While I have often complained about transport not being in the top of people’s minds when voting in nationwide elections, yet so many decisions are made by central government – the flip side of this (and unfortunately it seems that we do get the worst of both worlds) is seeing the transport debate becoming more and more partisan. For some reason, in New Zealand it would seem as though the political right tends to support roads-first transport policies; while the political left is more friendly towards public transport. There are some fairly obvious ideological reasons behind this: the individualised nature of auto-focused transport may appeal ideologically to those who lean to the right, while the more ‘collective’ nature of public transport can appeal to those on the left. Public transport also usually requires a level of subsidy, which further puts off those to the right of the political debate.

What’s strange though is how centre-right governments overseas often take a very different viewpoint of public transport – even of rail, which seems to be a particular dislike of centre-right politicians here in New Zealand. For example, just a few days ago we saw the Conservative Government in the UK approve the £30 billion+ High Speed 2 rail scheme, even in times of significant economic troubles. And, reading through the press release and reasoning behind the decision, it’s a far cry from our government’s approval of electrification – which seemed to be a very reluctant “oh we’d better continue this because we reluctantly promised to do so before the 2008 election”. Here are some sections of the UK government’s position on High Speed 2:

I have decided Britain should embark upon the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways by supporting the development and delivery of a new national high speed rail network. By following in the footsteps of the 19th century railway pioneers, the Government is signalling its commitment to providing 21st century infrastructure and connections – laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth.

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a scheme to deliver hugely enhanced rail capacity and connectivity between Britain’s major conurbations. It is the largest transport infrastructure investment in the UK for a generation, and, with the exception of High Speed 1 (HS1), is the first major new railway line since the Victorian era.

The HS2 Y network will provide direct, high capacity, high speed links between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. There will also be direct links to Heathrow Airport and to the Continent via the HS1 line. It will form a foundation for a potentially wider high speed network in years to come.

A recognition that rail is the way of the future, and not (as I sometimes sense the attitude towards it in NZ is), some relic of the 19th century. The benefits of the project are well understood by the government, and clearly articulated. No Ministry of Transport hatchet job here:

HS2 will be built in two phases to ensure that the benefits of high speed rail are realised at the earliest possible opportunity. The line from London to the West Midlands and the connection to HS1 are expected to open in 2026, followed, in 2032-33, by the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds and the connection to Heathrow. The capital cost at 2011 prices of building the complete Y network is £32.7 billion. At present values, it will generate benefits of up to £47 billion and fare revenues of up to £34 billion over a 60-year period.

The benefits of HS2 will extend beyond the network itself; links to current lines will enable direct trains to run to cities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh and, with long-distance services transferring to the new network, space will be freed up for new commuter, regional and freight services on other lines, opening up new opportunities for Britain’s existing railways. Links to key urban transport networks, such as Crossrail, will help to spread the benefits further still.

There’s also some clear recognition of the project’s environmental benefits:

HS2 is entirely consistent with the Government’s objectives for carbon emissions. Electrified rail is a comparatively low-carbon mode of transport, especially with the continued decarbonisation of the grid. Speed increases power consumption, but also makes HS2 more attractive to those currently flying or driving. The faster journeys on HS2 – Edinburgh and Glasgow will be just 3.5 hours from London – could transfer around 4.5 million journeys per year who might otherwise have travelled by air and 9 million from the roads. HS2 will also create more rail capacity on existing conventional speed lines for freight – removing lorries from our busy trunk roads. HS2 is therefore an important part of transport’s low-carbon future.

I can’t quite imagine those words coming out of Steven Joyce or Gerry Brownlee’s mouth.

Another example is the Victorian State Government elections of 2010, where the centre-right Coalition was generally found to have better transport policies than the incumbent Labor government – which (apparently) played a significant role in their victory. Here’s what the politically independent Public Transport Users Association said about the respective policies heading into the election:

With public transport the big issue for many voters, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has given its verdict on the transport policies of the parties going into the State Election, with the Greens coming out on top, followed by the Coalition.

PTUA President Daniel Bowen said that packed trains, slow trams, and infrequent buses had voters looking to all political parties for a solution to Melbourne and Victoria’s transport woes.

And he said the Green and Coalition promises for reform through an independent public transport authority were crucial in their party policies receiving the best marks.

“The Greens scored an A, and have an aggressive agenda to upgrade public transport, with a Public Transport Authority being central to better managing and planning the network. The vision of frequent public transport across Melbourne is welcome, and would provide more residents with a genuine alternative to car travel.”

Of the two major parties, Mr Bowen said the Coalition had come out with a stronger set of policies than Labor, and scored a B.

