This Thursday the mayor is releasing his first proposal for Auckland’s Long Term Plan, the 10 year budget for the city. Last week I blogged about the budgetary pressures the council is facing, and the risk of large cuts in public transport investment. However there is still potential for Auckland to progress the Congestion Free Network and important cycling investments in a rates constrained environment if we prioritise those projects and push back some of the very expensive roading projects with limited benefits like Penlink.

Generation Zero are running a mini campaign this week to encourage people send Len Brown a message that the budget needs to invest in public transport and cycling. Their email ask is at down below, and you can send an email to Len Brown using a simple online tool here:


Hey, all the work we’ve done together to push for separated bike lanes, the Congestion Free Network, and the frequent bus network all hinges on one big decision this Thursday.

Mayor Len Brown is right this moment making up his mind about what projects get prioritised in Auckland’s 10 year budget known as the Long Term Plan.

Tell him now to: make the CRL the number one priority; prioritise the city wide rapid transport network; triple the cycling budget; and not proceed with expensive projects with little regional benefit.

There’s real pressure on the Mayor to hold rate increases in his budget to between 2.5% to 3.5%. Transport infrastructure represents nearly 50% of the budget so this funding is the most at risk. This means as a city we need to make some serious decisions about what we prioritise to fund over the next 10 years.

The choice has been made simple for him by his advisors. He’s been advised that he can not deliver all the projects in the Auckland Plan, therefore he needs to find a middle ground.1

That middle ground is the Congestion Free Network.

The Mayor therefore needs to do four things with the Long Term Plan:

  • Make funding for the City Rail Link his number one priority.
  • Prioritise the construction of the city wide rapid transport network including new busways and rail links as seen in the Congestion Free Network.
  • Ensure there is a tripling in the funding for cycling to $30 million a year so Auckland Transport can complete the City Cycling Network.
  • Make sure only road projects with large regional benefits proceed by excluding expensive projects such as Penlink and Mill Road.

Click here to send a message to Mayor Len Brown right now urging him to follow our four recommendations.

The long term effects of a lack of investment would lead to ever increasing congestion and ineffective public transport, exacerbating the many problems our city already faces with transport.

Truly transforming our public transport network over the next 10 years means moving forward with the City Rail Link, North Western, Upper Harbour and South-Eastern Busways and Rail to Roskill, as proposed in the Congestion Free Network.

On the other hand low value roading projects like Penlink2 have nothing to do with an outstanding public transport network.

Excluding these low value roading projects and prioritising an outstanding public transport network would help us get the right outcomes.

The choice is simple. The Council has already put in writing that their objectives over the next 10 years are to move to outstanding public transport within one network, and to radically improve the quality of urban living.

If Auckland wants to truly transform itself into a liveable low-carbon city it needs to prioritise high value projects that deliver on the Council’s own objectives.

Send a message now to tell the council to deliver on it’s own objectives:

The future of our city is in our hands.

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  1. A Long Term Plan is a strategic plan – a vision, not merely a laundry list of projects.

    Any recommendations to Len should, I think, specify the ultimate goal. That is, what do we want our transport network to deliver for us? Not which projects, but rather what the effect will be.

    Instead of “x people using public transport”, how about “average commutes shorter by y minutes” – the former is “solution capture” and poor policymaking.

    For too long, local government “strategy” merely consists of a laundry list of projects (the old “policymaking by garbage can” rather than (a) the setting of specific outcome goals, the (b) derivation of required outputs to deliver those goals, and only then (c) the specification of the projects or inputs to deliver those outputs.

    We still don’t know what we want transport to deliver at the outcome level, so how can we say which projects to fund? In particular, the mention of cycling funding is “ass about face” – it says “increase funding to deliver a network” and doesn’t even specify what the results will be. I would want to see specific goals before allocating funding.

    I’ll use an analogy. We don’t ask the police to set out a strategy of stations, cars, and police numbers. What we ask is a strategy that focuses on the result (x% decrease in crime, y% decrease in violent crime, n% increase in public satisfaction). That’s what public policymaking is about. So, what we should say is we want a faster (x% reduction in average commute), safer (x% reduction in road deaths), and more efficient (x% reduction in average cost for transport, x% reduction in carbon emissions) transport network and NOT CONSTRAIN THE POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS TO ACHIEVE THAT OUTCOME.

    1. Except targets are already in the Auckland Plan and plenty of other documents but they just get ignored and the mayor and councilors are only able think in projects.

      1. Targets in the Auckland Plan aren’t always outcome targets though – off top of my head they include PT numbers which is (at best) an output target (it would be an outcome for a profit-focused organisation). More people on PT is not a good in and of itself anymore than more cops is a good in and of itself.

        Look, I have no doubt that better PT is the best way to get faster, safer, and more efficient transport, but I think jumping straight to a specific project is a problem. This sort of “input based thinking” dominated the public sector until the late 1980s in NZ at least.

        And yes, Mayor, Councillors, LB members always think projects not outcome. they want a library in their hood when it might be more efficient to subsidise a shuttle every 15mins to take locals to a library in another local board. and so on ad infinitum.

        sigh. Central government much more advanced than local.

