So yesterday the government revealed its budget for 2017. So here is a look at the relevant announcements related to Transport

As we expected, the government included funding for the City Rail Link in the budget, but only $436 million so far. This is of course not unexpected as the government announced last year they would be funding half of the project. They say the rest of the money “will be provided progressively through Budgets 2017 to 2020”. What I did find interesting though was some of the language they used to describe the project.

“The CRL is a game-changer for central Auckland and this funding demonstrates the Government’s commitment to Auckland and its public transport systems.

“CRL is Auckland’s top new transport priority. It will double the capacity of the existing rail network and cut travel time for commuters.

“The CRL is already bringing economic benefits to Auckland and New Zealand creating hundreds of jobs during construction,” Mr Bridges says.

Newsflash to the government, it’s been Auckland’s top transport priority since at least 2012 when the Auckland Plan was adopted. I welcome the government now realising the CRL is a game-changer for Auckland but that’s tempered by recalling just how much opposition the government threw at the project. For example, let’s not forget that quip from 2012 by then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee who said

The Spinoff covered a few other quotes from ministers rubbishing the project here.

So what else did Auckland get, here’s a list:









No Pukekohe electrification, no funding for any PT to the airport, no funding for the third main, not even any money to cover some of the governments share of the funding shortfall identified in ATAP. And we’re not the only ones disappointed, Mayor Phil Goff is too.

The Budget does nothing to tackle the key issue of growing transport congestion in Auckland, says Mayor Phil Goff, who left home at 5.30 this morning to beat the weekday crawl on the Southern Motorway.

His disappointment was matched by business and lobby groups, who wanted to see more help for Aucklanders caught in traffic or struggling to buy a house.

Asked if he thought National was holding something up its sleeve for the election, Goff, the former Labour MP and leader, said: “I certainly hope so”.

“What is really disappointing is given we are projecting Government surpluses of $7.2 billion by 2021 there is a whole lot more that could have been done,” said Goff, noting the Government had previously announced measures in the Budget for the City Rail Link and freeing up Crown land for housing.

Goff wanted to see radical moves in the Budget to meet the needs of 45,000 new residents a year, 800 new cars a week and Aucklanders “fed up to the back teeth with congestion”.

The only good thing is that there were also no stupid projects announced.

So what else was in the budget. Surprisingly there wasn’t much new at all in it. The most notable new transport spending being $450 million for Kiwirail with another $98 million to upgrade the electrification of parts of Wellingtons rail network.

Budget 2017 will invest $548 million of new capital funding to maintain and upgrade New Zealand’s rail network, supporting freight movement, exporters, tourism and public transport, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

$450 million of that funding will be invested in KiwiRail over the next two financial years.

“KiwiRail has achieved significant productivity and efficiency improvements over the past two years, despite the challenges of the November 2016 earthquake and the Midland Line fire,” Mr Bridges says.

“Budget 2017 investment in New Zealand’s rail infrastructure and systems will ensure that KiwiRail can improve its resilience and reliability, while continuing to support tourism, freight and export industries.

“The Government wants to put the rail network on a longer-term sustainable footing. In the year ahead we will be conducting a wider review of KiwiRail’s operating structure and longer-term capital requirements.


The Government is also investing $98.4 million in Wellington’s metro rail network.

“This investment acknowledges the importance of a functional, safe and reliable public transport rail network in the Wellington region,” Mr Bridges says.

This funding will allow the replacement of the remaining timber poles and overhead wires that provide power for trains on the Hutt Valley, Melling and Johnsonville rail lines.

The press release from Kiwirail only states the money will be invested in “rolling stock and network to ensure the reliability gains of the past two years continue”. I’ve asked them for a list of projects they’ll be using the money for. The review of the operating structure is certainly interesting. I wonder if that will include looking to shift the planning and network management under the NZTA like we and many others have suggested.

