Len Brown was on Radio Live with Wallace Chapman yesterday in a fairly lengthy interview which covered a whole range of issues. If you want to listen to it you can here and it started just after midday. What I want to focus on is one particular is the section where he talked about transport and the Congestion Free Network as there are a number of parts to it that need to be addressed. I’ve cut that part of the interview out and it’s below:


There is a seemingly simple question that needs to be answered in the debate on the future of transport in Auckland. Is spending $60 billion after having implemented a raft of new taxes and things still getting worse than they are now a good investment?

To me the answer is a resounding no. Yet that’s the situation we’re faced with if we continue down the road we’re currently on – which is to build heaps more roads.

Forecast congestion based on ITP

Len claims that the council spent two years debating the issues and that has determined what is in the transport plan but the reality is there was very little debate about the merits of most projects. What’s more there was certainly no analysis done to determine if the projects on the list would actually help make things better.

At the start of the Auckland Plan process the council came out with a wish list of transport projects that seemed in include every project from around the region ever considered, many of which were nothing more than an idea. That wish list carried through to the final plan with some priorities being added to the projects but from memory not one was cut. One of the changes brought about by that prioritisation saw the East-West link catapulted to the top of the list despite not even really being on the plans a year before. I suspect the explanation for this sudden change in importance is the project was being pushed strongly by the business groups and Len did a deal with them to increase its priority in return for support on the City Rail Link. It has been suggested that the business groups were instrumental in changing the governments mind on the CRL last year.

Coming back to the Auckland Plan, how would Aucklanders have responded if they knew the projects on the list would cost $60 billion and make things worse? Would they have demanded something better or some different thinking? To me Len saying the council spent 2 years debating the issue is dishonest because the public simply weren’t given the right facts to be able to have a proper debate.

I also suspect that part of the reason there wasn’t a proper debate is simply down to how PT was discussed and the maps presented. The map below is meant to highlight individual projects that are in the plan but to me it does nothing to really show people a vision for what the transport system could be, especially in the case of PT. Sure most the  projects that make up the CFN are on the map but everything appears to be a jumble with no real thought to how it would all work together.

As Wallace points out the current plan will add huge amounts of debt to pay for everything and one thing not often discussed is that it is the younger generations that will still be paying for it in 30 years-time. In my opinion we certainly don’t want to be paying extra rates and taxes for unnecessary transport projects that don’t solve the issues.

Its many of these issues combined that compelled us to come up with the congestion free network. I’ve long thought that if something like the CFN had been included in the Auckland Plan debate it would likely had a very different result. Bear in mind that the Auckland Plan is meant to be the 30 year vision, not the implementation plan so compare the map above to the one below tell me which one you think provides more vision.

CFN 2030A

About halfway through the audio clip suggests that we we don’t want spending on roads. That is simply not true and in many cases we fully support roading improvements but often we disagree on the specific solution. For example we completely agree that improvements are needed in the East-West Link corridor, what we disagree on is there needed to be a full on motorway solution potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact we even want to see a much greater emphasis on projects that look to connect up our street network and provide new connections. Unfortunately as these are usually only small projects they often slip through the cracks and never get done.

Perhaps the thing that frustrated me the most about Len’s comments was just after the section above where he suggests there won’t be much change in travel patterns regardless of what we do with public transport, walking and cycling. To me this statement suggests that perhaps Len has lost his vision for the city, it’s him saying we can’t make that much of a difference so why really try. What he fails to realise is that people respond to what you build and are focused on improving. What you do build is just as important as what you don’t build. Further the models that predict how we will travel in the future are based around us constructing all of the roading projects currently on list creating a loop i.e.  majority of people drive so more money spent on roads then which encourage more driving .

There is some good news though. Auckland Transport are currently working on the next version of the ITP which should hopefully look more critically at which projects actually help and which ones hinder us. It’s quite possible we will end up seeing some changes to the project list as a result. We’ve also seen in the last few days the announcement that the East-West Link will no longer be a motorway. If AT end up going with one of the scaled down versions it has probably saved hundreds of millions of dollars meaning a little less future debt to pay. Now we just need to do that to a heap more roads (and some PT projects too).

Share this


  1. The draft annual plan for Auckland proposes to add $900M in debt in a single year. AC need to get the best long term outcome fir Auckland from the rates income. Building for single occupant cars is not the best use of that money.

    1. Gen Zero did their scorecards – intentionally – on what politicians SAID at election time, because that enables comparison between pols with and w/out track record (also, a PT track record from 5 years ago in past Councils might not really be relevant, either pro or con).

      I know GenZero is well aware of the shortcomings of the “rate them by what they say at election time” and are discussing ways to add more track record elements in the future.

