My Thoughts on the Royal Commission’s Report (in a bit more detail)

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I’m slowly getting through reading the entire report by the Royal Commission on Auckland’s local government, and I have also read quite a few articles giving differing opinions (and a few nice summaries of the important bits) on the Report as well. So I’m starting to get a reasonably well-informed opinion on what it means for Auckland’s local government future, and whether or not it’s a step in the right direction.

As I said the other day, I think overall the changes are good. Auckland needs to be unified and that is what’s largely proposed. The functions of the existing District Councils will be legally shifted to the new Auckland Council, along with the functions of the ARC. There will be six local councils, but their functions will only be what the Auckland Council decides they can do. This is most likely to be focusing on local roads, parks, rubbish collection, footpath upgrades and the like. Planning will be centralised, most major decision will be centralised – with the local councils being basically more powerful community boards. I’m a bit mixed on this, as I think we’d be better off with a few more local councils or with community boards being retained in some form or another. The effectiveness of community boards seems to vary throughout Auckland, and in many cases they have so little power that they are fairly meaningless – but they are the most local form of local government. It would seem that the proposal does “take the local out of local government” to some extent. Maybe that will be something the government messes around with – perhaps deciding on more councils (11 was another proposal) or perhaps insisting that community boards are retained to some extent. I wouldn’t put too much faith in the government sorting it out though – as they generally do the opposite to anything I would think is a good idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Waterview Tunnel Backtrack

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The Herald reports:

Auckland business leaders are pushing the Government to save more than $1 billion by controversially building the Waterview motorway link across country, rather than through tunnels.

A report sent to Transport Minister Steven Joyce by the Auckland Business Forum is set to unleash furious debate at a time when political parties are preparing to contest a byelection in the local Mt Albert electorate soon to be vacated by former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The Auckland Business Forum claims a return of $3 for every $1 invested if a non-tunnel option was chosen.  That figure sounds too good to be true.  Meanwhile Duncan MacDonald of the Avondale Community Board says

“If the Government is of a mind to do it cheaper, then it won’t get done,” he told the Herald. “I’ll have every person living in Waterview and Mt Albert out there stopping it.”

I think National have their work cut out if they believe they can win Mt Albert at the same time as bowling 400 houses and alienating every community group in the process.

Showdown looms for Onehunga motorway

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The Herald reports that:

Government motorway builders are preparing to move bulldozers on to the Onehunga waterfront this week, despite efforts by a community group to tie them to an alleged 35-year-old promise to provide sandy beaches.

The Transport Agency says its contractors can wait no longer to extend their $230 million motorway duplication project across Manukau Harbour to the foreshore, after giving the Onehunga Enhancement Society until March 31 to reach a funding agreement with Auckland City and the regional council on an 11ha reclamation plan

Meanwhile, the Onehunga Enhancement Society says:

“There needs to be a memorandum of understanding signed off by key stakeholders in this project to ensure the non-delivery of promises made over the last 30 years is avoided at all costs. If we can get an MOU and substantial [financial] figures for the 11ha and a substantial bridge linking Onehunga to its waterfront, I’m sure we could satisfy our community and avoid the potential for a judicial review.”

 I think this is about to get very interesting.

Solving Auckland’s Traffic Mess

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Esther Harward at the Sunday Star-Times asks three “leading international transport gurus and an Auckland expert” where the city needs to go to overcome traffic congestion.

And not one of them suggests building or widening motorways.

Public Transport Is About Choice


John Roughan’s anti-public transport articles are becoming tiresome of late.  Most recently, he opines that the “active retired do not need free public transport.”

What he fails to acknowledge is that public transport provides choice.  Thanks to free ferries and public transport after 9am, SuperGold card holders now have the choice of spending less money on petrol, car running costs and parking and more on the cafes of Devonport, the wineries of Waiheke or, for that matter, food, heating or gifts for the grandchildren.

Mr Roughan is right to be concerned about the cost of providing off-peak travel to seniors.  His article would therefore have been more useful if he had investigated why tax and ratepayers are paying millions more to transport operators for providing off-peak travel to SuperGold card holders, when the marginal cost must be close to zero.

Perhaps there are improvements we can make to the public transport contracting model. Perhaps the Public Transport Management Act isn’t working as intended.  Perhaps we get greater economic returns from free off-peak travel than we realised.  Unfortunately from Mr Roughans’ article, we’ll never know.

Royal Commission Findings

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The Royal Commission has today released its findings on the future of Auckland’s local government. Everything is available to read here.

I’m yet to read through everything, but from what I have read it looks like very good news for public transport. ARTA is to be replaced by a Regional Transport Agency, that will be much more powerful and take on all the responsibilities for transport in the region. The kind of integration I’ve been begging for over the past few years. The Royal Commission also clearly values public transport a lot more than the Government, so it will be interesting how Steven Joyce and his bunch of roads-crazy supporters respond to this.

I’m pretty happy about it all. I will post more details in the next few days. I just hope the government doesn’t mess with their recommendations too much.

The Importance of Integrated Ticketing

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If one thing annoys me more than anything else in all the transport announcements we’ve seen over the past week or two – removal of the regional petrol tax, creation of a national petrol tax, news the government will pay for Auckland’s new electric trains, unsurprising news that the government is investing billions in state highways at the cost of everything else – it has been what has happened to Auckland’s integrated ticketing project. Regional petrol tax dollars were critical for funding this project and – unlike electrification – there has still been no word as to how the $100 million or so needed for implementing integrated ticketing will be provided. Furthermore, today we learn that awarding the contract for the development of an integrated, smart-card, ticketing system has been delayed. Well, on the positive side, at least it hasn’t been cancelled. It’s still damn frustrating though.

So, what’s up with this whole “integrated ticketing” thing that everyone seems to talk about? Why is it deemed to be so critical? Why is it so expensive? Why has it taken so long? These are all pretty good questions that do deserve and answer and some further discussion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Better Transport Blog


Hi all,

Cameron has asked me to assist with creating a frequently updated transport blog for this site. It is quite an honour in many ways and I shall do my best to blog here as regularly as I can. I have kept up a blog largely dedicated to Auckland’s transport over the past 6 months at , and some of the posts that pop up here will also pop up there.

My goal for this blog is not to necessarily analyse every single article relating to transport that appears in the media, nor to be simply an outlet for my frustrations (or dreams) with and about Auckland’s transport system.  Rather, I guess it’s a mixture of keeping people up to date with the activities of the Campagin for Better Transport (something I imagine Cameron will do most of), sharing information about the changes and developments of transportation in Auckland and inserting some of my own opinions on what’s going on in Auckland.

There will be a focus on public transport, as essentially the goal of the Campaign for Better Transport is to advocate for improved public transport, walking and cycling in the Auckland region. However, roads won’t be completely ignored in my posts, as – whether we like it or not – they do carry the vast majority of people travelling in and around Auckland.

I don’t claim to be an ultimate expert on transport in Auckland, but I think that my opinions are generally quite reasonable and well thought out. I do strongly believe that Auckland’s transport system needs a significant revolution over the next decade or two because of the effects of increasing congestion, peak oil and climate change. This is an exciting time for Auckland’s transport. Let’s be part of the change.

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