Steven Joyce and Auckland rail projects – a case of ‘Pot Calling the kettle black’?

While it is understandable the Transport Minister Steven Joyce wants to puncture some of the more overblown ‘rail everywhere’ rhetoric of Super Mayor hopefuls, he could give some thought to applying the same sort restraint to himself.

Especially as it becomes increasingly clear his own pet $2 billion Puhoi to Wellsford, ‘holiday highway’ cannot be justified by any of the conventional business case assessments used for these sorts of projects. The all important BCR (benefit to cost ratio) measurement for the Holiday Highway is less than 1 – at best 0.8.  And even this is based on traffic projections that assume the road will not be tolled. A toll road means fewer vehicles which in turn means lower benefits.

The BCR is also based on a claimed current average speed between Puhoi and Wellsford of only 60 kph. Really? Even taking into account the congestion sometimes experienced (usually on long weekends and at holiday times) that seems very low.  If current speed was calculated even a little higher the benefits of the project would accordingly be reduced.As for wider economic benefits these were dismissed as relatively minor in a 2008 study of transport options between Puhoi and Wellsford – yet a year later another study finds them to be a significant part of the argument for this project.

It makes it difficult to take the Minister’s anti-rail lecture to the Super Mayor candidates completely seriously, given that he won’t apply the same restraints when it comes to his own pet projects.

The Minister’s position is especially untenable when it becomes clear that problems faced by the Puhoi-Wellsford section of SH1 (choke points and accident danger spots) could largely be fixed at a fraction of the cost. This could be done by upgrading State Highway 1 – along the lines presented to the ARC Transport and Urban Development Committee  by the Campaign for Better Transport last Wednesday – much more cheaply and much more quickly than the Minister’s proposed 38 kilometre long tolled motorway, that won’t even be finished for another 12 years.We have a double-standard here.  While its quite OK for the Minister to push his own Mega Bucks ‘hobby horse’ project – it’s ‘tut tut’ to anyone else especially when it comes to Auckland rail projects.

Mike Lee with Cr Christine Rose at opening of Morningside Station

In regard to the Auckland rail Mr Joyce doesn’t seem to appreciate that Auckland’s rail network as it stands (apart from doubling the western line) is still essentially the same configuration as it was in 1929 when Auckland ’s population was less than 200,000. While it reassuring that at least Steven Joyce is not rejecting out of hand the 3.5 km CBD Loop  tunnel, he is clearly yet to understand the potential huge benefits in extending  rail 9 km from Onehunga to service Auckland International Airport .

Auckland  International Airport is the gateway to the country with over 13 million passenger trips per year, with the airport predicting these numbers to nearly double over the next 15 years.  Also some 12,000 people commute to work at the airport and its immediate surrounds. Finally, let’s not forget the improvements such a line would offer to Mangere commuters.

The recently opened additional Mangere crossing has already been future-proofed for rail (thanks to pressure from myself and fellow ARC members).

A study undertaken by Beca for ARTA in 2008 recommended that the preferred rapid transit connection to the airport was a rail loop connecting the airport to the Onehunga Line in the north and the Main Trunk Line in the southeast. The only reason to hesitate in regard to rail to the airport is that we must ensure the CBD Loop is first approved and underway – and that there is funding available.  That won’t be easy – but then again funding doesn’t seem to be an obstacle for the Ministers’ favourite provincial ‘Roads of National Significance’.

If the Minister could be persuaded to ditch the Holiday Highway and instead pursue the accelerated upgrade of SH1 – there would be a spare billion available for rail projects in the Auckland Region. After all this is where one third of the country lives and Auckland International Airport is the gateway not only to Auckland – but New Zealand.

However I do think the Minister is right about one thing – Mayoral candidates talking big about rail to the North Shore.  As we have just opened the Northshore busway, it would be much more sensible for Super Mayor candidates to focus on meeting present busway customer demands – by expanding the provision of park and ride space available at the bus stations.  That could be done in a matter of months and really improve the convenience for bus lane commuters.


Campaign Launch 2010

Mike Lee speech at City Vision/Labour Roskill Community Voice Campaign Launch 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow candidates on your behalf I would like to thank Len Brown for coming along today help us launch our election campaigns. Len has been on the campaign trail for over a year now – and its been a lonely fight. He’s been taking fire – but winning through regardless. Len the good news for you is that the reinforcements are here and a whole army of supporters is about to take the field to join the battle.

Right now, right across the greater Auckland region, community based groups and individuals are preparing to go into battle against the monolithic C & R machine and its acolytes.

Clearly the forthcoming Super City elections are going to be the most important in Auckland’s history.

Never have the stakes been higher, never have the opportunities been greater, never has the danger been graver.

Mike speaks at campaign launch – City Vision Chairman Robert Gallagher shares the joke.

The choices for Auckland are clear: – Will we get a conservative, elitist Super City? A monolithic monster created in the image and likeness of John Banks and Auckland C & R?

An organisation dominated by the privileged – imposing its bureaucratic will and its management culture to – restrict democracy, – to stifle diversity and – to overrule the legitimate aspirations of local communities. I do know what I’m talking about – I come from a small community Waiheke Island which has been bullied by C&R Auckland City for years.

I see John Banks has got a brand new slogan on his hoardings – and I think he got it from Sarah Palin. The new billboard slogan is ‘Less wishbone – more backbone.’ Now I will tell you what that really means. ‘Less wishbone’ means they got no vision. ‘More backbone’ means they won’t listen – in other words the same old arrogance.

Or on the other hand – we are determined to attain an Auckland Council which better reflects the progressive, liberal character of this great city/region.

A Council which will have the regional vision, cohesion and critical mass to get on and achieve the major infrastructural projects Auckland so desperately needs – to fulfil its great potential.

Projects like the CBD metro rail loop, projects redeveloping our waterfront, and projects like extending rail from Onehunga to Auckland International Airport.

A progressive Auckland Council that also values the diversity and individuality of its many communities and working in the spirit of partnership is willing to devolve as much real power as possible to those communities – and their local boards.

The choice then is clear – and the outcome very much dependent on the efforts of each and every one of us.

We will not be sitting on the sidelines as spectators, leaving the battling to Len Brown. We are going to be right there at his shoulder. Fighting the good fight – at Ward and Local Board level – right across the region. House by House, street by street, and community by community.

I am very proud to stand here today besides my City Vision, Labour, and Community Voice fellow candidates and indeed with the other centre left tickets and independents standing across this great region.

Together we must convince our fellow citizens that given the great sacrifices in building the Super City – that we will not accept the re-imposition of Auckland City Council culture on the rest of the region We will not accept bureaucratic managerialism and we will no longer tolerate rates and revenue gauging – like the disgraceful episode of the bus lane rip-offs.

In short we will ensure that the Super City is there to serve the people – not the other way round.

Our message therefore is simple – no more local government politics as usual. Along with structure change – there has to be a culture change.

We pledge to restore the ethic of public service,

We will ensure that the Council listens to the public; and we pledge that Auckland’s publicly owned assets will remain in the hands of the public.

Friends our collective vision and our goal is for an Auckland – that in its built environment – in its civic amenities – and its social fabric – aspires to the sublime level of Auckland’s natural environment, Auckland’s natural landscape.

The future of Auckland depends on us. Let us join the battle.

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1 Response

  1. 20/08/2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PippaCoom, Community Voice. Community Voice said: Mike Lee takes Steven Joyce to task for tut-tutting about our plans for a completed public transport network #supercity […]

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