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2023: Year of the Long Grind

Written By: - Date published: 10:39 am, February 1st, 2023 - 30 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, chris hipkins, supercity, transport - Tags:

There will be no respite for any of us this year; it’s a politics and a society of endurance.

2023 will now be about Auckland’s recovery much as 2012 was about recovery for Christchurch.

Daily travel will only recover slowly. For approximately 24 hours Auckland was isolated completely. Stoppages occurred to air travel, state highway travel, rail travel, and no sea passenger service outwards or inwards. The Auckland and Northland regions were completely blocked off. Prime Minister Hipkins landed on the sole transport capacity as military aircraft to Whenuapai military airbase.

The national risk to New Zealand having 50% of its population from Hamilton north and 33% of its population in 2% of its land area is not going to decrease. Auckland will overcome its growth hiccup and rapidly head towards containing 40% of New Zealand and even more of its economy. Both the social and economic impact of networks destroyed will be in the billions once calculated. Business confidence to invest in Auckland, low as it was from 2022, will flatline more as they clean up before being able to re-open, and pay insurance excess.

Crops around Auckland and into the Bay of Plenty will decrease. Vegetable and fruit imports will need to increase to compensate. Kiwifruit and other pip fruit exports will be damaged.

State highway damage across Coromandel, Auckland region, Northland and Tairawhiti will completely blow out the Waka Kotahi NZTA operational budgets for 2023 and 2024.

Auckland Transport’s budget, already constrained, will be heavily rediverted to rebuilding 45 streets that have had sections fully destroyed cutting off and isolating residents. The devastation to public transport will materially affect our national carbon budget allocation.

Watercare, which manages water for Auckland and northern Waikato, will have its own investment programme severely disrupted as major mains have been destroyed and existing dams scoured and damaged.

The impending rise in petrol and diesel prices and public  transport process will impact high on the million or so who travel every day for study or work. That knocks on to all other available spending within households and in the full domestic economy.

Kiwirail, having recently reduced passenger rail across all of southern Auckland, has shut all rail passenger travel for now. Their deep track maintenance programme will continue, but Aucklanders seeking public transport will rely on buses operating at less than 80%.

As of writing, Auckland Airport air travellers are warned to stop going to the airport, unless your flight has been confirmed. Auckland Airport’s own investment programme will likely be pushed out multiple years, again. That alters the future of several thousand jobs all by itself.

The event itself is not as severe as the Christchurch earthquakes, but it affects about 40% of New Zealand’s people and about 45% of New Zealand’s economy. That makes the full effect very, very large.

New Zealand is now more likely to tip into recession. The tax take for 2024 will be lower no matter who wins in October, constraining that government. It will now be impossible to make any tax changes. Lower business investment also means fewer people being employed, hence higher unemployment at least regionally.

Budget 2023 in May will likely go through significant alterations following this event as road and rail investments are altered and welfare including housing subsidies increases across Auckland and Northland.

The budget of every single person affected by the storms will also be altered negatively.

With so many streets and houses destroyed there will be an even greater shortage in rental accommodation so prices for rentals will likely rise, rather than stabilise.

All local councils from Gisborne northwards will be reallocating their draft LTP Budgets away from new projects and towards cleanup and road maintenance. Goodbye pet projects from new cycleways to library upgrades.

This week Prime Minister Hipkins has his optimum moment to shake down the policy agenda, cull remaining legislation for another term, and demonstrate as with the 2017 mini budget that short term subsidies and rebuild efforts are necessary at this time, at the expense of longer term policy goals. This may be painful for the left but very few people will care about that. There is nothing for it but all relevant politicians should be manning the food parcel deliveries, sandbags, and shovelling silt. This ain’t policy-world for a while.

For over two million New Zealanders, getting up each day to simply restore what we used to have will get harder and harder so there will be a region-wide mental health impact. We won’t have the same functioning life we used to.

Neither will the government.

This is the year of the Long Grind.

30 comments on “2023: Year of the Long Grind ”

  1. You_Fool 1

    Does make me think that this event may have saved the national party… mostly from itself. If they do make it into power at the elections they will have a reason to not go forward with their tax cuts straight away… and so the impacts of their short-sightedness will not happen and we won't be another UK.

    Of course they will ignore the actual impacts of the floods but that won't matter because they will be somehow fixing something and that makes it all ok… somehow

    • SPC 1.1

      Once upon a time, National went into an election offering tax cuts but the budget forecasts did not look promising as to affordability, so after the election they raised GST to finance the income tax cuts (there was no mention of a GST increase in their manifesto, National might adopt some of ACT’s spending cuts this time etc).

    • Louis 1.2

      Aren't voters inclined to favour incumbents during times of crisis?

