Uptown Pocket Park

Auckland Transport has been busy over the last few years buying up properties along the route of the City Rail Link in preparation for when the project will finally get the green light. Most of those properties are going to have buildings already one them however one site in particular has been an empty lot for many many years.

Symonds St Pocket Park now

That situation could have continued while we wait for the CRL however fantastically Auckland Transport, the Council, the Local Board and the local Business Association are hoping to get together with the community to create a temporary pocket park on the site this Sunday.

Symonds St Pocket Park

What a great initiative and way to make better use of the land for the next few years at least.

The sticky mess of the transport budget

The big news that the Council will be pushing back its preferred start date for the main part of the City Rail Link was not a huge surprise – aside from the enabling works the project’s probably not practically ready to start so quickly, even if funding support was available from Central Government (which it’s not). However, this is hardly a “win” on any account, as reduced spending on CRL in the next few years doesn’t free up money for other projects – as we stressed last month. This is because CRL doesn’t have an impact on rates until it opens, and it apparently is the level of rates income that constrains the transport budget.

So what does the rest of the transport budget look like? Looking at the details, the result is quite a mess, particularly during the first five years. This will become a core part of the big LTP question around whether the public wants a much larger transport programme and if so, how we’d prefer to pay for it (rates & fuel tax increases or a motorway toll). Hidden away at page 252 and 253 of the November Budget Committee agenda (27MB PDF) is the 10 year transport programme (although this is from before yesterday’s decision to delay the CRL):

2015draftltp-capex-list

This reflects the list of projects “above the line” in Auckland Transport’s ranking of all projects and reflect’s what’s possible in the “Basic Transport Network”. I don’t have a huge concern about the project list itself, although there are a few pretty low value things in there like Mill Road. The issue is more about the timing and sequencing of the programme – especially in the first few years.

You’ll see a number of important projects in there that are based around supporting the new public transport network that Auckland Transport are implementing over the next few years. Projects like the Otahuhu, Te Atatu and Manukau interchanges. Or the necessary improvements to Wellesley Street so it can cope with becoming the main east-west bus route across the city centre. The big problem is that these projects don’t appear to be funded until 2021 or in some cases (like Wellesley Street) even later:

2015draftltp-newptnetwork

This is a pretty insane situation, especially for projects like the Otahuhu interchange which is utterly fundamental to any implementation of the new PT network in the south. AT have started on the project but it seems they only have enough money for early works and design. The other big issue is the walking and cycling programme – which appears to be the line item “W+C Programme Risk Management”, that doesn’t have any funding at all for the first five years of the budget period.

The numbers at the bottom of the table above tell a rather strange and difficult to understand story about the total amount of funding available for transport over each of the next 10 years, jumping all over the place from a low of $453 million in the 15/16 year up to a whopping $978 million in 20/21 before dropping back down again significantly. The CRL numbers will change a bit, but remember not the rest of the programme.

But even within the funding envelope available, it seems that Auckland Transport has made some strange decisions around the timing of projects. Why is Albany Highway such an extremely high priority that it sucks up nearly $40 million in the first couple of years? Why is there no funding for AMETI, then one year of funding, then no funding again? Some of the project costs raise questions too – how does a Te Atatu bus interchange cost $46 million? How can a Wynyard interchange cost $25 million and a Downtown one $24 million when a Learning Quarter interchange only costs $8 million? Should we really be spending $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover?

There seems to be an expectation that the “Basic Transport Network” is just an academic exercise, with the public supposedly hugely in favour of the motorway tolls scheme (or higher rates and fuel taxes) that will “save the day”. I’m a bit sceptical about this – the government has not greeted the tolls scheme warmly and the public seem to be screaming even about the proposed 3.5% rates increase. We could very well be stuck with the Basic Transport Network for the foreseeable future, which means it needs a hell of a lot of work to ensure the new public transport network doesn’t fail, to ensure momentum on the walking and cycling programme is not lost and to finally make some tough decisions around whether we should be spending $143 million on Mill Road, $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover or $135 million on the East West Connections project.

The currently proposed budget is just a sticky mess that seems almost designed to fail.

CRL delay adds significant costs

The government’s stubborn attitude towards the City Rail Link is going to add $270 million to the council’s debt once it is eventually built. That is from a combination of increased inflation costs and the council having to pay in full for the early enabling works in full. The council is having to officially delay the main works of the project till the 2018/19 financial year after Audit NZ didn’t agree with them that they should include the government’s contribution from 2015/16. A special meeting is being held today to approve the change announced on Friday and the agenda highlights the financial implications from the project being delayed. First here’s the background information.