“The Coalition has a number of positive policies, underpinned by a pledge to buy 40 additional trains, and introduce a Public Transport Development Authority to provide central management and planning.

“While we have concerns over the Coalition’s push for the east-west cross-city road tunnel, the pledge of feasibility studies for rail to Doncaster, the Airport and Rowville, as well as level crossing eliminations are very welcome.”

Mr Bowen said that Labor were promising some worthwhile upgrades, ultimately they fell short of what is needed, scoring a C. “Labor seems to have no overall vision for a fast, frequent, connected network across Melbourne and Victoria, and have ignored community calls for a shakeup of the management of public transport, which has scores of organisations involved but nobody taking responsibility for such essentials as making sure buses meet trains.”

Mr Bowen said that despite Labor deservedly trumpeting Smartbus as a success story, it was disappointing that they had not pledging any new Smartbus routes. Labor also lost points for continuing to push the destructive North-East freeway link.

I am rather struggling to understand why New Zealand has to be so different from what is happening elsewhere in the world – where we see centre-right governments that really value public transport and genuinely want to see it improved (rather than having to be dragged kicking and screaming into any steps in the right direction). There doesn’t seem to be any particularly logical reason why the Conservative Party in the UK would value public transport investment so much, while our National Party seems instinctively suspicious that the whole thing is a communist plot.

But perhaps more important than speculating on why this is such a problem in New Zealand, we should start looking for ways in which we can change this. How can we sell the benefits of a smarter and more balanced transport policy to the political right? How can we reassure them that spending on public transport isn’t flushing money down the toilet? How can we enlighten them to understand the benefits of a well functioning rail network, so they’re actually pushing for improvements – rather than always being the skeptical ones sitting on the hand-brake? I know that readers and commenters on this blog come from right across the political spectrum, and I know many people with right-leaning tendencies who agree with the general thrust of posts on this blog – but something’s missing here. Some connection isn’t being made and I really feel that, as a country, we will probably only really start to make long-term structural changes to the nature of our transport system – so it’s more balanced, sustainable and sensible – when we can shift the debate away from being so partisan.

But how do we do that?

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  1. I think you might be overlooking the historic Rural / Urban mindsets of our major political parties.

    National for example historically had it’s main stronghold in the farming community. Rural people will likely get no benefit from urban rail for example, where they are much more likely to appreciate the RONS for the times they visit the “big smoke”.

    I think the RONS are cleverly designed to appeal to both rural and city voters.

    1. I do think that’s true to an extent Scott – particularly with some senior members of the current cabinet who don’t seem to “get” Auckland at all. But enough of the National Party comes from Auckland (including the powerbase of Joyce and Key) for them to get around that if they really wanted to.

      1. Then you’re neglecting the ideology of “old Auckland” (i.e. the pre-1989 ruling class who monopolised power in the old petty boroughs) – the John Roughan ideology, the idea that sprawl along the coastline is a good thing and the last thing they actually want is an international-style city in NZ. Why should they? They can afford to go to Oz or Europe any time they want.

        In contrast, the new “up-and-coming” generation, even those of conservative persuasion, would quite like Auckland to be a “real” international city. The difference in Australia is that the rural politicians have been in a different party from the urban conservatives for 70-odd years.

      2. Doloras, I see your point – but do you really think that we’re that different to Australia and the UK on that note? I mean in the UK it’s much easier to head to the continent for your “city fix” than it is to go anywhere from NZ.

        Genuinely curious to understand why NZ is different in this respect. I am generally at a loss.

        1. Lots of truth in the above. FWIW, I there’s so much about history that influences us:

          1. We live in a young city. We have very limited urban armature from which people understand how good city elements can built.
          2. The founding vision of modern NZ was to be a rural-based antithesis to what Europe was becoming, and migration into this country tends to still reflect this vision. There’s little recognition of the symbiosis between town and country, and the debate is highly polemic. I sense that it is different in Aus, where cities were established, crucially, slightly earlier and have a stronger identity and focus, despite the strong economic base in the hinterlands.
          3. Allied to the escapist vision, we have a highly individualistic streak of wanting to keep what we have obtained to ourselves, and at the very least screwing over the new migrants who do arrive (at least when it comes to property sales).
          4. There is a political divide between Auckland and the rest of the country (including uber-urban Wellington) which was established very early in the country’s history. Auckland is kept on a leash, the Supercity restructure was just another in a long line of measures put in place to ensure this.

