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Luxon’s strange Public Transport take

Written By: - Date published: 8:29 am, April 13th, 2022 - 66 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, climate change, Environment, labour, michael wood, national, public transport, science, transport - Tags:

Yesterday Chris Luxon showed the sensitivity and sophistication of someone who owns seven properties and at one stage had 6.1 million Air New Zealand shares by stating that he believed that at least some public transport services should not be supported and that public transport needs to stand on its own feet.

From Jane Patterston at Radio New Zealand:

When asked if the cut-price subsidised fares were something he would like to see extended further, National’s Christopher Luxon said he believed services should not have to be propped up by taxpayers.

“There’s a need for us to continue to drive mode shift, I get it, but you’ve got to build good-quality public transport options that people choose to use.”

While it had been helpful to help people right now with the cost of living crisis, it needed to be revisited, Luxon said.

“But ultimately, public transport needs to stand on its own feet. It can’t be subsidised or underwritten … it has to be able to build on its own case,” he told reporters.

How tone deaf can you get.  Following on from National’s announced tax cut that would see most Kiwis get no more than $2 per week while Luxon and his mates received huge tax cuts this attack on public transport is bizarre.

Matt L in Greater Auckland neatly skewers Luxon’s claim:

The reality is all transport is subsidised and you’d think a former leader of an airline that only exists today due to multiple government bailouts would understand that well.

Michael Wood also skewered Luxon very well in this statement which I will set out in full:

Luxon has since tried to walk back his comment and has said that he misspoke and he did not express himself very well. He also disclosed that he was not sufficiently organised to arrange meat free days for himself.

The most benign interpretation that can be put on all of this is that Luxon admits that he is not accurate with what he says and he is not sufficiently organised to get himself a salad.  And that he is completely indifferent to public transport as people with his wealth normally are.

The darker interpretation is that he is totally indifferent to the environmental as well as the important role that public transport serves for ordinary people.  And if he ever became Prime Minister public transport would get hammered.

66 comments on “Luxon’s strange Public Transport take ”

  1. Peter 1

    It sounds like Luxon is using Mike Hosking as his public transport advisor.

  2. KJT 2

    The person who "ran an airline" with massive Government subsidies.

    Is he going to extend this principle to farming, trucking, Air New Zealand, the many subsidised businesses
    in NZ?
    Horrifying that this “failed upward dimwit” maybe lying his way into being a PM

  3. God forbid he should ever become PM of this country.

    Unlike Key, who was able to hide his blatant inclinations towards the rich, and was glib enough in his language to confuse and fool the voters to waste their ballots on him, Luxon has none of the deviousness of his mentor.

    He comes across as an entitled rich prick – from hiring a Mercedes for a 200m stroll to parliament, to his comments about ‘elite Maori,’ and ‘bottom feeders,’ and now his disdain for public transport, which he has no need to use.

    Jacinda carves him up during question time in parliament, and, no doubt, will be able to run rings round him in election debates next year. By then, of course, Luxon may have exposed himself so many times that the hapless Natz may have dumped him for yet another ‘leader.’

  4. I agree with subsidising public transport if public transport works.

    By "works" I mean that people see it as more convenient and more economical than using their cars. So, in that case, subsidising public transport makes perfect sense because it reduces the need to spend on roading and other infrastructure projects.

    However, I don't think that is the case in NZ. Our total population is about the size of an average to large city in many countries. And our population is very disbursed over a large geographical area. Even our cities tend to be quite spread out which makes designing an effective public transport system very difficult.

    It will be interesting to see how the halving of public transport prices affects uptake. Because if it doesn't increase the use of public transport, then clearly people see the inconvenience factor as too high to bother using it.

    In Christchurch here the bus service is terrible. And I wouldn't bother using it even if I was paid to do so. But if I was living in London I wouldn't even bother owning a car because the subway system is much faster and more convenient way to get around than using a car.

    So, if subsidising public transport isn't increasing its use, then we probably need examine the rationale behind subsidising it, and look to other options. For instance, in Christchurch, cycle ways make great sense.

