If the EPA Won’t Question Roading Economics, Who Will?

Last Friday the CBT made our representation to the Waterview Board of Inquiry , which is being run by the Environmental Protection agency.

The transcript is here, and it has a quite revealing exchange with myself and Judge Newhook.

It is revealing because clearly the Environmental Protection Agency does not see it’s role to question or check whether the economic benefits of roading projects are actually realised or not. But the question is if the EPA won’t question the economics of roading projects, who will?

The BOI as I saw it was more interested in mitigating the environmental damage the project will create and taking the economics of the project as a given. It is frustrating to think that the Board may not give any consideration to the question of “is the project worth it?”


Q. Mr Pitches can you just help me with something here?

A. Yes.

Q. How do you think, in a practical sense, we could gain reassurance from a model or a document that doesn’t yet exist?

A. The – a little bit further on I make a recommendation about how you can evaluate projects after the fact and compare that with the model, and that would suggest whether the model is consistent with the actual result.

Q. You are not suggesting that after the motorway is built there is an assessment of the thing against previous predictions?

A. Yes.

Q. And if it doesn’t stack up we rip the motorway up?

A. No, of course, by then it’s too late, but what we are suggesting is that if this project is modelled on a concept that there is a benefit of 1.2, and that’s the sole basis for this project proceeding, so what we are recommending, not just for this project, but for any motorway project, is if that is the case, it would be wise to do a post-implementation review to ascertain to ascertain if those benefits were met.

Q. But perhaps I should listen to you and then argue, but I will let you know what I’m going to ask you, and it’s this. What business is it of ours as a Board to impose a condition that there be some future economic study, ex post-facto the project, one supposes to inform future decision making. Isn’t that more a matter of National policy, isn’t that something you should be talking to the Minister of Transport about?

A. It is actually, yes.

Q. And you probably are?

A. Yes.

Q. Maybe, if you are not a lawyer, you may not be able to answer the point,

30 but I’m just wondering what business we have to direct that there be future academic or other – economic or other academic studies that might inform future decision making outside of this project. This hearing’s about this project.

A. Sure I understand that. Mr Arbury has a few comments on that.

Q. Thank you.


In response to that matter I think the concern that the Campaign for Better Transport has is that often this hasn’t happened in the past and this is an opportunity to require a post-construction audit. Obviously it’s up to the Board to decide whether that’s appropriate or not or in the scope or not.


Or indeed whether it’s within our legal jurisdiction Mr Arbury.


Yep, yep.


That’s what’s troubling me a bit.


Sure. No I certainly understand that, we’re just suggesting the possibility.


The desirability. Okay, carry on.

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