government. If Cunliffe actually wanted to win he would rule out a coalition with the Greens and say he would rely on a confidence and supply agreement in exchange for insulation or water heating or some other chump change idea and move his party to the middle

          • Matthew

            Yeah you keep saying the same thing and it doesn’t make anymore sense.

            If Labour want to win they have to come up with appealing policy ideas. Or get out the people who didn’t bother to vote last time. I can’t see how going all loonie anti-Green is going to help with anything.

            Pointing out how much money National are pissing up the wall on the RoNS might help too.

          • mfwic

            It is going to come down to survival for Labour at some point. Helen Clark kept the Greens at arms length and took their support for granted. That allowed those of us who swing from Labour to National and back again to know we could safely vote Labour. 90% don’t support the Greens and many of us fear them ever having power. As for the Rons I would throw in South Canterbury Finance as well. I mean they spent more on that than treaty settlements- WTF?

          • Matthew

            90%+17% > 100%

          • mfwic

            Yes yes they poll well then come in at around 10% and wonder what happened.

          • Bryce P

            I think the Greens are going to do pretty well this year. The dark horse (and many will diss this) could be Mana/Internet Party. If they can get youth voting we may be in for a shock.

  • Ari

    Actually, I think the only policy the conservatives want is binding referenda. That’s how they will get all their policies through because they are a populist party.

    As for the Greens, they are hardly principled given they are more than willing to sweep certain policies under the rug in order to attain power. So no, not any more principled than any other party. I have the utmost respect for Jeanette Fitzsimons, but the rest of them are mostly clueless.

    • Julie Anne Genter is the least clueless person in the house IMHO. Perhaps the only MP to be a qualified expert in the portfolio they speak for?

      • Vera

        Qualified Expert? What in? She studied a Masters in Planning which is ran by the School Of Architecture and is heavily biased towards urban design. Not quite sure how this translates into being an expert on transport and engineering issues. What was her research thesis about?

        • James

          A quick search on the UoA website revels this as her main research project – “Economic evaluation and transport planning in New Zealand : assessing all potential costs of new motorway projects in the Auckland region”.

          So I’d say she’s reasonably well qualified..

          • Sure beats “woodwork teacher”.

          • James

            Or broadcasting entrepreneur, for that matter..

          • Bryce P

            Yeah. I know which one my money’s on.

          • obi

            The transport consultancy industry might be different, but in IT a degree and a handful of years work experience doesn’t make you an “expert”. It qualifies you for a non-entry level job still under the supervision of someone with experience.

          • Cruth

            “IT a degree and a handful of years work experience doesn’t make you an “expert”. It qualifies you for a non-entry level job still under the supervision of someone with experience”

            Wow, obi, awesome. Why not say something like “If she’s not a man and over 60, I’m not listening to her.” Certainly, the dismissiveness in your comment speaks volumes.

            Experts make themselves. By drive and application. Number of years never made a person anything – except older.

          • obi

            “Why not say something like “If she’s not a man and over 60, I’m not listening to her.” Certainly, the dismissiveness in your comment speaks volumes.”

            Why not? Because age and gender are irrelevant. But achievement is, if you’re being promoted as an “expert”. And experience gives you a chance to demonstrate a record of achievement. Maybe Genter is to transport what, say, Steve Jobs or Vint Cerf are to IT. But a few years working for a couple of consultancies in Auckland and attending a few conferences fall far short of the qualifications required to be considered an expert, in my book.

            Note that Genter hasn’t made that claim about herself as far as I know… others are making it on her behalf.

          • Bryce P

            So Obi, Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee have experience and training is the transport field I take it? Is that what you’re insinuating for them to be more qualified that JAG?

          • obi

            Bryce… We have a system where ministers represent the people and manage their public servants to achieve the government’s strategy. It generally isn’t the case that a minister is an actual expert in their portfolio. We don’t require the Minister of Defence to be a general, for instance, although other countries like that sort of arrangement.

            So, it doesn’t matter if a Minister of Transport has “experience and training” in transport. They just need the personal capacity to talk to their expert staff in a coherent fashion, and to deal with the public. Both Joyce and Brownlee are more than capable of doing that and have been generally successful ministers in other portfolios.

