I don’t tend to look at the motoring section of the Herald much however every now and then something stands out – often for its comedy value – and that was the case yesterday in an article titled Motoring Mythbusting. The article covers off a number of areas but two in particular deserve some attention. The first one talks about the cost of petrol.

It’s easy to see why petrol is a grudge purchase for so many people: you keep pouring the stuff into the tank and then it just disappears as you drive around. With the cost of filling a 50-litre tank currently at about $108, it’s a big drain on your wallet.

But think of the wonderful things that mobility and the private motor vehicle bring us: that sense of control, the freedom to be in different places as we choose. Failing that, remember that New Zealand still has the fifth-lowest fuel tax in the Western world. Petrol is actually cheaper than a 750ml bottle of Pump water from the supermarket ($3.99 per litre as this is written), despite having more complicated packaging and distribution demands.

Something else to consider for new-car buyers. If you have a humble Toyota Corolla GX, it will cost you $5600 per year to fill it up every week. Given that 55 per cent depreciation over three years is a realistic figure for a new car, it’s costing you $5800 just to have the thing in your driveway (that’s before you even consider finance or insurance). So petrol is not necessarily even the most expensive part of running a car.

Almost not quite sure where to begin so this is basically just a dump of my various thoughts about the comments above.

Paying over $100 to fill a tank on a regular basis might not be a big burden for the author but for many households it is a significant cost and it’s a cost that’s been rising with the price now sitting firmly over $2 per litre. The impact of the rises in fuel price are being reflected the spending from peoples wallets. The Electronic Card Transaction data from Stats NZ shows that over the last 11 years the percentage we’ve spent on fuel compared to other retail activities has gone from 10.5% to 16.5%.

Card Spending on Fuel - Aug 14

For families on low incomes the percentage of their income spent on private vehicles is likely to be even higher which leaves them with less money to spend on other things, like food. But more often than not it’s not just about filling one car but multiple ones. In the 2013 census 257,856 households in Auckland out of the 469,500 (55%) had two or more vehicles. In many cases families simply have no choice but to have multiple vehicles due to the dispersed nature of jobs in Auckland and lack of viable alternative options, all of which means higher household fuel costs.

Access to Vehicles

The author then claims that petrol for a car isn’t really that much when you compare it to depreciation, insurance, licencing and other transport costs. Of course he compares the depreciation on a brand new car while many people buy cheaper second hand cars for which the amount of depreciation is less however it is an important point that the cost of fuel is just one part of the overall picture in owning a car. He’s also right that mobility and the ability to get to many places is a really important thing. I would suggest though that it isn’t just a car that can improve mobility and open up the places you can travel. A well designed PT network with frequent services and integrated fares can do that too. Combined with riding a bike or walking such a network can provide mobility options in the city and where PT priority exists can also do so free of congestion.


What’s more travelling on such a network can be comparatively quite cheap. For example a monthly pass covering the entire urban area is $190 a month or a maximum of $2300 per year. That’s less than half the cost of petrol mentioned in the article and combined with the abundant access the new network will provide will become ever more compelling for people. To me the huge benefit of the PT investment that’s happening or that we’re pushing for is not that it will force everyone out of cars but that it allows some people to reduce their level of car use. Perhaps a two car family will be able to go to a single car, or a three car family down to two cars.

The myth in the article that caught my attention was the last one.


The late LJK Setright was arguably the most erudite motoring journalist of his time. Not to mention often quite mischievous.

According to the great man in one of his 1990s columns: “Speed does not kill. Speed saves time, which is life.”

I wonder how long it will be before the government start using this line?

Yet as Peter pointed out the other day, many people don’t value speed and choose to pay for travel with time, does this mean they value their life less or just differently to a motoring journalist.

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  1. Also… When you’re driving, that’s pretty much all you can do. When you’re on a bus or a train, you can read or study or nap. When you’re walking or cycling, you’re exercising as well as commuting.

    1. Agreed. When I use PT for an off-peak work trip, I take longer to get there but I get out my laptop and tick off some admin work, so I actually gain time.

      I say off-peak trips because you kinda need two seats to comfortably work on a laptop on one seat, and store your bag on the second seat. The exception to this is when there’s room for your bag underneath the seat in front or if you sit next to the luggage area over the bus wheelarch on some models, which is not always the case

      Of course for more crowded peak trips, if your PT vehicle has priority or exclusive right-of-way, then you gain time there too which makes up for the lower likelihood of being able to multitask.

      1. On the side of the ledger for cars is that you can listen to the radio or music, which is a positive benefit. I listen to a lot more of Radio NZ when I’m driving regularly, and it helps me keep up to date on things. This can be done on public transport with any mobile device these days, but for many people the car is not a *complete* waste of time.

    2. false. I often use the excuse of driving to freely abuse other random people and attempt top kill them in a way that would put me in jail in any other case.

      1. Me too! I put it down not to feeling free but to feeling trapped in a big metal thing. I don’t behave like that when I’m on my bike.

        1. On the (thankfully few) occasions I do have to drive, I always try and drive like I cycle. What a much more relaxed and serene experience that drive is with that attitude. And doesn’t take me any longer.

          Of course, that is also the only time I have to queue for lights or search for parking as well.

          Worth remembering too that furiously trying to drive as fast as possible at all times (as Auckland drivers feel compelled to do) is not necessarily getting to your destination faster. Watch this mono modal traveller’s surprise when driving at 30km/h in Christchurch:

  2. Contrary to the Herald’s view, the necessity for households in New Zealand to run multiple cars is a recipe for poverty and goes a long way to explaining the high degree of deprivation in our poorest suburbs.

    1. Absolutely. On Campbell live last night they had families that were feeding 7 or 8 people on $120/week. Registration and petrol costs are taking food out of these people’s mouths.

