National vs Auckland

Written By: - Date published: 1:42 am, May 23rd, 2011 - 22 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, national, public transport, sustainability - Tags: , ,

I’ve been to many meetings recently that have been about or interested in Len Brown’s new Auckland Plan.  Quite diverse meetings, of quite diverse communities.  The opinions have been nowhere near as divergent, and one issue is constantly at the forefront: Public Transport.

At an ethnic forum I went to, public transport seemed to come up in the answer to nearly every problem.  Improve the local economy? Easy, fast public transport so you’re not wasting time queuing in traffic.  Improve social cohesion?  Public transport allows people to not be isolated in their homes.  Education – we need public transport to get the kids to school or university.  Environment – well it’s just obvious.

At a meeting in Sunnynook, North Shore, people were very supportive of rail to the airport, alongside the need for more local buses.

But National don’t seem to get it.  They have given more than $10 million dollars in the Budget 2011 to uneconomic road projects like the Holiday Highway, while refusing to back the incredibly necessary inner-city rail loop or other public transport projects.  Rail in Auckland – growing at over 10% each year – cannot expand much more without the loop, but Steven Joyce wants to spend our sparse resources on a highway that will return 20 – 80c in economic benefits for each $1 the government spends on it (and less if petrol continues to increase in price).

At the excellent Environmental Defence Society meeting on Auckland Unleashed (as the plan is currently known), it was made clear that there were 3 areas that the government differed from Auckland.

When National helpfully delivered their response papers shortly before the unveiling of the Auckland Plan, it was clear that there were only small differences on Economic Development policy, and, surprisingly, Social Development.  But the government had very different views on transport, urban form and Auckland’s eco-city concept.

On transport National continue to frustrate Aucklanders’ clear desire for a push on public transport – having elected Len Brown on that platform.  Locally Maggie Barry has said that “our rates being spent on a rail link to the airport from the city is obviously of no use to us” and Wayne Mapp that he saw “no case” for rail to the North Shore.  National’s point of view is that historically more than 90% of journeys were made by car, so therefore money should be spent in those proportions for car vs public transport.  There is no vision for the future, which, with ever higher oil prices, will have ever fewer car journeys.  The success of the Northern busway (20% passenger growth in the last year, with ever more buses needing to be added at peak times) and public transports general huge growth seems to have passed them by.

On urban form there is the problem of 10,000 new homes needing adding to Auckland each year to keep up with population increase of 640,000 in 30 years.  National want to remove urban limits to growth and allow the city to sprawl.  The Council – seeing that such growth would mean building ever more facilities ever further away and ever more roads to get there – want only a few limited expansions to the limits, with growth concentrated in certain existing centres.  Sprawl would mean longer commutes, less efficient transport (particularly for public transport), more pollution, and far more money spent on building the schools, parks, council centres on the new far away communities.  The region that the Auckland Council presides over is in fact 90% rural – and sprawl would mean the consumption of productive farmland that is currently used to feed the region and its economy.  National want sprawl because it would mean cheaper houses – although those prices would be balanced by increased transport costs.

The first two points link in to the third: the eco-city.  Car transport and urban sprawl are both bad for the environment.  They consume productive, green land and they pump out far more emissions.  And the Council has set an ambitious Greenhouse Gas Target of a 40% reduction of 1990 levels by 2030.  The Government is aiming for 10-20%.  The current projection on our current course is that there will be a 46% increase in emissions.  Despite this National don’t think Auckland should be focussing on keeping themselves 100% pure.

So there is a strong contrast between a city that wants to be sustainable (ecologically and economically), and a government that doesn’t want it to have its way.  Now that the city is united it speaks with a much stronger voice, so we’ll have to see how well that voice is heard – either now or in November.

Submit your views on The Auckland Plan by the end of the month.

22 comments on “National vs Auckland”

  1. RedLogix

    National’s obsession with cars is all about self-identity. Identity as the sovereign individual, the motor car being the sceptre, the sprawling McMansion on a piece of dirt in the burbs … a micro pseudo-Versailles. Everthing in this identity is about property, separateness and the elevation of self over all other considerations.

    In this world view trains and busses are despised as ‘socialist cattle-cars’, high-density apartment living is associated with urban ghettos, and any shared public utilities are treated are sneared at. Every action in their lives is towards moving away from their fellow humans, insulating and isolating themselves from the public domain.

    This is why facts mean nothing to these people. The useless holiday highway will always be more important to them than any inner city rail loop. One choice is congruent with the fanatasy car adverts where they drive at any speed they want on endless km’s of empty highway winding through their own personal paradise kingdom…the other doesn’t. They will defend their manufactured identities, even to the point where the consequences of it mean their literal death. Nothing can or will change their opinion until they can change how they think of themselves.

    • They will defend their manufactured identities, even to the point where the consequences of it mean their literal death.

      But along the way, they can cause the death of others who are trying to use other methods of transport eg walking and cycling.

      I recently bought a bicycle, enjoy riding it and am increasingly using it for relatively short journeys close to my suburban home. I cycle to the local shops for small amounts of groceries, fruit & veg. I have cycled to one of my workplaces that is quite close to home, and am now contemplating cycling to the train station rather than driving my car and parking near the station.

      The suburban streets of Auckland are really not cycle friendly. Some of the roads are narrow, and/or made narrow by parked cars. I am no longer the fearless cycler of my younger days (I am in my early 60s). Where the roads look to scary, I do what I see many children and teenagers do, I cycle on the footpath. Actually there are usually not many people walking there. But even cycling on the footpaths can be dangerous, as many cars and big military-style vehicles drive across the footpaths to get in and out of suburban properties. These big miltary vehicles are the most scary for a cyclist.