      • woodart 1.2.1

        definitley. it has happened many times. labour has built enormous political capital over the last five yrs. many conservative voters, who normally would return home, are likely to vote labour back in, as the comfortable slippers-gumboots in times of crisis . the chch earthquake saved bob parker from an electoral thumping.

    • Thinker 1.3

      Strange, I was thinking the opposite.

      Thinking that:

      1. people will see that Luxon's promised tax cuts are less important than having appropriate public services available.

      2. Wayne Brown went from saying that the council is overstaffed to now saying he was let down by not having enough staff. Going to be hard for him to go back to his original point. Worse, I think he will do just that, and it's going to send people into thinking as in 1. above. His budget is coming out for consultation anytime and it's going to confuse people when he goes back to saying the council is overstaffed.

      3. Pullya Benefit, who is still seen as a voice for National, recently "empathised" with Auckland by saying "You all voted for him and he hasn't changed". As if Brown's grumpy character put him in the right and Aucklanders in the wrong. That will make a few swinging voters sit up.

      4. Following from 3, because Efiso was Labour's candidate, people see Brown as linked to National.

      5. Brown can't come back from this, but he will be the last to realise it. As we used to say dinosaurs whose tails are being eaten but the message hasn't reached their brain yet. Like Prince Andrew, I think his desire to be seen as Mr Fixit when the rest of NZ sees him a bit like an Emperor sans clothes will nag at him and preoccupy his mind, at the risk of other Mayoral functions and that will only make it harder.

      6. IMHO, Hipkins should block Brown from controlling the inevitable independent review. We all know how independent any review is when the person under review is paying the bill. That would have to make it a government review and an opportunity to show the government in its crisis leadership mode, while Luxon/Seymour have to remain in the corner they backed themselves into, which is too many public services, scrap them and enjoy the 'sunny pleasant uplands' of tax cuts.


  2. Drowsy M. Kram 2

    2020s: Decade of the Long Grind

    The world is not ready for the long grind to come [FT: 30 January 2023]
    Demographic changes and deglobalisation will keep inflation higher than policymakers were used to pre-pandemic

    Will the 2030s be any better?

  3. tsmithfield 3

    It looks likely that the government will extend the reduction to fuel excise, which I think is a good thing. That both helps people at all levels, and also helps keep a lid on inflation. I think it is good for the government in terms of popularity, but makes sense as well.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    We live in a cold, uncaring quantum universe, that much is certain. We all expire at some point, and many spend much of their lives doing stuff to try and deny that reality rather than enjoying life in simple ways on a daily basis.

    We may be the only spot with intelligent! life–due to distance and the various implications of the “Fermi Paradox” even if others are out there.

    So ADVANTAGE what is your conclusion? Pointing out grim existential reality can get a little boring.

    Make the bed. Keep your local electorate Red, Green, Māori. Improve Union power. Buy a new hat. Get those Habaneros growing. Life can suck but it does not have to!

    • tsmithfield 4.1

      We live in a cold, uncaring quantum universe, that much is certain. We all expire at some point, and many spend much of their lives doing stuff to try and deny that reality rather than enjoying life in simple ways on a daily basis.

      Actually, there is the possibility for eternal life of sorts even for athiests. Based around the physics concept called poincare recurrence and the philisophical theory of eternal return.

      Poincare recurrence refers to the fact that

      certain dynamical systems, such as particles of gas in a sealed container, will return infinitely often to a state arbitrarily close to their original state.[39][4

      So, for instance, a snapshot of say positions of atoms in a vacuum will be exactly repeated some time in the future given enough time.

      Applied to the universe, it is thought by some that the universe will eventually repeat. Either the current increasing expansion will run out of steam for some reason and reverse to a big crunch. Or, the universe will eventually evaporate to a state of complete entropy, that may have been the state prior to the current big bang that kicked off our universe, providing the conditions for another big bang.

      On the basis of poincare recurrence and an infinite number of big bangs, eventually (perhaps after trillions upon trillions of repititions), the exact condition of our early universe will be reached again some time in the future, and will have done previously for an infinite number of times. Hence, every now and then, history might repeat, and may have done so for an infinite number of times already.

      So, I may have typed this post an infinite number of times already and may continue to do so for an infinite number of times in the future.

      The upside is that if you have had a great life, you will continue to have a great life in each repitition. The downside is if you have had a shitty life….

      Not suprisingly, the theory has recieved a number of criticisms…

      • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1

        Heh, that is not surprising in the least smithfield!

        The odds of any of us existing at all are quite steep,

        Hasn’t been too bad a life so far. Most of my dosh spent on V8s, partying, cultural items, Art, gadgets and the rest I just wasted! And political activism which just needs your time and commitment.

      • In Vino 4.1.2

        So Poincaré is suggesting that I may have another lifetime of drinking quality stuff?

