*An old post for a little holiday reading, especially as Steven Joyce is on Twitter repeating that tendencious line about the $1billion dollar duplicate Holiday Highway being all about making the Northland economy go wild. Enjoy.*

It is interesting that Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee invoked the Auckland Harbour Bridge in a recent interview about the Roads of National Significance. This is the first time that I have seen any real example to back up the vast claims the government and the NZTA routinely make about this programme.

Breakthrough transport infrastructure projects can produce extraordinary benefits to an economy and society and the AHB is a good example of such a project. The way that this kind of investment works is by making a radical change to a place; a transformation. Unlocking access to a resource or amenity hitherto unavailable and for which there is pent up demand. We can see exactly how transformational the old Coathanger was because its success even surprised the authorities who oversaw its conception. From Wikipedia:

The bridge was originally built with four lanes for traffic. Owing to the rapid expansion of suburbs on the North Shore and increasing traffic levels it was soon necessary to increase the capacity of the bridge – by 1965, the annual use was about 10 million vehicles, three times the original forecast.[14]  

This is a common characteristic of truly breakthrough projects. They are hard to sell because of the scale of change they will affect, they are almost unimaginable until completed. The difficulty for many, especially those responsible for running things as they are, is to imagine how much things could really be that different. Status Quo bias. The second characteristic is that the wrong lessons are often taken from such experiences, but we’ll come to that later.

Patrick Reynolds Against The Day_12 2009

More on the bridge from Wiki-

In the 1950s, when the bridge was built, North Shore was still a very rural area of barely 50,000 people, with relatively few jobs, and its growth rate was half that of Auckland south of the Waitemata. Opening up the area via a new main road connection was to unlock the potential for further expansion of Auckland.[13]

So we can see how the bridge was transformational, there really was only a very poor connection across the harbour so a whole lot of really appealing land on the lovely and beachy Eastern Bays was suddenly made so much more accessible. It was like a whole new valuable area was fished Maui-like out of the sea really close to the city. Although of course this isn’t what happened but rather an existing underdeveloped place was effectively moved closer to the centre of economic activity– the city. This is still true even though the bridge itself is a fairly poor thing by many important measures, certainly aesthetically, but also because it is so mono-modal:

When the bridge was built, rail lines and walking and cycling paths were dropped for cost reasons. -Wiki

Especially when compared to its model, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is no ornament and it is still actually a barrier to anyone not in a vehicle. But even so, no matter how workman like and clumsily, it got the job done. Looking back it is easy to see that this was because of a near perfect confluence of timing, location, and mode.

Auckland, with the rest of the post-war world in the fifties and sixties was riding a baby boom, a driving boom, and a fashion for outward spread. The Bridge opened to satisfy a huge pent-up demand for residential land relatively close to town. A speculators’ and builders’ wonderland immediately followed.

The bridge worked because it unlocked a blockage to the expansion of an outwardly growing young city. Is this what the RoNS are designed to achieve; capitalise on demand for the further sprawl of Auckland? And Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch?

Patrick Reynolds Ak Harbour Bridge 2009

If so then this is the explanation for the sudden appearance of Warkworth as a future growth node on the Auckland plan. But we have to ask if the idea of expanding Warkworth from a charming riverine village of 3,500 souls to another Albany with an additional 50-100,00 people in low density auto-dependent suburbia is either desirable, likely, or even possible?

Desirable? No. Not for Warkworth, which would immediately cease to have what is valuable about it now; in the pursuit of country living suburbia has a habit of killing the thing it loves. Not for Auckland; to spread that far, to further disperse habitation and therefore work and play based on the private vehicle would be to add cost barriers and reduce productivity; this is anti-agglomeration. And not, of course, for the environment of New Zealand and the planet; more auto-dependant sprawl is not something to be subsidised and promoted for everyones’ sake.

Likely? I doubt it. And here we get to the nub of what is different about these projects. The bridge suddenly brought a development resource right onto the city’s doorstep. Will speeding country driving by 5 or so minutes over the distance of Auckland to Warkworth profoundly alter the economics of ex-urban development? Is there huge pent-up demand and capital ready to flood into new houses there? There are currently some 60 000 available residential building sites on the fringes of Auckland so while we may have a dwelling crisis it is hard to see how even more distant and yet to be serviced sites will face strong demand. And is the private car the new mode of growing demand? We are seeing all around the western world that the rising costs of vehicle use and indeed a new fashion in more urban living making the growth pattern of the post war boom no longer work as surely as it did, and it is no different here with all driving stats flat at best for the last seven years or so.