          6. All the above are contributory factors in a lack of urban consensus. Simply, we are not good at discussing urban issues and together developing systems (political and otherwise), which is a key ingredient in establishing strong cities. Everyone talks over each other, putting forward visions in a polemic or personality-based way, rather than exchanging ideas and brokering ways forward together. Views from the (political) extremes are often loudest, but achieve least in an urban context.

          I don’t think there are any shortcuts around these issues. What I do value about this blog is the way in which very real, relevant urban/transport possibilities are explored and then discussed, rather than polemic standpoints expounded. Long may the discussion continue.

          Well done on the new job Josh!

  2. Sadly one area we never hear either side of the debate comment on is the efficiency aspects of PT and it is that side of PT that you would think would probably appeal more to right wing politicians. By efficiency I mean the ability to move a large number of people in a small area like a bus or a train. If you think about businesses there are two key ways you can make more money, sell more product or reduce your costs. Reducing costs is ultimately about getting the same output for less effort or getting more output for the same effort and to me this is where PT sits.

    A classic example is the CRL with which we should have the capacity to get over 20,000 people per direction per hour into or through the CBD. To get that number of people through by roads it would require the equivalent of about 10 dedicated traffic lanes in each direction (even more are needed when you take into account intersections) along with all of the land required for parking etc. yet the rail lines are all in the space of 2-3 of those lanes. Even though subsides may be required it to run the system it is still likely to be far cheaper, even over a long term, than building and maintaining that level of road capacity. That is just one example but it is that kind of efficiency that the right wing politicians here never even seem to think about instead focusing on social impacts.

    The other odd thing is that many PT systems around the world were initially set up by private businesses and ran healthy profits because they could move a lot of people around relatively cheaply.

  3. Perhaps it is because public transport projects are expensive, and there there are some people involved in planning decisions who would prefer to spend the money on building roads rather than rail. Perhaps it is easier at the moment to just keep building roads – because so much of Auckland was built without regard for rail, it is possibly more difficult to put rail in than it would be if the city had been designed around rail. And perhaps many New Zealanders just don’t want to commute by trains (hopefully out of ignorance), and their elected politicians reflect this.

  4. Nup. all about power. rightists prefer entrenched power in the hands of an elite and are comfortable th inherent unfairness of an entrenched, even heriditary elite. in europe and asia such elites will ride the train, hence more spending on trains. Here in oz, nz they fly and drive.The left may be prepared to ride the trains but generally for losers. qlso left link trains and welfare which perpetuates this problem. They have no probs with first class on planes but do on trains. Bad reaction when qr brought out the business class on the rockhampton tilt train.

    1. As a member of the ACT party, we don’t like concentrated power in anyone, including concentrating power in the ‘elite’ few. Railways are natural monopolies and require subsidization, which right wingers do not like.

      Remember that John Banks invested more in PT than any other mayor in Auckland’s history. We’d like to see a city’s transport issues stay mostly an issue for local government rather than central government, with people in Palmerston North and Southland not having to subsidize a railway in Auckland. Things also need to be costed properly with a more user-pays approach, which also means removing the subsidies to roads, so that people can decide for themselves what transport system is best. The market system is a more democratic and economically sustainable way of deciding transport growth. Plus right wingers like private involvement, if we open the door to more PPPs and private investment, we can get the resources and capital for projects faster.

      1. Standard idiocy from the ACT party. Rail is not a monopoly, only funding roading in fact creates a single mode monopoly for movement of both people and goods. Roading and parking are both highly subsidised by both local and national taxation. All transport is funded collectively none is more ideologically pure (even if this really is the only lens to view the world). The RoNS programme is a vast multi billion dollar subsidy for big trucking, rail freight offers competition and urban PT offers choice away from the hegemony of the private car.

        Yes let’s leave all transport decisions at the local level, along of course with all taxation. No one in the provinces funds Ak’s PT. Quite the reverse. City petrol taxes fund rural roads. The silly oversimplification of the neoliberal nonsense from ACT is so unsophisticated and absurdly distant from the real world. You may think your policies lower cost or support choice but in fact the reverse is true, they reinforce monopolies and comitt us to the most expense and inefficient system of city movement.

        1. I like the fact we obviously agree that roaring shouldn’t be subsidized so heavily, that local governments should look after local transport, and transport choices should be encouraged.

          If only you didn’t need to have a stab because you saw the word ‘ACT’ and needed to rant about the nasty ‘neoliberals.’ Funny how it’s only a bad idea if it comes from the ACT party…

        2. No Cameron, it’s the other way around, the ACT Party view is of low value because of its crappy policies. I have never been a member of any party and will criticise all of them when they deserve it, but I have to say the ACT party is home to the highest collection of claptrap of any in NZ and that is quite an achievement. Particularly nonsensical is its dimwitted transport policies which don’t even match its ideology; at least National is the party of corporate monopoly, so while their policies are a disaster for the country they are consistent with delivering for their corporate members.

