Submission on the Regional Land Transport Plan

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The Campaign for Better Transport’s submission on Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Plan 2015-2025 is here:

CBT Submission on the Draft Regional Land Transport Plan

375 Kauri In Path of Puhoi Warkworth Toll Road

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With the recent story about the 500 year old kauri in line for the chop, the following tweet has gained a lot of interest.

If you are looking for some background, you’ll find it on page 47 of the final report of the Board of Inquiry

“NZTA’s Terrestrial Ecology Assessment Report envisages that up to approximately 375 kauri trees, many young, would need to be felled or topped to accommodate the eco-viaduct. Additionally it was proposed that the Mahurangi River be diverted for approximately 200m through a new open channel.”

“The Board’s initial reaction during a site visit, expressed by the Chairman during an exchange with a witness, was that it was indeed a bold move in this day and age to destroy kauri trees to accommodate a viaduct carrying a motorway. The effects on both the river and the forest stand would largely be avoided if the designation was shifted approximately 150m to the east…”

“The Board is satisfied that, as a matter of jurisdiction, it has no power to move the designation to the east in the manner tentatively contemplated.”

The “many young” comment is arguable. Later on in the document they say “It is thought that these trees range in age between 75 – 100 years.”

The Campaign for Better Transport submitted against the toll road through the Board of Inquiry process last year. This is documented in a series of posts over at TransportBlog.

Probably most concerning is that the toll road has not been the subject of a business case, which until now has been standard procedure on any project of this scale.  NZTA had a budget of $600,000 for expert advice in relation to their application, but none of this was spent on conducting a cost benefit analysis in accordance with their own Economic Evaluation Manual.  This is covered in a bit more detail in this post at TransportBlog.

The economics behind the project are likely to be poor.  The new toll road route, between Puhoi and a point 2km north of Warkworth is just 700m shorter than the existing route, with a predicted travel time of ten minutes, just three minutes faster than today.  Also, because the junction is to the north of Warkworth, few Warkworth residents are likely to use the road.  The Government is yet to provide any indication of how much the toll charge will be for using the road either.  The map below shows the designated route (with north to the right, click to enlarge).

Puhoi Warkworth Toll Road

It should be noted that a further extension of the toll road from Warkworth to Wellsford is unlikely due to the difficultly in finding a cost-effective route brought about by the the geographical challenges of the area.

The CBT was disappointed that the Board chose to approve NZTA’s application, and we believe that the decision sets a bad precedent for future RMA related decisions as effectively the economic impacts of the community can be ignored, let alone the impacts on the environment. You can read our closing submission, which covers all of these points and more, here.

Govt Rejects Increasing Fuel Tax While Price Is Low

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CBT asked Transport Minister Simon Bridges for his opinion on increasing fuel excise while petrol was low. At the time of the letter, petrol prices were around $1.72 a litre:

Dear Minister,

The recent drop in the retail price of petrol gives rise to the opportunity to introduce a variable fuel tax on petrol and diesel. Such a tax could potentially be a significant amount per litre, but would also be removed when petrol climbs above a certain threshold again (for instance $1.90) to improve public acceptability.

You will be aware that Auckland is facing a potential funding shortfall for the transport projects that it wishes to achieve – both public transport and roading projects. Elsewhere in New Zealand, regional councils are also challenged with finding the funds to maintain and build local transport infrastructure. Central government projects are also affected, as excise tax revenues are flat or declining as cars become more fuel efficient and vehicle kilometres travelled remains static.

While the pending 3c a litre increase in excise tax in July 2015 will go a small way to addressing this funding shortfall, a more significant increase in excise tax while retail prices are low would result in more revenue, be relatively painless for consumers and potentially negate time-consuming arguments for alternative funding mechanisms such as increased rates, tolling and motorway charging schemes. According to a recent Treasury paper, every 1c a litre increase in excise tax generates $35m in revenue. Therefore an increase of 20c per litre, for instance, would equate to an additional $700m annually.

New Zealand is also taking very little action on climate change. As other countries such as the USA and China take positive steps to reduce transport related carbon output, New Zealand is doing nothing to reduce transport related emissions. The ETS tax on fuel amounts to just a fraction of a cent, and has had little effect in incentivising consumers to choose low carbon transport options. For this reason I suggest that funds from a variable fuel tax be dedicated to transport projects that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, allowing NZ to benefit from the resulting infrastructure when petrol prices almost inevitably rise again.

