As I noted in yesterday’s post about Paul Mees’s new book on public transport (hey, public transport books don’t come around particularly often, so I feel somewhat justified in focusing on it at the moment) he spends quite a bit of time talking about Auckland’s transport situation, and – perhaps most interestingly – about the history behind how we ended up where we are now.

First off, it is quite interesting to see what he says about Auckland’s transport situation in general – putting a bit of an international perspective on things:

Auckland is… a city of cars. Its transport system is untouched by the environmental activism for which New Zealanders are renowned. The CBD is bounded to the north by the harbour, but on all other sides by a gigantic spaghetti junction, the largest in Australasia. The three motorways which feed into the junction debouch into the city centre, jamming it with cars and buses for most of the day. This is quite an achievement in a metropolis with only 1.3 million residents and a relatively weak CBD in terms of employment and retailing. Auckland’s centre is different from its Australasian neighbours: the absence of large stores is reminiscent of an American downtown. Whole streets of shops have closed down and the multi-storey Farmers department store shut nearly 20 years ago, when the firm moved its business to suburban malls.

Only 6 per cent of Aucklanders travelled to work by public transport at the 2001 census. Although this just beats the 5 per cent recorded in 2000 for the Los Angeles census area, use of public transport for non-work trips in Auckland is negligible. The average resident of greater Los Angeles made 49 annual public transport trips for all purposes in the mid-1990s, while the average Aucklander managed only 41. If attracting people to public transport was a boat race, the City of Sails would reach the finish line behind the City of Angels.

It is fairly well known that Auckland sits near the bottom, or at the bottom, of the list when it comes to per-capita usage of public transport in fairly large cities worldwide. While I don’t necessarily think that increasing patronage means that we will have solved all our problems, it would certainly be a telling factor in achieving other goals – like reduced auto-dependency, reduced requirement for new roads, a more people-friendly urban environment, lower transport CO2 emissions and so forth. So it is a very useful measure, and currently Auckland fails utterly miserably on an international scale.

Interestingly, Auckland has certainly not always been like this. In the 1950s – when cars were actually fairly widespread (I think New Zealand had the second-highest per-capita ownership of cars in the world in the early and mid 20th century) and Auckland’s population density may well have been lower (or similar)than it is today – we actually led the world in public transport patronage figures. Mees elaborates:

Public transport in Auckland has not always been this marginal. In 1954, when the city began work on its first master transportation plan, the average resident made 290 trips. Public transport accounted for 58 per cent of trips by motorised modes, private transport only 42 per cent. When walking and cycling, which were not surveyed, are taken into account, it is likely that fewer than a third of daily trips were by car. By contrast, the car accounted for 62 per cent of trips to the Los Angeles CBD, and an even greater share of city-wide travel, as early as 1930.

So what happened? I guess the common argument would be that cars become more affordable (particularly over the past 20-30 years), employment has dispersed, the city has spread and public transport simply hasn’t been able to keep up. It’s put forward as something of an inevitability that this happened.

Mees argues very differently, which I will get to in a minute, but I must mention that I do think that the dispersal of employment in particular has had a big impact on the fall in public transport patronage. However, as I explained yesterday, this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation: did transport policies in the 1950s and 1960s cause employment dispersal, which helped cause falling public transport usage, which caused more money to go into roads, which caused further employment dispersal? The question really is “what kicked off the chain of events?” And I am in agreement with Mees here that it most probably was a change in transport policy – most particularly the 1955 Master Transportation Plan for Metropolitan Auckland.

Public transport collapsed in Auckland because the city transport planners made a conscious decision to abandon it and make roads the priority, even though this was the more expensive alternative. Los Angeles opted for freeways only after attempts to rescue public transport foundered: Auckland made the choice at a time when upgrading public transport was the more practical option. The city’s transport planners deliberately adopted a transport policy that only evolved by historical accident in Los Angeles. Because this policy was unpopular with the public, the planners and their allies conspired to prevent the community having a say…

As early as 1924 the Railways Department proposal that the network be electrified and extended int o the city centre through a tunnel. This project was expensive, and was postponed while the Railways electrified the suburban network of the capital, Wellington, between 1937 and 1950. As the Wellington scheme neared completion, attention returned to Auckland, and the national government engaged British consultants William Halcrow & Partners to provide advice.