          That National [unlike ACT I’m sure you’re aware] have been able to persuade a lot of the electorate that these policies are also their interests is no proof of their efficacy.

      2. I think you fall into exactly the trap that this post and my comment talks about, you see that rail is subsidized and think it is a bad thing but fail to look at why that has happened and fail to see the big picture. This comes from only looking very shallowly at the issues.

        On the history aspect you haven’t looked at the fact that the reason rail needs to be subsidised is that roads have been subsidised by an even larger amount and still are through the probably billions each year that local authorities pay to build and maintain roads that are funded by rates. Even now in Auckland the amount of money AT is spending on roads is far more than what is being spent on PT.

        The failure to look at the big picture comes from looking at each aspect of the transport system individually and focusing on it as an independent thing rather than looking at the best overall way to do things. A classic example is a congested road, the answer has been to just widen the road rather than look at why the road is congested and work out if there was a better way to use the resource more efficiently.

        You ask why should people in other places in the country subsidise rail in Auckland but the answer is actually quite simple, by doing so allows more people to get around and be more productive which benefits the whole country by way in increased income/company tax etc. Auckland is around 33% of the countries population and generates slighty more than 1/3 of all of tax the government receives yet only 32% of all government spending (including education, health, welfare etc.) goes to the Auckland region so who is subsidising who?

        I do agree that transport should sit with local authorities but that would also mean that each region should get to set their own road user charges and collect all of the tax that results from that.

        Lastly you say that we should remove all of the subsidies including roads and let the market decide. It is a very ideological position but funnily the only way to correctly do it conflicts another ideological position of ACT and that is that the government should be less involved in peoples lives. The reason it hasn’t been done in the past is that there are so many variables that it makes it almost impossible to do.

        Yes technology is able to do things like monitor the distance traveled and the time of the day that it happens etc. but that requires the government to track where go each day and when you do it. Even then how do you account for all of the other external impacts of the transport system, things like emissions and noise. Those types of things can vary greatly even from two cars of the same make and model based on how they are serviced and driven etc. As such completely removing subsidies from the roading network is almost impossible and therefore why should PT have to have them removed.

      3. Cameron, the only reason that our agricultural products can get to market is because the roads are paid for by everyone. If transport were left to local authorities, Auckland would be fine but the rest of the country (except Wellington, and to an extent Canterbury) would be thoroughly screwed. Come that unhappy day the agriculturalists would rapidly find themselves on the wrong end of rutted goat tracks, courtesy of the milk tankers and logging trucks, and then what?

        Auckland could pay for the City Rail Link tomorrow if we were allowed to keep and spend at our discretion all of the road-related excise generated within the city. Act might find that their desire for regional autonomy would bite them in the arse, though, as Auckland evolved away from a roads-centric transport model while the roads in the rest of the country gradually degraded into potholed messes due to a lack of available funds. Swiftly followed by a national economic crisis.

        So, short of Act’s wet dream of full regional autonomy, and in recognition that the only reason the farmers who bleat about spending money on Auckland can sell anything is because the entire country funds their roads, how about we give a fair shake of the collective stick at allowing Auckland’s contribution to the nation – tertiary services – to be delivered in the most cost-effective means possible? Coz sure as hell it’s not cost-effective to sprawl the city from Whangarei to Hamilton and leave ratepayers and taxpayers to keep on picking up the tab for the supporting infrastructure.

  5. The misunderstanding here is that government only reflects the public demand. In the overseas places you mention, people choose PT more than New Zealanders do, and so their politicians rate it more highly. New Zealanders like to drive, because it’s just so easy in our land, and it’s also enjoyable as our land is so scenic and we like to get out in it. Hearding ourselves into buses and trains and letting go of our ability to go where we want, how we want – well it’s just not for most of us. New Zealand really can’t be compared to those other places. Completely different lifestyle, and cars are just the best suited mode of travel to that lifestyle.

      1. Yes, the above comment is so totally disassociated from the actual reality of urban commuting in Auckland or Wellington as to be obviously a troll.

        1. ” and letting go of our ability to go where we want, how we want ”

          How many times a day do you hear someone in Auckland say “I can’t go there, there’s never any parking”, or “I’d better wait a couple of hours for the traffic to die down first”.

          So much for going where you want when you want!

    1. “New Zealanders like to drive, because it’s just so easy in our land, and it’s also enjoyable as our land is so scenic and we like to get out in it.”