Lastly there is the funding for roads. The biggest announcement, and one confirmed prior to the budget, was that the government would spend $812 million to reinstate SH1 around Kaikoura. That’s part of spending $9.17b over the coming four years on state highways but all of the projects mentioned are ones that have existed for some time. With many of those projects due to be completed in the next few years, they included this fact

“The Government expects to open 540 new lane kilometres of state highways over the next four years.  This will be the largest increase in state highway capacity in decades,” Mr Bridges says.

To put this in perspective, there are currently 23,455 lane kilometres of state highways in New Zealand (and 155,700 lane kilometres of local roads) so this additional 540 represents a 2.3% increase.

The announcement also briefly mentioned Public-Private Partnerships which Joyce has said he’d announce more on in the coming weeks.

Overall, while there are some big sums being bandied about, there was really not much new in this year’s budget for transport. How much are the government holding back for the election?

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  1. I cannot believe it, but I knew it would happen, that they have the audacity to quote spending, long since announced, on the CRL. And give these creatures a chance, they will ro it all again next year. Mike Hosking will run the propoganda slot for them whilst pretending to be outraged that more parking buildings aren’t being funded.

    But the vast vast majority of this tax cut that I do not believe we can afford, is going into redirecting cash straight to rental investors pockets via accommodation suppliments and furthering that ability to up rents a bit more with by allowing them access to the meagre tax cuts to some low earners.

    Joyce is clearly concerned that the ceiling on rent rises because tenants are running out of money threatens the housing bubble. Hence bugger all on transport, full stop. Aside from the good people of Melling and J’ville of course!

  2. Will the Wellington rail upgrades include the capacity to readily convert the electric system to the same as Nth Island main trunk. So when the rest of the Main trunk is electrified …

    1. No.
      Power supply has already been upgraded at 1500 V DC, this funding is about replacing wooden overhead masts (i.e. catch up on deferred stuff…).
      Also, AFAIK, Matangi units do not have space underfloor for the hefty rectifier required for 25 kV AC (as they were designed for 1500 V DC only).

      1. We don’t need to convert Wellington to AC unless possibly a) we finish the Auckland to Hamilton section of wires and b) extend wires to Wellington and c) if freight needs the 25kva for sheer grunt. Otherwise, I’d say 1500vDC works fine and we can easily buy dual voltage locomotives to run the NIMT.

        1. Freight used to be pulled by electric locomotives in Wellington up until the 1980’s so I assume it would still be fine.

        2. Correct. DC power can haul heavy freight rail. The drawback of DC is you have more power loss in transmission and need more frequent power substations. But if you have already built all the DC substations it would be costly to replace with AC for modest gain. Lots of other things need doing first.

        3. Matangi units draw more power than the older units (680kW per 2-car vs 400kW for Ganz 2-car), needed power upgrades just to run them. Likely more upgrades required for heavy freight.

          Grades either side of Pukerua are steepest between Wellington and Palmy (& why the line to Paekakariki was wired originally). That’s where electric freight would draw the most power.

        4. Another thing to remember is that the Kapiti line can (from what I read) only handle two 8-car sets of Mantangi on the length of the line at one time along with several other 6-car sets during peak hour. So timing considerations may be required if DC freight locomotives are going to be hauling freight around.

        5. I agree that dual voltage 25kV* AC/1.5kV DC is the way to go, but the statement “we can easily buy dual voltage locomotives” needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. NZ’s combination of restrictive structure gauge and low axle loading presents significant challenges for locomotive designers – not impossible, but unlikely to be that easy.

          And upgrading of the existing DC might well be required – freight trains tended to be a lot lighter in the era when electrics were last used here.

          *not kva – that’s a measure of power, not voltage.

      1. Yes and it’s good that this work is funded, but surely is no different in status to the $50m-odd required for the 3rd main on the spine of the NIMT in AKL? A place, it should be noted, where rail demand, both passenger and freight, is growing quickly…

        Why $1.85b on extremely dubious East-West truck corridor, but this small sum for such a transformation in capacity, reliability, and flexibility apparently is too much to ask?