The Halcrow report of 1950 recommended electrification, construction of the central city tunnel and the reorganisation of bus services to act as feeders to the rail system… Co-ordination between modes would be ensured by creating a new multi-modal public transport agency, or alternatively by extending the Auckland Transport Board’s jurisdiction to include heavy rail and privately-operated buses. Finally, since urban roads would complete with the rail-bus system for both passengers and government funds, Halcrow advised that ‘expenditure on arterial streets in the Auckland Metropolitan Area be restricted until the results of the recommended schemes are seen.

I must say I find it pretty fascinating that the Auckland CBD Rail Tunnel has been on the books since 1924 as a needed project. Every time someone says “we need to complete the motorway network” I think it would be a pretty good response to say “well, how about the rail network, we’ve been talking about a CBD Rail Tunnel for over 75 years now, did you know that?”

Obviously, and tragically, the Halcrow report was never put into action. But the way in which the recommendations of this report were canned is rather strange – and certainly was probably not expected when the Halcrow report came out in 1950.  In fact, Mees says the recommendations of the Halcrow report were supported by both of Auckland’s major newspapers and by both political parties in the 1951 national elections. The only opposition came from some staff of the Auckland City Council, and Auckland University Geography Professor Kenneth Cumberland. Mees details this further:

The first open opposition came from Professor Kenneth Cumberland, head of Geography at Auckland University from 1946 to 1980, and the Chairman of Auckland City Council’s Town Planning Committee. In an op-ed piece for the Star, Cumberland called the railway scheme a ‘white elephant’ that ‘may well prejudice any chances of getting material improvement of our highway system’. Those pointing to successful rail systems overseas ‘must remember that Auckland, with its low population densities and sprawling area, is not to be compared with a city 1,000,000 people and more in a smaller area.’

Cumberland concluded: ‘A full-scale expert inquiry seems to be the first necessity.’ A week later, the city council established a special transport committee to consider the issue. Following advice from the City Engineer and a meeting with [transport Minister] Goosman, the committee recommended that the Technical Committee of the Auckland Regional Planning Authority, an advisory board established in 1946, be asked to prepare a Master Transportation Plan to settle the rail-versus-motorways question. Professor Cumberland was a member of the Authority’s executive, and the City Engineer chaired its technical committee.

The Council adopted this approach quick-smart and without public consultation (apparently an election wasn’t far away and the government did not want the ‘underground’ to become an election issue. Mees outlines that both of Auckland’s newspapers at the time considered that referring the issue to this “technical committee” doomed the rail scheme.

The Master Transportation Plan for Metropolitan Auckland was released in 1955 and reversed the recommendations of the Halcrow Report. Funding for the rail scheme should be diversed to fund a motorway network, with public transport delivered by buses operating on the motorways. Even the recommendations for a single public transport authority was cursorily rejected… The city council and national government rapidly endorsed the report, and agreed to share the costs of the motorway network.

It is all rather depressing to read actually. So why is what happened in 1954 and 1955 relevant to what happens today? Well, I think history tells us that what happened in the early 1950s has had a huge effect on Auckland’s transportation trends, as well as how the city has grown and developed, over the past 50 years. While we eventually came to our senses that a Dominion Road motorway and an Eastern Highway weren’t the smartest of ideas, we will (in a few years time) have pretty much finished our 1950s motorway plans. We’ve also managed to kick-start a revival of the rail system – likely to continue once electrification happens.

Which I think leaves us at a bit of a cross-roads – similar to where we stood in the early 1950s. On the one hand, we could go down the same path as we did in the 1950s – by focusing on building the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway, adding another 10 lanes of traffic across the Waitemata Harbour and widening the Northwest Motorway (even though it will undoubtedly end up just as congested within a few years). On the other hand, we could have a look at whether what we’ve done over the past 50 years has actually worked or not (I would suggest it hasn’t), and embark on a different way forward – building the CBD Rail Tunnel, rail to the airport and the kind of vision outlined by the Regional Land Transport Strategy.

I wonder which we will choose? I wonder if we will learn from our mistakes?

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37 comments

  1. It looks to me that the choice has been made and Auckland is doomed to repeat its mistakes. That’s what happens when people with absolutely no qualifications for making transport decisions end up making them.

  2. Agree, smart money would say we will in 20 years be lamenting the fact yet another plan for the CBD loop was not seen through. I’d love to be wrong but i don’t see much chance of Joyce having a road to Damascus moment and seeing the light. Now that the electrification “dead rat” has been swallowed Auckland rail wont see any investment for at least a decade at best. Certainly not under the current minister.