        I cannot help but like his optimism.

        Shakespeare would have said ‘I can but like…’

        If language is the mind’s instrument of thought, we nowadays seem to have an inferior instrument to Shakespeare’s, don’t we?

        • tsmithfield

          The takeaway is to try and make your life as good as possible going forward, because you might have to live it again an infitnite number of times.

          Then again, you probably would have had that insight an infinite number of times previously already.

        • Tiger Mountain

          yeah, nah, eh bro…

          you do seem to have a rather relevant point there In Vino,

          “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

  5. Corey Humm 5

    I hope Aucklands recovery is better than Christchurchs, 12 years on and it's still waiting for that recovery to the 2011 quakes.

    International visitors to CHCH always assume the earthquake happened 2 or 3 years ago due to the lack of real progress and an empty, undeveloped still half broken CBD with empty barren lots and abandoned buildings and broken buildings still being secured by wires and crates untouched for a decade.

    When people from overseas find out the earthquake was over a decade ago they don't believe ya, and when they see pictures of the previous CBD compared to the new "CBD" they get totally shocked and say things like "I thought NZ was a rich first world country how does this city still look like this"

    Not a good look for NZs second biggest city and region.

    I truly hope Auckland doesn't get the CHCH treatment and is actually fixed and damn quickly.

    • Louis 5.1

      "I truly hope Auckland doesn't get the CHCH treatment"

      National/Brownlee are not in power.

    • Descendant Of Smith 5.2

      There are still parts of New Orleans that have barely been touched since Katrina 17 years ago. The new stop bank protection etc was only finished last year.

    • tsmithfield 5.3

      I was watching some of those poor people being interviewed on the news. I immediately recognised the look of stress and shock in their faces, just as we had seen in Christchurch after the quakes.

  6. From an optimistic view, such an event pulls communities together.

    They collaborate assist volunteer and raise funds for those badly impacted. All support groups relate and hopefully improve their systems as a result.

    The shock of the impact will have lasting effects, but I am sure we are better off with this Government making the decisions jointly with Auckland City Council and Civil Defence to provide support.

    The transport support has been provided till June, (and possibly extended in the budget? )which will mitigate costs and inflation.

    Tax take will remain positive as there is a very slight softening in employment numbers, plus some growth in immigration settings assist business.. The clean up and rebuild will provide steady work. Shortages and delivery times could be a problem?

    Prices may increase because of fresh food shortages caused by crop damage.. People will be accepting as this is a natural event. Efforts will be made to provide basics to all.

    Children and parents impacted will need support and patience as they navigate their changed world. Mental Health will be bouyed through planning sessions and working bees and actively taking part and talking with others about their shared experiences and just being glad to survive it.

    Social welfare will give assistance and the banks should provide assistance to those impacted.

    Hopefully, the museum, zoo etc put on free days, the Council provides free BBQs in various parks, and entertainment. The weather will improve…summer will arrive.

    Insurers have learned from Christchurch and perform well, backed by Council and Government to advise assist and work with their customers and underwriters.

    Those needing real time assistance from the wider community are those renting damaged homes who have no insurance and have lost everything. Welfare help should be real and timely.

    I think people are generally marvelous at rising to the occasion.

    • Descendant Of Smith 6.1

      After Christchurch earthquake I saw profiteering landlords raise their rents, businesses go on TV "donating" goods then sending bills to civil defence at retail rates, looting of empty houses, insurance fraud, really shoddy workmanship in the rebuild, etc.

      Hardly pulling together.

      • People would be looking for that and outing them pretty fast with modern communication tools now.

        There are always spivs. That is not everyone. Brownlee did not liaise with anyone. He took over with an eye on the water. So it became the wild west. imo

        Woods won't let that happen.

  7. adam 7

    Hard to read your post Ad.

    Don't get me wrong I liked it, but everywhere Auckland resembled turtle city, it has turned into a mess.

    We can't go back, we have to change and adapt

    THAT'S WHAT GLOBAL WARMING MEANS FOLKS – we missed the boat curbing that puppy.

    If we stick with the same mess we are in big trouble. Extreme climate events are going to the new normal, we need to Build Back Better.

    The next 10 years are going to be hard.

    • Stuart Munro 7.1

      Having failed to meet global warming like grownups, we must adapt to the consequences – it is the Darwinian imperative: adapt or die.

      But we must meet it like Lamarckians:

      The Darwinian giraffe is a fatalist – if it is tall enough it lives, if not it dies.
      The Larmarckian giraffe says "I will stretch until I overcome this difficulty."

  8. Ad 8

    Good to see I'm proven wrong on fuel taxes and public transport discounts.

    Once Hipkins has finished clearing the policy decks, what is the financial assistance plan from government for those who need it?

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