  3. ‘[Y]ou keep pouring the stuff into the tank and then it just disappears as you drive around.’ This must be one of the most scientifically cretinous observations I’ve encountered recently but it really doesn’t surprise me given public perception of the causes of, oh, all sort of ‘little’ things, like climate change, respiratory deaths from vehicular pollution, etc. But this sort of lazy illiteracy is, I guess, a consequence of relying on the New Zealand Herald to inform you of what’s happening in the world around you.

    1. You keep filling up the tank with the stuff, and it just disappears.

      You keep driving around pedestrians, cyclists and kids, and they invariably disappear.

      You keep driving around your neighbourhood, yet it seems to be disappearing too.

      You keep on dreaming of a better life, but it always disappears.

      You just can’t understand it.

  4. this was the most stupid part of that for me:

    “But think of the wonderful things that mobility and the private motor vehicle bring us: that sense of control, the freedom to be in different places as we choose.”

    I am sure the families living in poverty and not having enough to eat will appreciate their freedom to suffer malnutrition. And for most people petrol doesn’t represent freedom to do what they want, it represents the necessity of traveling large distances to their workplaces from the only housing they can afford (which they can’t really afford due to the commute costs).

  5. There’s a good graph that I think Todd Litman put together, which shows all the different costs of transport. Car ownership was by far the highest while congestion was about the 6th highest cost at just a few hundred dollars per person per year.

    Yet what do we spend most of our public funds on?

  6. Speed does save time, which is indeed life.

    A life is made up of (using an actuarial calculation approximately) 85 years * 365 days * 24 hours * 60 minutes – 44 million minutes.

    MOT tells us we do approximately 9000 vkt per person per year (http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/tmif/transport-volume/tv003/) ; with 4.5 million people that’s 40 billion VKT per year

    At 50kmh an hour, that takes 48.6 billion minutes; at 51km that takes 47.7 billion minutes, a saving of 900 million minutes, or 20 lives of time.

    If you dispute that time saving has value, then we should have a speed limit of ~20kmh; if you dispute that every minute of life is equally valuable you are on a slippery slope where some people are more equal than others.

    1. “if you dispute that every minute of life is equally valuable you are on a slippery slope where some people are more equal than others.”

      I don’t get where the “some people are more equal than others” but comes from. Presumably some minutes are indeed more valuable than others, for example, spending time with your family* vs spending time, say, in a traffic jam. Or are we just talking about minutes as having equal potential, as in everyone’s “minutes” have the capacity to be spent in any way the “user” of those minutes chooses**, and therefore they are all “equal”?

      *For those of you who don’t enjoy spending time with your families, substitute an activity that you personally value.
      ** This is an incredible abuse of the English language, which is why I’ve put scare quotes on everything

    2. “if you dispute that every minute of life is equally valuable”

      The funniest thing is your comment is actually disputing that “every minute of life is equally valuable”:
      Every minute of time spent not travelling = valuable
      Every minute of time spent travelling = time spent dead = not valuable

  7. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11064416/Motorists-have-ruined-England-and-they-need-to-pay-the-price.html

    “Cars and motoring occupy a unique and uniquely privileged position. It is a total myth that this is either inevitable or the only way.”

    “But first, a little economics. In general, most of us are pretty happy with letting the markets allocate scarce (in the economic sense) goods by deciding the price for them. We’re broadly happy with how this mechanism works for goods that nobody needs (like caviar) and goods that most people need (like chicken). We know that price controls, in general do not work well and capitalism, by and large, delivers the goods. With me so far?

    So what I want to know is this: why, the moment we get into our cars, do we all turn into screaming, pinko commies? Why do we reject the free market solutions that we embrace everywhere else. Why, rather than accept the idea that we should pay when we use a scarce resource (roads) do we ration them in the worst possible way. Why do we agree that, for a once-a-year fee, you can drive as much as you like, wherever you like and whenever you like?”

    1. That is a well written piece. Tolls do have a wealth effect but the better the substitutes available then the lower the wealth effect is. That is why we should toll the entrances to the CBD first as it is easy to get a bus or train into the CBD. The money could then go straight into improving PT. But instead road pricing gets hijacked by the road building lobby who see it as a way to fund their businesses. They push for toll points where people have the least choice like the harbour bridge or any other constrained point where they can extract rents. People then see through their motivation and road pricing becomes as popular as privatising schools and hospitals. Pricing should be used to manage congestion first, encourage other modes and travel times second and as a source of cash last of all.

  8. This post also highlights another problem. Yes, when you look at moving one person PT looks cheap by comparison. Once you’re looking at 2 or 3, the price advantage is immediately removed. Hence the need for off-peak and weekend fares asap in order to give families rational options.

    1. > Yes, when you look at moving one person PT looks cheap by comparison. Once you’re looking at 2 or 3, the price advantage is immediately removed.

      Well, that reflects the underlying truth – moving 3 people in one car is 3 times cheaper per person than moving 1 person. But saving costs through sharing vehicles is exactly the same advantage that all PT passengers get, whether you travel with your family, or just share with whoever happens to be catching the bus at the same time as you. So no matter how big your group is, the cost per person stays pretty much the same.

  9. Bryce, the reality is that driving is cheaper and faster than public transport in Auckland for many people, and it shouldn’t be. Even for moving one person.

    For me in Devonport it costs about $60 a week to get to work (Newmarket) using a HOP card, whereas I can drive to work and back for half that cost. Sometimes I will get a monthly ferry pass and walk or bike the rest of the way but this a slow way to get to work and requires me to have enough funds to get the pass at the start of the month. This is harder than it used to be since the Council started emptying out my bank account every month (thanks to their 40% rates hike).

    And then there’s the frequency issue – AT has lumbered us in the map above with what they call a “reduced frequency” service. So despite the massive rates increase, we continue to be charged more for our fares than bus and train users, only to get half hour gaps between services, going up to an hour or more at night. And with AT’s rubbish ‘High Frequency’ network as shown above, there seems to be little effort being made to improve things.