      This is plain wrong. New Zealanders, like any other individual in the modern world respond to costs. Driving is just cheaper to the individual (but not to society). Public demand has changed quite dramatically recently due to oil prices with large PT ridership increases. Plus, Len Brown just one an election promising more PT. However driving is still the cheapest mode of transport for the large part of Auckland. The next step for New Zealand is completely repealing the land use policy which goes a long way to subsidising/forcing sprawl and inducing automobile demand through MPRs, height restrictions, maximum floor space ratios etc. Only then will we see Kiwi’s trading up the true value of transport.

  6. What about Boris Johnson? His main transport policies have been all about encouraging cycling schemes. He’s also sunk a lot of money into redesigning buses for London. How many mega rich people want to cycle around London and catch the bus?

    1. A lot of rich people in London ride bikes. I worked in the West End on a film production, and it was common to see people in eveningwear on their way to the theatre. Coming in to the city at rush hour, it was not uncommon to be in a bunch of 15-20 cyclists in the box at a traffic light, many dressed in business attire, but with a few City workers on eye wateringly expensive racing bikes.

      Brompton bikes in particular work well for those living in large houses in the country around London, as they get you from the train station to your place of work a lot quicker than the tube. Brompton have recently gone to market with a UKP400 leather briefcase that attaches to the front of their bicycles. Hardly the accessory of the working class cyclist.

  7. As said by Riccardo before, in Europe the elite moves by high speed rail. The power and speed of trains have always fascinated right wing thinkers, politicians and artists. Even more the fascists. Just need to mention futurist arists like Marinetti and others, with strong ideological ties with the Fascism. Nowadays the next probable right wing italian prime minister (Montezemolo, a count…) owns an high speed rail company.
    In the other end, if they could they would burn all commuter trains, with the commuters inside.

  8. I think that you are also forgetting the RTF effect where the RTF has always managed to dictate transport policy to the National Party in return for reasonable donations.

    Don’t forget also that National has a lot of friends with big money. Those friends own/manage trucking companies and they also own good high value vehicles for which they like National to build them roads.

      1. Cheap, eh? Yet the gov’s policy since taking office has basically been written to the RTF’s demands… so I think it is more that there is a meeting of minds on this issue: Like with Sky TV and Sky City, it seems that whatever is good for big trucking is seen as being good for the NatPat. This is a government that is very happy with monopolies, so long as they are not state owned, even when the benefits of that ownership flow offshore.

  9. ‘Doloras, I see your point – but do you really think that we’re that different to Australia and the UK on that note? I mean in the UK it’s much easier to head to the continent for your “city fix” than it is to go anywhere from NZ” – yes very different. That difference being that some of the “elite” in NZ(as seems to be the term being used here) see living in an urban environment as something undesirable and to be avoided at all costs. To them the mere mention of higher density living and PT conjures up images of some dystopian communist hellhole where everyone is forced to live in tiny one bedroom apartments and people are herded onto trains by guys with furry hats and AK47s. I dont think this simplistic, suburban mentality exists to the same extent in the UK/Europe.

  10. Funny thing is, that model of Birkenhead looks more like Mosman in Sydney than postwar Dresden. And what’s not to like about that? Quax and the rest of the sprawlers really do (should?) know that it is less an issue of density than the quality of the developments; both in individual buildings and overall urban design. Want a great harbour ferry service?; lift the density of places like Birkenhead. Want more housing affordability?; allow for multiunit land use.

    Also the ‘elite’ issue is more nuanced than you’d think. The most enthusiastic apartment dwellers in Ak are at the top end, I’m constantly shooting their city pads.

    The objection really comes from vested interests in the totally unsustainable sprawl business and the ‘stuck’ suburbanites and provincialists…. As represented, quite consciously, by the current government. The status quo is sold to them as their identity and their fear of change is actively exploited. Things can change though.

    1. Hi Patrick – well spotted. I don’t think everything in our dear country should aspire to Aussie models, but the attractions of Sydney harbour as a parallel for the Waitemata were intentionally referenced in the urban design directions incorporated in the model.

  11. I think this is an interesting question. It’s obviously not a rational economic decision for the right to be so opposed to public transport because there are a lot of strong economic arguments for better PT or, at least, a more balanced approach to transport investment. I think it is more to do with the cultural values of very wealthy right wing people (particularly business owners) in NZ. I once read an analysis of NZ from the perspective of some environmental psychologists who were comparing a lot of countries around the Asia-Pacific rim. They said NZ is an interesting country because the overall population has quite high levels of environmental concern (we score high in surveys of this type of thing) but we actually have relatively low levels of many environmentally friendly behaviours and/or quite weak environmental law.

