It’s taken some time but last week the government finally came around to starting the City Rail Link in 2018. In the end they were effectively forced into the position as they could no longer ignore the rapidly increasing ridership . Hayden Donnell from The Spinoff put together a great list of statements mainly from the government’s past transport ministers which really highlight how much they’ve opposed the project in recent years. Rather than duplicating the work I thought I’d look at the recent history of the project through some of the cartoons that have been published.

17 March 2009 – NZ Herald – Not strictly about the CRL but commenting Joyce’s plan for rail in Auckland – at the time he had put the plans to electrify the rail network on hold.

Joyce on Auckland Rail

28 November 2010 – NZ Herald – Len Brown as the newly elected mayor of an amalgamated Auckland released the business case into CRL. The government and especially Transport Minister Steven Joyce were quick to pour cold water on the idea.

2010-11-28 - Buffers

1 December 2010 – NZ Herald – The former Auckland Regional Council chaired by now councillor Mike Lee had been the main supporter of the CRL for main years resulting in the business case getting under way in the first place. This carries on from the one above as Steven Joyce was the face of the opposition to the project.

I have a vision of a tunnel - 01.12.10

9 June 2011 – The Press – After one of the Independent Māori Statutory Board members suggested there was a Taniwha in the way of the CRL.

CRL Taniwha

5 July 2012 – NZ Herald – at times it seemed as if the government would never agree to the CRL

2012-07-05 - When Time Flies

18 December 2012 – NZ Herald – As part of the critique into the original business case the Ministry of Transport suggested that one of the ways the council could improve it was the “Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives“. This led directly to the City Centre Future Access study which looked at almost 50 options for improving access to the city and was worked on by officials from local and central government. It found that the CRL was the best option yet despite central government involvement in the work Transport Minister Jerry Brownlee was quick to dismiss it.

Controlling the Loop - 18.12.12

9 March 2013 – NZ Herald – In response to the Auckland’s desire for more investment in public transport Transport Minister Brownlee would continue to talk up the government’s investment in roads.

More Roads

27 June 2013 – NZ Herald – The Prime Minster John Key surprised everyone by suddenly supporting the CRL – although not starting it till 2020. This was in stark contrast to the position Brownlee and his predecessor Steven Joyce had been taking not long before this. It is believed there were a couple of key reasons for the change in stance. One was polling showing Auckland voters were unhappy that the government appeared to be constantly fighting the council and wanting progress. The second was that the business lobby groups in Auckland were also unhappy with the lack of action and had made that clear to the government.

Love for a Rail Loop - 2013-06-27

28 April 2014 – NZ Herald – the day the first electric trains started running.

Brownlee CRL Cartoon

27 January 2016 – NZ Herald – John Key announces that the government now support the CRL starting in 2018 – even though it appears at this stage that their share of the funding still won’t kick in till 2020

last one on board cartoon

30 January 2016 – NZ Herald – The CRL is suggested to be a white elephant in a weekly wrap-up cartoon.2016-01-30 - CRL White Elephant

Bonus cartoons

28 May 2007 – It was around this time that the former Labour government signed off on electrifying the Auckland rail network so I assume it was in relation to that.

Robbie's Rapid Rail MW

2 November 1954 – NZ Herald – lampoons the scuttling by the National government of a previous plan to build an underground rail link through Auckland. The bound and gagged figure depicts Auckland Mayor J.H. Luxford


Share this


  1. And anytime the Herald calls some public transport related investment a White Elephant it is guaranteed to not be.

    The Northern Busway was declared a white elephant in print and cartoons many times.
    Britomart was declared a White Elephant in print and cartoons many times too.
    Electric Trains were declared white elephants in print and cartoons.

    The Light Path was called that, as was Grafton Gully cycleway.

    The first 3 all became “victims” of their own success in quick order as people flocked in droves to use them. The next two are on their way to being so as well.
    As will Skypath be when it opens.

    So calling the CRL a White Elephant as they did last weekend is little short of the project being “knighted with success” already.

  2. Today I have caught a tram, bus and plane in Berlin and a bus, AVE and local train in Spain. PT is what civilised societys have.

      1. Ah makes me think of this bit of filk: [in tune to the Flintstones theme song]

        Minister of Transport
        He ran a modern Stone age Ministry
        From the town of Wellington
        They’re both pages out of History

        So lets ride with Brownlee down the street
        To Britomart where everybody meets
        When you’re with the Brownlees
        You’ll have a “drive everywhere you go” time
        While Gerry pooh-poohs every rail line
        You’ll have a “t-raff-ic” old time

  3. These cartoons in succession vividly illustrate just how long governments in this country have shown an absolute disinclination to foster the idea of spatial efficiency of transit in New Zealand’s largest city. The mono modal emphasis on cars is on the cusp of turning much of Auckland into a very unpleasant place but I hope the success of the CRL when completed will ensure a complete change in the way we tackle our infrastructure spending.

    Wouldn’t it be good if we had a national transport strategy and a national port strategy?