      It would be better to put more money into dedicated cycleways, and more pedestrian-friendly walking routes, as well as continuing to upgrade the rail and bus networks.

      • Armchair Critic

        If you haven’t already, have a look at this post at Transport Blog, Carol. Transport planners and traffic engineers need to start thinking this way.

        • That’s great, Thanks AC. And also the planners need to be thinking about extending that approach into the suburbs, and not just focus on the CBD and suburban shopping centres.

    • Right on, Crash fetishism.

  2. Draco T Bastard

    National want sprawl because it would mean cheaper houses…

    And higher land prices for their mates who are probably looking at the growing Auckland population and thinking of all the untaxed capital gains that they could get.

    Sprawl would mean longer commutes, less efficient transport (particularly for public transport), more pollution, and far more money spent on building the schools, parks, council centres on the new far away communities.

    This is why Auckland needs to stop the sprawl now. It costs far too much to maintain necessary services (Although, with Nacts privatisation agenda, they’re probably looking at that and thinking of all the profits they could screw out of Auckland). The council really needs to be looking at encouraging high rise apartments and discouraging single level dwellings.

    • I would love to be living closer to the CBD, but, at the moment, it’s much cheaper to rent out here in the suburbs.

  3. Good post Ben, though I think you will find that National propose spending $11 billion, not $10 million on wasteful motorway projects. If Labour were smart they would start a huge ‘Vote for Auckland, Vote for Labour’ campaign.

  4. Armchair Critic

    Great news that the holiday highway is indefinitely postponed, if Labour are elected. Pity Granny forgot to mention the appalling B/C ratio the project has.
    I’d like to see the announcement followed up with financial support for the CBD rail loop.
    I think National have the potential to come unstuck, in Auckland, over transport issues.

  5. I was annoyed at Peter Dunne on the Sunday TV minor parties’ debate recently. He scoffed at improving cycling provisions over roads, at a point when the debate was about the holiday highway. He said people wouldn’t be able to do their shopping on bicycles. Well, exactly how many people use a motorway to travel to do their grocery shopping? And, actually, I now do a reasonable amount of shopping on my bike. I can carry a reasonable amount while cycling, and that includes cycling up some hills with it (and I’m no spring chicken).

    I do my main weekly shop on Sundays by car. This is the day I need to drive to work because public transport is not regular enough at weekends. So I stop at the supermarket on the way home – no holiday highways are involved.

    • happynz

      I caught Peter Dunne’s smarmy car comment as well. I have a wife and kid in high school. I don’t have a car. I walk to work (45 minutes to an hour each way), my wife currently carpools with her friend, and my daughter buses it with no drama. The weekly shop is accomplished by using the bus. Admittedly on dreadful windy wet days a car would be nice, but overall it isn’t so bad.

      To be honest, being a pedestrian in this country is no picnic. People barrel out of driveways without a glance to check if on the off-chance there might be someone walking down the footpath. Pedestrian crossings are ignored. It seems as if the average Kiwi motorist sitting on his/her arse, surrounded by steel, aluminium and plastic is given a free pass to la la land and the right to be oblivious to all and sundry around.

    • Lanthanide

      Peter Dunne is going to have a hard time adjusting to the future, isn’t he?

      • Colonial Viper


        And probably, he’s not going to be the only one.

      • Tigger

        Won’t win him any votes in Ohariu either. Lots of people in our electorate cycle, despite the fact that they have to negotiate the motorway to and from the city.

  6. Afewknowthetruth

    ‘the Council has set an ambitious Greenhouse Gas Target of a 40% reduction of 1990 levels by 2030. ‘

    Yes that is ambitious, since Auckalnd has no oil reserves, nor coal. Just where the council thinks its going to get the fuel to generate those emissiosn remains a complete mystery, since global oil extraction has peaked and is flagged to decline by around 3% per annum from now on. Allowing for increasing domestic consumption by nations currently exporting oil, we will probably witness a decline in tradeable oil of around 5% per annum from 2011 on, so NZ may have access to around 10% of its current consumption by 2030 if it is very lucky.

    Fortunately, current global economic arrangements are almost certain to implode within the next 2 or 3 years, so we won’t have to concern ourselves with the delusions of the lunatics in councils for much longer. Food will be a great concern, of course.

    • wtl

      The certainty and precision with which your predict such future events reminds me of one Harold Camping.

    • Lanthanide

      Personally I think that while we will probably see some mild, then steep declines once things get going, I really doubt that we’d be looking at 10% by 2030. Necessity is the mother of invention, and more and more oil will be brought on line and efficiencies will be harnessed (demand destruction, really). Also expect coal and gas to liquids to ramp up. I think something like 30-40% by 2030 is more reasonable.

      We’re already past due when the world was supposed to completely implode (2008-2010) and yet here we are, with almost the highest levels of oil production ever, and the decline rates have been revised down to 3% from 9%.

  7. ianmac

    The underlying unwillingness to make the Auckland plan a success must surely be because National cannot stomach a Left leaning Brown being successful or progressive. But if someone like Banks was mayor…..

  8. James

    Also the other concern is the lifestyle changes of high density housing.

    Are there sufficient public recreation spaces being made available to make up for the lack of back yards?

    No there doesn’t seem to be around Mt Wellington.

    And I’ve heard more and more apartments for the inner city.

    Literally where will the children play?

  9. RobertM

    The point is to put the nail into English and demand he calls tenders and approves an order for Auckland rail electrification before the election. Concentrate on the main point and demand action. Even demand priority over some uneconomical and questionable exercises on a cost benefit in Christchurch. If Labour wins I would’nt add the loop, I’d put the tram double tracks up Queen St and restore the tram system essentially as it was Jan l956.

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