      • tsmithfield 4.1.1

        OK. Then I will be impressed if that increase is sustained over time and across the country. I will reserve my judgement until then though.

        Because, if an increase in use is by people who don't regularly use public transport, and those people decide that the public transport offerings are hopeless, then we may see a large drop off.

        It would also be interesting to know how that usage compares to pre-pandemic levels of public transport usage. Because a confounding factor could be that covid is well past the peak in Auckland and people may feel more confident using public transport again.

        • Nic the NZer

          Amazing, so in the face of overwhelming evidence that the idea expressed by Chris Luxon was dumb, your on the very cusp of agreeing with Chris Luxon that what he said was a bit dumb.

          • tsmithfield

            I am evidence based.

            If the evidence is that people see that public transport works for them, and they will use it, then I don't have a problem with it being subsidised, especially if the subsidy offsets the need to spend on more roads and the like.

            • Perhaps its escaped your notice, but we have a planet to save!

              • “Perhaps its escaped your notice, but we have a planet to save!”

                Yes we do. But part of saving the planet is also investing in cars. That is EVs and other low emission vehicles. So there will still be a tension between public transport, car usage, and expenditure on roads.

                I think we need to do an honest analysis of what the ideal mix of low emission vehicles, cycling (including e-bikes) and public transport should be, given the demographics of NZ.

                It might be that the most economical and effective thing for us to do is invest in more roading and cycle ways to enable more cycling and EV use.

                I think decisions around public transport should be based on analysis not ideology.

                • Unfortunately, EVs are not the solution –

                  first, they require rare elements, which are mined using ICE vehicles,

                  second, they are manufactured using ICE and fossil fuels.

                  Far far better to put those fossil fuels into the manufacture of electric busses and trains.

                  We simply have to wean ourselves off private cars completely.

                  You said: “I think decisions around public transport should be based on analysis not ideology.” What’s ideological about trying to save the planet?

                  • EVs aren't necessarily the only green technology coming through. I would probably prefer hybrid technology myself.

                    Another option I think is quite exciting is the prospect of converting C02 to fuel. If that can be done in a way that is economical enough, and uses renewable energy to drive the process, then that could create a C02 loop so car emissions don't continue to add to carbon in the atmosphere.

                    If that process could be done at scale, then there would be no need to convert our existing car fleet to EVs as they could run on the greener fuel source.

                    So far as lithium is concerned, the government is investing in technology to extract lithium from geothermal sources. This possibility could provide lithium in a more sustainable way.

                    • aom

                      Fear not Ts, the answer is being brewed at present. With rampant inflation, only rich pricks will be able to afford private transport – just like before families had one or more private vehicles. When the reduced number have to pay for the roads and parking spaces they use, even they may subscribe to PT, as in countries that didn't buy into the model we adopted in the early 1960's.

            • roy cartland

              I agree, that's an argument for more investment in PT, not less.

            • Nic the NZer

              Say Chris Luxon comes back tomorrow and says, actually I meant it all along National wants to eliminate public transport. Would that make your mind up one way or the other?

    • AB 4.2

      There's a chicken and egg dilemma here.

      Might increasing PT use through subsidies enable (or even force) it to get better through demand pressure? And – if PT is currently no good and not used, how can it ever afford to get better without subsidies?

      Luxon sounds like a loony old 1990's neoliberal – he apparently "cares deeply" about people and the environment, but that "care" can be expressed only through the mechanism of free markets. I'm tired off this, let's sweep the silly fellow into the dustbin of history.

      • tsmithfield 4.2.1

        I think if we are truly serious about public transport, then there needs to be a national conversation about what it will cost to build a public transport system that is convenient enough for people to want to use. Because our demographics are a lot different to large, compressed population centres where public transport is highly effective.

        Our small population and the disbursed nature of our populaiton means the cost for implimenting such a system is going to be much higher per head of population than large cities such as London.

        That is the reality of the situation.