Is it possible? I don’t know but commenters on this site have suggested that the land around Warkworth is neither suitable nor appropriate for this scale of development. The are no services there to support such a population, and is this really the best economic model for the country anyway? Do we not already have too much capital tided up in houses and their supporting infrastructure? Much better to build more efficiently nearer to existing services as well as social and employment opportunities.

So for this particular RoNS to create a step change like the Harbour Bridge did through residential development I think falls somewhere between highly unlikely and completely impossible. It fails to meet even one of the criteria that the earlier project did. It is the wrong time [no pent up demand], the wrong place [too far from centre of activity], and the wrong mode [driving is on the wane, not growing, and facing increasing costs].

Patrick Reynolds Ak Harbour bridge 2000

So perhaps the boom-burb model of economic development is not what the supporters of the RoNS believe make them so valuable and the example of the Harbour Bridge is really not what the Minister meant. Here is the other way that the RoNS are supposed to be so valuable:

Minister of Transport on the Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance:

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It may surprise the member to note that people cannot get their goods out of Northland unless there are roads outside of Northland. It sort of makes sense that if you want to get from Northland down to some other part of New Zealand, you need a road to get there. Eighty percent of all freight in this country is carried on the road. That is why we are putting the money into the road transport programme and the roads of national significance. Tell us, which of the roads in the programme would Labour stop?

-Parliamentary Question Time

So true, imagine if there were no roads, or rail line, or shipping routes, or flights to and from Northland, or at least if these were so suboptimal as to prevent any goods getting to market, milk spoiling, logs rotting, tourists unable to get to the Bay of Islands, then yes, making that connection for the first time would indeed be a breakthrough, and have a truly transformational outcome. Is this an accurate picture of the situation? Well there is one day of the year when traffic does get stuck heading north out of Auckland, December 27th, but even that dissipates well before it reaches Northland and only holds a cargo of impatient holiday makers.

As has been observed here time and again Warkworth could indeed do with a bypass, sections of State highway 1 should be made safer, the rail line is long overdue some work and especially the planned for connection to the natural deep port at Marsden Point should be built, but there are no cases of freight or people being unable to make it through to Auckland or offshore because of the lack of a four lane highway in the Auckland countryside.

Or is there even a cost barrier to these goods reaching Auckland? Will the time saving of 5 or 10 minutes that this project is planned to save change the value of Northland produce so profoundly? Anyway are these improvements certain to be delivered in practice because all such deliveries will still be subject any delays in the Auckland City part of their journey where being stuck for 5 or 10 minutes will only become more likely as a very consequence of the additional driving that this roads-only investment programme is bound to produce? Any economies from all this road spending are certain to be negated by the delays caused by the traffic induced by them and the lost opportunity to invest in other modes. Even a declining mode will have to be used if all other options are run down.

It is very difficult to see how any radical change in performance of Auckland or Northland’s economy can accrue from these investments. Taking the example of the Puhoi to Wellsford RoNS it is much more convincing that any improvements will be incremental at best and therefore greatly at risk from other changes such as rises in fuel price and are in any case nowhere near big enough to create a return on the vast expense.

The Charge of the RoNS Brigade

It seems clear from the minister’s mention of the Harbour Bridge that the whole theoretical underpinning of this programme rests on a series of assumptions that are misplaced and dated. The RoNS look like a classic case of the general fighting the previous battle, assuming all conditions from that last campaign still hold, but being doomed to fail because he doesn’t see how the world has moved on. In this case it is necessary to believe that road is always the best mode, that sprawl will continue for ever, and that investing aggressively in both will always provide economic growth. The facts on the ground say otherwise.

And there is another way that the Minister is mistaken about this precedent; the success of the AHB was in fact all about the city. That land had been there all along, what the bridge did was make it instantly accessible to the city. The city is the true transformation enabler. This government and its supporters remain wilfully in denial about the economic force that are cities in general and New Zealand’s only city of scale in particular. Their insistence that wealth only comes from heavy lifting, preferably by a truck, and never from innovation and social interaction makes them dangerously reckless with our taxes.

And it makes them completely blind to another project that does fit all the criteria for being transformational, that offers improvements that are a step change and are not merely incremental. That has the power to change the shape and proximity of place. That is consistent with the growing direction of the zeitgeist, and helps answers the really big technological, economic, and environmental issues of our time: The CRL.