            I know that people are desperate to dismiss Brownlee on the basis that he was a teacher. But I still dispute that four year’s work experience and a degree qualify anyone as an “expert”. There are thousands of IT workers in NZ with a degree and four years experience. They’re generally banging out some code, building servers, and maybe taking tentative steps in to the market as a junior consultant. No one would ever think of them as “experts”, or regard that experience as a basis on which to write the government’s IT policy and manage a government agency. I’m pretty sure that is the case in pretty much every industry with a professional skill component.

            Oh… Michael Cullen was a history lecturer. Aaron Gilmore worked for Treasury. By your standards, Gilmore had “experience and training” and was “more qualified” than Cullen to be Minister of Finance. Whereas in the real world, Cullen was a successful and respected minister and Gilmore was a joke.

          • Matthew

            You’ve got to say it’d really help if Brownlee or Joyce knew something about Transport though.

          • The number of years working isn’t what makes her an expert, and the qualification is only part of it. Being an expert is the key thing in being an expert, or in other words the fact that she is highly skilled and knowledgeable and is paid for consultancy services by government agencies and private sector clients. Proof is in the pudding, inexpert consultants don’t last very long. Knowing and researching the most about parking policy in New Zealand, for example, makes you the expert on parking policy in New Zealand.

            Indeed IT grunts banging out code aren’t considered experts, just like junior planners processing subdivision applications at your local council aren’t either. It’s the professional track record that makes you the expert.

          • In the event that one has no possible claim to expertise in their field, however, it would be hoped that one would listen to those who do. In the case of Joyce and Brownlee, though, and particularly the former since he’s the father of the RODS, when it comes to transport they appear to consider that knowing how to drive a car is all the qualification they need to literally waste billions of dollars on projects that don’t stack up when measured up by actual experts.

        • Vera, having a degree in transport planning and a professional career as a transport planner is what makes her a qualified expert in transport planning. To quote the Wikipedia:

          Early life and education[edit]
          Genter was born in Rochester, Minnesota, United States in 1979, and grew up in Los Angeles, California.[1] She gained a BA in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2003.[2] She then moved to France and in July 2005, she obtained a post-graduate certificate in International Political Studies from Institut d’études politiques in Paris.[2] She obtained a Masters of Planning Practice from the University of Auckland in 2008.[3]

          Professional life[edit]
          Genter has worked as a transportation planner since coming to New Zealand in 2006. She was initially employed by Sinclair Knight Merz in Auckland (2006–2007) before starting with McCormick Rankin Cagney in Auckland in 2008.[2] She is recognised within the transportation industry as an expert on parking policy and the economic and transport effects thereof,[4] and has advised numerous councils in Australasia on this topic.[5] She has given many presentations at conferences on the subject matter (for example 2008 New Zealand Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science,[6] 2008 IPENZ Transportation Conference[7] and 2010 Local Government Transport Forum[8]), and appeared on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme[9][10] and Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning programme on Radio New Zealand National.[5]

          • Sailor Boy

            Pretty sure that English has a fair amount of financial experience and qualifications too but Genter is probably more of an expert with English being more experienced

          • conan

            In comparison the Wikipedia entry for our current minister of transport fails to list any relevant training or qualifications.

          • But I can report from my wood work classes at school that Big Gezzer is a mean hand with a hammer and plane. Not much of a rugby coach though.

            I personally like Gerry but I dont see how spending the majority of his life either as a student or teacher at St Bedes makes him qualified to be Minister of Transport. I actually think he was a good choice for the Earthquake role.

      • mfwic

        “Julie Anne Genter is the least clueless person in the house IMHO.” Maybe instead of NZ Idol they could have a reality tv show “Are you less clueless than Julie Anne Genter?” I would watch it!

  • Linz

    Governments generally are not great at making appointments on merit; the politics win hands down over skill. That said, I always wondered at Norm Kirk’s appointments of his ministers in the 1972-75 government. Basil Arthur was made transport minister because he had been a truck driver. The Minister of Mines was Mr Colman; and the Minister of Electricity was Mr Watt.

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