    Sad but that’s the reality we have to deal with.

  3. The CBD tunnel would be a tipping point in my opinion, if that was up and running in the midst of gridlocked motorways then the direction of policy would have to change and the PT system would grow around it…. but I’d say there is a damned good chance the current momentum falters and the project gets shelved for twenty years while they keep doing what they’ve always done.
    If things don’t continue to improve after electrification I doubt I will ever move back to NZ, I couldn’t handle living there!

  4. Yeah I honestly can’t see the loop being built whilst Joyce and National are anywhere near the decision making, it’s really a foregone conclusion IMO. Their rewording of the LTMA to prevent any spending on rail of roading money is the proof of the pudding if ever there was any.

  5. Does Steven Joyce actually think petrol prices will go down at some point in the future? If not, why are we wasting money on motorways that only the rich will be able to afford to drive on?

  6. Come on team PT, chin up! Maybe it won’t be so bad. There are only so many people who would be practical to appoint to the Transport Agency board (no, Tony Freelander is not one of them) and I doubt many of those suitable will be on the same mid-1950’s planet as Joyce and Hide. The glass is half full, the glass is half full, the glass is….

  7. The real problem in my opinion is that it will be another ten or twenty years before members of generation X or Y start calling the shots. Until then we are stuck wil the (literally) 1960s thinking of the babyboomer generation.

    The uphill battle is to convince the babyboomers to change tack from what most of them have considered the norm for a lifetime and start making real changes now… otherwise all we can do is sit and wait for them to retire while they keep things business as ususal.

  8. What I think is interesting is if motorways ever solved the problem in congestion in Auckland when first built, or have in any major city (I wonder ifn there is a traffic congestion index anywhere we can use to compare cities with motorways vs public transport).

    I do see it as a possibility that if all the new roads get built we might build our way out of congestion (surely there is only so much extra traffic you can induce) temporarily. The real issue is that Aucklands city population will double in the next 50ish years, and asuming the MULs remain (I hope they can be relaxed to allow more satelaite towns but keen Auckland city in boundaries similar to present) we might get high enough densities to support a proper underground system. And building roads to solve the problem (unless we want 10s of kms of underground motorways) will be impossible.

  9. Yes, people’s travel behaviour takes a little while to change, and obviously changes in urban form occur over a longer time scale. So there was a period just after the CMJ was first built when the motorways flowed smoothly even at the peak, and likewise each time after they open an new bit of motorway it is clear running for a few months… but it will never last as long as car ownership is near-universal, access to motorways unrestricted and fuels and vehicle remain accessibly cheap to the masses.
    It’s a bit like a junkie always trying to relive their first big hit, you end up chasing the dragon, doing more and more to get less and less.

  10. I understand that we did build our way out of congestion in the 1950’s and 1980’s. But it came at an enormous cost, both to the communities that were destroyed, as well as financially. It also made Aucklanders highly car dependent, and eventuated in heavily car centric land use development.
    Also none of the projects underway will result in us building our way out of congestion. You would probably have to build the 16 lane motorways that Jarbury posts pictures of. These would just make congestion worse in local roads anyway.

  11. Not to mention a 16 lane motorway itself is very inefficient, given the impact of lane changes and accessing off ramps. Anything more than three lanes each way is a waste of time if you ask me. If you have six congested lanes then it is time for rapid transit in the corridor.

  12. Toronto has an 18 lane wide motorway and it still gets congested at peak hour!

    Apparently Phoenix was able to build its way out of congestion, but did so through the most incredible expenditure of funds on freeways that it destroyed the city completely. These days Phoenix is usually brought up as a “worst of the worst” example when it comes to urban sustainability.

    I think a concerted effort has to be made this year by transport campaigners to get the CBD Rail Tunnel on the agenda as much as possible – so that Joyce simply can’t continue to ignore it.

  13. “confirms that Joyce and Hide will appoint the initial directors of Auckland Transport – so the days ARTA or ARC disagreeing with Joyce will soon be over.”

    You folks are missing the real issue. After the interim board time, it WILL be Auckland Council who will appoint the board (or keep the interim guys!). So it all comes back down to whether Auckland Transport is open enough to allow meaningful public interaction, and also, maybe even more so, what transport policies Auckland Council will have.

  14. Max, the thing is that “interim” in this case is a fairly fluid term.

    My reading of the bill suggests that some of those “interim” directors will be around for three years. That’s plenty of time to stuff things up, particularly in a new organisation. If they all disappeared 6 months after Auckland Transport is formed I would not be nearly so worried.