    Our council needs to rethink what it is doing with the cost of living and the cost of public transport. Talking about 3.5% rates increases when most peoples incomes are flat-lining is just another step toward making us all even poorer. I feel that AT also needs to lift its game substantially and to contribute by making public transport less expensive and fair for all. I really don’t want to drive to work, and petrol is not cheap, but thanks to AT’s management of public transport in Auckland, it is still the cheapest option for me.

    1. I also take the ferry to work every day and I just wanted to comment on a couple of points:

      1. Remember that the Devonport ferry is not functioning on a subsidy. So your rates and the ferry ticket price have no relationship, unlike the subsidy on other PT and also the massive subsidy from rates and general taxation that supports the road infrastructure in Auckland.

      2. It sounds like you could save yourself quite a lot of money with the $190 monthly pass that Matt mentions above as this will cover ferry, bus and train in the whole city. I also wonder whether it would really be quicker to drive at peak time on Esmonde Road than cycle from the ferry terminal to Newmarket at peak times. It is only 4kms and there is an increasing amount of cycle infrastructure supporting that ride.

      2. The high frequency network above doesn’t exist right now. When it does the 813 bus is scheduled to be every 10mins from 7am to 7pm. If we can finally get bus lanes on Lake Road at some stage in the future, that will make PT a much better option.

      I agree it would be nice to see the ferry service ramped up to 15 mins through the day and 30mins otherwise. However, when there is no subsidy, Fullers obviously think the existing service is the max it can do to remain profitable. I don’t know if it will increase under the high frequency network above.

        1. Oh FFS yes you are right. I never realised that. So it would be another $135 for the monthly ferry pass – $325 total for the month. That is just ridiculous.

          Oh man – we really are in a bad way aren’t we?

      1. Thanks goosoid – I looked at the monthly pass and it’s $190 per month vs. maybe $90 per month for petrol. Esmonde Road is a killer but it’s the only slow part and its only on the way in, otherwise I’m pretty much forced to wear the time penalty. There’s no need for the monthly pass to cost $190 when for the rest of central Auckland it’s $140, and if that was set fairly then I agree it would be only marginally worth driving.

        I know that the ferry is not on a subsidy. AT’s continuing refusal to subsidise ferry users the way they subsidise rail/bus users is the main reason that there’s such a saving to be made by driving, and also contributes to the congestion and pollution on Esmonde Road.

        The bus option takes 1hour 20 minutes and involves catching three different buses!

        1. That’s not quite right David. AT subsidises all but two commercial ferry routes, and it subsidises only some bus routes. Well patronised regular bus routes are almost all commercial routes and unsubsidised.

      2. Without rates channelled via the ARA they probably wouldn’t have bought the Kea. I think there was significant help provided but that was a long time ago now.

  10. Households have more than one car because each person wants their own freedom. Has little to do with employment dispersal or whatever else you want to try and falsely portray it as. Even families in small villages where everything is walkable have multiple cars. It’s the kiwi lifestyle than this blog so stubbornly refuses to acknowledge or accept. We love our freedom of movement, we love to get out and about, we love to travel – which the car brings. You could put buses and trains across every town and city in NZ and you would still have multiple cars in each household.

    The fact that people are cutting spending elsewhere and keeping their spending up for their cars, especially for recreational use, just goes to show how popular they are.

      1. Most kiwis achieve it, but I understand some who frequent here don’t! Go to the beaches up and down NZ on weekends, you’ll find tens of thousands of cars. The issue perceived by the blog writer doesn’t actually exist for most folk…..

        1. How many families drive two or three cars to the beach? What you fail to understand is that we’re not saying cars are bad or even that not useful but that with a developed PT and cycling network people can still have all the benefits and ‘freedom’ of cars while also not having the high cost if needing two or three of them because there are no other options.

          1. Except Matt, you’re doing the same thing I’ve been accused of, and making a assumption without evidence – i.e., you say “needing two or three of them because there are no other options”. That’s entirely an assumption on your behalf. Whose to say they don’t simply want them? Most people have their own lives and want their own freedom. I think most car owners willingly choose to have a car because it’s the most effectve means of getting about. Even the most optimistic PT plans won’t change that. PT routes will never cover more than a tiny portion of the roading network.

            I don’t buy the argument that car ownership is something people do under duress. There’s no evidence of that.

          1. Of course there are Geoff. They’re called planning rules. There are many forms of dwellings that you can not built as of right but instead need to go through the resource consent process.

          2. Read the district plans. Mine makes it illegal for me to build anything other than a standalone house on a section on my north shore property.

          3. You said nothing else can be built, but in fact they can, where the designation allows. If you are referring to not being able to build outside a designation, well that applies to everything. You can’t build a simple house where it isn’t designated either.

    1. I love it when he tells us kiwis that we don’t understand “the kiwi lifestyle”, what other lifestyle am I supposed to have as a kiwi, born and raised?! I guess mine doesn’t count.

      Perhaps, maybe just maybe, all 4.2 million New Zealanders don’t have exactly the same lifestyle that aligns with Geoff’s desires? And he talks of stubborn non-acceptance.

      1. Obviously I’m talking about the majority Nick. You’ve chosen an alternate lifestyle, choosing to become more PT dependent, presumably because you reject what the majority embraces. So be it, it’s your choice, but don’t claim it’s representative of the typical kiwi. It’s aint.

        To answer the question posed by the blog, yes, petrol is cheap. Considering the effort required to extract it, refine it, and transport it around the globe, then sell it, it’s amazing that it’s cheaper than bottled water, milk or a bottle of coke.

        Petrol in parts of West Auckland BTW is down below $1.85 at present. Many families these days do a $200 grocery shop each week, so getting the 40c discount is quite common for the weekly tank fill. So at present, many families in West Auckland will be getting their petrol for under $1.45. But even in the areas where petrol is more expensive (inner suburbs & city) people are getting it for $1.65 or thereabouts.