        This government is not rational about transport, but still obsessively mode rather than value focused.

        1. Slightly different.

          Broken overhead masts = no service at all on affected section
          (= loss of votes).

          Third main: more service/more reliable service. But not doing it doesn’t lead to complete service suspension (so not important compared to MORE ROADS!!!!)

          Need to make the third main more of a political issue, otherwise Nats will just do minimum on public transport

        2. The Wellington funding is maintenance of an existing facility, without which current service (on which a lot of money has been spent recently) will degrade, and cease in the not-too-distant future – it’s about not making things much worse; the third main is provision of a new facility – it’s about making things better.

          That’s quite an important difference (but of course doesn’t say a lot about the overall worth of each project).

        3. There is a big upgrade currently taking place in the Westfield yard. This is to accommodate much longer trains. The new roads will he 900metres long, and there will be six of them at this stage. Rumour has it, that this will compliment the third main. I also believe that the rail weld depot has to be relocated first, as this is to be another CT site for MP trains. Also there is the issue of construction around middlemore and how to exactly achieve a third track there in a confined area. Obviously this will impact on metro services, so we may see a lengthy Xmas shut down this year. The rest of the third main is plain sailing, perhaps the exception being those using land illegally between puhinui and papatotoe.

        4. SJC, I noticed the track work happening at Westfield over the last few months, these new 900 metre roads, does that include the current up arrival road/3rd main that exists to just north of Middlemore? Is it to have OLE installed too?
          So is the 3rd main around Middlemore to be done/finished next xmas/new year ? Are there any station rebuild and track layout plans available for this work?

        5. The road they are working on this weekend is the F4/new rd. This connects directly to the no.1 arrival/departure rd at the Otahuhu end of the yard, also connecting directly to the current south west main. The south west main is the track, that yes you can see leaves the Up main down by the Middlemore platform. (some of this track was actually the old Up main until early 2011). I believe this section of track will become the third main into Otahuhu. I have also heard rumour that there will be a third main from the Westfield junction to Otahuhu, but that EMU services will have priority in this area, and that quite possibly the sidings into mainfreight home, and PBT transport will be removed…. hmmmmmnnnn.

        6. I should add, that the F4 rd, comes out of the north end of the Westfield already. It the runs parallel for a short distance to the west of the NIMT/NAL Up main at Westfield junction before curving west into the southdown terminal (this was configured to do so during the 2015/2016 xmas shutdown). This didn’t just result in MP train movements avoiding metro passenger services, but also avoids most shunt movements within the Westfield yard.
          So perhaps the 3rd main has actually progressed further than we think over the years? Just that the most important bits are not in place….

  3. Joyce on RNZ this morning said they’d basically spent the lot on their middle class tax cut election bribe. They will have a few hundred mill stashed away for fire-fighting and electionioneering hullabaloo, but nothing significant.

    Interestingly, both the Greens and NZ First have signed up to the government tax cuts. NZ First, fair enough. But the Greens??? WTF have they been smoking??? DOC funding was cut AGAIN. Nothing for PT. Under James Shaw they’ve drifted down in the polls and will probably going to end up third, which on this decision is all they just about deserve.

    So that means that leaves Labour as the only party which isn’t committed to automatically locking in this governments spending committments into the medium term. I sure hope Labour doesn’t succumb and sign up as well and instead come up with a more thoughtful set of spending goals.

    1. Sanctuary, can you point me in the right direction to read how the Greens have signed up to these tax cuts? I don’t doubt you, just couldn’t find anything by googling. What I could find is James Shaw’s statement on the Green Party page:

      “And, as is always the way with these guys, the largest share of the tax cuts go to those on the highest incomes. People on more than $127,000 a year get a tax cut $33.22 a week, whilst those on $24,000 a year or less, get only $5.34 a week. Mr Speaker, this so-called $2 billion Family Incomes package is just another tax cut for the wealthy in disguise.”

      and newsroom says:

      “Green Party co-leader James Shaw also argued the Budget was dressed up to support low- and middle-income earners, but in reality was tax cuts in disguise for high earners. He was in favour of increasing the tax thresholds in line with inflation, which would have cost about $900m, but this was a step too far. Asked what he would have changed, Shaw said WFF should have been extended to those people not in work.”