    They observed that our business community tends to be very conservative in it’s political views and is often quite anti-environment (that may have changed a bit in the last few years with groups like Pure Advantage but I think they are still very much a minority in the NZ business sector). The academics saw the opposition of this group to pro-environment policies as being at the root of a lot of NZ’s environmetnal problems.

    I wonder if this is partly a result of just being quite a small country? Very wealthy business owners in NZ really have a pretty limited social circle and so maybe their views are more internally consistent because of that. In bigger countries (like the USA and EU) where you have a much higher population of very wealthy people possibly you get a wider range of opinions/cultural values within that circle.

    1. You might as well just say rich people are evil and business is bad, much more straight up.

      What does the social lives of business people have to do with anything? 48% of New Zealanders voted for a National government, not just the minority of business owners. Our environmental protection laws are weak because they are vague and badly planned. Business is only opposed to environmental protection and PT projects in practice, but not inherently. Poor economic costing and heavy regulation hurts business and people. The trick is costing things properly and not bogging people down with pointless regulation.

      I study urban planning and am a member of the ACT party. The RMA 1991 only tells people how many cars should fit on their driveway, nothing about sustainable development. All this does is burden our construction sector and drain money in compliance costs. These are the things to start with.

      1. I agree that there are many poor regulations, for example required parking minimums, that both add unnecessary cost to new building and contribute to a crappier city, though that doesn’t mean that I agree with the childish ACT [and Tea] Party conclusion that all regulation is bad. And it is absurd to say that to be pro PT is to be anti-wealth or anti-business. I want Auckland to improve its transit balance in order to be more economically viable, successful and wealthier. There is nothing enriching about low density sprawl and auto-dependency. Greener is also richer in every sense, Auckland needs to change and much of that change will come from the private sector, and can do so better and quicker if we improve the policy settings. The RMA is not in itself bad, it’s implementation has often been poor, and could do with updating. But good regulation is vital for better outcomes for all. Self-interest alone is no basis on which to run society. If you really believe that no government is best, try living in Somalia.

        Oh and I am a business owner.

  12. I’m not saying that at all! I fully accept that, for example, you can be a really good moral person who lives a highly altruistic life and not give a stuff about protecting the natural environment or improving public transport.

    The society people grow up in and the people they see regularly influence their values. For example, my friend at high school who grew up with a very conservative, Christian, highly affluent family in Remuera, went to Kings from the day he started primary school, and inherited his father’s business, had very different cultural values from me. That didn’t make him an evil person, it just made his values different to mine. For example, he placed a much higher value on accuring wealth than me, I placed a higher value on preserving natural biodiversity.

    Just because 48% of NZers voted for National doesn’t mean they like their policies on public transport. There were a lot of surveys before the election that suggested most NZers would like to see more investment into PT (rather than motorways). People voted for National in spite of their transport policies, not because of them. I also agree that almost all business owners probably voted National – that is my point. Did you see that survey of CEOs in the Herald before the election? 98% of them were planning to vote National. That says to me this is a sector of society with very similar values and beliefs around what they want form a political party.

  13. “Funny how it’s only a bad idea if it comes from the ACT party” Well no a bad idea is a bad idea. It just so happens the ACT party has more than it’s fair share (it’s fair share being less than 3% if i remember correctly)

  14. @bbc, Doloras, Nick R and Phil – why are you harping on about urban transport when clearly I was talking about travelling around the country – which is the relevant comparison with the types of projects mentioned, like HS2.

    You don’t see New Zealanders demanding long distance rail, because most are happy to drive, so the government has no demand to cater for. It’s as simple as that. Driving is so cheap and easy in NZ, and you can’t compare it to driving in most other developed nations.

    Doloras, we all know you’re the troll here. You only type anything when you want to moan or criticize, and you rarely add anything constructive.

    1. A little less hostility would be good Geoff. And this is the ‘Auckland Transport Blog’ so it is reasonable for commenters to generally focus on the Auckland urban transit situation.

      Also just because people do drive it does not follow that we are all happy to do so, it may simply reflect a lack of other viable options. The demand argument is clearly circular; it is difficult to choose a service that is poor or non-existant. What is clear is that we all tend to use the mode that is the most complete and supported, which in most cases in this country means driving or flying. And the ongoing rise in rail use in urban Auckland that has accompanied investment in that system proves that all demand situations are subject to change.

      So the real situation is that demand is the product of policy not the other way around. What you feed grows.

      1. “Also just because people do drive it does not follow that we are all happy to do so, it may simply reflect a lack of other viable options.”