CBD Capacity Before and After

By working so hard to conform to the conditions of the last century there is a blindness to the realities and opportunities of the current one:

Britomart-Elliott St 800px

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  1. The RoNS look like a classic case of the general fighting the previous battle, assuming all conditions from that last campaign still hold, but being doomed to fail because he doesn’t see how the world has moved on.

    I think that’s the most succinct and awesome critique of the RoNS I’ve read yet. Absolutely nails it. Solving yesterday’s problem.

  2. Charge of the RoNS Brigade eh! Great post Patrick, well done.

    The whole process of discussing the RoNS on this site has been an interesting study of the different techniques to critique these roads, whether it be data analysis illuminating the dreadful BCRs for most of the RoNS roads, or this type of verbal slam dunk.

    Of course all angles work together to deliver a withering critique on some of the worst examples of grossly wasteful government expenditure that we have seen in a long time.

  3. This post is one of the best – has put in words what I think but can never quite explain. Well done Patrick – every elected official in council/govt capacity should be made to read this

  4. I think the point about duplicative infrastructure is really key here. Most of the RoNS don’t add anything new, they don’t open up access to an area that currently doesn’t have it, they don’t dramatically cut down what’s currently an incredibly indirect route. They’re all just marginal improvements, perhaps Waterview Connection exempted in that it does finished off the Western Ring Route and unlock the benefits of the upgrade to the whole rest of SH20/SH18 and SH16 (unlocking benefits of the whole network, sound familiar?)

    This is why the arguments that the projects are somehow “transformative” just doesn’t cut it with me. They’re largely marginal – a motorway instead of a 2 lane highway for most of them. Drive 100 kph 95% of the time instead of just 85% of the time. Cut a kilometre or two off the journey. Small improvements here or there – hardly something to stimulate massive economic growth or development.

    Oddly enough, in the very very long run a lot of the RoNS projects probably make sense (assuming that our population continues to grow and that there will be something along the lines of cars in the long term future). The question, as it so often is, comes down to timing. How badly do we really need these particular projects completed in the next decade? Do their benefits, which are “marginal” (in more than one meaning of the word) really justify such huge expenditure right now? Or more clearly, is the lack of something like Puhoi-Wellsford really holding us back as a country to the extent that we should go and spend something like a third of the country’s annual education budget on it within the next decade?

    More and more the similarities of the RoNS package to Muldoon’s “Think Big” are becoming clearer. At least Think Big was trying to wean us off oil.

    1. Yes and they do come directly from Think Big, in that these guys were scared by that experience and think that they are doing the reverse here! As far as i can figure it. They put Muldoon down as a Big Government interventionist and think of themselves as simply following the market, by contrast. It’s delusional. Joyce has more than a little of Muldoon’s megalomania about him, but is even less imaginative.

      Depressingly the RoNS programme is also the twin of the hopelessly over-pitched asset sales drive. These are the two big commitments of Key’s government; neither will improve the country’s fortunes but both will make individual’s fortunes. Privatising and concentrating collective wealth will be the outcome of both, can we really be so naive to believe it isn’t the intention as well, or can they really be so naive to believe that won’t be the result? It’s one or the other.

      Both programmes look certain to return less and less for more and more….

      1. “Depressingly the RoNS programme is also the twin of the hopelessly over-pitched asset sales drive. These are the two big commitments of Key’s government; neither will improve the country’s fortunes but both will make individual’s fortunes”. The Key government precisely summed up in under 40 words; well said Patrick Reynolds! Making these individuals additional fortunes using the NZ government as the vehicle is all they are all about and it will continue so until they are found out and booted out. But with middle NZ taking little interest except for what comes in headlines, God only knows when that will be.

    2. The politics sitting behind the RoNS is, I think, quite complex. Let’s have a go at unpicking it:

      Clearly the government thinks that the package is fairly popular, or popular enough to keep taking political heat over it. While it undermines some of their credentials for fiscal conservatism, it’s seen as a worthwhile trade-off because presumably the polling says that people like seeing big stuff being built – it’s one of the most obvious ways of showing that you’re actually doing something – by building some big roads.

      Secondly, I think there’s an extent to which they believe their own hype. Say something often enough (Puhoi-Wellsford will magically fix child poverty in Northland, or so claimed Nikki Kaye) and you start believing it yourself – not matter how silly that thing is. With NZCID and the trucking lobby in their ears all the time there probably is a genuine, if misguided, belief that these projects really will make a significant transformational difference to NZ’s economy.

      Thirdly, there’s also the issue of how far they’ve gone down the path of many of the projects. It’s pretty hard to back down from anything in politics. I’m sure some in the National Party are possibly feeling a bit queasy over the RoNS package but can’t figure out how to extricate themselves from it yet.