  4. You should have heard Don Brash criticising the CRL on national Radio yesterday morning! Very much of the view that the CRL will do nothing to fix congestion, that self-driving cars will soon render public transport obsolete and therefore we should not be proceeding with this unnecessary project. Even when confronted by Jeanette Fitzsimons over current soaring rail ridership he remained adamant that the CRL is a big mistake which “we will live to regret”!

    This man has clearly learned nothing from history, nothing from the present, and nothing from the rest of the world. And his naïve faith in self-driving cars to solve everything is scary!

    1. I am seriously sick of National/MoT’s ridiculous focus on driver-less cars, they do nothing to remove congestion from roads as having them means more cars on the road and the whole “they can run without gaps” nonsense is stupid unless ALL cars are driver-less, which isn’t going to happen, possibly ever; as there will always be car enthusiasts or people who want to drive themselves. They also take the same footprint as any other car, and even if they made smaller 1-seat versions, there would still be a mixed fleet of different sized cars meaning the roads would remain the same width. The focus should be on modes like rail and bus-ways where capacity will last a more serious duration; delivering better ROI. These dreamers should be put in the same boat as the flying car nuts.

      1. No Peter,
        Don said that driverless cars will be here, – in 5 years time no less. Well before the CRL opens, and its obvious that the moment the first driverless cars hits NZ roads, all PT will be irrelevant instantly.
        Yeah. Right. and Yeah Nah.

    2. The CRL wont fix current congestion. It will allow current levels to remain without requiring even bigger investment in motorway lanes and arterials.

    3. Hey Don, do us all a favour, take a trip to London and see how a proper developed city does things. Doesn’t Don live in the city? Make sure you never use the crl when it’s built ‘Dr’ Brash. Or Quax, Brewer.

    4. If you want to get really wound up listen to Don from about 14mins in. Janette Fitzsimons does a great job of putting the case for the CRL and the interviewer doesn’t help by suggesting the CRL is an idea whose time has passed.

      1. Like Brash, this debate is all history, but it is funny how the grey like him spent years saying it was too early for such a city type project [AKL too small etc] to now saying it’s too late…. funny.

      2. Oh yes, Don says we’ll “live to regret” building the crl and that driverless cars will fix the congestion issue.

        Interesting looking at his formative years, his Master’s thesis found that foreign investment damages a country’s economic development and his PhD found it is good for it. Oh well.

    5. So does the don think London and New York and Tokyo will be turning off their PT systems in 20 years time due to driverless cars? Or does he just think Auckland is different? Who thinks an old timer like him can predict the future better than the young?

    6. When the likes of Don Brash, Steven Joyce, Clown Quax, Cameron Brewer and that kid from Epsom finally perish from this earth, Auckland will finally become a civilised city.

  5. I wish neo-liberal true believers like Brash, Quax, Joyce and David Seymour would be honest, rather than make up politically inspired lies as to why they oppose the CRL / public transport. It’s that they oppose public transport on principle because it’s socialist. The rabid right wing of the Republican Party in the US are much more honest.

    (Yes, I know many centre-rightists in NZ are pro-PT. But the PT=socialism argument is really what these people believe.)

    1. I find it more socialist that you have to buy a car and drive it. Not everyone can drive or wants to drive. In Auckland most PT is low quality, low speed and expensive and lacks coverage in most areas, its limited to many but not all urban areas. We need investment in PT modes not expanding roads constantly that induces more PV socialism. A true multi-modal country with many choices on how to get around with an even playing field is true freedom, not the status quo.

  6. The wording above is not quite right. The government hasn’t “come around to starting the CRL in 2018”, it has given a gaurentee that it will fund 50% of the CRL from 2020 and will work with the council towards progressing construction earlier.
    The CRL construction programme has already started with the stormwater diversion works underway and preparation for Albert St cut & cover tunnels which should be breaking ground iminently.
    Now that funding is assured it allows the councils schedule to progress, which has construction for the bored tunnels starting 2018. Hopefully the project can be run to plan, with no holdups. It doesn’t look like there is much float allowed in the schedule, considering the amount of design and length of tender that will be required for a project of this size. It will take a year to get TBM underway, so boring won’t start until 2019 earliest.

  7. After nearly Sixty years the Auckland Motorway system is now just about finished. But the Gridlock will continue as it has all of those years. Super city Auckland residents will not CAR POOL. ‘Passengers in my Car, NO WAY’ An easy fix? Increase the price of fuel to make them share. Or what I suggested in an answer in an submission back in 1989 made by me to the ARA. Put Shuttle Buses on all the Motorways on a separate lane which would ease the gridlock. If that doesn’t excite any one, what about this? The way to really fix the problem is to bring in at Midnight “OH NO” Yes, RATIONING OF OUR EXPENSIVE FUELS. This solution will save Auckland and the country $2.5 BILLION with no need for the CRL. That amount of money can be better utilised in upgrading our country wide NZ Railway Networks enabling them to operate 24/7, not just Peak-Hours commuters.

    1. New U.S. Research suggests people will carpool more in a car that none of them own – so Lyft Line and Uber Pool are being successful and it is predicted that autonomous cars will also be as long as not privately owned. Successful carpooling during peak could solve Auckland’s challenges, and perhaps a fleet of driverless cars is the mechanism that will achieve that.

Leave a Reply