      1. I understand they both voted for the government’s new tax legislation that was introduced last night, can’t find a link to it though. I’m not surprised really as it was the lower thresholds that were moved not the highest one, something the left has argued for a while, and also there was a WFF increase for kids under 16.

  4. While congestion is real, somehow implying that leaving at 5:30am to beat it is some sort of imposition is flawed.

    1. I wonder why Phil Goff drives to work when there’s a train from Papakura? It’s very frequent and very cheap.

        1. Maybe he could even do something about making train stations non-smoking areas. I was at Puhinui yesterday morning & there was a group of 5 mid teens all smoking, sitting
          in the shelter.

  5. Yep, breeding makes cents.
    Seems National have turned red.
    Very disappointing there’s no money to even finish the third main between Middlemore and Puhinui

  6. All you ungrateful voters in your SOVs, SUVs, etc, congesting the motorway network every morning, certainly this budget is for you. That personal tax cut more than easily makes up for the extra fuel needed while congested and should leave enough for the daily ‘calm down’ coffee too.

  7. Every year people express a wishlist and then disappointment at the budget, which I’ve always found unusual. Budgets are not, and never have been, a method of announcing new projects. It’s an appropriation of funding to existing services and previously announced new services and projects. All big ticket items are announced ahead of the budget.

    I was wondering why people were going on about Pukekohe electrification (last year too) when such a project has not been announced. The government is not in the business of funding projects that don’t exist!

    1. Joyce himself talked just the other day about Pukekohe electrification which is why is was mentioned.

      And governments have always used budgets to announce new policies and initiatives

      1. Joyce’s mention of something for Hunua certainly sparked optimism that Pukekohe electric trains were on the way. He must have been thinking of something else, perhaps a new prison.

      2. Kiwis have short memories. Announce it now,it will be forgotten about by the election.
        I’m picking the announcement will be a few days before the election.

    2. It clearly shows what the plan for national is. Do less as possible and copy Labour. Its the proof of our speculation about them.

  8. I am an Act Supporter and I totally understand Capitalism and its incredible merits. (WHEN DONE PROPERLY) This disgusting disgraceful incompetent inebriated stinky government has no idea what capitalism is, or even free markets.

    This sick evil crony Capitalism funding their weird mates , the housing market is not taxed and now they have the audacity to add more tax money to the accommodation supplement to go directly back into the landlords like a feed back loop. They should literally be hanged for high crimes.

    They think they know capitalism – yet they have a regulation system which makes sure old business models are kept, they fund Motorways as if its a capitalist idea. It is not capitalist to put money in motorways its a political decision. I am so angry with National MPs who don’t understand Capitalism and need to vacate their seats to people who do. (Starting with Jamie lee Ross piece of junk
    Under the Free market model we must vote for a change in Government. Why. Because the free-market works in the right situations the first being: a level playing field . we have to go left before we can go right again.

    Labours Policy’s are our only chance for a real county in this election. I love Capitalism and free-markets and that is why I will support New Zealand First / Labour collation.
    train young people to have a job, look after health for young, care for people, make housings and then in 15 years we may be able to have a real economy where people are free to use their abilities to improve man kind!

    1. +1, National seem to be taking all of the worst parts of socialism and all of the worst parts of capitalism.

        1. Indeed, capitalist Pinochet was well known for not instigating purges and socialist Sweden is well known for its purges. /sarc

          It’s almost comical how often people conflate authoritarianism and socialism whilst conveniently forgetting all of the authoritarian capitalist dictators.