5. The CRL is the game changing project for Auckland, the most significant piece of our transport network which will ensure that Auckland can continue to grow without transport grinding to a halt.

6. We have been engaged in ongoing discussion with central government about the funding of this project. Government has moved from an initial position of opposition to the project, to one of commitment to contribute to funding from the year 2020. We know that this is not soon enough and have continued to work collaboratively with government agencies and ministers to support our case for earlier funding.

7. In the 2012-22 LTP we assumed central government funding would commence from the year 2015-16 and the financial data for the 2015-25 LTP has carried that assumption through. The consultation document has been written with three alternative scenarios set out for public consideration:

  • Option 1 – government funding starts in 2015/16 and project proceeds on original timelines
  • Option 2 – government funding starts in 2018/19 – enablement works only for next three years and then construction starting in 2018/19
  • Option 3 – government funding starts in 2020/21 – enablement works only for next three years, construction starts in 2018/19, backed by a firm commitment for government funding from 2020.

8. While all three scenarios are described in the public consultation document the LTP financials are currently built on Option 1.

9. Over the last couple of weeks, as staff have been preparing the consultation document for Governing Body sign off later this month, it has become apparent that Audit New Zealand’s view is that it would be more prudent to build the LTP financials on one of the alternative scenarios. In order to ensure we prepare a consultation document consistent with Audit New Zealand’s expectations, I am now proposing that we adopt Option 2 as the basis of our LTP financials.

10. This option will continue to keep the pressure on the Government to contribute funding earlier than the current commitment, but gives more time for us to work with it to achieve a common view. It also allows us to keep faith with our private sector partners by progressing the enablement works. While it delays the construction timing by a couple of years it has only a relatively minor impact on the financial situation.

And here’s the financial implications

CRL delay financials option 1

CRL delay financials option 2

So by delaying the CRL by two years adds almost $100 million in inflation costs and we can assume it would be a similar amount again if the project is delayed further to 2020 like the government still seem to be holding out for. The extra debt from enabling works is likely due to the council believing that once they have paid for them that the government will only contribute 50% of the remaining costs and not reimburse them for the early works – despite the governments agencies and the minister himself seeming to agree it is sensible for those works happen as currently planned. Unfortunately the government continue to hold out on the timing.

Even that is too ambitious for new Transport Minister Simon Bridges, who said last night the Government remained committed to a 2020 start.

“The Government would only consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage are growing faster than expected. To date, all indications are that this is unlikely to occur.”

Mayor Brown was keen to highlight the Government’s agreement in principle last year to support a project it previously opposed.

“We have moved them from a position of total opposition to one of commitment for funding half the project from the year 2020,” he said.

While the employment target was never likely to be met – and is a bad measure anyway – he definitely may want to get some independent advice on the rail patronage figures. After the government announced they would support the project in June last year the Ministry of Transport started monitoring the targets. In August they released the second update and about patronage say

Rail patronage

Auckland Transport’s Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report for June 2014 shows rail patronage of 11.4 million trips for the year to June 2014, compared to 10 million trips for the previous year. This is an increase of 1.4 million trips or 13.9 percent.

Assessment

Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date.

If growth continues at 1.4 million trips per year, annual patronage would hit 20 million trips around 2019/20. We expect patronage growth to continue at a similar rate as for the year to June 2014 until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. After 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow and at this stage do not anticipate it is likely that the threshold of 20 million trips well before 2020 will be met.

Since that time patronage growth has continued strongly and is now up 18% on the same time last year. If it continues on at this rate we could hit 20 million trips in 2017/18 – although 2018/19 is more realistic.

City Rail Link delayed?

The CRL is going to be delayed after Audit NZ’s review of the council’s draft Long Term Plan.

Mayor proposes amendment to CRL timing in draft LTP

Following discussions with Audit NZ, the Mayor is proposing an amendment in Council’s draft Long-term Plan 2015-2025 on the timing for construction of Auckland’s number one transport priority – the City Rail Link (CRL).

In its draft budget, Council has the CRL project commencing in 2015/16, based on an assumption government’s funding contribution for the project would also start next year, five years earlier than government has so far indicated.