  15. These ‘interim’ directors will effectively shape the organisation and set precedents for how it functions, they will be very influential.

  16. Jarbury, I read that relatively clearly (not a lawyer, obviously) – but the NORMAL term is 3 years. But from my reading, there is nothing in there that prevents them from being canned ahead of time. So there apparently is nothing that would prevent Len Brown, or John Banks, or whoever, from appointing new people.

    That said, by that time, many initial decisions will have been taken, and at best, some of those will have to be reversed, rather than not made at all.

  17. Funny how Auckland is a city of lost transport opportunities that could of being, however on this same blog people are prepared to loose another opportunity to make public transport more attractive, but I guess it wouldn’t be auckland it we went for it. Im talking about getting a 100mill crusise ship terminal while we have the chance, no doubt it wont go ahead and instead we will end up with yet another watered down solution.

  18. Not every opportunity is a good idea. We never lost the ‘opportunity’ for the existing cruise terminal and hotel on Princes Wharf, and I’d rather wish we had.

    The problem with this proposal is it risks doing much the same, i.e. taking an opportunity for a great public space and civic use and handing it over to private interests. Just how much value will the average Aucklander get out of such a building, none. Arguably it would be great for the economy by putting money into the hands of the port company, tour operators and the Louis Vitton boutique…. but would an Aucklander have to take a cruise just to be allowed into the building I wonder?

  19. And what does that have to do with this post? And even if the cruise ship comment WAS in the right thread, how does that have to do much with PT?

  20. Max – Just pointing out the views expressed in this blog as a whole, this post pointed to how great public transport could and should be which I fully agree, however on another post on this blog everyone is throwing criticism at the location and the proposal to the cruise ship terminal (manly the location), Yet the location of such a terminal is the best from a public transport point of view, I would rather the 30,000 or so passengers walking out into a public transport system, rather than just a cue of taxis. Just my rant anyways, maybe this post should be in the other thread but it kind of relates to both anyways.

  21. check out: http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/supercity/pdf/accsubmissiononlocalgov.pdf

    131. Proposed section 35H in clause 24 enables the Minister to appoint the initial directors of newly established CCOs, based on recommendations from the Auckland Transition Agency. It provides for a staggered appointment process, with some of the initial directors serving for up to three years. The Minister may appoint directors on any terms and conditions the Minister prescribes.
    132. Proposed section 76 in clause 45 provides that the Auckland Council must not appoint a councillor to the board of a substantive CCO. Similarly, clause 72 provides that any councillor or employee of the Auckland Council cannot be a director of Watercare.

    Similarly there are sections in the third bill before parliament that dissolves the Transport CCO of the requirement to adhere to certain parts of the Local Government Act.

  22. What’s truly interesting is that it has been well known for forty years that a centrally focused system of motorways can’t cope with future growth. That’s why there are two tandem bridges at the Mount Wellington interchange, where SH 1 crosses over the South Eastern Arterial, each of which bridge is only two lanes wide in each direction (four lanes in total through both bridges). The bridges have “1954” stamped on them and have never been widened. It seems that, if they were, traffic from South Auckland would swamp Spaghetti Junction. Robbie’s Rapid Rail in the 1970s, mostly focused on South Auckland, was intended to relieve this bottleneck with Park and Ride as well as a certain amount of TOD in a planned southward development corridor. See former RRR chief engineer George Bridges’s article in NZ Railway Observer, Dec 2009/Jan 2010. However, if RRR had gone ahead it might have made planning look good which was becoming increasingly ideologically impermissible even in those days. Ken Cumberland, to whom Mees refers, called the corridor scheme “totalitarian” and “potentially dangerous” in his 1977 paper “The Essential Nature of Auckland,” in Bush and Scott, eds, Auckland at Full Stretch. With the coming of Rogernomics such ideological opposition only hardened further. The effect of cancelling RRR while keeping the narrow bridges was to inflate property prices north of Mount Wellington and encourage backyard infill throughout Auckland City, Waitakere and the North Shore, while helping to turn South Auckland into a slum of limited job prospects (NB Pakuranga, Botany and Howick have some access north of the bottleneck so they are not slums.) The expensive Western Ring Route is intended to partly relieve this bottleneck but it will do little for the Otahuhus and Manukaus really. The price of ideology I guess.

