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.

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  1. It continually bothers me that the government is still saying the CRL is primarily the councils responsibility.
    When it comes to so called “Roads of National Significance” The government is happy to provide extra funding.
    The City Rail Link is a Nationally Significant project. Probably one of the most significant transport projects in a long time.

  2. I attended a Bill English dinner a couple of weeks ago. I did make notes but they’re not here I will try and post more later but basically he said Akl Council was great to work with now butt not so much previously (not disparaging Len) he meant the relationship has improved massively in the last few years
    He also mentioned that money was not the prime issue – that finance is already available for projects but red tape slows the process down

        1. Steve Joyce is another walking piece of red tape whenever it comes to Auckland public transport projects.

    1. Interesting remarks but also expected and what I have heard as well.

      English did help get the Unitary Plan over the final stages when we had that massive upset of an issue in February 2016 (the Unitary Plan would pas 17-3) later that year.

      I suppose with the legacy issues pretty much gone and the Super City at its well full power it would allow the relationship to grow after a very messy transition.

      Interesting to note on Finances but also expected too. That means nothing but political dogma from the likes of Joyce is holding up Airport Rail. Processes can be very easily dealt with but does require coordination.

    2. “Red tape” – I’m conflicted as to what this means in plain English:
      a) Mr Joyce, et all
      b) Red herring to deflect attention

      All I do know is that the current government is a problem…

  3. Transport is always a political issue so we get bread and circuses. The real shame is there are no votes in standing up and telling people you will measure all projects against each other and only do the ones that give a good return regardless of mode. That doesn’t sound as exciting as ‘we will build you this huge bridge’.

  4. Its election time. A lot of projects will be announced as pork barrells. They after the election if national wins they get go back in the queue. They do much the same for school rebuilds, a ‘go ahead’ is announced when there are still lots of ‘gates’ to pass through

    Optics is the primary driver of government policy. We can see than with the floods in bay of Plenty, the Minister of Civil Defence is missing in action, instead more agreeable faces are trotted out instead of the famously bad tempered Brownlee.

  5. Value capture is a good idea but is no solution to this sort of funding problem. For beneficial projects it might generate 15% to 20% of the required funding. The highest rates of value capture funding I have ever heard of (for London Rail projects) were 30% of the total cost for one line.

  6. Who knows what Nationals plans are, they sure as shit don’t reveal their true intent do they? Selling state houses was never flagged. But on this sort of thing its left to the winds of polling, airy fairy grayness. And God help us with Joyce picking winners.

    And “value capture options”. That has to rate in the top 10 of the most obscure ways of saying the word TAX. A tax cut here, a tax rise there, nice one!

  7. Depressingly the new, 24 year old, national party candidate for Pakuranga told me today that he favors the Reeves Rd flyover and that it needs to be built before any busway can be put in place.

    1. Here is some irony
      So the current Manurewa Local Board member who lives in Clendon is going to stand in Pakuranga
      While the Howick Local Board Deputy Chair who lives in Howick is going to stand in Manurewa.

      But back on topic, eh I wouldnt expect much in that regard with Pakuranga’s new candidate given Howick is really wanting that bus way first

  8. How are they progressing with road pricing? They will need to be putting in the hard yards now to get it done in Decade 1 as per ATAP.

  9. OT but I see that AT have announced that rail services tomorrow will be reduced and some cancellations due to the weather.
    Like seriously WTF?! Literally the only part of the network that is exposed is the Eastern line between PoA and Orakei and even that should be sheltered enough. If anything they should be trying to put on extra services since it’s almost guaranteed to be carmageddin tomorrow (especially since buses will be affected by the weather in places).
    What a joke! AT Fail.

    1. Maybe they are just wanting an easy day since the network is closed from Friday to Monday, I wonder what planned maintenance or network changes are occuring. Yesterday at Puhinui there were people measuring track gauge and white paint spraying the up line with words like “CUT HERE”, maybe the 3rd main work being started?

      1. AT website says reason amazingly for once: “Reason for line closure: The Eastern and Southern Line is blocked south of Westfield for turnout replacements at Westfield and Wiri and Takanini Motorway widening. The Western Line is blocked for overhead line work at Mt Eden (on Sunday and Monday only).”. Wonder if that just boring replacement or will speed things up or make smoother.

        1. I was hoping they might fix the slow but of track that has appeared recently between GI and Meadowbank, annoyingly right in the middle of a section the EMUs get some good speed going.

          Looks like I’m out of luck though as that section is still open.

  10. I have been a follower of your website for a few years.
    The traffic situation in Auckland is very difficult and all of us have ideas about fixing it.The congestion is getting worse.Only this blog is discussing all the many issues and with free debate. Sometimes we get articles elsewhere but the writers are usually in favour of roads only or they might have their own agenda.
    Because of the seriousness of the situation and the cost and threat to the economy AT and NZTA should be opening their books, giving their reasons for each project and working together. We will all win by understanding the costs and benefits and then having most people agree on the plan and taking the citizens into their confidence. Billions of dollars are at stake. Auckland people would be more understanding if they new that our rates were well managed and there were cuts being made in some areas so as to get those important projects underway sooner.
    I feel there is a conflict between NZTA and AT. Do the managers of AT and NZTA ever meet? All information about transport should be available to ensure the best decisions are made.
    Usually AT want the NZTA to pay for half or more of each project. But NZTA has demands on its funds from all NZ and wants Auckland people to pay more. Auckland city don’t want to increase the rates. We don’t know how much Auckland can spend on transport each year. But I think that Auckland city might lead the way, break the stalemate and for example pay for the rail to the Airport. The city could sell its shares in the airport to pay for it. I think most Auckland people would support it happening now rather than in many years time.

    1. Jim, almost all transport funding in NZ comes through central government. It is true that Auckland has been getting more funds in the last 10 or so years than previously however this is only taking its funding back up to where it proportionally should have been all along. Auckland also bears the burden of the governments open door immigration plan meaning that even to keep up with growth let alone catching up with past under investment is next to impossible. Hopefully with the motorway network effectively complete they can put that money into RT.

    2. Aucklanders already pay slightly more than their fair share. Auckland pays rates yes, but also a lot of income taxi, business tax, GST and of course petrol tax.

      Auckland already pays a little more than a third of the country’s tax. All it needs is to have a third of the expenditure spent on the right things.

      They already spend over a billion dollars every year on transport in Auckland, the funding and level of expenditure isn’t the problem. It’s what gets funded. NZTA is directed by the ministry to spend up large on RoNS and other political projects, whether they are worthwhile or not. So we get motorways to Warkworth rather than rail to Mangere and the airport, despite the latter being the priority of the auckland people and considerably more useful to the economy.

    3. Not so much a conflict between AT and NZTA as a conflict within both organisations and MOT between progressive and reactive elements. The progressive staff see the future as multi-modal including road, rail, maritime and active modes. The reactive group see the future only in terms of a handful of multi billion dollar gold plated mega-road projects. These projects have sucked money out of regional roads maintenance around the country as well as other modes. The backers of these mega roads, including private sector infrastructure builders, some but not all senior managers in NZTA, MOT, AT, influential friends in Treasury who turn a blind eye, and one specific National Party cabinet minister defend their “fortress” at any cost. New Zealand in the years to come will suffer for their financial profligacy.

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