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Say goodbye to roads of national significance

Written By: - Date published: 7:29 am, October 25th, 2017 - 55 comments
Categories: climate change, cycleway, Economy, Environment, global warming, greens, labour, national, nz first, Politics, public transport, same old national, sustainability, transport - Tags:

Sometimes it just gets too much

One of the most appalling wasteful destructive things that National did when it was in power was to invest in so called roads of national significance.  They were huge boondoggles, kept the base happy, provided high quality ribbon cutting opportunities, gave the impression that the Government was doing something but essentially they were a waste of time and resources.

They actually made things worse.  There is this phenomenon called induced demand.  Build a road to address congestion and although it will provide short term relief it will eventually persuade people to drive more and the net benefit approaches zero.  Meanwhile those double lane and treble lane roads destroy neighbourhoods and divide communities.

And if you want to create a sustainable city then you stop building roads.  If we are going to get on top of climate change then we need to develop alternative transport systems.  Starting yesterday.

China understands this.  That is why in its major cities it has been building hundreds of kilometres of underground rail in the past few decades.

By comparison the last National Party had to be brought screaming and kicking to the conclusion that Auckland’s inner city rail link, a 3.45 kilometre tunnel, had to be progressed no matter what.  Government funding is now due to start in 2018.  Auckland Council had to front up with funds of its own to get the project moving.

The first bunch of RONS were bad enough.  But the latest bunch really give the impression that National was scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel.

For instance the East West Link in Auckland had the unusual feature that per kilometre it was going to be the most expensive motorway ever.  A corruption plagued Russian highway would have been relegated into second place.

Thankfully it will be no more, replaced by cheaper more sensible tweaks to existing roads.  The Crown contribution can be diverted into really helpful projects like light rail.

This is what the Labour Green coalition agreement requires this Government to:

  • Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050, with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form, energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions and industries.
  • Reduce congestion and carbon emissions by substantially increasing investment in safe walking and cycling, frequent and affordable passenger transport, rail, and sea freight.
  • National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and walking.
  • Auckland’s East-West motorway link will not proceed as currently proposed.
  • Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland.

Each bullet point is impressive.  Each demands that we build less tarseal and more public transport.  It is no wonder given this world view that the East West link will be no more.

Greater Auckland in its indomitable way summarised the project in this way:

However, on one transport issue it seems the election result will lead to a lasting impact. That is the East West Link project. A re-elected National Government would have pushed on with the project as one of their next generation “roads of national significance” and by the time the 2020 election rolls around this project (unless we see the unlikely situation where its consent is declined) would have probably been under construction. In contrast, Labour have committed to significantly scaling back the project – banking around $1.2 billion of savings. Given the available alternatives to the East West Link are pretty strong and could deliver pretty much the same outcomes for far lower cost and far less environmental damage, it’s difficult to see the East West Link emerging again down the track once these cheaper and less destructive options are pursued.

Furthermore, as so eloquently explained by Infrastructure NZ’s Hamish Glenn the other week in his presentation to the project’s Board of Inquiry hearing, even in the very distant future there is relatively little demand on the East West Link project so it’s highly probable a cheaper option would be effective for a very long time.

And the Labour New Zealand First coalition agreement with its emphasis on rail neatly augments the Labour Green coalition agreement.  The L-NZF agreement requires the Government to:

  • A $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including significant investment in regional rail.
  •  The government’s vehicle fleet, where practicable, to become emissions-free by 2025/26.
  •  Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

As a priority the Minister and Associate Minister of Transport will have to look at the make up and structure of the New Zealand Transport Agency.  From the looks of the coalition agreements it is going to have to move dramatically away from its more roads emphasis that has been placed on it by the former government.

I can’t believe how happy I am in typing this post.  Good times!

55 comments on “Say goodbye to roads of national significance”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Destroying one of the National Party’s religious icons and making Auckland a better place to live in one simple move.

    Awesome. There must be more where this came from.

    Edit: great image btw. Lovely to see Brownlee lose his job.

  2. “Commonsense, Gerry, it’s like airport security. If you try to bypass it, you end up in trouble.”

  3. Carolyn_Nth 3

    And the Puhoi to Wellsford highway?

    I know many in that area have been looking forward to it being constructed – some call it the “John Key highway”.

    I suspect there will be some backlash from locals if it doesn’t go ahead.

    • Andre 3.1

      Puhoi to Warkworth is under construction so it’s hard to see that being stopped.

      Warkworth to Wellsford looks like it’s still purely in a paperwork phase, so it’s plausible that might get scaled back to just doing something about Dome Valley and a bypass around Wellsford.

      http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/ara-tuhono-warkworth-to-wellsford

      • Carolyn_Nth 3.1.1

        thanks. Will be interested to hear what locals say.