        1. Geoff you continue to (incorrectly) equate the current situation as being a product of perfect choice. Sure some will want lots of cars and that’s fine but given realistic alternatives (with don’t exist for many) lots will chose otherwise. The thing is we need to invest in those alternatives before people can use them.

          1. I think Matt, the majority, if given the choice, would continue to prefer the car. The desire for alternatives only comes about when the ability to drive is impeded, and in most NZ towns and cities that hasn’t happened, so there’s no demand or desire for alternatives.

          2. “The desire for alternatives only comes about when the ability to drive is impeded, and in most NZ towns and cities that hasn’t happened”

            The ability to dive is never impeded in New Zealand. In fact, vast sums of money are spent at every level of infrastructure from highways to left turn lanes to ensure that driving is always explicitly and entirely accommodated. To take that situation and say there is no demand for alternatives ignores the idea that driving is encouraged by the type of infrastructure provided. You take the current provision of roads as the initial condition, and then use that to suggest car usage is simply preference that would have been equally likely to appear from the ether.

        2. I haven’t chosen any ‘alternate lifestyle’, and I’m not PT dependant. I’ve lived in many different houses, flats and apartments, and will change again. I’ve owned several cars. The fact is kiwi lifestyles is a plural, there are many and varied ways we chose to live and the idea that everyone or even the majority are the same is a complete myth.

          And please Geoff, I’m not claiming anything about the typical kiwi, especially not that I somehow represent this impossible creature. That is what you do, you tell us constantly about this or that of the kiwi lifestyle or the typical New Zealander. I don’t believe there is such a thing in the first place.

  11. “We love our freedom of movement, we love to get out and about, we love to travel – which the car brings”

    So does walking, catching the bus, the train, the plane.

    (That’s a reply to Geoff’s latest tome on the Kiwi Lifestyle that no one here knows about, lives or acknowledges)

    1. Not really (other than walking/cycling). Freedom of movement is maximised when you set your own routes and schedules where/when you want. Walking, cycling and driving maximize freedom of movement. Trains, buses and planes do not. They are great options in addition to the car, but if you don’t have a car, you don’t have freedom of movement to the same extent as a car owner, not by a long shot.

        1. I visited relatives in Hamilton over the weekend. Using the car gave us partial freedom – had to a pick up a cheesecake on the way, but that involved a schedule and route that I hadn’t planned, due to heavy congestion on Lincoln Rd. The timing of our departure from Hamilton was dictated by Auckland traffic, forcing an early afternoon departure to avoid spening too much time in Auckland’s rush hour traffic. However, it was still quicker and more convenient than a regional rail trip would have been (even if we had Aus or UK frequencies).

          On the other hand, I wouldn’t even consider commuting to work in the CBD by car, when the train is cheaper, just as slow, but allows me to work on my laptop for 1/2 an hour.

          Only the disorganised will drive to the shops for a bottle of milk – with a little planning you would buy the right amount of milk during your weekly supermarket shop (or from the Mad Butcher). A fraction of the price, and no extra petrol.

          1. And that’s it exactly Bryan. The car is just one tool in the transport textbook. Anyone who claims the car is a universal freedom machine is barking mad.

          2. One tool, perhaps. But by far the most effective. And in most towns and cities, the only tool necessary.

          3. Exactly – a good transport system will allow you to use whatever mode works best for the situation. It won’t leave you having to default to one mode that may not work in certain circumstances.

            So a bicycle (or your feet) is great for getting down to the shops for a bottle of milk – not so great for your trip to Hamilton.

            That is why people in the Netherlands own more cars per capita than people in the UK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita) despite the fact that people in the Netherlands in aggregate travel 10% of their kms by bicycle.

            In comparison, the last time the UK had 10% of kms travelled by bicycle was in 1962 (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HZAyrvUsaCs/U4WIufvppoI/AAAAAAAASIk/dOq7__Tmrlo/s1600/britnlgraph.png).

            The Dutch have a wide number of realistic travel options (including by car) and are able to choose the correct travel tool for their trip. Sometimes they may have to put up with vehicle congestion on the roads because they have a task to do that only a car can really perform. But most of the time they can choose a Congestion Free option like PT or cycling for shorter trips.

            NZers in general don’t have those options. So Auckland has to keep spending a lot more money per capita than cities in places like the Netherlands as Auckland has to provide for the overwhelming majority of trips to be made by a mode that is not the most appropriate in the circumstances. Pretty basic really.

          4. Yes in most towns and cities, if you count them numerically, and ignore walking of course.

            However not for most New Zealanders, the majority of whom live in the three main centres.

  12. Currently we have a fuel outlet charging $2.009 and another charging the same but with 4c off if you have the right voucher from the supermarket yet I noticed closer in to the city the same day that there were stations selling at $2.149. I wonder if now would be a good time for the introduction of a Sydney type of web site that compares prices and says where the best prices are in your area. It appears as tho the prices are better on Wednesday most weeks for the weekly fill.

    1. Actually, there is a big price disparity between petrol prices in poor areas and the prices in richer areas. The difference varies from day to day and is usually only 5-10 cents, but I have seen the St Heliers Mobil at $2.13 and the Otara Mobil at $1.95 on the same day for the same 91 octane fuel. I guess it is a special tax on rich people. I have seen similar differences in other poor areas as well.

      1. Ari, the poor or rich areas is a coincidence. The prices are set (roughly) according to distance from the CBD. There’s an interactive map here that shows the distribution of petrol prices around Auckland:


        Basically it’s a three-tier system. CBD/inner suburbs are most expensive. Mid range suburbs get the standard price. Outer suburbs get the cheaper prices.

        91 octane has lately been sold in New Lynn by BP, Gull and Mobil for $1.82 per litre, compared to $2.13 in the city.

      2. Ari, I think it is simply a factor of the price of land. Rich people live in desirable areas where the cost of land is high (that’s almost a tautology, but basically desirable = expensive = only inhabited by wealthy). The inverse is true for poor less desirable areas, cheap land.