      1. Oh I’m certain they believe it, this government isn’t just influenced by the road lobby they are indistinguishable from it. The RoNS are simple the Road User Forum’s fantasy wish dragged and dropped into policy…The road builders and big truckers are soooo getting their pay day, but they believe that this is only right and true on two counts. First they don’t believe they pay tax at all they just pay into a fund that magically triples [local rates and citizen drivers’ fuel tax is added] and then it all [almost] must be returned in the from of the huge subsidy that is road building. Secondly they believe all that nonsense about economic growth….. They actually believe more vast trucks on the road and fewer evil communist trains is some sort of social service….. This is so out of balance viewed from any detached perspective.

  5. “The city is the true transformation enabler.”

    That’s my career choice in a nutshell – great piece Patrick. It’s time we embraced the urban in NZ.

  6. The other point I’d like to make in relation to Warkworth is that it’s an incredibly long stretch to consider it as a viable major growth area for Auckland. It’s about the same distance from downtown Auckland as Tuakau, but compared to Pukekohe probably has far far fewer jobs within a 25km radius (due to Auckland’s big job concentration in the south).

    As others noted in the earlier discussion, Warkworth also has big environmental constraints on many of its sides. Plus it has a great charm as the 3,000-5,000 sized town it is now. I can’t see too many of the locals wanting that to change beyond recognition.

    In short, there’s relatively little in the part of NZ that Puhoi-Wellsford will actually reach that has much potential to be hugely “transformed”. At least anywhere near the extent that the Harbour Bridge really did transform a part of Auckland that was so clearly just waiting for it. (And where the marginal impact of the project was so phenomenal).

  7. I grew up in Whangarei in the 1980;s then the northern motorway ened at Tristam ave. There was no Waipu bypass and SH 16 (Wellsford to Helensville) was not all sealed. So the road has become a lot quicker already . The further 5-10 minute is just a little more . I dont know if any overseas tourisst ( who if not Australian or a Pacific Islanders has flown over 8 hours to get here) is going to change a trip to Northland due to a 10 minute quicker trip if it takes 2 or 3 hours.

  8. Nice Post Patrick. My favourite quote attributed to Charles de Gaulle is; “Stay in with the out, exploit the inevitable and don’t get caught between a dog and a lamp-post.” I think Gerry’s problem here is in not being able to tell the difference between a dog, a lamp-post and the inevitability in mode shift.

    1. Nice quote, De Gaulle had quite a talent for ‘staying in with the out’. Yes you’re right, I remember Joyce’s barely veiled incomprehension that he occasionally had to answer questions about the value of all this… They do think they are exploiting the inevitable, but there are new inevitabilities coming that they haven’t the wit to spot. That and i suspect they operate in an echo chamber and only hear their own opinions repeated back at them…. they need to get out more, dogs, lamp-posts etc….

    2. “I think Gerry’s problem here is in not being able to tell the difference between a dog, a lamp-post and the inevitability in mode shift.”

      I think Gerrys (and the Governments) problem is in not just that but also in being unable to tell the difference between the dog, the lamp-post and the inevitability of a transfer of sorts occurring between them sooner than later and therefore not being prepared for the resulting consequences”.

  9. “By working so hard to conform to the conditions of the last century they are blind to the realities of the current one” – And these conditions were not even smart last century!
    It appalls me that people as ignorant of the fundamentals of transport policy as Joyce and Brownlie seem to be, can get to be Ministers of Transport. Key obviously sees nothing remiss, and sadly neither does a significant slice of the populace who elected these people. What is wrong with our political system that it can deliver such misfits into important positions? Julie Genter seems to be the only person in Parliament with a clue as to the colossal mistakes currently in the making. And belatedly perhaps Phil Twyford, though Labour been caught profoundly napping through most of this saga.

  10. Mr Anderson you make a great comment about MPs loving BIG projects. With little projects there are no ribbons to cut, glam photo ops or babies lining up to be kissed. It’s a wonder this lot has left the home insulation subsidy project in place as it’s a wonderful example of a little project that provides genuine value and changes people lives. It has also launched dozens of little businesses in installation and probably kept a few factories fully staffed ALL over the country. I doubt though its success will see double glazing and worthwhile solar water & PV subsidy initiatives launched as they just don’t tick your ‘big stuff’ box either.

