One thing that perpetually annoys me is when Steven Joyce rolls out the “we’re spending $1.6 billion on rail in Auckland so please stop complaining about all the money we’re spending on roads.” We see this line being trotted in in some of the Questions and Answers section to the Government Policy Statement:
It is also important to note that the majority of central government funding for public transport infrastructure is provided outside of the National Land Transport Fund and so not included in the GPS. Most of this funding is for metro rail. To date more than $2 billion in Crown appropriations has been agreed, of which $1.6 billion is for Auckland and $485 million for Wellington.
It is true that $1.6 billion is being (and has been) spent on upgrading Auckland’s rail network over the past few years (and over the next few years). The money is comprised of:
- $600 million for Project DART
- $500 million for the infrastructure side of rail electrification
- $500 million for new electric trains
So in total that is $1.6 billion. But there are two important questions to follow this up with: how much of that is being funded from central government and how much is being funded by this central government.
Looking first at Project DART, the rail project in Auckland that included double-tracking the Western Line, building Newmarket, New Lynn, Onehunga and Manukau stations – and other upgrades to the network. This $600 million project was actually funded in the 2006 budget – according to the Project DART website:
The 2006 Budget included funding of up to $600 million to fund these improvements and speed development of the Auckland rail network.
The project is the most significant redevelopment of the rail network in New Zealand since the 1980s.
So this passes the threshold for being funded by Central Government, but doesn’t pass the threshold of having been funded by this government.
Turning next to the infrastructure side of electrification – which includes stringing up the wires, raising a few bridges, putting up poles, building electrical sub-stations and so forth. According to the electrification webpage, funding for this was set aside in the 2007 budget:
In the 2007 Budget the Government announced its support for the electrification of Auckland’s rail network, and gave ONTRACK the funds to build the necessary infrastructure…
…Planning and concept development started immediately and physical work began in 2008.
We expect it will take about five years to electrify the Auckland network, and the Government has indicated that it wants the project completed by 2013.
So this is basically in the same situation as Project DART: yes, funded by Central Government outside the NLTF, but once again not funded by this government.
Finally, if we turn to funding for Auckland’s electric trains, it doesn’t even pass the very first base of being “outside the NLTF”. The very reason public transport services funding has actually increases in the Government Policy Statement is because this money will go into repaying the loan for the electric trains. Loaning $500 million to KiwiRail to pay for these trains, which Auckland Council and NZTA will need to repay, is quite different to actually giving the $500 million for the trains. So the trains aren’t being paid for outside the NLTF, they aren’t being paid for by Central Government – and obviously not by this government.
So really, I’m struggling to find a single cent that this government has set aside for passenger rail in Auckland.