On Tuesday 9 December, council will consider changing the assumption of timing of the government contribution to 2018/19. This will mean enablement works of $280 million will still take place in the first three years of the plan, but construction will not start until 2018/19. This will also delay the completion date to 2023.

Mayor Len Brown says:

“We have a track record of success with central government when it comes to the CRL – we have moved them from a position of total opposition to one of commitment for funding half the project from the year 2020,” says Mayor Len Brown.

“Yes, we still have to work with government on final timing, but I’m confident we can come to an agreement and get on and get this job done.

“I understand why Audit NZ feel that we need to take a more conservative approach to our financial projections and I am proposing that we develop the LTP based on a later timing of government contribution.”

Public consultation on the draft LTP begins January 23 next year. The final plan is due for adoption June 30, 2015.

At first glance this seems like a big blow to the project however looking at the detail it’s not quite as bad as it seems.

The enabling works – the cut and cover tunnel from Britomart to Wyndham St – are unaffected and will still go ahead next year. For the main works, which relate to the remainder of the project, as the NZTA briefing to incoming minister highlighted, there’s still a huge amount of design, land acquisition, finalisation of consents to go before the project could start – let alone the issue of convincing government to pay for its share earlier than they’d previously indicated. It’s been suggested to me that even if the government can’t to the party for a 2015/16 start that the amount of work still to do would have meant the main works were likely to have a 2017/18 start anyway.

Currently the CRL’s funding in the draft LTP really starts to ramp up from 2015/16 and is fully completed by 2021/22 (the negative amount after that is presumably income from the sale of excess land):

crl-ltpfunding

I don’t know the extent to which this will change – as the ‘enabling works’ will still proceed as will design and land acquisition for the main project. Presumably the main impact might be on the 16/17 and 17/18 budgets which will allocate a lot less to CRL now.

It’s important to remember though, as we explained last month ahead of the November LTP meeting that discussed CRL, is that this won’t free up funding for other projects as CRL does not have an impact on rates until the early 2020s – meaning that deferring its cost can’t be used for other projects that would have a rates impact sooner.

I do wonder whether the government might take another look at CRL now, as it seems Council has shifted its position on timing to midway between its preferred 2016 start date and government’s 2018 preferred date. Especially given rail patronage is currently tracking to hit the government’s target of 20 million trips in 2018.

Stuart’s 100 #60: The Humble Zebra

60: The Humble Zebra

Day_60

What if we had more and safer zebra crossings? And what if it wasn’t so hard to put one in?

For a while there, it was seeming that the humble zebra was something of an endangered species on the streets of Auckland. Deeply out of fashion, its distribution and abundance across Auckland and New Zealand has steadily dwindled over the last few decades, being replaced by traffic signals on the busiest arterials and the now ubiquitous pedestrian refuge island everywhere else.

In spite of this, the humble zebra retains a number of advantages over signals and refuge islands, treating people walking with respect and responsibility and giving them the freedom to step out with confidence to cross when they please. Yet amongst the traffic engineering fraternity, zebra crossings, especially of the plain, old-fashioned variety – you know without the raised tables, planter islands, flashing signs and rumble strip approaches as if a crossing pedestrian was akin to a passing train – are deemed unsafe.

There is possibly a chicken-and-egg situation here; because of this disappearance, it seems many Auckland drivers don’t know the rules when they do come across them, worsening any safety issues. More widespread use can help drivers to learn to respect them.

Fortunately, it seems that in a few corners of Auckland at least, zebra crossings are making a bit of a comeback. The recently upgraded Halsey and Daldy Streets are two examples where these have been achieved in a simple way that seems to be functioning well.

There are many more situations that would benefit from zebras where we are told that they don’t meet the requirements to put one in. This shouldn’t be so hard.

More civilised streets where pedestrians are treated with respect and a right of way to cross the road; that should be a basic right in any city.

IMG_2614

New zebra crossing on Halsey Street, Wynyard Quarter installed earlier this year.

Stuart Houghton 2014

Housing Accord first year results

The results for the first full year of the Housing Accord between the government and Auckland Council have just been released.

It’s a politically charged topic – witness the government talking it up (“First year Auckland Housing Accord target exceeded“), and Phil Twyford from Labour rather unfairly talking it down (“Fourth housing report confirms failure“).

The Housing Accord is ultimately about increasing the number of new homes being built in Auckland. It’s open to debate how much success it’s had in its first year, but it’s also laid the groundwork for future growth.