        That’s exactly it.

        I haven’t seen my parents up here in Auckland for about 7 years even though they only live in Hamilton, simply because they refuse to deal with the traffic between there and here. Whereas they’ve themselves stated that if the Hamilton – Auckland service (one which can get them up and back for a few hours or the day unlike the Overlander) that they would use it.

    2. Half the article was to do with transport solution in Melbourne, also admin’s focus has always been on Auckland not inter-city rail aside fom perhaps connections to Hamilton.

  15. I disagree, overseas they have established networks and users, and as a result the governments reflect that status.

    In New Zealand we have neither the established networks, nor the users, and so there’s nothing there for the government to back.

    So to answer the main question posed by this blog entry: Government disinterest in long distance rail here is a reflection of the public’s view.

    Now getting the government to start a new network is a completely different matter, and as I wrote earlier, would not be comparable to what is happening overseas. We just can’t be compared to those other countries, as none of those countries went down the road that we did, of moving almost entirely to a car based culture.

  16. I cant imagine anything coming out of Nationals mouth that would result in lowering NZs carbon output.
    The proposed lignite mine in Southland alone is single handedly going to raise NZs carbon emissions by 20%!!!

  17. My first suggestions is tone down this our truth and nothing but it. that attitude is sectlike and dont open up to debates. I dont support ACT never has never will be our member writes in earnest and gets told all his views are wroing and that he should shut up stop being a neolibveral and fall in line with the all encompassing truth that other members state. Thats the wrong attitude thats what polarises.

    Second realise that infrastructure hasnt been upgraded for 50 years in this country and we need a spread.

    Third we are investing in PT, more than what we ever had. Joyce might not have been a Auckland centric man but he sure got us electric trains. that was a very good decision.

    Fourth in these European countries business, regional politicians TOGETHER asks for public projects. get the husiness onboard. cant say any Auckland council have been interested in my comapnies views on transport thats for sure… Its quite sad to see that when the threadstarter asks what the right leaning people here thinks, the ones that speak out gets attacked and told they are wrong.

    Those of us fortunate enough to have lived in Europe or Asia sees what public transport does. We tend to be supportive of it no matter if we are right, left or centre. Its about providing value and incentives.

    Problem is, I dont like the public transport in NZ.
    I used it everyday abroad. Loved it. In NZ not so. Its complicated, archaic and run by a bunch of people that really dont know what they are doing. Auckland transport makes decisions that are headscartching on a daily basis. 7 dollars or what it costs for a HOP card is so stupid it hurts. A shit system from a croney that never ever should have been implemented in the first place. Allow a private company to handle the system, run it, using their own staff.

    My first suggestion when it comes to support is to allow outside companies to take over the rails in Auckland. HongKongMetro is one player that seems to be good at this and usually bids on other cities systems. They achieved a 3 second average delay the other year.
    Mys econd suggestion is to realise that we need to build roads to. Heaps of them. Can i remind the people here that we dont have a motorway between Auckland and Wellington, in fact we dont even have it between Auckland and Hamilton…
    Our roading standard is from the 1950ies.
    We like to give example for how good the PT is in Europe. have a look at the roads, they are equally good and motorways are built and used by people. We need more of those in NZ. Geoff thinks the roads in NZ are scenic, thats one of thes emyths like the one that kiwis are big travellers (they arent). NZ roads suck.
    if scenic means curves everywhere and a design from the 30ies sure but thats not what infrastructure is about. We have a huge need to get the economy going, we are an agrarian based economy and without the agrarian products NZ will stop.
    NZ is only competitive on agrarian products on a world scene. No other business sees a competitive advantage. Our IT infrastructure is 10 years behind most of Europe (minus also lagging Britain) for example.

  18. Good points in part Sean. If all you lefties really want to know how to get right-wingers to support public transport it may pay to listen to what is being said. Not get all confrontational.

    Don’t agree with the need for motorways from Auckland to Wellington though. Can you imagine the cost of that?

  19. I do try to answer with facts and reason but I do know that not everyone does and how they respond is up to them (btw I actually lean to the right).