        • Barfly

          TS one size does not fit all – I haven't owned a vehicle for 17 years and last drove one 12 years ago.

          • Jimmy

            That is good. I assume you have good public transport to and from where you work. I have an electric scooter for transport that I can use to go to work as luckily work is in range, but the public transport not good. However now with the winter weather coming I will be using the car far more often.

            • DB Brown

              Yeah weather dictates freedom on these 'extremely efficient' (weather permitting) modes of transport, but it all helps.

              I'll go on a bus in the weather but my service (central AK) is regular and largely reliable.

              Crap service is the problem with a lot of PT take-up, for sure.

              • Belladonna

                Yep. Also in Auckland. I live on a major bus route, and work on a major bus route – but don't use PT to get from home to work (10-15 minute drive – against the traffic)
                Because there is no link between them, without taking a massive dog-leg trip to a station, and waiting for an (infrequent) connection. Turning my 10-15 minute commute into a 45-65 minute commute, depending on bus timings – and assuming they all turn up), on 2-3 buses with one wait at a stop with no bus shelter.

                Auckland PT across suburbs is really, really, bad at getting to anywhere that isn't the CBD and back again (or on a CBD route)

                When I worked in the CBD – I happily used PT (bus or ferry – depending on the weather).

          • Patricia Bremner

            yes Public transport, the way of the future. Also small personal EVs.

      • Agreed, a loony old neoliberal, but also an entitled rich prick!

        The dustbin of history is where he deserves to be and where he'll end up.

    • lprent 4.3

      So, if subsidising public transport isn't increasing its use, then we probably need examine the rationale behind subsidising it, and look to other options. For instance, in Christchurch, cycle ways make great sense.

      They do in Auckland as well, if there weren't so many bloody dangerous cars congesting all of the road space.

      Really if we're going down the cost of subsidies….

      One way of equalising it out and getting a more productive and equitable way for Luxon to operate is to remove all transport subsidies.

      Push road user charges based on maximum loaded axle weight on to all motorbikes, cars, vans, buses and trucks, and remove the current taxation mix on vehicles. The base for allocation should be all road maintenance costs plus all planned new road works over a normal lifetime of a vehicle. The latter should reduce the taxpayers interest costs.

      Registration then becomes just the ACC level plus an admin cost. Maybe look at doing bikes in there as well – but the admin costs may make that unworkable. Put ACC levy on the purchase cost of all bikes instead.

      This should immediately correlate the RUC with damage to roading – and therefore to the major portion of the roading budgets.

      The on-the-road costs for trucks, vans, large SUVs, Ford Rangers, and probably many heavy sedans would all rise drastically. Everything else would drop drastically, probably including buses – they don't have a high carry weight and it is very small per passenger.

      Then put parking charges on all urban roadside parking. This is currently a subsidy on 'free' expensive infrastructure for people with vehicles, nearby shopkeepers, and nearby properties. It should either be direct user pays for vehicles with parking apps and the parking warden cars with cameras, or a direct rates charge on all nearby rate payers.

      The cost should be related to the cost of compliance, the effective asset cost, and for utility of alternate uses. Just doing this will allow fast bus lanes, wider footpaths and cycle ways. Basically if people want to have vehicles then they should also have private parking at homes, offices, businesses and retailers. That includes for delivery and vehicles.

      In most urban areas, this will usually free up one or two lanes of roadway for various types of traffic and reduce congestion.

      Make all fuels to have the immediate full impact of their end-or-life ETS price. Effectively the CO2 that is emitted today will hand around for most of the next thousand years. Charge it at that rate.

      All of that should make public transport look pretty damn cheap and effective. It should also flip the infrastructural builds into a more long-term economic model.

      The basic problem with transport in their country is that there is a very large hidden subsidy system for most private transport – especially for heavy vehicles and the roading contractors who repair roads.