    1. Here is another problem with selling our generation companies to the great god of ‘shareholder value’. Anytime a government correctly realises that we have a huge and underutilsed asset in the rail network and sensibly decides to invest in it Big Trucking screams blue murder that they can’t compete and that the gov is being unfair. Forgetting of course the far greater subsidies they receive form the publicly built, maintained, and extended road network.

      Won’t we face this silly argument when we finally get a government that realises that distributed generation of heat and electrons should be encouraged for the greater good of the nation. Shareholders and fund managers lining up to complain that this will reduce the powercos profitability and is taking their money, reaching for their lawyers…..?

  11. If it was just about politicians and BIG projects then the CRL would surely the first on their to do list! The roads fixation is clearly more than that, and ideological. It’s weird how roads and right-wing notions of ‘freedom’ have become ideologically entangled with one another, considering how much of a market-failure they represent and the vast subsidies they involve. Great post.

    1. Mr P and David, I think you are both right, easier it seems to get 500 million spent on a big project talked up by men in suits than 500 dollars for something clearly effective but that is seen to benefit an individual. And this government has an over simplified and frankly mistaken view on the costs and benefits of the auto-highway complex.

      1. Partly but also that comes back to the stupid idea that it’s all ‘user pays’. For the same reason that these same fiscal conservatives won’t means test superannuation because they think it is a fund they paid into and deserve to get a return on it. Now that is clearly how Kiwisaver works but not National Super. So it is founded really on a rejection of the idea of society as something that they need to contribute to: User Pays; advanced selffishness and smug short-termism.

  12. Finally an admission that the motorways made Auckland the economic powerhouse that it is today. Of course, take away the suburban dream of the 1950s and the same thing could probably have been achieved in the Swedish style of Brutalist high rise apartments along railway lines seperated by parklands, modelled on Copenhagen’s 1947 Finger Plan. But to claim that cities are transformational and economic centres is falling into the growth is good belief system so prominent in the United States in the first half of the 20th Century. That was when mega factories and there wage slaves were creating the consumer society. New Zealand didn’t really get onto that particular band wangon until after WWII. But now all the factory jobs have been exported to Asian cities and all we’re left with in our cities is a mass of consumers working in ticket clipping industries (finance, insurance, retail distribution, etc). Auckland has been particularly successful at attracting head offices away from other regional cities for the past 30 years thanks to economic deregulation and the communications and computer revolution. But all those things are now working to Asian/Australian city’s advantage. With the demise of debt-fuelled rampant consumerism cities will find it increasingly difficult to convincingly chant the mantra that cities are wealth creators when it is increasingly evident that cities have become mere wealth accumulators and are entirely dependent on regions that supply the food, energy and concrete and steel that cities consume with such gay abandon. The smart money is going into rural broadband and smart power grids.

    1. No admission from me that motorways made Auckland an economic powerhouse, or that it has ever been an economic powerhouse. Merely that suburban expansion was the big game after the war, that we did it by destroying public transport and only building motorways was neither inevitable nor the best way it could have been done. And nor is some Swedish plan the only other option; pure Staw Man argument.

      At the very least we should have reserved corridors for future rapid transit across that empty farmland at virtually no cost, but so in thrall were the powers of the time in the mystique of motoring that they actively opposed any attempt at this. Forcing the sale of the all the land acquired for Robbie’s Rail for example.

      With regards ‘growth is good’ well I agree it cannot go on globally to infinity, so I am firmly opposed to more spread outward, but we can grow sustainably on the exact foot print Auckalnd has now. Just as Melbourne plans to double its population from 4 to 8 million without growing its urban limit. And each inhabitant will take a smaller environmental debt on the planet. Leaving more real countryside for those that prefer that life. And with a nice big market to sell to to keep country living viable, profitable.

      That cities are the centre of human ingenuity and growth is neither refutable nor controversial, and your history of urbanism appears to be a little shaky. Nevermind; I agree that faster Internet connectivity is the running water of this century, though why only in the countryside? For everywhere surely. And that smart grids enabling distributed generation are also a priority (perhaps those powerco shares won’t be so valuable?).

  13. Patrick, you misunderstand the reference to Sweden. Swedens solution to solving its post-WWII housing crisis was to funnel its state housing through local housing associations who built apartment buildings, which was much cheaper than our suburban ‘group housing’ solution to the same problem. The money saved allowed investment in commuter rail. The parkland between the ‘fingers’ means everyone in Stockholm has easy access to large greenspaces. Ticks all the same boxes as quarter sections did but did it cheaper and smarter.

    Why rural broadband? because we already have CBD broadband and suburban broadband is more about consumption than production.