      The other thing they have always planned to do is to use the “what they said at election time” to later call them to account on it. You said you supported PT in 2013? Then you should really vote for [particular issue about to come to a head]. And later: Well, you did jack / great / soso in the last three years – here’s our NEW score for you.

      1. The difference between what Len said (to Generation Zero and to various members of TransportBlog) and what he has done since are quite large.

    2. Maybe they’re reconsidering their endorsement of him I am.

      I think he was the best option for mayor because really, who else was there to vote for? Palino? Hussey?

      1. The scorecards were never an endorsement, was based on answers to questions in an interview. We had to take people at their word, and we do intend on holding him to account to his answers. We are looking at half time report cards too.

  2. “To me this statement suggests that perhaps Len has lost his vision for the city, it’s him saying we can’t make that much of a difference so why really try”

    I disagree completely – Len never had a vision for the city, he had a vision of his mayorship. Len’s (lack of) commitment to PT was firmly shown in his Manukau mayoralty prior to the SuperCity elections. Look at the fantastic new bus lanes, cycle lanes, bus stop upgrades, train upgrades, new stub lines, new train stations that occurred in Manukau under his rule – that’s right they all occurred in Auckland City and North Shore, all Manukau got was a new motorway at Highbrook that could have been the perfect start of rail to the East. But too many were sucked in by his selfserving rhetoric ( and those that disagree with me there need to think about his ‘catching the train to work’ debacle)

      1. It was pretty good to cycle to from the West to be fair, although the cycle lane does unnecessarily cross the road part way which then puts it across the side roads so could have been better without any more effort / cost.

        But I also remember the area opening without even having a bus route for about 6 months, looks like that’s fixed now.

        Given that the developers paid for the road as part of the consent really wouldn’t have been hard to get them to fund part of a spur line as well / instead.

        1. Why did they make the ‘shared path’ into such a long winded route? They wouldn’t do that to a road. Also, once you get to F&P, and then onto Allens Rd, it’s every man for himself. With the space they had, they could have done a lot better.

          1. I wasn’t counting the shared path as part of the cycle route, not least because it’s gravel. That’s where I crossed over – but that had the disadvantage of crossing the roads.

            Also I was only going as far as F&P Finance so didn’t have issues with progression into the old East Tamaki areas

    1. But if you believe that PT/active modes are important, what choice was there? I wasnt here for the first Super City election. If I had been, nothing on earth would have had me tick John Banks’ name – the man lives in a fantasy world. I dont know about the other candidates but I gather it was pretty much a two horse race.

      In this latest election, again what options? John Palino? The man who pretty much answered every question by either attacking Len Brown or with “a second CBD in Manukau” – how is that leadership? The guy had zero vision.

      Cameron Brewer is strong for the right but the guy only ever attacks other people’s policies – I have never heard him actually have a creative or original thought. Obviously that appeals to the voters of Orakei but it is not enough to get voted mayor and I think he knows it.

      I think the quality of candidates for mayor is very low and Len brown was the best of them – he is no Bloomberg or Boris!

      1. The right person for the job didn’t stand for the mayoralty. She is however, in council and does have ‘mayor’ as part of her title.

        1. A major issue with the current system in that someone can’t stand as a councillor and for mayor in the same election – discouraging those best to stand from standing

          1. That’s not true.

            Candidacy for ward and membership at large prohibited
            (1)No person may, at the same time, be a candidate for election in a ward and a candidate for election by the electors of the district as a whole as a member of the territorial authority of which that ward forms part.
            (2)Subsection (1) does not apply to a person who is a candidate for election—
            (a)as a member in a ward; and
            (b)as mayor of the territorial authority of which that ward forms part.


          2. Plenty of candidates run in multiple races: I think Stephen Berry ran for mayor, council, and local board!

            AFAICT you’re allowed to run for every mayoralty, council, local/community board, licencing trust and District Health Board in the country simultaneously, if you want. As conan points out, you just can’t stand for the same body in multiple ways: i.e. two wards, or both ward and at large for the crazy councils that have that.

          3. Thanks concave and Steve D, both good and good to know.
            Now I just wish I knew where I picked up the misinformation from!

          1. In fact, the only voter in Orakei who we can’t blame for that situation is… Cameron Brewer himself. Absolutely everyone else had the option of running themselves, if they didn’t want old Cam.

  3. We have extremely clear evidence from two projects from last decade in Auckland that people will switch to alternatives to driving when those alternatives are built, built well, and good services are run on them:

    Britomart and the Northern Busway have enabled the Central City to grow while maintaining functional driving access to and through the city. Without these two projects either the recent strong growth in the CBD would have been choked or the motorways, roads, and streets, would be. Most likely a combination of the two:

    It is just unsupportable to say that the way Aucklanders choose to move will not alter with different options available.