        Myself, I think the area would benefit hugely by improvement in mass transit – rail and buses. That would ease some of road congestion.

        Dome Valley SH1can be a bit scary driving through it in driving rain. So would make sense to improve it. It is claimed to be a high crash area.

        • AB 3.1.1.1

          Agreed C_Nth. If you could get from Wellsford to Auckland in 45 minutes by rapid rail, then it opens up the possibility of smallish village-style communities, near the railway line, separated from each other by green space and with a mixture of locals and commuters. Throw in fibre broadband and maybe those commuters only need to get to Auckland twice a week for work. Walk or cycle to the rail station, keep a car (electric of hybrid) for small local trips or holidays.
          But it doesn’t deliver big profits to anyone, so not likely to happen. Instead we get vast, repellent, monoculture housing sprawl along the motorways like Millwater and Pokeno.

        • Karen 3.1.1.2

          I would expect that Auckland to Whangarei will be one of the regional rail routes that NZF will be keen on promoting – for freight and passenger travel. Getting the logging trucks in particular off that particular road would make a big difference.

          • Carolyn_Nth 3.1.1.2.1

            And, my northern connections don’t seem that keen on the big increase in trucks on their roads in recent years.

      • mauī 3.1.2

        Transmission Gully is due for completion in 2020 too. I doubt that will be stopped either. Bugger.

        • mikesh 3.1.2.1

          Perhaps that is just as well. It would be easy to imagine the Pukurua Bay to Paekakariki road being damaged in the same way that the Kaikoura and Manawatu Gorge roads were.

          • mauī 3.1.2.1.1

            I remember Gerry saying the Gully route was needed as a safe route in/out of Wellington in the event of an earthquake. I’m not so sure it will be safe because something like 20 bridges will be built along it (some of them look large scale too), and I think someone else said the route runs along another fault line…

  4. Robert Guyton 4

    “If I shape my hair into a cone, I reckon I could get my head right inside that wine glass!”

  5. I notice there’s a bicycle in the background,… ‘ synchronicity ? ‘…

    Anyhow’s ,… ” On yer bike , mate ” .

  6. Cinny 6

    Can we please have a railway too?
    Scrap the bogus Southern Link and re-instate the Nelson railway, hook it up all the way from the Nelson wharf through to Motueka. Logs moved to the wharf via rail, fish moved from the nelson wharf to the fish factory in Motueka via rail. Tourists moved by rail, people moved by rail. I love rail, super jealous of those towns who have it.

    Then the ferry from Motueka to Whanganui goes ahead, people can get off and jump on a train to go into Nelson City. Daydreaming, but anything seems possible now 🙂

    Yay for a new government that understands the benefits of rail over roads for the climate and the people.

    In the meantime we shall enjoy the novelty of rail when we visit Wellywood, kids love travelling by train.

    • ianmac 6.1

      Blenheim-Picton has just started a steam train excursion between those two towns. Part of it is to shift tourists off the cruise ships into grape country.

    • Exkiwiforces 6.2

      Actually Cindy,

      NZ Railways did a paper study to re-open/ rebuild the Nelson Railway in the late 80’s/ early 90’s before most of the RoW disappeared under tarmac. The major stumbling block was the rest home in Stoke which was built on the old Stoke station site (behind the Stoke Memorial Hall), the main plan was to have a inland port/ rail yard at Richmond to service the MDF factory at Richmond and the forestry plantations around Spooners/ Golden Downs/ Upper Moutrue areas with another yard around the current sports fields near Foundries/ Walter’s Buff to service the plantations up the Rai Valley.

      It was my understanding the plan went nowhere after it was NZ Railways was flog off by the then National Government

      Further information could found in the NZ Rail Observer Magazine during the late 80’s or 90’s.

  7. Keith 7

    RON’S made sense only if it was targeted at investors in civil engineering firms, roading companies and trucking firms. Huge amounts of taxpayer dollars poured into what looked like a policy from 1930’s Germany and post war Europe.

    Otherwise they were and remain financial black holes.

    9 years later, even with this flagship policy, National could not even address a really obvious candidate for such targeted road building, the Dome Valley, a stretch of highway infamous for carnage. It really proved just how there was no plan or any logic put together aside from a vehicle for the few to clip the taxpayer funded ticket in a seemingly random sequence of nonsensical projects.

    • RON’S made sense only if it was targeted at investors in civil engineering firms, roading companies and trucking firms. Huge amounts of taxpayer dollars poured into what looked like a policy from 1930’s Germany and post war Europe.

      Otherwise they were and remain financial black holes.

      QFT

      As far as I can make out the RONS were simply a boondoggle, a way to shift taxpayer money into National’d donors pockets. they certainly didn’t make sense economically.

  8. Philg 8

    Sad times ahead for Ken Shirley and the trucking industry. They will fight back. The government has to move quickly and positively to affect real change.