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    What was missing from the pictured analysis by Wood of Luxon's stance? A rationale outlining the govt's transport policy, derived from its economic policy. Perhaps it got cut off if it was below the bottom of the picture? Anyway, here's the guts:

    "We believe public transport ought to be subsidised because we are socialists. It's traditional socialism. Whilst we have maintained neoliberalism hitherto, folks keep telling us we ought to be able to walk & chew gum at the same time. We've been able to get our collective heads around this radical notion, and have decided to operate both neoliberalism & socialism concurrently. Some punters may get confused. My advice is to go away & give it deep thought for a while. It's called both/and logic. The penny will drop eventually."

  6. DB Brown 6

    We subsidised the wealthy with EV subsidies, but not e-bikes. Not the poor. Then public pressure saw us create a temporary measure (aka band aid) to help others… and all the well off have suddenly got an opinion.

    There's nothing quite so pathetic as the wealthy being jealous of measures to help poor people.

    Nasty nasty bastards.

    Every day – EVERY DAY – Aucklanders wait in long traffic queues. The love affair with cars, in this circumstance, seems more retarded than practical.

    • I don't live in Auckland. So, it may well be that public transport does make a lot more sense there, given the peak hour traffic jams you all experience up there.

      In Christchurch I don't think it does make that much sense. Taking a bus trip to a lot of destinations often requires several interchanges and can take far longer than by car. And busses are often late.

      I think continuing to invest in cycle ways down here makes a lot more sense because Christchurch is relatively flat.

      • DB Brown 6.1.1

        I'd be loving it on a bike down there, so long as it's not raining. Perfect for cycling.

      • Belladonna 6.1.2

        Taking a bus trip to a lot of destinations often requires several interchanges and can take far longer than by car. And busses are often late.

        All of this is true in Auckland as well. For PT to work it has to be frequent, fast and convenient. It needs to take you where you want/need to go, when you want to go there, and not take an outrageously long time. Cheap is nice – but if the first 3 aren't present – those who have alternatives will use them….

  7. Robert Guyton 7

    He's all over the shop.

  8. joe90 8

    But slow trains to Auckland are the problem.

  9. Just to preface my comments above.

    I don't know how many here have actually experienced the public transport in Britain and Europe. I have used public transport over there quite a lot. Having experienced that, I can tell you that what we have here is hopeless and barely functional.

    Travelling across France in a train travelling at 300 clicks is a very enjoyable way to travel, and often more convenient than flying.

    • Barfly 9.1

      I find the Auckland Public transport system to be quite good and I believe increased services and eliminating the user charges completely would drive a lot of extra use.

    • Ad 9.2

      Auckland PT is much better now; I don't envy Cantabrians.

      Nothing like stepping off a plane at Frankfurt and being whisked straight in to town by heavy or light rail.

      • Yes, Brownlie turned down a proposal to run trains from Rangiora to Rolleston, saying 'a business case couldn't be made' for the investment.

        Well, you probably couldn't make a business case for saving the planet, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

        We (Cantabrians) lost a wonderful opportunity post 2011 earthquake because a myoptic Natz party was in power.

        • Peter

          All the talk about the possibilities for the city raised by the earthquake and future proofing it in so many ways we live? Transport? Looking ahead 50 years?

          Someone should have taken Brownlee on Joe Bloggs trips to Frankfurt, Toronto, Hong Kong, Tokyo and wherever else.

        • gsays

          "We (Cantabrians) lost a wonderful opportunity post 2011 earthquake because a myoptic Natz party was in power."

          From memory they got re-elected too.

    • Peter 9.3

      Does public transport being woeful in bigger cities in New Zealand now mean the notion should be scrapped?

      If public transport had not been developed to the stage it is in Auckland and Wellington, what would many thousands moving around every day in those regions look like now?

      • tsmithfield 9.3.1

        I don't think that existing public transport should be scrapped.

        But what I do think we need is a proper analysis of how we should invest in transport going forward. That is what is the ideal mix of low emission vehicles, cycles, and public transport that best suits our specific demography and geography.