There are a number of different approaches that could be undertaken to implement a Variable Fuel Tax, however I would appreciate your initial thoughts on this.

A  month later the CBT received the following reply from Simon Bridges, the highlights of which I’ve retyped here:

Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with a variable fuel tax that means it would have unintended consequences and be difficult to implement.

Currently, vehicle owners are taxed for their use of the road network. These taxes are based on fuel consumption by petrol vehicle owners (through petrol excise duty), and on kilometres travelled by diesel vehicle owners (through road user charges). This is designed to match the costs of the roads to those who use them, and raises more money for further projects when people drive more. A variable fuel tax based on the price of petrol would reduce the link between tax and road use.

I’m not sure why this is a bad thing. Make hay while the sun shines surely?

Another unintended consequence arises in times of slow economic growth. Before the recent price falls, the last signficant petrol price fall was in 2008 during the global financial crisis. A variable fuel tax would have taxed people more at a time of increasing unemployment and uncertainty.

This isn’t the case now.

A further obstacle is that fuel prices vary across the country. It would be unfair to levy different tax rates on road users based solely on where they are located.

That isn’t what we are advocating.

Alternatively, a tax could be levied at the point of entry into New Zealand, but this would not be practical as there is a lag between when the tax is collected (when the price might be high) and when the fuel is purchased in the market (by which time the price might be low).

We aren’t suggesting a new tax, simply a larger increase than the existing fuel excise than the 3c a litre the Government will implement in July.  As petrol rises again above a certain threshold, remove the “extra” increase.

A variable fuel tax also discourages competition, where companies selling petrol at lower prices would face higher taxes.

This is false.  The amount of fuel tax would be the same for every retailer around the country.

I note your point on the need to address climate change. The Government is committed to reducing transport related emissions and reliance on traditional fossil fuels. Through the Government Policy Statement on land transport 2015, the Government has increased investments in walking, cycling and public transport in part to reduce environmental impacts including climate change. Additionally , the Government has committed to an exemption from road user charges for electric vehicles until 2020.

The investments mentioned are insignificant compared to the multi-billion dollar spend up on new Roads of National Significance, which only make the country more reliant on imported fossil fuels.

Overall, a disappointing response from the Minister.  As it turns out, the Minister has been too slow off the mark to take advantage of the five year low. Instead the petrol companies themselves seem happy to be making extra profits, prompting the Minister to put them “on notice”.

Airport Rail Update

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There has been speculation in recent weeks that Auckland Transport is now favouring a light rail solution over heavy rail, but recently Auckland Transport announced in a joint statement with NZTA that the critical Kirkbride Road intersection for “either light or heavy rail”.  

Kirkbride SH20 Intersection Upgrade

Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) have been jointly progressing an integrated transport scheme for SH20A which aims at accessibility improvements to the airport and the surrounding airport business district.

The design for Kirkbride Interchange, the first element in this scheme, is well underway. It forms part of the multi modal strategy to help future proof for Airport growth of 14 million to 40 million passengers over the next 30 years. It will future proof a rail connection (either light rail or heavy rail) and also coordinate the works with the Watercare Hunua 4 project in 2015.

The decision to future proof for either light rail or heavy rail is to retain flexibility in future to implement either mode should technological advancements in light rail enable potential significant cost savings, without compromising significantly on the overall travel time between the airport and the city centre. While these are being investigated it makes sense that the design of the new Kirkbride Interchange does not preclude either option.

The first step – upgrade of SH20A – at a cost of $140 million with future proofing estimated up to an additional $30 million, is due to begin construction in January 2015 and open in April 2017, and will provide a number of benefits once completed. It enables better journey reliability for traffic (and buses) to and from the airport in addition to improved safety for all users through the separation of motorway traffic and local traffic at the Kirkbride intersection. The upgrade will also more fully realise the benefits of the Western Ring Route taking people to and from the Airport through SH20A, SH20 and the Waterview connection due to be completed in early 2017.