    As for some of the points in your post. I don’t think anyone who visits here doesn’t doubt that there needs to be a mix of projects, its the balance of that mix that needs to be adjusted. We often hear the excuse that we need more roads because that’s what most people use which ignores the fact that usage is a consequence of the level of investment that roads have received compared to other options. Even in the last 10 years where PT funding has finally been increased it is nothing compared to the amount spent on roads, have a look at this graph of government spending between 2000 and 2010

    You suggest reaching out to business however the experiences in NZ haven’t been great which is part of the reason we are in the mess we are in, as an example many of the bus routes we have aren’t useful but the bus companies fight any changes to them tooth and nail which in some cases is to keep a competitor out of an area but often it was for other reasons. The system we had allowed companies to milk subsidies with mostly no oversight and they have vigorously fought any changes to that model. There have now been decisions on a way forward which included the government but we are yet to AT implement it as it will require a lot of work from them. Overall there seems to too much patch protecting and short term thinking that goes on without looking at the big picture e.g. your share of revenue might drop but that would be more than made up for by it being part of a much larger pie.

    I also think that we all agree that PT could be much better in the city and there are some good ideas out there. I think it is a case of AT needing to be quite forceful and sure of themselves to get what they know is right done as they seem to have the right plans but not the right implementation.

    We do have an outside company running the rails in Auckland, they are called Veolia and they run systems all around the world yet we still have these problems. They often seem to make things worse by doing things like running non stop empty trains around so they can claim to meet their targets while passengers are left on the platform. As for a motorway between Auckland and Wellington, it simply isn’t needed at this time, many sections through the middle of the country carry only about 4000 vehicles per day and volumes aren’t increasing.

    1. I’ll just add that “HongKongMetro” do run the Melbourne rail network and their performance there is just as abysmal as the previous private operator, who were themselves just as poor as when the state government ran the system. Like Auckland, a lot of Melbourne’s rail issues are due to infrastructure and rolling stock problems, problems that are not easily overcome by a private operator seeking short term shareholder returmn. With their state government effectively washing their hands of the system once it was handed over to the private operator there has been huge inertia to overcome with infrastructural improvements.

      There are two main reasons they are so successful in Hong Kong. For a start they have only one line on their system that is not a modern purpose built underground passenger metro, and even the one ‘suburban’ line (the East Rail Line) is totally grade separated and upgraded to a near metro standard. They have near perfect infrastructure, so it’s not surprising they can achieve near perfect operations. Secondly the Hong Kong metro system is intertwined with property development and leasing, the rail company owns most of the land above and around their stations and uses the system to feed people into their malls and offices. Effectively the transport system is a loss leader that makes their property arm very profitable. They use the funds from property leases to maintain the network, and it is in their interest to maintain the network to a very high standard to ensure excellent access to their properties to maintain high rents.

      In my opinion Auckland is lucky to have the government/council/ontrack taking a lead role in fixing up and extending the rail network, renovating and building new stations etc. If they had simply handed the whole network over to a private company we wouldn’t see any improvements. It’s just not in the interests of a private company to sink large amounts of capital funds into infrastructure that pays out returns over many decades, when their contract only last a few years.

      1. Dead right Nick. Transport investment drives land use and an important part of the thinking behind the City Rail Link is to stimulate more effective use of undervalued parts of the inner city, especially Krd and Newton. Really it is only the council that is in any position to do this, or at least the council in partnership with a private developer. This is what was done at Britomart with Cooper Co. For as Nick says no private operator can make these sorts of long term investments and necessary infrastructure spends that make them possible. And as is the case with motorways because the taxation to seed these changes is collected centrally, not at council level the government must be involved too (both Australia and the US use State funds for this sort of thing too).

        It isn’t a question of having some sort of political position but rather having to deal again and again with those who hold that roads are somehow the result of private sector decisions, which has never been true. They are the result of collective local and national government taxation and this is true of wherever you look at the transport sector. The private bus companies live on public subsidies. It isnt a question of finding the most ideologically pure model but rather juggling the best from each sector to get the best outcomes for our money.

  20. Matt, The 1990s road pricing study produced a lot valuable detail about regional roading costs which was ignored by the NACT dominated Roading Advisory Group, especially in their suggestion that country be divided into 6 self-funding roading regions. The fact is, of the 14 highway regions six lost more than 10% of their contributions to the transport fund, five paid their way and three (Northland, East Cape/Gisborne, West Coast)received massive subsidies. Thus it wouldn’t kill farming to have regional road funds but it would kill tourism and that would hurt Auckland and Christchurch very badly as they are the tourism gateways to NZ. That conclusion assumed RUCs and petrol tax would still be the same for all regions if we had regional road funds, which wasn’t what RAG eventually recommended. If the three main centres were suddenly able to keep all their contributions to the fund Christchurch would benefit most, Wellington least – in fact kiss goodbye to Transmission Gully and the Basin flyover, they wont happen this century if Wellington region has to pay for it’s own commuter rail and roading costs. Auckland would just have to cancel the holiday highway, but josh has already explained how to do that without losing any actual benefit.

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