    The history of urbanism is irrelevant to the future. The factors that have periodicly concentrated ingenuity and growth in cities such as security, tyranny of distance and ease of wealth accummulation, especially during that brief blip in human history known as the industrial revolution, turn into catastrophicly huge negative factors when the perpetual motion machine of debt fuelled growth is revealled as a having relied on a hidden power cable. Ie the city relies on importing energy and matter for its survival whereas the countryside can survive on its own. The clever thing that cities have always been able to do is lend money to the countryside to purchase the technology to enable the countryside to produce a surplus to sell to the city so that the resultant surplus is expropriated to pay the interest thus creating the fiction that cities create wealth when in fact they accumulate wealth but it is actually created in the countryside. Note that first world/third world is the global extension of this perpetual motion economics. Maybe you need to study ecology to see how the laws of conservation of matter and energy always limit economic growth to create boom and bust cycles. The growth of modern cities has occurred in a period in which there was always an ever cheaper energy supply to pay for the interest on the debt fueled growth. In an era of ever rising energy costs where is the extra going come from to pay the interest. In natural ecosystems this phenononen is observed as population overshoot and collapse.

    1. Yes I do understand about overshoot and agree that it is hard not see the current global population as a likely candidate for being in that position now, however i disagree with the idea that cities have no future even in a collapsed or declining world. Manhattan residents use a tiny proportion the inputs of ones in Houston or Pheonix. Also I am certain that energy is real wealth and money is merely a symbol of energy, so I suspect that we are closer in view than it might appear. Perhaps I give the impression that I am keen on ever more people, that isn’t the case, it’s more that I see that as inevitable, certainly in the near term and that the immediate challenge is to make the best accommodation with the environment and energy dependency we can. Especially within the context of the powerful forces who have no other aim or expectation than the continuation of ‘Business as Usual’ like the present government.

      I won’t be drawn on predictions as the world is a very complex organism and I’m sure we are in for more surprises than we can imagine but I will confess to being much more of a ‘Plateau-ist’ than a doomer with regard to world energy supply, being pretty familiar with all camps on these matters. At least for the next decade or so. But whether we will have the luxury of a long transition or a series of rude shocks, who knows? Am certain that the future is more likely electric than simply woodstove and certainly not nuclear.

      At least we are very lucky here, by almost any measure in any collapse model, especially with regard to food, water, and electricity supply, and especially our low population. But what is so frustrating is you don’t have to even accept the perfectly reasonable Limits To Growth model to see that there is much we could do that would not cost us anything in current terms to be way way more secure and self-sufficent- and happier. I’m sure you’d agree. So that’s where my efforts go, to try to argue on the terms of the ordinary discourse to take some wider issues in account.

      But I still don’t accept that some sort of bucolic model is the only likely outcome of even sudden BAU collapse. We are unlikely to un-learn the pleasures of urban life nor un-learn every piece of wonderful [or terrible] technology just because we won’t be able to live as wastefully as we do now. Cities preceded the fossil fuel age and I’m pretty sure they will out last it too.

      Also I wouldn’t be so sure that nothing productive comes from the suburbs- boredom can be a very stimulating source of creativity, I’m for connecting everybody.

    1. Patrick – referencing a dubious document about oil prices from September 2012 is a new low point for this blog. There has been a massive shift in oil supply/consumption since that document and in fact, we are back at $55.00 a barrel for WTI crude – the same as it was in 1998 – as of close of trading Xmas eve.
      In your post above you claim ‘We are seeing all around the western world that the rising costs of vehicle use’ but in fact the costs of vehicle use is falling. Fuel prices are plummeting and the cost of a new car – relative to inflation – is cheaper than it was in the 1980’s. Certainly car ownership in NZ is more affordable than the 80’s thanks to the super cheap Jap imports. Talking of the 80’s GM just had the best Q3 results since 1980 thanks to a global boom in car sales. This is not just people replacing cars, the passenger miles stats are up in both OECD and non OECD countries as well.
      You may hate the car but you are the minority. Thanks to cheaper vehicle ownership costs, RONS (including the AWHC) places like Warkworth will increasingly become commuter burbs of Auckland and your objections will become increasingly more NIMBY and isolated.
      Nice pics though 🙂

      1. Carless, this is a post from 2012 being rerun over the holiday period and I have not altered the links, anyway in my views have not changed. The world is currently enjoying a moment of cheaper oil prices in USD terms. NZ is also enjoying a high cross rate with the USD, lucky us.