The multimodal upgrades to this corridor (including the new Kirkbride Road interchange) will support future population and business growth in the area, cater for increasing numbers of travellers, and improve freight efficiency in South Auckland. Other benefits are environmental through improvements to stormwater drainage and treatment, and the reconnection of the community, along with other travel mode choices of walking and cycling.

AT’s focus now, is about ensuring the rail mode is protected irrespective of the final choice of rail type and funding yet to be determined.

There isn’t much detail on where the exact designation will go however, so as usual the devil will be in the details. A PDF of the statement is here: SH20A upgrade – AT and NZTA joint statement – 28.11.14

Waikato Rail Campaign

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This post summarises our Waikato Trains Now! campaign from 2010

Campaign Summary

In October 2009 CBT launched a petition calling for the immediate start of a Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service. The petition received widespread support each and every time CBT members took it out to the public for signatures.

In March 2010 the petition of 11,500 signatures was presented to Waikato MPs and Councillors. The petition was then presented to Parliament, and was stopped at the Select Committee level the head of the transport committee, local MP David Bennett.

In September and October 2010 CBT ran a “Vote Trains” local body election campaign, gaining a lot of attention. A signficant number of rail sympathetic councillors were elected to Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council.

In 2011 a petition was presented to Parliament by the town of Tuakau with over 3,500 signatures supporting the rail service.

Following the Local Body Elections a Rail Working Party (RWP) was established involving various Waikato councils, Auckland Council, KiwiRail, NZTA and CBT (with non voting rights) to investigate the feasibility of a rail service. Robin Janson represented CBT on the Working Party with support from various CBT members. After a year of investigation and following several surveys and business cases, all of which strongly supported the establishment of a commuter rail, the RWP made a final report with positive recommendations for the service to the respective council bodies in August 2011.

You can read the final report (PDF) here: Waikato Rail Business Case 2009

Rail Working Party

A service was proposed by the Rail Working Party. The positions of the Councils in 2010 were:

  • Waikato District Council’s (WDC) declined to support a regional rate for the rail link and declined to include the rail proposal in the council’s 2012-2022 long term plan.
  • Waipa District Council did not support the proposal.
  • Hamilton City Council (HCC) decided not to support the service recommended by the Rail Working Party. Any rail service remains as an unfunded item in their future plans.
  • Environment Waikato has declined to fund the service. Any rail service remains as an unfunded item in their future plans.

The NZTA has made it clear on a number of occasions that Government funding will not be forthcoming for the service as Government MPs (local and national) have reinforced this position.

 

 

Minister of Transport to Attend Election Debate Tomorrow

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Media release

Organisers of tomorrow night’s transport debate in Auckland are delighted that Minister of Transport Hon. Gerry Brownlee will now be attending.

Previously National had advised that North Shore MP Maggie Barry would be speaking, however the announcement comes after reported comments from Mr Brownlee on the possibility of an early start to the first downtown stage of the City Rail Link.

“It will be a great chance to hear how the National Party are planning to improve the movement of people and freight in Auckland,” said Cameron Pitches, spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport.

“We are looking forward to having a policy based discussion in the public arena. We are hoping for some solid transport policy commitments for Auckland from each of the parties attending.

Representatives from six political parties will be speaking, followed by an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions.

TransportBlog contributor Patrick Reynolds will also be on hand to talk about the Congestion Free Network, a public transport initiative that focuses on moving people effectively around Auckland at peak times.

“The competing demands for infrastructure investment takes place in a fast changing global context and the stakes are high. Nothing short of the nation’s economic performance, quality of life, and international competitiveness are at stake. So which parties can provide most compelling evidence that their policies have the best fit for this new century?,” said Mr Reynolds.

Luke Christensen from Generation Zero explained; “We’ll be looking at how each party will reduce congestion and if they have an integrated long term transport strategy for Auckland to achieve their proposed reduction.”

In addition to Mr Brownlee, the full line-up of speakers includes Phil Twyford (Labour), Julie Anne Genter (Greens), Denis O’Rourke (NZ First), David Seymour (ACT) and Damian Light who will be representing UnitedFuture.

Members of the public are advised to arrive early for the meeting, which starts at 7:30pm sharp at the Ellen Melville Hall, which is located on O’Connell St in central Auckland.