The story so far – by the numbers

Overall, “11,060 new sections and dwellings have been achieved in the first year – more than 20 per cent above the target of 9000″. That’s perhaps a little exaggerated, as we’re actually talking about consents or approvals for those new sections and dwellings – they haven’t necessarily been built. And, as I’ve pointed out previously, the target is actually lower than the 9,975 sections and dwellings achieved in the year before the Accord came into effect.

Still, 11,060 sections and dwellings is a lift. It’s not enough of a lift (the targets for year 2 and 3 are 13,000 and 17,000 respectively, so lifting by 4,000 a year), and there’s probably some double counting compared to the previous year,* but it’s a start.

A lot of the attention has focused on Special Housing Areas, but these haven’t really translated into consents yet. That will take a bit longer, partly because it hasn’t been long since most of them were approved, and partly because they often have to go through an extra stage – getting rezoned via a plan change, before they can be subdivided. I imagine they’ll make a much bigger difference to the numbers in year two.

Behind the rhetoric, what we’re actually left with is an increase in planned construction activity (subdivision consents to create new sections, and building consents to create new homes), much of which is simply due to a recovering construction sector. And we’re still not building enough homes, especially with migration running at record levels.

I’ve shown the number of annualised building consents in Auckland below – note the very low figures in 2009-2011, and the upturn which has been underway since then.

Auckland consents

The story so far – making the process easier

That’s not to say the Accord has been a failure. The remarks I’ve heard from people across the property industry have been quite positive. I went to the Property Council’s Residential Development Summit last month, and the Accord was given a thumbs up by a range of people. Developers are keen on the “one stop shop” where stakeholders such as Auckland Transport, NZTA, Watercare and the council consents team are all available to talk through the issues, and the consent process has been streamlined. Perhaps these are things that the council should have gotten going itself anyway, but maybe it needed a nudge from the government.

Planning applications are made under the Proposed Unitary Plan rules, and that was only possible with a law change from government. We’ve been a bit annoyed about the relative lack of “intensification” Special Housing Areas, compared to the “greenfields” ones. However, the council did say in its Auckland Plan that it wanted to have a ready supply of land for housing, and the SHAs are needed to create that supply. Besides, the Unitary Plan rules often aren’t much better than the existing rules when you’re trying to create apartments than terraces – which we’ve also criticised – so many developers wouldn’t bother.

The next step

It’s going to be tricky to ramp up construction fast enough to meet the Accord’s year 2 and 3 goals, and to actually convert the consents into built homes. An article last month suggested that building consents are unlikely to come close to the targets, based on forecasting work done for the MBIE, and that the targets might be revised downwards.

* More on the double counting, since I haven’t seen this discussed elsewhere. Within the year, the report doesn’t double count, so a piece of land gets counted when it is given subdivision consent but isn’t counted again when it’s given building consent. However, some of the building consents granted in this last year will have been given subdivision consent the year before the accord, so it’s not possible to compare the 9,975 to the 11,060.

The MBIE will address this for years 2 and 3, i.e. they won’t double count between the years of the accord.

Looking at just building consents, though, it is possible to compare the numbers over time. Those consents have risen 30% in the last year, which is pretty substantial – from 5,648 to 7,366.

 

Stuart’s 100 #53: Concentrating on Corridors

53: Concentrating on Corridors

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What if we got serious about intensifying corridors like Melbourne does?

One of the things we hear all the time in Auckland is ‘Unlike – insert City X – we can’t do that here because – insert excuse Y’. Now, sometimes these differences are real and we need to work harder to translate good ideas into a New Zealand context. But more often than not we exaggerate the differences between city life in this small corner of the world and that elsewhere. Fundamentally we have much in common with cities elsewhere, especially the New World cities of Australia and North America, even when they are much bigger than ours.

So what if we got serious about intensifying corridors like Melbourne does? We tried this once before; the former Auckland Regional Council’s growth strategy put a lot of emphasis on intensifying centres and corridors. But not a lot of development happened. We often hear that the problem is our original grain of subdivision and street patterns that doesn’t lend itself well to this type of development. Is that the case, or do we just need to go about it differently or work a little harder to change that?

To really go to town on corridors, we would need to accept greater change in character of the say 7.5% of land area that fronts these arterial corridors, to offset less intensive change elsewhere across most suburban streets. This seems to be the basic premise of recent strategic planning in Melbourne. We can debate how successfully that strategy is being realised over there, but it is hard to argue against the fact that Melbourne already has far more examples of good mid-rise mixed use development on its major roads than Auckland. Why is that?