  9. halfcrown 9

    If they are going to fire up rail again if economical I would like to see the following done
    Re-establish the rail to Rotorua.
    Repair and reopen the Gisborne line
    Upgrade and extend the rail to the Bay of Islands.
    Rebuild the bridge just outside Taumarunui reopening the rail line to Stratford that will re-establish a rail link for the interior of the King country. It was criminal removing that bridge in the first place as this line was an alternative route up the north island.
    These lines should also carry passenger traffic and as we are increasing the tourists in this country with a lot of them not familiar with NZ roads it could also be used to transport tourists to places like Rotorua in modern air-conditioned observation car type trains.
    In other words, follow what is happening in the majority of the world BRING BACK RAIL

    • William 9.1

      The first and immediate action should be to direct the Kiwirail board to reverse their decision to purchase diesel engines to replace the electric traction on the NIMT. in leaked papers the board decision has been shown to be based on nonsense.

      https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2017/09/19/kiwi-rail-de-electrification/

      Eventually the electrification should be extended between Te Rapa and Papakura to link up with the electrification of Auckland suburban lines, and from Te Rapa to Mt Maunganui.

    • Heef 9.2

      Perhaps we could have the Gracefield branch reopened to have a station at Moera and a park & ride facility at Gracefield to service Wainuiomata and the bays. There are plans to tarmac this unused stretch of railway and plough a road through Petone to relieve traffic in Southern Hutt instead. What a waste!

      The rail is there, some diesel trains and carriages must be sitting around to give the Gracefield branch a go as a commuter line before it gets pulled up for good. If it’s a success, then re-electrify and complete the Gracefield/Woburn triangle to allow for direct workings into Wellington. Surely an experimental diesel service could be done cost effectively?

  10. Ad 10

    – Killing East-West simply shifts a major issue from central government to local government. The East-west link is the number 2 priority in t he Auckland Plan and one of the highest in the Aukland Transport list. Until now it was going to be funded by central government. Now the task will fall to Auckland Council and the ratepayers. It will require a fully rebuilt Neilson Street. When you divert funding to one project, you take it away from another.

    – Mill Road Expressway to Papakura has been recently shifted from AT to NZTA. Can’t see that being stopped, and it’s almost a new parallel motorway to SH1.

    – I suspect that AMETI Pakuranga to Botany and potentially to Manukau will shift to NZTA as well.

    – No one is talking about the road toll yet. There are some things that can be done with CAPEX, but aren’t glamorous big-ticket items. Like median barriers the full length of the SH1 network for example.

    – No one is talking about Crown Infrastructure Partners. CFP is in some ways outside of the RLTP. It needs to be brought in or we will see more roading jobs on the urban periphery will almost zero democratic accountability.

    – Also, no one of our political figures has mentioned that NZTA has been so badly gutted by the comprehensive restructure that it currently does not have the internal capacity to learn from dumb mistakes like Basin Reserve Flyover, or Mackay to Pekapeka urupa debacle, or the missing northland bridges showing a Transport Minister totally out of sync with actual capacity, (let alone the fresh strategy document that is simply full of lies), that it will not be able to do what is asked of it.

    • mickysavage 10.1

      I appreciate that the East West link is a local priority but the same sort of mind set seems to apply to local politicians as to national politicians in relation to boondoggles and ribbon cutting..

      NZ Inc needs to get really brave. Light rail, walking and cycling over moar roads.

      The road toll can be replaced by a regional fuel tax, much simpler to collect, fairer and will approximate use of the network.

      I agree NZTA has been gutted. The Land Transport Management Act 2003 was an attempt to depoliticise the system and to concentrate on outcomes and results but the system and the NZTA have become hopelessly politicised under National.

      • Ad 10.1.1

        By road toll I meant death and injury on the roads.

      • Antoine 10.1.2

        > The Land Transport Management Act 2003 was an attempt to depoliticise the system and to concentrate on outcomes and results but the system and the NZTA have become hopelessly politicised under National.

        Depoliticisation of transport would be great, but that wouldn’t just mean the right getting out of it, it would mean the left getting their hands off as well.

        A.

        • tracey 10.1.2.1

          Cos transport lobbyists are so much more efficient than politicians Antoine? We need to get the mix right. The idea that leaving stuff to business takes the politics out is, at best, naive.

        • Draco T Bastard 10.1.2.2

          Depoliticisation of transport would be great

          To some degree possibly. The government does need to give direction though. Such directions as Don’t increase GHG emissions and the BCR needs to be at least 4.

          The E-W link doesn’t actually meet economic, environmental or social standards.

          • Antoine 10.1.2.2.1

            > The government does need to give direction though. Such directions as Don’t increase GHG emissions and the BCR needs to be at least 4

            Found the transport agency, give it a direction (mine would be ‘the BCR needs to be at least 1, including emissions costs’) and walk away.