[ends]

Auckland’s Transport Election Debate
Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall, Freyberg Square, Auckland Central.
Wednesday 27th August, 7:30pm sharp. Building access from 6:00pm.

Organised by The Campaign For Better Transport, TransportBlog and Generation Zero.

National Joins Transport Election Debate

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Media release

North Shore MP Maggie Barry will be talking transport at an upcoming election debate to be held on Wednesday 27th August.

Organisers The Campaign for Better Transport, along with TransportBlog and Generation Zero, are pleased that all the main parties will now be represented at the debate. National had previously advised that the current Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee was unable to attend.

“We’re happy that National recognise how important transport issues are to Aucklanders. The debate will give all parties the opportunity to put forward their ideas for improving and funding transport in New Zealand’s biggest city,” said spokesperson Cameron Pitches.

“It will be great to have a policy based discussion in the public arena. We are hoping for some solid transport policy commitments for Auckland from each of the parties attending.”

Each speaker has been allocated up to ten minutes to speak, to be followed by questions from the floor from the general public.

“We’ve outlined a number of areas that we expect each speaker to cover. These include their party’s positions on the timing of the City Rail Link, and how transport projects across the different modes should be prioritised and funded in Auckland.”

TransportBlog contributor Patrick Reynolds will also be on hand to talk about the Congestion Free Network, a public transport initiative that focusses on moving people effectively around Auckland at peak times.

In addition to Maggie Barry, the full lineup of speakers now includes Phil Twyford (Labour), Julie Anne Genter (Greens), Denis O’Rourke (NZ First), David Seymour (ACT) and Damian Light who will be representing UnitedFuture.

The meeting, which starts at 7:30pm, is open to the public and will be held at the Ellen Melville Hall, which is located on O’Connell St in central Auckland.

[ends]

Auckland’s Transport Election Debate
Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall, Freyberg Square, Auckland Central.
Wednesday 27th August, 7:30pm sharp. Building access from 6:00pm.

Confirmed speakers:

National – Maggie Barry
Labour – Phil Twyford
Greens – Julie Anne Genter
NZ First – Denis O’Rourke
ACT – David Seymour
UnitedFuture – Damian Light

The Campaign for Better Transport is a politically independent voluntary incorporated society, promoting better transport alternatives for Auckland.

Election Debate on Transport

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Transport Debate 27 August

 

The Campaign for Better Transport, in association with TransportBlog and Generation Zero, is counting down to Auckland’s Transport Election Debate, on the 27th August.

The meeting will be a chance for the public to find out from each party in the coming general election what they are promising to do for Auckland’s transport problems and options.

“We are hoping for some solid transport policy for Auckland from each of the parties attending,” said Cameron Pitches, Convenor of the Campaign for Better Transport.

Each speaker has been allocated ten minutes to speak, to be followed by questions from the floor from the general public.

“We’ve outlined a number of areas that we expect each speaker to cover. These include their party’s positions on the timing of the City Rail Link, and how transport projects across the different modes should be prioritised and funded in Auckland.”

TransportBlog contributor Patrick Reynolds will also be on hand to talk about the Congestion Free Network, a public transport focussed initiative that focusses on moving people effectively around Auckland at peak times.

Sudhvir Singh, a medical doctor and a leader of Generation Zero, is looking forward to the event.

“Young people are demanding that we learn from past mistakes when it comes to transport funding. A liveable low-carbon city is entirely possible if we are smarter about transport and give people choices,” said Dr Singh.

Representatives from Labour, the Greens, NZ First and ACT will be attending. National’s transport spokesperson and current Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee is unable to attend due to prior diary commitments. Organisers are hopeful that National will be able to put forward an alternative spokesperson.

“Nationwide, more than $2.5bn is collected in fuel and road taxes every year, and these taxes are increasing year on year. The public needs assurance that the Government after the 20th September will be spending our tax dollars on the right projects,” concludes Mr Pitches.

[ends]

Auckland’s Transport Election Debate
Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall, Freyberg Square, Auckland Central.
Wednesday 27th August, 7:30pm sharp. Building access from 6:00pm.

Confirmed speakers:

Labour – Phil Twyford
Greens – Julie Anne Genter
NZ First – Denis O’Rourke
ACT – David Seymour

Help spread the word about our election debate and download the flyer here.


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