        Almost no-one, except the delusional, expect these prices to remain low for long, after all the cure for low prices is low prices, as so much marginal supply is so expensive to produce. Additionally for much of the world these prices are not that low as their currencies have fallen against the USD.

        Americans are finally updating their cars; so what, they’re still not driving them nearly as much as they used to. Anyway; glad you’re reading our blog so assiduously still.

        1. Lower oil prices offer a great opportunity to raise taxes on it…and not for the purpose of spending it on roads. I propose using it to fund an income-tax-free band.

        2. The ‘delusional’ number quite a few then Patrick – pretty much an entire industry – as the forward curve on crude shows a long term view of ‘cheap’ prices. FYI Brent Crude which closed at $60.19/bbl is offered at $63.24 for calendar 2015 – $69.95 for cal 2016 and $80.42 for cal 2021 hardly a meteoric recovery when the spot price was $120.00/bbl only 6 months ago.Your article, which you say you still believe in, states that ‘The reason for high prices is actually quite obvious. Crude oil production worldwide has been stuck between 71 and 76 million barrels per day since 2005’ – I would go further to say the reason for the fall in price is equally quite obvious – as of Q3 2014 supply has grown to 93.74 million barrels per day!
          Oil trading is always about supply and demand, the only reason there is any contango (means the price forward is higher than the spot value) on the crude curve is because cheap crude means more demand.
          You should revise your opinion on ‘marginal supply’, US tight oil is the genie that is no longer contained in the bottle. The US administration (both sides of the floor) are pro domestic energy production and will if required provide incentives to the shale industry. Even the Saudi’s know this.
          As for Americans and car use total vehicle miles traveled in the United States grew in 2014 – the first time since the GFC. This recovery in vehicle miles traveled was mostly in the 2nd half of 2014 suggesting very much that cheap gasoline and a recovering economy is putting Americans back in cars – bigger cars as well – and back on the roads.You need to update your data Patrick, following oil price trends is not really something you can do part time as a hobby.

        3. Facts, Patrick, are clearly something you are not up to date on. Total vehicle miles traveled in the United States 2013 2.95 Trillion – 2014 2.96 Trillion. Data is taken from the Fed Highways Admin who are more up to date on this than the EIA. Really, what is the good of looking at last years data when there has been such a fundamental shift in fuel prices recently?
          Nash your teeth all you like but the fact is oil prices are significantly lower – as I predicted they would be – and lower transport fuel costs mean more miles driven. Now I may agree with you that it would be better if our American friends had learnt the lessons of wasteful energy consumption but they haven’t so far from getting upset about it, Ill just make as much money out of their predictive nature as I can.
          Once again – nice photos. Would you sell me some of those bridge photos? They would look great in my Auckland house.

  14. Hmm – you’re saying that breakthrough projects are hard to sell because their benefits are almost unimaginable – the Harbour Bridge being an example that transformed an area, despite the bridge being too small and clumsily done. But you don’t see the road to Northland as falling in that category. I live in the Whangarei area. Each morning on my way to work I pass a stream of laden trucks heading south. Marsden Point has a deepwater port that doesn’t require dredging and a whole lot of industrial land – and its the port closest to the markets – and just a few minutes from State Highway 1. Auckland and Tauranga ports are expected to reach capacity sometime in the relatively near future. Marsden Point is vastly under capacity. When Auckland Port was on strike, redirecting shipping to Northland wasn’t an option because the road link was crap.

    I think it will be clumsily done, but its highly on the cards that it will also be transformational.

    1. Bea, the Marsden rail link would be far more transformational for Northland than the P-W motorway as the motorway only gets you half way. Oh, and the rail line is projected to cost $150m as opposed to $2b. I’m an ex Whangarei and Ruakaka resident and still get back to Ruakaka when I can. The number of logging trucks using SH1 and local roads is insane. It reminds me of the stream of buses that we used to experience back in the 80’s.

    2. Bea it is a road towards Northland, and there are already two there and a rail line. Both the existing road and the rail line need work to serve Northland better. But by making, at huge cost and delay, a section of the route towards Northland, but still in the Auckland Region, a goldplatted fourlane highway will not help Northland’s economy in any measurable way. Except during construction if much of the work is won by Northland contractors.

      It will transform nothing in Northland’s economy, because it changes nothing, if anything, it will encourage the spread of economic activity south in fact to Auckland’s counrtside, although only the lifestyle end of industry.