        1. Your assertion that ‘more people on PT is not a good in and of itself’ is contestable to say the least. Sure it’s not perfect but it is a pretty good indicator for outcomes we all want [ie a good proxy]; lower congestion, more efficient use of public services, lower energy intensity, lower carbon emissions and other pollutants, higher levels of accessibility, higher level of agglomeration…

          1. Lots of people would also say “more police is a good and of itself”, when it isn’t.

            You could have more people on PT and have longer travel times etc – there is no direct link. Why not just measure the actual good (less time lost) and then from analysis you’ll find out that more people on PT (can) deliver that. I’m not against indicators/intermediate measures but they have to be linked to the ultimate goal or they can become self-sustaining ( and (

            Also by saying “more people on PT” is a goal in and of itself you artificially constrain the solution set. I bet back in the 1960s they thought “more motorways” was a good in and of itself, and look where that got us!

          2. Too much focus on one outcome: reduced travel time. An important one but solely. That’s exactly how we ended up with the highwayman’s autistic LOS metric dominating all other criteria.

            Don’t disagree with you in principle but that travel time is not the only value that matters (although being measurable it is the easiest to elevate above all else).

    1. In Auckland the LTP really is about the dollars and the projects. The Auckland Plan has already outlined the strategic direction.

      This post is merely saying stay true to your strategy when making budget decisions.

      1. Oh, goodness Fred. “Is” and “should” are very different words, and the LGA is broad enough in its wording requiring LTPs to allow a lot more than a budget and a set of projects. And if you think the Auckland Plan provides sufficient strategic architecture you are sadly mistaken. The Auckland Plan is definitely not equivalent to a White Paper (if you’d like to read a fantastic piece of strategic direction, the Labour Government’s 2000 Defence Policy Framework shows what you can do in 25 pages).

        Here’s something that central government has been using since the 1980s: output-based costing (OBC). Instead of buying a set of projects, you buy a set of services, and let the bureaucrats decided which inputs they require. Oddly enough, OBC has led to quantum gains in public sector efficiency. While the LTP does talk about themes and groups of activities (output classes), when you peel away the surface you realise they are really just inputs.

        Local government here is very similar to the US congressional budget process with its review of line item expenditure.

        1. Are you claiming that central government carefully considers outputs before developing policy and committing to projects? If so, then what are the defined outputs and objectives of the Roads of National Significance? What is the long-term plan? Why are they proceeding when some of them at least have a very poor business case and many indicators are pointing to a traffic-reduced future for society anyway? As far as many of us can see, the desired high-level output seems to be to keep a few Ministers and their lobbyists happy, and everything else is a jack-up.

          The “laundry list” of Gen Zero’s appeal to the Mayor contains items which provide a sensible alternative to the ‘More Highways ‘ approach, and go a long way towards meeting a very tangible need which other cities have successfully addressed but Auckland has so far failed to. Some of these have surely been analysed to bits already. I am not so sure that it helps to set mathematical targets (such as commuting times), in the complex ‘living organism’ of human society which will in all likelihood not conform to the predictions anyway. I don’t think life is as easily plannable as that. Do you plan for precise outcomes way ahead in your own life, or like most of us, do you take a few steps in the general direction you think you want to go, take stock and re-assess if necessary, then take few more? At the moment, simply to be moving in even vaguely the right direction regarding transport would be a huge imrpovement on the wrong direction which central govenment has been taking us under National. I don’t think it takes a policy-making rocket-scientist to see what would greatly improve matters, even without defined outcomes. A schoolkid could do a better job than the current govt policy-makers.

          1. RONS are just as bad. In fact they are possibly even worse as they lack any sort of strategic coherence and actually offend my sense of decency by including “national significance”. A highway across the outback to ensure Darwin can be defended against attack is a “road of national significance”, not an effing bridge in the wops.

            Look, outcomes are “good in and of themselves.” They are (relatively) fixed. Where you get variance is in the mixture of (a) outputs and related (inputs) you need (and where you can test them). We might consider the same outcome (reduced transit times) against solution A which involves an output set of road services and motorway services and a solution B which involves a set of public transport services. Even then, we’d have to consider multiple input mixtures within those output sets.

            And it isn’t rocket science, it isn’t hocus-pocus, it’s the simple fact that if you develop a solution before clarifying the problem and the goal, your solution is probably going to be heavily sub-optimal. Even incrementalists would agree that you need a goal even if you don’t conduct zero-based thinking.

            It’s not just transport, it’s also community, infrastructure, everything. Project-based thinking is flawed.

  2. You’re quite right Policy 101. The biggest mistake from the Auckland Plan from my point of view is that it specified projects. You ended up with hideously expensive projects being put in which didn’t have sufficient analysis behind them:

    – AMETI

    Thats why you keep seeing these projects in AT’s programming. If you looked at the policy aims of the Auckland Plan – transformational shift to PT, worlds most liveable city, world class urban form etc I fail to see how any of the above would be priorities.

    1. Exactly… there’s some kind of highjack that occurs between intention and outcome; what’s Eliot’s line?

      ‘Between the Idea and the Reality
      Between the Motion and the Act
      Falls the Shadow’

    2. Yes, and the fact that nobody can say quite simply what travel time reductions AMETI and East West Link etc. will deliver to the average congestion across Auckland indicates they are poorly thought out.

      To extend it, however, many of the projects favoured by TB e.g. Victoria Street Linear Park don’t exactly have clearly-identified benefits.

  3. I believe the high jackers in this instance were the Chamber of Commerce and the Property Council… Possibly also the AA.

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