  23. Yeah, but Auckland’s other planning problem is that jobs and other activity have dispersed, or been allowed to disperse, out of the CBD. This is diabolical for a public transport network.

    Also, suppose we had gone ahead with the heavy rail investment in the 1950s. This would have delayed the motorway investment, but I very much doubt that it would have substituted for it completely. A lot of cities which could be compared to Auckland and which have excellent rail networks, also have extensive motorway networks as well. What are the motorway networks for Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane like? (as three examples reasonably comparable to Auckland).

  24. I think that if we had built the railway network in the 1950s rather than embarked on the motorway network we would have probably ended up simply building the Western Ring Route as the main “through-route” for Auckland. This would have probably been quite a good thing, as it would have more clearly separated through traffic from traffic heading to the inner city. It would have also meant that our CBD wasn’t an island surrounded by motorways.

    Ross, do you think that the dispersal of employment has been diabolical for public transport, or that the lack of good public transport caused the dispersal of employment? I would suggest the latter.

  25. Jobs and activities outside of the CBD is not diabolical, as long at they disperse to town centres and outer business districts that are likewise on the core public transport network.

    On motorways, Adelaide has basically none, Perth and Brisbane have quite extensive motorways too, but they are not as intensive as Auckland nor do they penetrate the central area to such a great extent.

    I think if Auckland had built it’s rail in the 50s there wouldn’t have been the drive to push the motorways right into town. The northwestern would have finished at Great North Rd and the southern just south of Newmarket (like they did for many years), and you would have had the link via Mt Roskill completed a lot earlier. The harbour bridge would have been more like Brisbane’s Bradfield highway bridge, a busy arterial into the city but not part of the motorway network (like it was for many years). This is characteristic of Australian motorway construction, the built the outer links radiating toward the CBD but terminated them at main roads several kilometres from the CBD itself.

  26. Sorry guys, I don’t buy these “Roger Rabbit” stories and I’m surprised Mees is propagating this one – he is normally against the Roger Rabbiting as well.

    Even if there are pro-road lobby groups, what soil do they grow in? There will always be academics and cranks, what circumstances give them a leg up?

    I don’t recall Auckland ever having a reputation for having a good suburban rail service pre-1950. Trams, yes, the post and article do not mention trams.

    I can imagine that if the 1950 Auckland suburban rail service was anything like the ca 1980 Auckland suburban rail service, people jumped off it as quick as they could.

    The Beach Rd station was an awful location and adopted in the 1930s. I can imagine that alone most count for some patronage loss.

    If Auckland was even comparable to Adelaide or Perth then why the North Auckland line was single track and stayed like this till quite recently – or had no significant use of self-propelled rail cars till quite recently – or a bypass line at Newmarket (still a running sore).

    I’d look deeper for answers:
    -NZ missed a lot of the prosperity that characterised the C20th elsewhere in the world, and what there was was only visible in rural production and what the government syphoned off in Wellington
    -enduring social problems, and my question of why vast numbers of Maori and Pacific Islanders made Auckland there home rather than rural locations or the smaller cities

    Despite the self-congratultoty tone, I don’t rate Auckland’s motorway network as generous. I recall it peetering away to nothing around the Bombay Hills and it is only now being considered for extension to around 50km northwards. Even the Mangere Airport road is not really considered a direct CIty-Airport freeway, as is common in many cities worldwide.

    I think the electrification is a great idea and will give you the sort of suburban rail system that is now common in Australia. You are not yet ready for the sort of arguments over full metros as Sydney and Melbourne are getting, that it is another level of density and scale above Auckland’s reality.

    Transport policy in NZ is the same 2 beggars fighting over the rice bowl and spilling all the rice – that we have in Australia. Maybe roads get more but neither get much.

  27. Riccardo, I don’t think that’s what Mees is saying.

    In terms of the state of Auckland’s rail network in the 1950s, yes I agree it was certainly nothing great. In fact I’m pretty sure our current levels of patronage on the rail network are the highest ever, even though per-capita use of public transport in the 1950s here was world-leading. Most of that was on the trams.

    However, what Mees says is that by the 1950s the limitations of the tram network were beginning to show themselves, with increasing numbers of cars slowing them down. As was the case in other cities like Toronto, there was a feeling that the future was in having a high-quality rail network to supplement the trams. That emerged clearly in the 1946 plans and the 1950 Halcrow Report.

