This week in Parliament the government have been using patsy questions to talk up their recent transport announcements about the City Rail Link and East-West Link. Both are entertaining in their own ways.

On Wednesday there was almost a bit surreal when Transport Minister Simon Bridges got asked a series of patsy questions by Botany MP and former councillor Jami-Lee-Ross about the CRL. This extended to a couple of questions from other members in the house. What I found most interesting is watching Bridges now defend the decision to allow construction to start in 2018 after he and his predecessors spent so many years defending why they wouldn’t make that a decision.

While we’re far from fans of the project, Bridges quip to Peters about Puhoi to Wellsford was at least funny.

On Thursday Jami-Lee Ross started another patsy to the minister, this time about the East-West Link. It was all a pretty staid affair until Green MP Julie Anne Genter jumped in highlighting that some of the other options for the project were cheaper and had better economic outcomes – something we highlighted here. I think she saved the best line till last.

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28 comments

  1. I enjoyed watching both of these, and especially like Julianne Genter’s comment that it appears Simon Bridges has not read the East / West Link business case.

  2. As I said elsewhere, Bridges seems flustered and embarrassed. It’s like he knows that he has chosen a worse option that delays work on priority projects, but is under immense political pressure to make it happen.

    I wonder what a series of OIAs about ministerial discussion with industry would turn up. It’s clear that this is not about the interests of New Zealanders but is about a small number of people, some of whom are extremely close to our political parties.

    1. Yes, which donors and beneficiaries have delivered messages of ‘support’ for spending 3 times as much from the public purse to produce the same result?

      “We take cost-effectiveness very seriously” #pfffft

    2. “It’s clear that this is not about the interests of New Zealanders but is about a small number of people, some of whom are extremely close to our political parties.”

      That’s a long way of saying “National” but much more rich in detail and meaning. (At least…..consistent with my 30+-years observing their behaviour).

    1. Thanks for the link. Hard for me to argue. Jacinda Ardern’s was good too. They’ve all had a long enough summer break to be recharged.

  3. That was painful to watch; Simon was so out of his depth.

    I found his last comment particularly comedic: “given it’s very significant national significance”. Maybe we need a new National Party slush fund for pet road projects called VSRONS (very significant roads of national significance)? Bridges seems like a nice guy and patsy party affiliations aside he seems to mean well. He’s definitely better than Brownlee and Joyce.

    But he obviously doesn’t much of a clue about transport.

  4. Ms Genter refers to the $500M option B, which is a 4 laning of the Neilson St – Church St route between SH1 & SH20, and additional ramps at each end. The report describes downsides to this option including induced demand clogging up property access and requiring additional upgrades to surrounding roads.
    Refer page 109/149 http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/east-west-connections/EWC-IBC-Appendices.pdf
    If Mr Bridges had read the report he might have quoted some of this as the reason option F is being pursued. Nice one Ms Genter.

    1. Those costs and benefits should have been quantified into the BCR. Are you saying that NZTA did an incompetent job of implementing its own evaluation procedures?

      Also, are you suggesting that induced demand will not be a problem for the motorway solution? What’s your basis for that assumption?

        1. Yes, there are downsides to all of the options.

          Nonetheless, your criticism of Julie-Anne is misplaced. Julie specifically questioned the Minister on the value-for-money of the preferred option compared to other options which achieved similar transport outcomes for ~$1 billion less than the East-West link. Bridges could not provide meaningful insight into the decision. Ultimately, this exchange indicates that Bridges doesn’t understand the report on which he and the Government has decided to spend ~$1.5 billion.

          That’s incredibly poor ministerial oversight.

          As Matthew W notes below, the decision-making processes around the East-West link do seem rather fishy. The East-West link suddenly started being talked about only a couple of years ago, and is selected to receive accelerated funding despite the fact that it perform relatively poorly (in terms of value-for-money) compared to alternatives.

          I hope Julie-Anne’s questions encourage institutions to take a harder look at the decision-making processes which led to the East-West link receiving accelerated funding. On the surface it doesn’t seem very kosher.

    1. yes I thought that was a cheap shot that spectacularly missed its target.

      In that moment it become readily apparent that Bridges would rather bandy stupid insults around than engage with the issues Julie-Anne was raising. No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, that sort of response is pure rubbish and a waste of taxpayers time/money.

      Not a good look from the Minister.

  5. The Greens are actually the only economically rational party in parliament. All others are hostage to special interests and half-baked ideologies. Or in the case of the comical one-clown Act Party to an ideology that they don’t even follow, especially as evidenced by their lobbying on transport and urban form.

  6. That was amost sickening to watch and listen to. After years of rubbishing the crl the government are now trumpeting the benefits. I’m glad it is getting built but they have no shame. Anything for votes.

    I missed question time but I hope there were more questions from Labour than the one or two from Sue Moroney.

    Any questions on whether the rail link to the airport from Onehunga will be stuffed with the east-west link?

  7. The project being procured right now is Puhoi to Warkworth, not Puhoi to Wellsford. Warkworth to Wellsford will be tendered at a later stage.

  8. The JAG SB exchange: “Why are you choosing to spend three times as much and an extra billion to achieve the same thing?” “Because we were lobbied to do so.” Why is this scandal not leading the news?

    1. The motorway option is apparently near and dear to the hearts of local industry groups. So I have to ask: Has the government asked them for a funding contribution to cover the added costs?

      1. Indeed. And another question, why does the government think industry groups have any expertise in evaluating project options? Abesnt any rational argument, this is the equivalent of funding crystal healing because certain healthcare consumer groups advocated for it. At least that analogy is appropriate when applied to the industry user groups who think they will benefit from using the road. As for the NZCID, it will simply benefit from the construction of the road. There’s a word for that starting with c

        1. Yes, completely agree. I wouldn’t expect industry groups have any expertise in project evaluation, asides from perhaps providing input into the microeconomic channels through which congestion impacts on the productivity of their businesses, e.g. scheduling of freight movements. Although even then you would want these claims to be independently researched and verified, before blowing $1.5 billion on a highway.

          The silver lining from the East-West link, if it goes ahead, is that it may well divert vehicle traffic off SH1 and out it onto SH20/SH18. This may in turn further undermine the rather weak business case for AWHC.

  9. It’s my guess that this project has nothing to do with industry (that’s the supposed justification),but rather how quickly eastern suburbs residents can get to the airport. So while the Puhoi-Wellsford project is the holiday highway this is the “overseas holiday highway.”

    1. The timing and urgency suggest to me it is more of a case of the engineering/construction companies wanting another big new project to work on. They are the ones getting rich out of this more so than the freight companies. The skeptical side of me thinks this is fishy on its own but the ideologically blinded government needs economic growth to convince people its doing a good job and construction is a pretty effective lever (facade?) for achieving this.

      1. Yes looking at the nearly-complete status of Waterview, you’d have rocks in your head to not think that everyone involved in that isn’t focussed very hard on the next project. In fact those responsible for that workforce would be irresponsible if they weren’t planning ahead….

        Of course this syndrome is well understood, it’s exactly what the NZCID is for; to lobby for more and bigger government funded infra projects everywhere and anywhere, and of any quality. And how you get the absurdity of say the Australian mining sector which employs only 0.4% of the Aus workforce yet receives massive subsidies and benefits, and a free pass to help destroy the planet, ‘for jobs’.

        Expensive heavy lifting work seems to appeal to certain politicians much more than other, often more valuable but less spectacular work.

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