        2. Sweden isn’t socialist. There is private property in Sweden.
          My point, however, is that National – for all their faults – are not taking the worst parts of both sides. That would involve purges and removing state healthcare.

        3. Indeed, and National are sure trying to de-socialise healthcare.

          They are also building large ‘roads of national significance’ and failing to price transport and water appropriately; the worst parts of socialism,

          As previously established, purges are an economically agnostic practice, used by authoritarian regimes across the economic spectrum. Also, if Sweden isn’t socialist because they have private property then New Zealand and even America aren’t capitalist because they have socialised infrastructure and welfare. These things are a spectrum, we take elements of socialism and elements of capitalism, with varying degrees of autonomy and get everything from Pinochet and Thatcher to Stalin and whoever the Swedish Prime Minister is.

        4. I do love it when I get lectured on politics.

          Even on a spectrum, Sweden is nowhere close to “socialist” – the majority of its economy is capitalist. If we posit that 100=all enterprise is state owned, and 0=all enterprise is privately owned, Sweden would be <50

  9. It’s election year don’t forget. Plenty of time for big infrastructure announcements for Auckland to woo voters

  10. I was talking to a Project Mgr from NZTA yesterday who said there are loads of announcements to be come in the next 6 mths.

    From our discussion I didn’t expect much in the Budget but apparently within next 6 mths expect announcement on NW Busway being brought forward and completed in one go, accelerated 16/18 and lots of designations being secured for things like Whenuapai deviation.

    Said that media give a false impression of NZTA – tat they definitely get PT and it is exciting times for them as the Unitary Plan has changed a lot of their priorities

    1. NZTA gives a false impression of NZTA if they really believe in public transport. Look at the second harbour crossing stuff on their website where they say it will induce traffic demand, but with no indication of how that might be useful to solve anything.
      Methinks you have been snowballed.

  11. Does anyone have a spare dildo we could hurl in the direction of this minister? The first one hasn’t seemed to knock any sense into that head-like thing that tops his body. Nothing decent for PT and the possible extra $30 will cover about half of my weekly bus fare. Finger on the pulse as usual. Let’s get some hope and change on this September!

      1. The problem isn’t that the upper class are unhappy. The problem is that 10,000s of people in NZ are homeless.

  12. It was interesting to me that CRL funding was announced in a tranche. Normally funding is announced as x dollars over y number of years. It makes me think the government believes this project is going to cost more than quoted. Why else would you announce funding in a tranche? As for the language used that’s pretty standard when governments commit to a project. They talk it up to justify the cost (no matter the cost-benefit of the project).

    As for Mayor Goff he is being disingenuous. If he and his council want to come up with a plan for which there is a $400m shortfall then they also need to come up with a plan to pay for it. You can’t upwards delegate the cost! The solution is obvious – a sale of Ports of Auckland valued at $1.1 billion. The sale would benefit both the ratepayer and the Port which would have to face the reality of being a profit focused entity. That would benefit everyone and would hopefully inspire the Port to move to a more suitable location.

    1. “As for [Steven Joyce] he is being disingenuous. If he and his [government] want to come up with a plan for which there is a $400m shortfall then they also need to come up with a plan to pay for it. You can’t [down]wards delegate the cost!”

      Fixed that for you. The council and govt came up with this together. The government has far more access to funding.

        1. Cheers, it’s a lot less dull when it’s a subjective thing like this, rather than objective fixes :).

    2. Imagine if it was a National aligned mayor talking about the sale of this asset?
      You could expect violent protests from the usual leftie suspects.
      However, because it’s Goff (who has been strongly opposed to asset sales in the past), there has been very little opposition to it.

  13. I’m trying to get a sense of how much of the $450 million for KiwiRail “capital funding” is truly new capital versus reinstating the South Island Main Truck line through Kaikoura, i.e. is it partly money that they would have had to spend to repair the line anyway? Meanwhile, apparently there isn’t a spare $10 million to trial commuter rail to the north of Christchurch…

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