    I do not understand why the mayor repeats this idea. It is the kind of distortion his opponents use. And the two relatively modest projects above offer nothing on the scale of change that we can expect with an entire network of rapid transit as we propose. It seems the mayor still doesn’t see the power in networks and still only thinks in terms of individual projects.

    This is very odd as his main priority [CRL] has as its greatest value a network effect. He really needs to be selling it as such.

  4. Can’t work out whether Brown was a Manchurian candidate for the roads lobby or is suffering from AT-induced Stockholm syndrome. Either way he appears intent on betraying those who elected him. Depressing.

    1. I just think that the times are moving quicker than he has noticed, his programme used to be a bit visionary and ahead of the people but now, in part due to the advocacy of groups like us and Gen Zero, and simply the desires of people his ‘build everything’ idea is tired and now lagging behind [along with being unaffordable and undesirable].

      Needs to re-present the Liveable City brand at detail, and that means for transport he has to commit to prioritising a complete RTN network, with the bulk of the expensive road plans to follow continuing now with smart upgrades over expensive and destructive mega-projects.

    2. Len Brown is no more a Manchurian candidate than John Banks would suddenly have seen the light. Both are steeped in a car culture – one is more able to see the alternatives, but not a very good champion for anything except big rail projects (which I support, for the record here), and even those are partly driven by others, like Mike Lee.

      So while this is disappointing, I don’t think there’s any betrayal or similar here. Len’s just not got much of his heart in buses, walking & cycling, and he’s someone who muddles through, rather than work with a strong backbone. I think in terms of transport, when he goes out in 2016, he will have set the city on the right track. Dreaming of how much more he could have done is tempting, but a bit useless. We gotta simply push the boundaries more, while others try to slow things down…

  5. 2 things: 1.he’s now liable to be blackmailed for what he’s done that we don’t know
    2. He knows he’s not getting elected another time so he doesn’t give a @#$/ even to look a bit pro PT and he’s taking the easy pro-road way

    1. Your point 2 and 1 actually kinda counteract each other – if they are even remotely true. A politician who isn’t planning to be reelected, can do lots of things more freely.

        1. Pish and tosh – you are assuming there’s more stuff in the closet. That is possible, but unless you have knowledge we don’t, all you are doing is making up stuff.

  6. Wow what an incredibly disappointing interview. Where’s his vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city gone?

    Sounds like he’s been talking to David Warburton far too much.

  7. “there won’t be much change in travel patterns regardless of what we do with public transport, walking and cycling” – show me an example of another city that has put in good public transport infrastructure which hasn’t been used? Build it and people will use it (as already shown with the increase in train and North Shore bus usage in Auckland)

  8. As a resident of Mt Roskill I do like the fact the airport line comes our way in the AT version. What is the extra cost to do that in the CFN?

    1. So that means only you and 1.5 m other Aucklanders knew that.

      And from 1930 to 1970 those numbers would have been reversed. The movement to almost exclusively private cars and its arcadian vision promised so much and delivered so little. We are now starting to realise that is a mistake we need to fix – and fast.

      Things change – as scary as that may be. A much better mix for Auckland would be 60% cars, 30% PT and 10% cycling – very achievable with modest targeted investment.

      1. Exactly- and the best way to achieve that is build the missing complementary networks. Not more roads which of course simply lock more into driving and is proven to be toatally counterproductive on every level. Auckland has a lavish supply of roads just a lack of any sufficiently good alternative for people to choose to not always drive for every journey.

        That 90%-10% figure is nonsense Toa. It comes from The 2006 census [and in fact is 87%] but only counts work journeys so completely ignores students, including tertiary, the retired, the unemployed, and we know for critical places especially the CBD that figure on PT is over 50%. It is a daft and silly metric and why Brown repeats it is baffling.

      2. In 1956 82% of adult males smoked cigarettes. They decided they wanted that to change, and now the figure is 19%.

        Should we have left it how it was because that’s what the majority did at the time?

        1. Nick,
          You are right, just because something is so now, doesn’t mean it must be so forever.

          The main reason why that number of smokers got so high in the first place was that governments subsidised the things during the second world war, in part to keep the troops happy.
          [Hmm, sound familiar?]

          The reason that the level dropped is not because Governments wanted a change (it was seen as ones “right” to have cheap fags and booze back then after all).

          The main reason was because governments taxed the shit out of fags as an easy source of money and eventually most people gave up smoking.

          Even today after all the laws that have been passed and all the negative stuff how its killing us all, the governments all know that the best way to reduce smoking is hike taxes on it.
          We know from NZ experience each 10% hike in price results in a 4% drop in smoking.

          The reason the NZ Government taxes it so heavily now is to cover the externalities caused by smoking (health costs mainly).

          And maybe NZ Inc need to consider starting to “tax” all road users more fairly to cover their externalities properly.

          It certainly feels as far as road subsidisation goes we’re stuck in the early 50’s – while denying there’s a problem with the status quo.