        If land is expensive it is scarce, that means both that a gas station needs higher prices for cost recovery but also that it can charge more due to scarcity.

        The land the St Heliers Mobil sits on is probably worth ten times that of The Otara one.

        The extreme example is the CBD, where a plot big enough for a gas station is also big enough for a skyscraper. That’s why there are only the same number of gas stations serving the CBD as there are on Lincoln Rd, despite the fact the former sees a quarter million visitors and residents on a typical weekday.

        1. I haven’t seen it to the same extent here – although we seem to be moving in that direction – but I remember going to San Francisco and finding it interesting that the price of a petrol station right in the CBD was 10-15 cents higher than the other ones I’d passed. As Nick says, it’s down to land value (and opportunity cost).

        2. And indeed Geoff’s three tier idea is perfectly correct, it just describes three broad tiers of land value, with the co varying factors of desirability and wealth.

          1. Demand does not necessarily infer desirability. Inner city real estate demand is driven out of necessity as more jobs are put in the CBD and people have to choose between a rock and a hard place (travel in congestion or pay a premium to live close).

            In essence, very poor town planning, that puts business ahead of people.

          2. That’s exactly what it means. Desirability is how much people want to live there, and how much they are willing to pay to do so. Desirability has many influencing factors, including proximity to employment.

            I’m not sure I agree with your statement, the CBD only has some 13% of employment, and the wider city centre about 24%. If they are putting jobs somewhere, it is outside the CBD.

          3. Yeah, those businesses don’t desire to be in the city centre at all, they want to be in the huge amount of available office space elsewhere.

          4. Nick, presume you therefore believe that multiple car ownership and widespread car use is a high level of desirability?

          5. The term isn’t usually used that way, but of your point is that people in Auckland generally want cars because it’s convenient, let’s them access employment, etc then yes. Cars are desirable in Auckland.

  13. Oooh! Town planning – quelle horreur! I don’t live in the inner city out of necessity; I do it because I want to be here, not forced to live in some suburb. Oh and look up the difference between ‘imply’ and ‘infer’.

    1. I am in the same situation (and 5th generation Kiwi – but have no idea what this generic “Kiwi lifestyle” is) but applying logic or evidence to Geoff’s comments is pointless.

      They are based on neither and he never refers to any evidence to back them up.

      It’s just “the vibe” and possibly “Mabo” – Denis Denuto would be proud. (The Castle aficionados will get it.)

      1. “They are based on neither and he never refers to any evidence to back them up.”

        You mean other than the fact that most kiwis choose to drive and live a lifestyle of dispersed recreation in our great land, and that the issues raised in this blog would be laughed at in most towns and cities?

        The typical kiwi travel lifestyle is not my opinion. It’s the way 90% of kiwis live, and frankly those here who don’t understand it are living in a bubble.

        1. “the fact that most kiwis choose to drive and live a lifestyle of dispersed recreation” – there is no such fact. There is a fact that many people do that, but it says nothing about whether it’s a matter of choice or a matter of necessity.

          1. Actually a lot of Kiwis in general, and Aucklanders specifically, do love their cars. But I recently figured out that it can be explained in part by Stockholm syndrome.

            The trams being ripped out and all new development being designed in a way that it was impractical to access by any method other than car (as well as being impossible to thread decent bus routes through) forced us in. And those cars were (mostly) comfortable to be inside, so we liked it, learning to ignore as best we could its costs.

      2. So there Goosoid. Facts, plain as day. Straight from the ‘most’ book of statistics. Unfortuanately that book isn’t available for looking through if you are living in a bubble.

        1. If you require evidence or proof of how 90% of kiwis live, I can only assume you don’t get out much? Go spend some time in Northland, or the Coromandel, or Taupo, amongst the tens of thousands of people who are there, but don’t live there.

          1. Since neither you nor I have the ability to actually see what the population is up to at any one stage I’d prefer to stick to facts that can be backed up with reliable statistics rather than some holiday based speculation, which of course you are unable to offer up, and never have been able to offer up. I know you cannot grasp the difference between what you observe and what might actually be happening, but New Zealand is wider than what you can see from your windscreen or your walks around Swanson.

            You need to also stop assuming what others get up to, it’s not relevant when discussing population level activity. Trying to frame that as some snide reference to some assumption you have made is unhelpful to say the least.

          2. Conan, I’ve lived in various regions and travelled to every single town in NZ. Kiwis live an outdoor lifestyle and travel a lot.

            Keep living in your bubble if you so choose, but I suggest you go and see New Zealand for yourself. Actually I’m amazed you don’t understand the kiwi lifestyle. It’s such a well understood culture to the point of being a cliche, that I would have thought everyone but foreign visitors would understand it. Kiwis are outdoor folk, who travel frequently for recreation. To not understand one’s own country is rare to say the least.

            Where in New Zealand have you lived during your life?

          3. “Kiwis live an outdoor lifestyle and travel a lot” – what a silly generalisation! If you travel, you’ll see people travelling; if you’re outdoors, you’ll see people outdoors. What you won’t see is the many people not travelling (or travelling differently from you), or the many people who are not outdoors. How do your anecdotal experiences take account of that?

          4. Geoff, you are making assumptions again. It’s not relevant to this discussion your or my travel arrangements. You’ve been asked to provide facts and you haven’t. Unless you can actually post some there’s nothing more to say here.

          5. I must know an awful lot of people who fall into that elusive 10%. Perhaps as you say, I simply don’t get out much. Although I’m not sure what going to Coromandel, Northland, or Taupo is supposed to tell me about the fabled 90% lifestyle (hint: “tens of thousands”* will fall short of constituting 90% of New Zealanders)

            *of people who don’t live in these regions, but whatever

          6. “Kiwis are outdoor folk, who travel frequently for recreation.”

