Tomorrow Steven Joyce delivers his first budget as Finance Minister. Here are a few thoughts from a transport perspective on what we know will be in it, what might be in it and what we hope will be in it.
What we know will be in the budget
As part of statements made in the lead up to the budget, Joyce has made a number of comments about upcoming spending, including that the budget will set out up to $11 billion of new capital spend which is on top of normal spending from the likes of the National Land Transport Fund. Of course, some of that $11b was previously announced and not all of that is going to transport but I suspect a significant chunk of it will do so.
One of the few things we know that will definitely be mentioned in the budget is the government’s share of the City Rail Link. Below is part of the transcript from his interview on The Nation about a month ago.
One of the things you’ll see in the budget, of course, is the government’s expenditure on the central city rail link, which is very significant, and you’ll see one of those things in there. You’ll also see a bunch of other stuff that we’re doing over the next few years.
There’s a bit more in the transcript about it but it doesn’t add a whole lot. While we know the government are now on board with the CRL and they’d already said they would be paying 50% of it, I’m really looking forward to seeing that funding actually in the budget. It was only four years ago that the government even agreed the project was needed as prior to that they tried to stop it at every opportunity. And even after they agreed to the project, they put in place targets they thought would never be achieved but will now be reached three years early.
Outside of Auckland we know a significant chunk of money is going towards Kaikoura to help recover from the earthquake there late last year. In a pre-budget speech at the end of April he said the rail line would cost about $400 million to re-instate – most of which would be covered by insurance – and $812 million would be in the budget to help pay for the rebuilding of the road.
What might be in the budget
One project that now seems to have a greater chance of being in the budget than I had assumed even just a few weeks ago is electrification to Pukekohe. As Simon Wilson from the Spinoff reported from the National Party’s recent conference.
But then he seemed to reveal a budget item. He said he was more interested in extending the electrification of the rail line into Hunua, by which he meant the National-held Hunua electorate that stretches around the Bombay Hills. In other words, Pukekohe. Joyce doesn’t say things like that randomly. Electrification to Pukekohe is already on the government’s 10-year plan. Hot tip: watch for an early date and financial commitment in the budget on May 25.
This would be a project we would definitely welcome. If it is proposed it will be interesting to see if the government do so by extending the wires to Pukekohe – which among other things requires a motorway bridge to be replaced – or go with Auckland Transport’s suggestion of battery powered trains – which the AT are set to look at a business case for at their next board meeting.
Given the noise recently regarding access to the airport and the discussion over light rail or advanced buses, I don’t think that will be in the budget for that issue but there is a possibility of some money towards a bus solution on SH20B. This could be similar to what we’ve proposed before and we know the general idea is something that is being worked on. Still might be better in the next category.
It also almost certain we’ll see some funding for new roads announced, especially likely is some rural projects to negate the anti-Auckland sentiment in some areas.
What we hope will be in the budget
There is obviously a long list of things we could hope is in the budget but many are unrealistic. So here are a few realistic options could see:
- A funding agreement with the Auckland Council that will address the annual $400 million shortfall identified by ATAP.
- Funding for Kiwirail to build the third main, even if just the section from Otahuhu to Puhinui at this stage
- Commitment and timing towards the much-needed Northwest busway
- Funding for additional trains in Auckland to help cope with the fast-growing demand – this could potentially be tied to any Pukekohe electrification announcement
- There is still another year to run on the Urban Cycleways Fund but we hope an extension of that is signalled
Bonus Round: What we don’t want to see in the budget
There is always lots we can wish for in the budget but there is also lots we hope doesn’t happen. The biggest concern is that Joyce goes off the ATAP script and promises something crazy like an additional road harbour crossing where ATAP pushed that out to the third decade. Given the lobbying by business groups I also worry other hugely expensive projects like Penlink get pulled forward (likely as a PPP).
Is there anything you’ve heard that I’ve missed and what do you think we’ll see from the budget for transport?