          Maybe we need a Surgeon Generals Report for Fossil Fuel based economies?
          …And maybe, we just got one… this recent article in The Guardian. (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jan/17/peak-oil-oilandgascompanies)

          Headline: “US Army colonel: world is sleepwalking to a global energy crisis”

      3. 65% of adult New Zealanders are obese or overweight. Should it ‘go without saying’ that 65% of the health budget should be spent on fried food to make sure this ratio stays the same.

        Maybe not a perfect analogy but the point is that the current state of things is no reason for spending money to make sure things always stay that way.

        1. Its like spending to keep obese people alive instead of trying to prevent obesity, we need to do it but can still do both and should really focus on the second

          1. Why do we actually” have” to keep anyone alive again?This is a debate on ethics that NZ has not had.We all just pay.

          2. That obesity simile is a bit far. People in cars are not like the obese* – unlike weight loss which is hard and time-consuming, you can generally stop being a motorist in a few seconds. Just stop the car and step out, and lo and behold, you’re a pedestrian. Personally, I walk, cycle, bus, train, self-drive, taxi, get lifts, and fly, all fairly regularly.

            People change rapidly from one mode of transport to another based on what works for them through the options available. Most people (not everyone, I admit) don’t self-identify full-time as “motorists” or “public transport users” or “cyclists” and stick to only that mode regardless of how good it is compared to the other options. You don’t even need to look far: the huge growth on the Northern Busway, since it started existing, is an excellent example.

            If you build roads and carparks, people will drive. If you build frequent rapid transit and no parking, people will take PT. If you build cycleways, people will cycle. If you build all your buildings in the city reasonably close together, people will walk. If you build canals, people will boat. If you build a “balanced” mish-mash of everything, people will use a mish-mash of everything. People talk about how driving is superior because it’s more “convenient” – well, that’s just another way of saying that the city’s been built to make driving convenient.

            Spending money on cars simply because lots of people currently drive is ridiculous, and it’s a pity that Len can’t see that. If you’re doing transport planning, you should pick a system that fits your goals, not make the assumption that every new trip will inevitably be done using modes in direct proportion to what happens now. So the question is: what are your goals? If they include our collective ability to afford the system, reducing pollution, taming sprawl, providing for people unable to drive, and reducing the extent of death and injury, you probably won’t want to expend effort making private motoring easier.

            Whereas if you do want to make driving easier, you’re going to have to come up with some actual reason why having more people driving is a good idea, not the usual rubbish justification of “oh, unfortunately, people want to drive, which I know because they currently drive, and that’s all there is to it”.

            (* unless they personally happen to actually be obese, I guess, but that’s not relevant)

  9. I have also lost confidence in Len’s Brown leadership, ever since the scandal and his dishonesy, I think its about time that we elect a new mayor with a more open vision and will deliver something that Auckland wants not roads and more roads. For a start we need to get rid of the over rated National government first!

    1. Jeez BD – anyone who was surprised by the “scandel” doesn’t pay enough attention to be voting in the first place. After the nepotism and corruption shown by Len around the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust and Richard Jeffrey’s CCO appointment the first time around the thing with Chuang isn’t exactly out of character.

      In fact given the publicity around anonymous donations in the first election why would you explicitly set-up a donation whitewashing trust *again* this time around?
      The only things sadder than Len and his deceits are those who voted for him.

  10. I agree, but the main issue is getting heavy rail up the steep hill to Hillsborough Road – tunnels? viaducts?

    Light rail could do it – maybe an extension to the proposed Dominion Road LR which would follow one of the current Airport bus routes.

    1. Not an important route for passenger rail and until Marsden Port gets a whole lot more traffic, and the rail line through Northland is upgraded nor is it much of a freight route, so hardly at the top of the list is it.

      1. I was replying to JimboJones’s comment further up, and it did not post correctly. My “main issue” comment refers to that post.

    1. Why not indeed? Because we’ve voted for a central government and city council that value monumental roading projects over more economic and city-friendly public transport projects, like those that make up the Congestion Free Network.

  11. I suspect that Len has always been about the vision of “the worlds most liveable city” and the reality has been less important. People love aspirational goals! His deal with the govt on the CRL fits this position. Until 2020 he will be able to say, looks it’s coming. Just as that other populist (John Key) will be able to say, “boy look at what we are going to do for Auckland.” Who knows whether they will ever do it?
    I am all for trying to hold Len to account regarding public transport and if that doesn’t work join the pressure to roll him.

  12. The overall mode share is irrelevant- the new roads are being proposed to cope with peak loads. At peak, Len is downright wrong to suggest PT can only every get to 15% (Northern busway + North shore ferries being an existing case of > 15% PT use at peak)
    The Congestion Free Network is overall a huge Capex saving proposal, so hardly a “wish list”

Leave a Reply