            And yet Kiwis are one of the most urbanised countries in the world (if “urban” is defined as living in towns of 5,000 people or more). Despite the image of the remote baches and farms, actually most of us live in very close proximity to each other, due to most of our settlement occuring very recently, historically speaking.

            Based on data from New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm, 1997, by the way.

    1. No but it is still an interesting point. Valuable oil is extracted from the ground in a dodgy country piped and loaded into massive ships to go 1/4 of the way round the planet, distilled into fuel in a process that ought to be dangerous, piped again 160km trucked to outlets all over the country and they still sell it for less than water or milk produced locally.

      1. Precisely. Oil is a very cheap commodity, and it will continue to be for the rest of the lives of anyone reading this. The deniers have spent 40 years telling us it will be unaffordable in 5 years, but that 5 years never gets any closer than 5 years…..

        1. * looks at latest water bill * Water costs me $3.24 per thousand litres, or $0.003 per litre, which includes both supply and disposal. Pretty sure that’s cheaper than petrol.

          Comparing pumped petrol to bottled water is not a level comparison.

          1. Bottled water is much simpler to obtain and distribute than petrol. Of course it’s not a level comparison, that’s the whole point. It’s very unlevel – the hardest to obtain and distribute is also the cheapest.

          2. Bottled water prices are the free market playing on people’s irrationality. Nothing wrong with tap water in this country, which is literally 1,000x cheaper.

            Actually there may be something in that … bottled water has no advantage over a tap and cup/glass or a drinking fountain besides convenience, but people pay heaps more for that convenience and/or perceived hygiene (never mind stuff in the plastic packaging leaching into it). People just assume it’s better. Driving similar?

          3. No Andrew, driving isn’t similar. It’s advantages in most instances are obvious. In most instances PT won’t come close to matching the speed, flexibility or convenience of the car. That’s a fact, not a perception.

          4. I’m not doubting there are convenience advantages to bottled water, and clearly people think it’s worth paying 1,000x the price for such convenience.

            I’m also not doubting that a car, in isolation (ie, also how they show them in car ads) has massive speed, convenience and flexibility advantages. However these diminish when you add more and more cars. And when you change your city infrastructure to compensate for this, you severely diminish the speed, convenience, flexibility and safety of all other transport modes. In other words, the car creates and extends its own advantages by worsening all other transport options.

            At least bottled water infrastructre hasn’t decimated tap water infrastructure in a similar way.

          5. The flexibility and speed of private motoring in comparison to PT does not just exist in isolation – it dominates to the point of almost all car use everywhere.

            Motoring may have decimated PT – but that’s because that’s what kiwis wanted. Nobody forced anyone to abandon the trams and buy a car. Our transport choices are just that – a choice. Now in our main centres, especially Auckland, there is a growing desire for choice to include more PT once more. A return to the past – but I think the car will still be the number one choice for most kiwis.

          6. ‘Nobody forced anyone to abandon the trams and buy a car.’ Hilarious! So ripping the tram tracks up and scrapping the trams didn’t ‘force’ anyone to abandon them? So today in Auckland we can all use trams but it’s just that we ‘choose’ not to. Yeah, those invisible trams are terrible, a bad choice. We had all better hope that your curious idea that you and all your habits and opinions do not, as you clearly fantasise, coincide perfectly with ‘most New Zealanders’, as that would make us all subject to such equally absurd flights of illogic.

          7. Damn, so I could have chosen a safe cycleway all those years when I was riding down Beach Road, and just didn’t know about my freedom until last week?

            Hey, I will try same next week on Panmure Bridge. Maybe I will even come back. Choices!

          8. Patrick beat me to it – but I’ll repeat the question – Geoff how do you reconcile “Nobody forced anyone to abandon the trams and buy a car” with the 1950s complete removal of the tram network, just prior to which Auckland had the highest per-capita PT usage it has ever had by a huge margin? I note patronage was highest during the war but even sinve then, halved when the trams were removed.

            Graph: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Historic-PT-patronage.jpg (can a mod please embed the image? Thx)

          9. Patrick, Andrew, I’ll put this in capitals so it sinks in – THE TRAMS WERE REPLACED BY BUSES.

            So no forcing of people to buy cars, because there was no reduction in PT on offer. On the contrary, bus routes were expanded beyond the confines of the tram routes.

          10. And the patronage shows that many people chose the tram over the car – but when that option was pulled from under their feet (so yes, they were forced out of the trams unlike your assertion), they did not choose the bus over the car because the available bus options were inferior to the previous tram options. And then as more chose cars, there was more traffic, and those buses got stuck in that traffic so offered no advantages there.

            When you remove options better than the car, people choose the car – no surprises there. So they piled into their cars, car-centric infrastructure was built to the detriment of all other modes – not just buses, but all other modes – masses of wide roads and carparks mean facilities are twice as far apart from eacher meaning twice as far/long to walk or bike to, and less likely to be sheltered. And whole neighbourhoods (ie Massey) were built with houses not within walking distance of any facilities, in some cases not even dairies. So of course this pushed yet more people into cars.

            In the longer term, two whole generations of Aucklanders have only known how to get around by car – I work with people who have demonstrated that moving around by any other means just doesn’t even occur to them*. For others, as mentioned before I think Stockholm syndrome has set in which further exacerbates the problem.

            * In June I had to urgently deliver a new cellphone to a customer and arranged to meet them at Sunnynook busway station as I was in town and Sunnynook Stn was on their way to where their next site visit was – the customer responded “you’ll find it hard to turn around there”. I also did some remote PC support on her colleagues’ laptop at the desk next to hers, while travelling on the 881 bus from my office towards the rezendevous point. She told me that literally blew her mind – doing interactive work while travelling was so completely foreign to her.

          11. The trams were replaced by buses, and lost their legal right of way over cars, and required to travel in mixed traffic behind ever increasing car traffic. That is an extreme reduction in the service on offer.

            In that circumstance buses could only be slower than the cars they have to stop behind, and slower and less reliable than the trams they replaced.

