In an interesting move the auditor general specifically mentioned the City Rail Link in comments on the Auckland Council Long Term Plan, the NZ Herald reports:

 The Auditor-General is cautioning Aucklanders about the $2.86 billion inner-city rail loop, saying it will need to be reviewed if the Government does not support it.

In a rare move, the Auditor-General has included a statement in Mayor Len Brown’s first 10-year budget about the risk associated with the rail project.

“The main risks to the city rail loop project are that central Government will not agree to provide direct funding to enable the council to access alternative funding sources,” the statement says.

Speaking on behalf of Auditor-General Lyn Provost, audit director Francis Caetano told the council that if the council could not get Government support it would have to review the project as part of the next long-term budget in 2015.

Mr Brown has assumed the Government will fund half the $2.86 billion project in the 10-year budget, which yesterday received a “fit for purpose” tick by the Auditor-General and final sign-off by the council.

Personally I’m not too concerned about this as I do think the government will come on board, either as a result of a change in government or that the current crowd will support it to help gain votes to win an election. The auditor general’s comments just highlight that it’s unrealistic to expect the project’s construction to proceed without government support – once again something that we knew already. What’s more the project will probably end up being the most thoroughly researched transport project in NZ. This is because of the current opposition to it from central government, Auckland Transport is having to go back and make sure that it’s arguments are rock solid.

When the government rejected the original business case, they had a list of specific questions that the council/AT needed to address. These are currently being answered and I suspect that a will see the answers come out as part of the designation process.

So overall I’m not worried about this and perhaps the auditor general could also take a look at some of the claims about the RoNS projects.

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  1. $2.86 billion again. That high figure seems to be becoming a default. Hopefully we can get some robust figures, because other estimates range between $1.5 billion and $3 billion. This is definitely at the high end.

  2. It also shows how ridiculously centralised transport funding (and others) in NZ is.

    This is a local government issue (albeit having national benefits). If central government doesn’t want to fund it – that’s their decision. But to then do everything possible to try and sink it – mainly by restricting alternative funding sources (e.g. regional fuel taxes) is really getting a little scary. They gave Auckland a voice and a chance to ork as one – let them do it.

    It does also, again, show just how strongly, almost militant, this government is against the project. Its difficult to think of a local government project in recent times generating so much opposition from a sitting government.

    1. It does also, again, show just how strongly, almost militant, this government is against the project. Its difficult to think of a local government project in recent times generating so much opposition from a sitting government.

      Which plays well with most of their not-in-Auckland voters, of course, and with some of the resident voters as well. Bashing on Auckland for having grandiose plans goes over a treat with the Auckland-haters outside the city, and given that the vast majority of the electorates are blue it’s a good way to get seats in Parliament.

  3. Of course the government won’t support it, they’re wasting $1 billion on the Transmission Gully motorway in Wellington all to save 10 minutes, then another $880 million on the Kapiti Coast expressway, a total of $1.9 billion just so Kapiti coasters do not see a traffic jam to and from their retirement village. Auckland’s population is 30 times the size of the Kapiti Coast’s! Yet they can’t justify a little more spending to revolutionise not just Auckland public transport but reduced congestion for so many more people..

    1. Also, Transmission gully will do absolutely nothing to reduce congestion in Wellington. So commuters may save ten minutes on the drive between Kapiti and Wellington, but congestion in Wellington will be worse due to increased traffic from the Gully project! So they may well lose ten minutes at the other end anyway. Madness!

  4. I’m surprised nobody noticed the AG quote didn’t make sense. The Herald misquoted the Auditor-General report.

    The correct quote is (corrections in bold):

    “The main risks to the city rail loop project are that central Government will not agree to provide direct funding nor to enable the council to access alternative funding sources.”

    Source: Draft long term 2012-2022, Volume three: Financial information, policies and fees, page 273.

    Of course, if the Government funded it, then the Council would not need to seek alternative funding sources in the first place. That the government may not fund it NOR allow AC to find other ways to fund it, as the Auditor-General implies could happen, would be just spiteful of them (the Government, not the AG).

    Also, that opinion was expressed way back in February – see page 274.

    1. And back in February, when Joyce was still Minister, it was looking particularly likely that or would be the appropriate word. He was giving every indication of refusing to allow the Council any of the necessary powers to raise funding by alternative means. Brownlee has so far, at least to the best of my knowledge, not had to make his position public. However, given that he doesn’t seem to be of a particularly different mould to Joyce I’m far from convinced that he’ll be supportive.

      The best chance is a change of government, which is looking increasingly likely to eventuate in 2014.

  5. With Auckland’s luck, when the anti-national vote puts Labour back in 2014, C&R led by Mayor Brewer will take Auckland.

    1. Central Government can always compel a council to act, and since KR will own the tunnel there’s nothing to stop an incoming government from just making it happen. After all, the current council are getting designations underway.

      1. Matt as AT or AC are lodging the designation for the CRL and only their trains will use it I don’t think KR are involved at all with it. Also the gov’s vision for KR is clearly that it is simply a logistics company and both main rail metro centres own and run their own systems, albeit on shared track and ROWs, at least for now.

        But, of course, your main point that the gov can compel the council remains true, and this gov in particular looks like it is very interested in exercising that power. Principally to stop councils doing things it doesn’t like.

        1. The CRL will be connected to KR’s railway network. It would be a total nonsense if the CRL were owned by AT but useful only by way of KR’s infrastructure. Of course the CRL will be owned by KR, in the say way that KR (or NZRC, or whatever it’s being called) owns the rest of the rail network. I’ve also seen mention, in this forum, of KR being the body that will have to lodge the notices for designation since it’s the body that will be the operator.

          The exact process by which the CRL becomes owned by KR will be the subject of much future debate, I’m sure, but I see no practical way for the CRL to remain owned by AT once it’s completed.

        2. Well KR don’t want it, they’ll never run a train through it, although they may maintain it but only as a paid contractor to AT. If somebody knows otherwise I’m happy to be corrected but It’s AC/AT doing the designation. As we will see tomorrow at the announcement.

        3. AT will be designating the CRL as they have had legal advice that they can do so which means they don’t need Kiwirail for this part but obviously they do work together. AT owning the tunnel wouldn’t be unusual as I believe they own the Britomart tunnel.

          AT taking over the designation actually started happening before the government released their review last of the business case last year. It was done in case the government tried to prevent Kiwirail from working on it so that the project could continue.

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