            A.

            • Draco T Bastard 10.1.2.2.1.1

              A BCR of one isn’t actually economic (produces no extra value) that’s why it’s been set at four since the last Labour led government and which National ignored to get its RONS in place and that’s what makes all of them a boondoggle.

              • Antoine

                What have you got against a project with a BCR of 1.01? It generates more benefits than it costs.

                Sure, I can do without the BCR=1.01 projects but I’d hate to skip something with a BCR of 3.

                A.

                • What have you got against a project with a BCR of 1.01?

                  That would be in the margin of error.

                  Sure, I can do without the BCR=1.01 projects but I’d hate to skip something with a BCR of 3.

                  If you’ve got a choice of a 4 or a 3 which do you do?

      • Sacha 10.1.3

        The East-West truckway is a recent ‘priority’ that was only added to the regional programme at the behest of interested parties. It was not the subject of public debate or engagement and nor does its business case remotely stack up. In short, it’s a great example of how the previous govt undermined transport investment during the last decade.

    • Enough is Enough 10.2

      Yeah that was my initial thought as well.

      The East West link is not dead. The funding from Wellington is dead though. Auckland will have to find the funds somewhere else because it is a project that will take place over the next 10 years,

    • Killing East-West simply shifts a major issue from central government to local government. The East-west link is the number 2 priority in t he Auckland Plan and one of the highest in the Aukland Transport list.

      How many people in Auckland actually want the Est-West Link? Because, interestingly enough, the ACC doesn’t seem to:

      The council has never openly opposed the project, but in December its planning committee (which has all councillors on it) recommended a delay. NZTA ignored that. The council has also expressed environmental concerns. Now it is “seeking more information”. Its chief economist, David Norman, told me, “We want to understand what impacts (if any) there will have been on travel patterns resulting from configuration changes, and therefore what (if any) impact this has on the expected economic benefits. We have also requested the opportunity to look over the original assumptions and calculations of transport and economic benefits such that we can evaluate how these benefits may differ through changes in configuration.”

      Apparently it was only in the Auckland Plan because National wanted it there.

      • And do recall that we’ll be getting the rail that National refused despite it being the better option:

        A third track would take hundreds of trucks off the roads, not just in Auckland but also on regional roads feeling the strain from heavy vehicles. It would speed up passenger services, increase safety, potentially allow express and intercity trains to run, and permit Auckland Transport to use its trains more efficiently.

        If it’s not built, tough decisions will need to be made. There will be less ability to increase train frequencies when the City Rail Link is open, and/or rail freight will be restricted, which will mean hundreds more trucks on our already congested roads.

        Do the rail right and the east-West link will be redundant.

  11. Frida 11

    Excellent news. Such a short sighted focus. Now can we just reverse the ugly expressway through our beloved Kapiti???! I wish….and now Transmission Gully as well 🙁

  12. Chris 12

    When was that photo taken? Is it from a video clip taken before the 2014 election? Anyone have the link to the video? If it’s the one I’m thinking it is it’s very good.

  13. Andy14 13

    In terms of rail to the Airport why isn’t a spur from Puhinui the proposal? Does anyone know this?
    From a lay person opinion the distance is very short to reach the airport and can therefore be done very quickly, as opposed as the dominion road light rail that will take years of planning and consultation.

    Also as above there are a lot less stakeholders that need to be consulted.

    Also I imagine the southern line has potential from increased capacity in terms of more lines as opposed to any light rail line down Dominion Road will be pretty much the two lines. This is important as it would be good to have dedicated Airport services which the rail line won’t be able to cater for amongst the other services.

    I see the light rail line as necessary for the city but don’t see it as the best method of public transport to the airport.

    Anyone know why the Puhinui option doesn’t work or isn’t being considered?

    • Ad 13.1

      I don’t think the contest over Puhinui is over. Much cheaper and faster.

      But the motivation from AT and Auckland Council for light rail down Dominion Road is that the longer route serves huge catchments of commuters, whereas Puhinui doesn’t.

  14. Richard Christie 14

    “Just because they arrived on one tray it didn’t mean that both helpings were yours Gerry”

  15. Ad 15

    Phil Twyford rolls out the machine:

    “We’re looking at creating an urban development company for the whole zone, an investment of billions of dollars. It will have a massive effect on the development potential alongside the lines and stations. This is how Cross Rail has been done in London. They used an urban development company to optimise opportunities around the stations to get apartments and retail,” he said, also citing the Gold Coast’s G:Link.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11936574

    LIke the Ministry of Works on steroids. O.M.G. that is big.

  16. clare 16

    great stuff.

    i just wish this could have happened before the Abomination at waterview

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