            If the trams were all replaced with buses running on fully bus lanes routes with right of way priority at all intesections you might have a fair comparison.

      2. Petrol, Diesel and (to a lesser extent) LPG have quite amazing distribution systems. In the modern world fuel is one of the few remaining commodities typically purchased by consumers in bulk (with piped water and natural gas being the other notable exceptions). Comparing a high margin fashion/convenience product like branded bottle water with a bulk commodity adds little to the debate.

  14. And why do the same people who rabidly oppose actual pricing of driving costs (let alone secondary costs such as pollution and land costs) seem to also love whinging about that those bloody cyclists that should better be paying their share too. Newsflash – if each cyclist paid their share of the road damage, cycleway construction cost, and other costs they cause, and you got that money, you might buy an ice cream from it. Except that the admin costs mean that you have to pay some software company more than you get, so no icecream.

    Well, that analogy went a bit off the rails, but yeah.

    1. I for one would be extremely welcoming of any road user charge that applied to all road users (cyclists and motorists) that was based on axle weight. More as trolling than because of its great merits as a scheme, since it would either render vehicles prohibitively expensive, or bicycles so cheap as to be free, but with the added bonus of being codified in a legislative framework.

      Har har har…

      1. Why would it render vehicles expensive? Surely it depends on what level you set the charge at? 1c, $1 or $100? Take your pick!

        Interestingly, studies have shown that cars do very little damage to road surfaces. Almost all damage is attributable to the weather, and heavy vehicles (trucks etc). Cars and light trucks cause about 10% of vehicle-caused damage, or 2% of all damage.

        1. Are you counting when vehicles collide with stationary objects which form part of or are adjacent to road infrastructure? Such as when cars frequently collide with power poles, traffic light poles, road signs, trees, bike racks…

          1. No, why? Those objects are not the road, and such damage is paid for by insurance anyway, so isn’t relevant.

          2. “such damage is paid for by insurance anyway, so isn’t relevant” – so we can ignore any costs that are covered by insurance? Economic nonsense, I’m afraid.

          3. Mike, explain why you think costs paid for by insurance should be factored into road charging. You want to pay twice or something?

          4. Such crashes are relatively frequent -> higher premiums -> more money for insurance companies (often foreign owned) -> less money spent locally/productively. Plenty of cost.

          5. Whoever/however it’s paid for, damage caused by vehicles is a cost of operating them – as people who haven’t got insurance know to their cost. As I say, to discount such costs because they may be covered by insurance is an economic nonsense. They’re still costs.

          6. Nevertheless insurance pays, so again, why add the cost to road charges? The system for full cost recovery is already in place and works. It’s done this way in pretty every country, so why reinvent the wheel?

          7. “It’s done this way in pretty every country” – in countries with compulsory insurance, perhaps, but New Zealand isn’t one of those, so full cost recovery is *not* in place, and therefore it doesn’t work. “Why reinvent the wheel?” Because that particular variety of wheel hasn’t been invented here yet.

          8. You have no idea how insurance works do you Geoff? Where a car damages/destroys a street or traffic light for example, then drives off, the council pays the repairs. If the council’s insurance pays, that’s eventually reflected in how much those insurance premiums are. Either way, that comes out of your rates or RUCs. Are you happy with that?

        2. Damage to road surfaces goes up with something near the 4th power of axle weight.
          If that was the only factor then that comes out with a car doing the same damage as about 10,000 bikes and an HGV doing the same damage as about 10,000 cars.
          Newer HGV brake and suspension design is maybe improving things a bit, so so might not actually need to set the HGV road damage part of the charge at quite as much as 100 million times the bike charge……

          1. Colin, I think a car is about 12-13 times the weight of a bike with rider, and a truck (fully laden anyway) about 50 times the weight of a car? Assuming a bike with rider is about 80kg, and a car with driver around 1 tonne.

          2. I just based that on the Nissan Bluebird (910-960kg), which was NZ’s most popular car for a number of years.

            Perhaps you can tell us the average, since you seem to know?

          3. I thought I would do the math.

            My Honda Jazz has a curb weight of 1,084 kg, my mountain bike is 12kg, I’m 74kg. My car is probably much lighter than average, and still more than a tonne before I get in it.

            Bike + rider = 86kg. Axle weight 43kg. 4th power 3,41,8801 damage value
            Car + driver = 1158kg. Axle weight 579kg. 4th power 112,386,528,081 damage value
            Car + driver 13.5 times heavier than Bike + rider.

            112,386,528,081 / 3,41,8801 = 32,873 bikes?

            Does that maths look right?

          4. “I just based that on the Nissan Bluebird (910-960kg), which was NZ’s most popular car for a number of years.”

            In what world does this constitute the average New Zealand car?

          5. “In what world does this constitute the average New Zealand car?”

            The last time a bluebird model weighed under 960kg was in 1973. Not ‘what world’, but ‘which time’. Says a lot really.

          6. Yep, the math looks roughly right, but it all goes out of the window when a truck drives past. It can make the car look like the bicycle looks to a car.

            Which is why in reality, you would add road construction and general maintenance costs (i.e. damage and wear not just caused by axle loads), where the car creates more costs, and the bicycle creates some, but a rather marginal sum (cycleways still slump and erode, even if it may not be the cyclist wear doing it). Otherwise, all our road costs would basically be paid for by truck and bus companies…

          7. “The last time a bluebird model weighed under 960kg was in 1973”

            That’s an interesting fact which I didn’t know (because I’m too young I guess), and like you say is quite revealing, but actually the thing I had in mind when writing that was more to do with damage. When I said much earlier that I sort of jokingly welcome a weight based pricing system, I had in mind the well known “fourth-power” rule which Colin Smith above made more explicit. With this in mind, the “numerically average” New Zealand car (even excluding heavy trucks, trade vans, and so on) from the perspective of damage done is likely to weigh more than a ton, as this idea has to somehow encapsulate the trend towards larger and heavier vehicles, i.e.: SUVs.