Here in Auckland, have we forgone such an opportunity with the Proposed Unitary Plan? Imagine if the Council had put more effort into zoning for these outcomes along corridors like Dominion, Mt Eden and Remuera Roads on the isthmus, the former highways of Great North and Great South Roads or the likes of Onewa Road or Lake Road over on the Shore. Such an approach could have adopted a strategy of greater protection of historic commercial buildings balanced with more aggressive up-zoning across the balance of sites including much deeper back from the main street to create viable sites for more intensive mid-rise development.

In acknowledging this as a great planning and urban design outcome, we would also need to acknowledge that it is pretty tough for developers to assemble sites and make it work. Council would need to look to use as many carrots as it can muster across its regulatory, revenue-gathering and investment toolboxes to provide far greater incentives for this to happen.

An Auckland where more people could afford to live amongst the great amenities and character of the long-established suburbs we already have? Wouldn’t that be a better Auckland?

Stuart Houghton 2014

New Auckland valuation maps

New property valuations for Auckland were released yesterday and here are a few maps of from the council’s GIS viewer. All are just for residential properties.

Land Value per m²

Completely unsurprisingly it can be seen that urban and coastal land is the most valuable with values doing off further away from there.

It’s worth noting that the areas with the highest land values are also the same areas most suited to intensification she to their amenity values however the are also the same ones with residents that objected the strongest to the Unitary Plan.

Auckland Residential Land Values per sqm 2014

Auckland Residential Land Values per sqm 2014 Legend 2

Percentage change in Land value

Looks like the busway has had considerable impact on the values on the North Shore.

Auckland changes in Land Value 2014

Auckland changes in Land Value 2014 Legend

Percentage change in Capital value

Auckland changes in Capital Value 2014

Auckland changes in Capital Value 2014 Legend

 

CRL passes another hurdle

Yesterday the council started debating and voting on what will go out for consultation as part of the Long Term Plan. There were two big interrelated issues people were watching closely, what level rates would be set at and whether or not councillors would vote to delay the City Rail Link. These weren’t the only items on the agenda but they certainly took up a lot of time, most of the day in fact with the meeting continuing tomorrow to discuss the rest of the agenda.

By the end of it all the councillors voted 16-7 to increase rates in the next two years by 3.5%, up from the original 2.5% increase (the subsequent eight years were already set for a 3.5% increase). For transport voting on whether to delay the City Rail Link also thankfully fell short, again with a 16-7 result which is notable as on Monday Bernard Orsman was reporting that nine 9 councillors were going to vote to delay the project. The councillors that changed their minds were Ross Clow and Calum Penrose leaving those supporting a delay being Cameron Brewer, Linda Cooper, Denise Krum, Dick Quax, Sharon Stewart, John Watson and George Wood.

I wasn’t at the meeting but was following it Twitter and so I thought I would just highlight some of the interesting tweets from those that were there as there is clearly tension on the issue between many councillors.

The council say even the CRL wasn’t ring-fenced it would still be number one on the priority list due to how much positive impact it has.

On Capacity issues

It sounds like Council CEO Stephen Town did a good job in stepping the councillors through the information

On CRL Operations

Even from before today Chris Darby and Penny Hulse seem to be the best councillors we have and Chris once again show they actually understand many of the issues.

The last comment clearly upset George Wood

Dick Quax not wanting to be left out later added this gem

Perhaps Dick forgot that cars are a 19th century tech too.

There’s still a lot of work to go before the CRL gets started but at least it’s cleared another hurdle

A delay to the CRL?

The Herald reported yesterday that an increasing number of councillors are thinking of voting to delay the City Rail Link to 2020.

The $2.4 billion City Rail Link could be deferred until 2020 because of mounting concerns by councillors about its impact on rates, debt and big cuts to community services.

A number of councillors are having second thoughts about an early start on the rail project and support deferring work until the Government comes on board with funding in 2020.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has locked $2.2 billion into a new 10-year budget to begin work on the 3.5km underground rail link in 2016 and completed by 2021.

On Wednesday, all 20 councillors and the mayor will debate the budget and make decisions on the rail project for public consultation.