      Strangely you seem to be arguing for a faster [slightly] road to speed logs etc to Auckland as a way to improve Northland. Wouldn’t you prefer Marsden Point to be the focus of Northland’s produce? Any benefits from this very big investment will be Auckland’s, but they still won’t match the cost.

      Think about it this way; $2billion, why not spend that actually in Northland if the aim is to improve Northland? Spend it on local roads that tourists and Milk tankers use, use it to fix the rail line that employs actual Northlanders, take that line to Marsden Pt then it really could be an alternative port to Auckland in times of disaster or shutdown.

      Your comment proves my point, transformational projects are hard to imagine, the ordinary and ineffective projects are easier to sell, because they look like everything else.

  15. A never ending spend up with money NZ doesn’t have by a government who can’t balance the books as it is and cares little about that subject anyway. Cue mass State House sales to try and partially pay for this.

    National will do this highway, they are now far too committed and there is too much money to be made for those in the know to not do it. They know the faux justification for this spend up will come undone the moment it touches down in Orewa, right where the current motorway starts and where it will clog up and lets not think about Albany or even further south. Do they then widen SH1 to 4 lanes each way from Silverdale and 6 from Oteha Valley Rd and 8 from Tristram Ave, because they will need to if this ridiculous theory eventuates.

    1. Since it seems the other great Joyce-lead economic saviour to Auckland the SkyCity Gambling West Wing – oops, the “Auckland International Convention Centre”, is now putting its hand out big time for both a tax payer top up and also a ongoing subsidy to run the bloody thing – its now showing that yes, it too, is just another turkey like all the other supposed “economic transformation” projects like the RoNS.

      Problem is that usually the real turkeys don’t live beyond Christmas, but these Government created ones look set to hang around for a lot longer than that.

      So I suggest we annoint the Convention Centre as the newest (and 8th) RoNS – which like the other 7 “RoNS” that preceded it, are all destined to become “Ruins of National Significance” in short order.

      It does seem that unlike the National Government that coined the term “Think Big” in the 80’s -, this one with the unravelling convention centre deals and the huge spend up on RoNS, and continual denying the CRL should even be considered for a start before 2020, are all examples of this governments logic – which is now quite obviously “Think Stupid”.

  16. No mention, so far, of tolls with regard to this new road. It was my understanding that the northward extension would be tolled in the same way as the current section from Orewa.

    If so then that fact must be included in all claims that the motorway will bring about worthwhile cost savings in journeys to and from Northland. You may be certain that intercity bus fares and road haulage rates will be raised to cover this extra cost.

    1. The board of inquiry did not see any modelling from NZTA about the effect of tolls on the new road, NZTA modelled it on the basis of like for like with the existing (untolled) road and completely ignored the tolls question. Even though it was confirmed at the BOI that yes, it will be tolled. The exact level tolls (and how many toll collection points there will be) was left to be determined by NZTA.

      So yes, you may well be right that those who use the new toll road will indeed pass on their “costs” as the marginal time savings of the new road over the old road (mere minutes) are not projected to be enough to allow them to absorb the tolls.

      Of course, how much of a toll per passenger is a full Intercity bus actually gonna pay to use the new road? It will add only at most 50 cents per ticket for a full 40 seater bus load of passengers.

      It would be unfair to charge each passenger a higher portion of the full toll than that.
      It is also true that some operators of heavy trucks may find the vehicle operating costs are lower as a result of the new road.

      But really, why throw down the thick end of $1B for a bunch of mights (might be better etc) and maybes (maybe it will be cheaper for some users)?
      Those mights and maybes, whose true worth to the economy is really unknown?

      Especially when the Government has plenty of other (even better) “sure bets” it can spend that same money on – that will help both NZ Inc and the Northland economy at the same time.

      But of course, there is a good chance that the road lobby (or the road building lobbyists – which amount to pretty much the same thing these days) may not benefit to the same amount with those other options so thats why these alternatives to spend the same money (or usually, a lot less of it) are currently off the table.

      While this (and other) National Governments poor open scorn on what earlier Labour Governments, and also (privately) what Muldoons Government did to the economy in previous decades by “meddling” and “picking winners”, this is exactly the same behaviour that Joyce and Key are all guilty of doing – and while they say “its not the same, we know what we’re doing”, in essence it is exactly the same, and expecting there will be different outcomes to last time round is surely where the ideological blinkers and earmuffs definitely stay firmly attached to the eyes and ears of the Government.

      1. Yes this is just a road and sprawl industry subsidy [Auckland ex-urban land bankers especially], Joyce, as ever, picking winners, while lying like flatfish in claiming that this is for the people of Northland.

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