  10. Bruce 10

    For the divisive style of politics Luxon requires, public transport is very dangerous. It doesnt take long after a few trips on the bus to realise the guy next to you in the different hat is just the same as you. Its alot easier to maintain the hate when seperate in your metal box fighting for your piece of road

  11. Ad 11

    Good to see Wood stepping in for the fight.

  12. Barfly 12

    "sensitivity and sophistication"

    Call a spade a spade I say … IMO Luxon showed his entitlement, hubris and disdain for the poor like the arsehole wealth supremacist he is.

  13. SPC 13

    So he is OK with subsidies for Air New Zealand – a transport business with private owners, but not for those of government and local councils.

    Is it because he has no experience or knowledge of not for profit transport, or not for profit organisation and policy?

    Maybe – and that makes him unfit to be PM and head our government.

    PS It is obvious that when we have trains and business operating below capacity that there be half prices to encourage use. Otherwise that should be permanent for students and those with CSC's/beneficiaries and low income families.

    • Christopher Randal 13.1

      Don't forget that he called the poor "bottom feeders"

      That also makes him unfit to be PM

  14. James Simpson 14

    People who think Luxon gaffed here don't really understand Tories or their supporters.

    Public Transport is never something they will support. They refer to people catching buses as losers catching the loser cruiser.

    They build motorways to drive their BMWs and Audis on.

    They would happily sell the railways or close them down.

    This in't a gotcha type fuck-up from Luxon. This is what they stand for and the vote they are looking for.

    • I think we need an evidenced rather than ideological approach to this issue from both sides of the political spectrum.

      As mentioned above, our characteristics are quite different to larger population centres where public transport does work well.

      There is a whole lot in the mix at the moment, including low emission vehicles, cycle ways, public transport, eco-fuels etc, as I have pointed out above.

      What we need to do is come up with the ideal mix of these that best suits our specific demography and geography, rather than just base ideological arguments for or against public transport..

      • Nordy 14.1.1

        Thank you for describing the governments principled approach to Transport, and therefore by extension confirming that the opposition are by definition ideological dinosaurs.

      • DB Brown 14.1.2

        Absolutely. And we're close to some sort of understanding of how that might work out. A combination of many modes will make a useful transport system. Them vs Us will never work.

        The more useful public transport is the less pressure on roads the more pleasant moving round will become for all. Less waiting, less noise, less pollution. What's not to like.

        Some think EV's are only for the rich… Yep. Private ownership of cars and houses is getting out of reach or financially silly. One can shell out a small fortune if they want to though. It's all about how big a penis container they'll need.

    • Robert Guyton 14.2

      So, he didn't win any recruits then, just the same old.

    • tc 14.3


      Luxon knows his target audience.

  15. Ben 15

    Remember adult & community education? Has a BCR of 5 to 10 and National killed that in '08 or '09. One of the first things they did.

    Luxon tries to look like a bumbling idiot, while actually being focused and serious. That's my guess.

  16. Patricia Bremner 16

    Luxon is clearly intending to "govern" for the well off. The rest he says "need to stand on their own feet"

    Oh I know it was in relation to "Public transport", but pause for just a moment and reflect on who uses Public Transport? Certainly not a chap who calls up a Limo to go 200 meters or his cohorts.

    No, it is ordinary people who should pay for that bus/ train, the "Public". Denial of a function of Government.

    Also the denial of billions of dollars paid out to keep business infrastructure going, and the total lack of grasp of how people get to their essential work is actually shocking.

    This man is another Boris. "Do as I say, not as I do".

  17. Mike the Lefty 17

    Putting it simply – if you don't subsidise public transport then you won't have public transport. Without subsidies the fares would have to at least double, and I am talking about the level they were before they went half price, and people just wouldn't pay that so they wouldn't use it and services would vanish on all but the most profitable routes. It would be goodbye to weekend, holiday and evening services.