    I think that Mees’s main argument about what happened in 1954 was that it was an incredibly delicate and important time for determining what happened in transport matters over the next 50 years. The plans had been set to proceed with the rail network (electrification, CBD loop etc.) as laid out in the 1950 Halcrow Report, but for a variety of reasons we ended up going with the completely different 1955 Master Transportation Plan – which ignored rail and focused on motorway building.

    I’ve read parts of the 1955 Master Transportation Plan (I must get it out of the library and scan in some key parts of it). Its wording certainly suggests a huge shift away from rail thinking and towards motorway thinking. The authors felt that this was certainly the way of the future – and I would agree the 1955 Master Transportation Plan was ahead of its time, not that that was a good thing.

  28. Hi Riccardo,
    One thing you might not be aware of is that the Beach Rd station was built as the first stage of a rail expansion program that involved a central city underground, a system of bus feeders and upgraded stations and several new lines out to the suburbs. The second stage ‘morningside deviation’ as it was known was briefly mothballed then killed by WWII and the rise of postwar road based transport policy.
    That’s why it is in such a poor location for a ‘central’ station, as it was intended to be the long distance terminal rather than the main station for city commuters (a bit like Sydney Central today, but without Town Hall or the rest of the City Circle).
    When we talk about the 1950s we are talking about what it could have been rather than what it actually was. The choice was effectively to either complete the rail plan or the motorway plan, and the chose the latter… and they went into motorway construction harder and faster than any Australian city. For example Auckland had it’s first substantial suburban radial motorways by the mid 50s while Melbourne didn’t get them until the 1970s, Auckland had most of it’s Central Motorway Junction complete in the late 1970s while Melbourne didn’t build CityLink until the late 1990s. Auckland skipped the bit about upgrading rail/tram systems and widening surface arterial roads and went straight for the motorways lock stock and barrel.

    Auckland’s motorway is not especially extensive, particularly not outside the urban area, but given the area and population it covers it is quite intensive within the urban area and is used primarily for intra-urban travel rather than inter-urban.

  29. Thanks to both. I take the point that the motorway report is ‘what could have been’.

    I’m interested in the link between one engineer/planner’s fantasy and the outcome. I wish we could say that just because a planner/engineer had an idea, stacked a committee, we ended up with his dream. I suspect it is Lindblom’s ‘Muddling Through’ however. Or if I use an analogy I hope you’ll forgive, which of the sperm got to the egg first through the goo. The roads won by a neck – but that it is not to imply road has had an easy time of it either. Auckland ain’t Phoenix, or any number of 2nd and 3rd tier US cities with little public transport to speak of, but excellent radial and circumferential freeways.

    Auckland, as I alluded to above, must have skipped not just a generation of transport funding, but also a generation of economic growth. I agree the motorway network was more substantial by 1980 in Auckland than in most Australian cities – but I would point to how little has been done since then. Australia has suffered the same.

    This business of transport missing out can be seen across the economic cycles. If it was logical that the immediate post-war period should have seen more freeways, NZ nor OZ actually had this. If the 1970s was seen as a swing away from motorways towards low energy transport- both Australia and NZ missed out on this too. We certainly had the protests against freeway construction that the US and Europe had – were these just a pretext for the different Treasuries to shut down projects they wanted to shut down anyway? The 1980s were supposedly the reemergence of the political right and economic rationalism – yet no sign of massive motorway construction, either on your side of the Tasman or mine.

    I can’t speak for the industrial relations history of your land, but in ours I suspect the constant strikes and agitation wore down both the pollies and the beancounters. I remember one road over here took forever to build with constant claims for new allowances. The same thing that killed bread-and-butter rail freight. There is still a whole generation of logistics managers around who cut their teeth on the constant strikes of the 1970s and 80s, when the railways were shut for a week at a time.

    Building construction also suffered in this climate.

    Pre WWII boom cycles, well obviously the 2 wars and depression weren’t – which left the 1920s. And that fits the bill – plenty of good done in NZ in the 20s and at the end of the 30s, but nothing in any of the other possible cycles.

    BTW, I didn’t realise Avatar was done in Wellington. A shame you guys don’t finance these things – rather than just the legwork. NZ would be rolling in it.

  30. Riccardo, most of the budget for Avatar was spent in Wellington – a $US300 million boost to the economy there would have employed a lot of people I am guessing.

    In terms of transport matters, I think that between the early 80s and late 90s we certainly missed both a generation of transport spending as well as a generation of economic growth. Perhaps there was a belief that somehow the market would magically provide infrastructure?

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