With our release of the Congestion Free Network 2 it’s interesting to think about what the government’s position on it is. Especially so given we think the government, through the NZTA, should be tasked with delivering it, just like they deliver most of the strategic road network (mainly the motorways).
Prior to launching the CFN 2 we had hoped to discuss the plan with the government, as we did with a number of other groups, but unfortunately, we never heard back from them. If Simon Bridges or any other government MPs read this and want to talk, we’d be more than happy to.
The good news though is we know that by default, they must largely support it. That’s because probably 90% of what we propose is already part of the transport strategy agreed to by the government and council during the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). We differ from ATAP mainly in when we would like the network to be completed, and in providing more certainty around some of the route options and modes. This includes differences such as specifying light rail to the Northwest linked in to Takapuna.
Last week Bill English confirmed ATAP was the government’s plan in a few answers to questions by Jacinda Ardern. English should know ATAP better than most, given he was one of the signatories on the project. He made a few other interesting comments too.
- At around 2 minutes in English talks strongly about how ATAP is the agreed plan.
- English talks about how the government is providing a subsidy to the CRL, which he also says is “fundamentally the responsibility of the Auckland Council”. Given the costs involved, it is no more a subsidy than projects like East-West link is.
- He says that he expects the council “will have the same level of commitment of resource to transport projects in Auckland as the government does”. This is odd as over 80% of all transport spending is controlled by the government, mostly though the NZTA. is he suggesting that Auckland should pay for half of that?
- At 6 minutes in, Ardern lets out a great one-liner about how long it will take to get rail to the airport. In response English again talks about how ATAP is the plan.
So it was interesting to read an article from the Politik website (pay-walled but can read a free story) that a group of government ministers were working on a package of projects for Auckland. Bill English might have been unequivocal that ATAP was the plan for Auckland but it sounds like some of his ministers are looking at cherry picking projects. Given Steven Joyce is involved, this wouldn’t be a massive surprise.
Most notably, it suggests they’re looking at fast tracking Penlink. Notably, Penlink is listed as a second decade project in ATAP, in part due to being extremely expensive (almost $400 million) yet it would carry only about 16,000 vehicles per day. This will create an interesting situation, as if the government start prioritising projects out of sequence from ATAP, there’d be no reason why the CFN 2 couldn’t be prioritised instead. The project was also mentioned in an article by Bernard Orsman from the Herald, with Mayor Phil Goff stating it would have to be treated as a State Highway or Road of National Significance and therefore fully funded by the government.
Also mentioned in the Politik article is a busway to the airport to push out the need for light rail – although I have to wonder if there’s a bit of confusion with the recent announcements on the topic.
But perhaps Auckland’s biggest challenge is not deciding what to build but working out how to pay for it. ATAP has a funding shortfall for the first decade alone of $400 million per year. The Politik article notes that the ministers are keen on value capture options, where a targeted rate is charged against properties based on the increases in value that result from investment. But he also says those rates won’t go to the council but a government entity.
It does appear that ATAP is the plan, and at least the Prime Minister still believes in ATAP. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the government (and opposition parties) propose in a few months time.