            For the benefit of Mr. Blackmore, who is more intimately aware of what Kiwi’s think and drive than I could ever be, this isn’t a car that you can buy in a showroom. Its just a conceptual representation of the kinds of vehicles driven on roads in New Zealand (or at least, Auckland) today understood from the perspective of damage caused to roads, which is turn can be understood in terms of axle weight.

            I guess it depends to some extent what you mean by average (i.e.: do you mean “most common”?)

  15. I can’t see that “Kiwis” are so very different from other western nationals in their basic nature. We tend to be out-doorsy because environment and weather permit this. However for the 5 out of seven days per week that most people work, I suspect the difference in lifestyles is not great. One notable difference is that certain countries have much higher public transport usage because it is an avaialbe option and people in large numbers choose to use it (yes, CHOOSE!). Other countries offer inferior PT facilities, therefore usage is not so high. And the same arguments rage about whether people in “poor PT-countries” drive more because they love cars or because there is less choice not to. For some reason views such as Geoff Blackmore’s tend to proliferate in such countries, but in “good-PT countries” where usage is high and people take pride in their systems, such voices are notably silent. Their arguments do not accord with the reality that people see and experience around them.

    1. Or that there’s no such thing as a “kiwi” lifestyle, simply styles?

      Given a lifestyle in simply a collection of random activities, it seems for there to be such a thing, said activities would need to have originated with a kiwi?

      Assuming we’re not talking about the flightless bird can anyone name any activities which were invented in New Zealand and not simply castoffs from those Dirty Foreigners we keep hearing about?

      To be fair to Geoff, statistically he’s spot on here, just not in the way he imagines.

      “the issues raised in this blog would be laughed at in most towns and cities”

    2. Yes having worked in 6 countries, my Monday to Friday routine has not changed much at all regardless. My summer weekends may have changed a bit when I haven’t lived near the ocean as I can’t go to the beach.

      I don’t think the lifestyle of the average developed world large city dweller is much different anywhere.

  16. http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/motor-vehicle-registration-statistics/

    Looking at the total vehicles licensed in Auckland (and licensed means paying the current fee to use a vehicle on the road vs registration which is a one off cost) at around 1.2 million vs a population of around 1.4 million. I think most would agree this extremely high figure does show a overall lifestyle choice of wanting motor vehicles which is higher than most other countries and major cities.

    1. This where NZ sits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita

      Of countries with over a million residents, we are third in the world. So not higher than most, higher than all except the US and Australia. But how can we be sure that this represents NZers “wanting motor vehicles” rather than “requiring motor vehicles”. Wouldn’t it be more indicative of the fact that as NZers we have few other alternatives? You are assuming that the current situation reflects people’s choice perfectly, which is very unlikely.

      You will also see from that list that there are a number of countries with excellent PT systems and decent cycling rates (Italy, Finland, Austria, Japan) that have relatively high car ownership rates. But those countries drive a lot less per capita than we do.

      The problem is not so much car ownership – after all a car is a useful thing to own; just like a washing machine – but the fact that there are few alternative means of transport for most NZers. So not only do we own cars but we have to use them every time we want to go somewhere even where that is not necessarily the fastest or most convenient way.

      1. Plus it’s a reflection of our spread out and dispersed towns and cities. Smaller places actually have the highest car dependency, not only because there’s no PT but also because they sprawl outwards. A village of a few hundred people in Europe would be pleasant and walkable, centred around a town square, church, pubs and restaurants. In NZ it is strung out for miles along the road it is located on, making a car a necessity and impoverishing the residents as well as the landscape.

        1. A really small village is going to be pretty car dependent no matter what form it has. It’s not economically independent, except for people living a subsistence lifestyle. Loads of people are still going to need to drive a long way for work, for shopping, and for all sorts of facilities that the village won’t have.

          1. Someone will have the stats but I think most car journeys in NZ are under 5km. Basically, going to the shops, picking up kids from school and so forth. If you lived in a compact village (as mooted above), you could easily walk or cycle those trips. So the kms driven per capita in NZ are high because our living arrangements are sprawley, especially in non – urban areas.

            Think about people you know living in a small centre in Northland, or Coromandel; how do they get to their local food store? It’s too far to drive, right? And there’s no footpath, or the road is a state highway. This is what I understand lack of choice to mean with respect to transport options. People are forced to use their cars because of distance or safety factors, whether or not they would like to.

          2. “A really small village is going to be pretty car dependent no matter what form it has” – no, it’s likely to be transport dependent, by no means necessarily car dependent.(even small villages can have good PT, and bikes can be good for trips to town).

          3. Scott – some evidence here on that: http://caa.org.nz/general-news/reaching-out-cycling-and-public-transport/

            “In Auckland, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) estimated in 2007 that approximately 43% of peak morning trips are less than 5 km, and that approximately 67% of these are currently undertaken by car (ARTA 2007). The Ministry of Transport, Household Travel Survey, 2003–2009 revealed that one-sixth of household car trips in New Zealand were less than 2km long and almost half were less than 6km long.”

        2. Sure – but you are talking about a tiny percentage of New Zealanders there. Let’s always keep in mind that we are one of the most urbanised countries in the world. There are very few people living in small villages or even in small towns as a percentage of the population.

          Villages may be small in Western Europe but they are often linked by excellent PT systems. Definitely a different situation from villages in places like Romania where the majority of people will never afford to own a car and many still use horses as a means of locomotion – but that is really subsistence farming. I know from dodging them on the “highways” there.

  17. The thing is, even following the stupid logic of comparing petrol from the pump to bottled water, bottled water is still cheaper. Because you can’t even buy just one litre of petrol: the minimum delivery is two litres! That will cost you $4.20 or so. And you can get twice as much bottled water for slightly less than that.

    1. In NZ the same graph applies I expect too – except instead of “Gallons of Gas per hour of work”, its “Litres of Petrol per hour of work”.

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