The issue stems from the fact local boards and the council have promised a huge number of projects over the years, many of which originated in pre supercity days. Cuts and deferrals to some of these projects combined with efficiency savings as a result of having a single council had already brought projected rate increases down to around 4.9%. To take things further Len Brown’s plan for rates was to limit rates rises at 2.5% to 3.5%. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you have a programme of spending that requires a 4.9% rates increase but you limit the increase at 2.5 to 3.5% that you will have to cut some projects somewhere. For transport those cuts mean a very reduced transport spend and the tables below show the extent of a 30 year transport programme (not including state highways) with that limited rates increase.

committed-projects

 

basic-network-projects

On top of that there were many cuts to other areas of the council’s budgets including a lot of funding for local board projects, something which angered most, if not all of the local boards.

That has contributed to some councillors now supporting delaying the CRL.

Labour councillor Ross Clow was the first centre-left councillor to break ranks with Mr Brown last Thursday on the flagship rail link and call for it to be deferred until the National Government’s 2020 start date.

He said the budget was gutting suburban areas such as Avondale, which had been waiting 30 years for a new town centre, in favour of “pet projects” like the City Rail Link.

“Mr Mayor you have been up there twice in the last few months telling them they are going to get this and that, yet your proposal has absolutely nothing in the budget,” said Mr Clow.

Albany councillor John Watson is another pro-link councillor having second thoughts.

Circumstances had changed dramatically with huge cuts to community services and projects, he said, citing a $20 million project to widen Whangaparaoa Rd.

“Nothing has been signalled on the horizon and that’s totally unacceptable,” Mr Watson said.

On the side of delaying the CRL there seem to be two general groups, the haters and the opportunists.

The haters are those who primarily for ideological reasons either don’t like Len and/or don’t like the CRL/rail. This group includes the likes of Cameron Brewer, Dick Quax and George Wood. Those in this group are unlikely to ever support the CRL although if they’re still around when it opens I’m sure they will happily take some of the credit for its success.

More of a concern are the opportunists who have arisen primarily due to the funding discussions. Some of them look at the cost if the CRL and mistakenly think that by deferring it, it will suddenly mean a heap of money will be available that they can use to fund projects in their local area. Alternatively some know the importance of the CRL and are trying to use it as leverage to get concessions out of the mayor, again for local projects. In many ways this is one of the big issues with having all councillors elected from wards rather than having some elected at large like the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance suggested. I’m aware some have taken this stance in the hope that it will put pressure on the government to stump up with funding but if anything it will do the opposite. Effectively what these councillors are doing is using the CRL to play a game of chicken with an oncoming train.

The whole situation has shades of Robbies Rail to it. Back in the 1970’s mayor Sir Dove Myer Robinson’s plans for a regional rail system were cancelled by the government after support for it was undermined by similar parochial local body politicians and planners.

I part I think some of the issue with this comes from the poor job Auckland Transport have done in really explaining the region wide benefits the CRL provides. That there are councillors and local board members who have a rail line passing through their area opposing the project because they think there are no benefits to their communities is a testimony to the fact it hasn’t been explained well enough. Perhaps a fresh set of eyes is needed to look at how the project is communicated to both the politicians and the public. The video below is probably the best effort AT have made with their comms but it relies on people actually watching it fully to get any info.

Before people get too concerned there are a couple of important things to note. The Herald note that most of the group that supports deferring the CRL do support work on the first section which will be tied in with the redevelopment of the Downtown Mall. That will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to as far as Wyndham St and is crucial if many of the other Downtown projects are to go ahead. By the time we’re getting towards needing to get started on the remainder of the tunnel – likely around 2016/17 – we will have had another 2-3 years of strong patronage growth on the back of the current tranche of PT projects and as the pressure mounts on transport capacity it is likely to leave little choice for both the council and government but to invest in the CRL.

The second thing to note is that by delaying the CRL it won’t actually free up money to build the local projects these councillors are hoping for. While debt will be needed to fund construction the council capitalise the interest until the project is complete and the region starts benefiting from the investment (those interest costs are already built into the overall project cost). What that means is there is no impact on council finances until the projects opens which isn’t likely to be till 2021/22.

 

While the project will definitely go ahead at some point in time a speed bump imposed by local politicians is far from ideal. I would suggest that it would be a good idea to email all councillors expressing your support for the project to go ahead and be open by 2021/22 along with the regional benefits it provides. It doesn’t have to be a big email and rather than provide a template it’s best if it comes from you in your own words.