    Mind you, Luxon is right about the new Te Huia service. It is crap, and it is crap because nobody listened to the advice from users advocates that people absolutely do not like having to transfer from one service to another. As soon as you make people transfer then a large proportion of them say f….. it and use their car instead. If it had gone straight through to central Auckland (which was what we originally told would happen) it could have been a winner. The same thing happened in Wellington several years ago when they created several new "hubs" and people had to transfer to another bus to get into the city.

    And now we have half price on all public transport until the end of June. I am wondering whether the government will come up with a comprehensive free public transport plan later in the year. Free public transport is an increasing reality in many cities around the world, especially in Europe. Of course there is no such thing as free transport – it is a question of who pays for it and how. Somehow I don't think National will support that and with ACT it will be "gone by lunchtime" if they ever got the chance.

    • Christopher Randal 17.1

      Te Huia goes to the Strand now. It cannot go into Britomart because it is diesel hauled. Tunnels are treated the same as mines after [name deleted] killed all those miners

      [Unless that person was charged and found guilty of killing all those miners you’re exposing this site to possible legal action. I know at least one person who is not fond of this. You didn’t even get the name right, BTW – Incognito]

  18. Jenny how to get there 18

    What a nasty bit of work.

    National’s Christopher Luxon said he believed services should not have to be propped up by taxpayers.

    All good for wealthy people like Luxon who have the luxury to pay for 'services' any time they require them.

    Luxon was being asked a question about public transport service, In his reply Luxon did not say 'public transport services' should not have to be propped up, In his reply Luxon did not even say 'transport services' should not have to be propped up. Luxon simply said 'services' should not have to be propped up.

    Was Luxon replying with the stock answer of the seriously rich, that everyone, despite their means, should have to pay for 'services'.

    How would this user pays model work out for other 'services' like health care and education?

    "If life was a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die." Porgy and Bess

    One thing for sure is this: If Luxon gets his way public transport, will die.

  19. roblogic 19

    Wealthy white NZ relies on "subsidies" to even exist. The land they own – nicked from Māori and defended by laws that "subsidise" theft. The 7 properties they lord over – "subsidised" by laws, police, banks, and a system that rewards wealth over hard work.

    The 1% are "subsidised" by the good will of the working class by allowing them to even exist

    The myth of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps or “standing on one’s feet” is just elite BS they tell each other to justify their resentment of the poor, allowing them to turn a blind eye to the inequities of a system that made them rich

  20. EE 20

    What about gold-card holders, some of whom have great difficulty standing on their own feet.
    Luxon must also be opposed to free public transport for them as well..

  21. Joe900 21

    Bernard Hickey's lifted the paywall on his latest.


  22. Jenny how to get there 22

    Public transport reduces emissions, Air transport increases emissions.

    Which form of transport should we subsidise?

    Ten per cent drop vs 60 per cent drop?

    Which form of transport has suffered most from the pandemic?

    Public transport has taken an almost terminal hit from the pandemic. Luxon's policies if implemented will finish public transport off at a time when the climate needs it most.

    It is hard to make an apples for apples comparison, but the following data give some idea which form of transport is in need of government support more.

    AT is blaming a "perfect storm" of rising costs due to inflation, and a pandemic inspired nosedive in public transport patronage. It told Auckland Council's Regional Transport Committee public transport patronage is only 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

    Source – Papakura Courier – By Glen McConnell and Todd Nial, April 13, 2022

    Air New Zealand reports that their domestic patronage has returned to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

    Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said the airline was “blown away” by the new data, noting it had initially hoped to return to 70% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.


    …..the airline also outlines its targets for the financial year starting 1 July 2024.

    By then, it expects capacity to be about 90% that of the 2019 financial year, with a marked shift towards domestic and short-haul flight.


  23. Kerry Stevens 23

    Find me a city anywhere in the world where public transport is not subsidized

  24. David Reeves 24

    Seems that he also doesn’t get that successful public transport also benefits the whole economy, including the wealthy so that they can drive their oversized SUVs to the shops or the boat ramp along relatively uncluttered roads which … oh … we’ve all paid for.

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  • Wellbeing Budget 2022 Speech
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