The East-West Link has been in the news a bit recently, such as on TV3’s The Nation on Saturday where Simon Bridges received a grilling about the business case. Cam has also written recently about the economics of the project and the discussion that’s occurring about it at the Board of Inquiry.

Yesterday, Green MP Julie Anne Genter took the opportunity to ask some questions about it in Parliament. It’s probably good sign that you’re having an impact when a Minister falls back on insults to respond to questions and that ended up happening numerous times during Julie Anne’s questions. However she did get some good jabs in about it and his recent issues with trying to prevent the OIA on the Third Main. You can see a transcript from the parliament debate the here)

One of the questions raised by Julie Anne was about evidence given by the NZTAs economist.

Is it not strange that now the costs outweigh the benefits of the project, the Transport Agency’s own economist gave evidence last week that said: “I have not prepared a quantitative assessment of the economic costs of the Project. Neither have I quantified the benefits.”?

That’s a quote from the NZTAs economics rebuttal evidence that came out this week and contains a number of other bizarre statements. Some others include:

7.8 Based on all the information available, I am confident that the economic benefits of the Project will outweigh the economic costs (especially if the construction costs are not included).

Well if we’re allowed to start excluding the construction costs then I’ve got a few more rail tunnels we could build.

In response to Mercury Energy’s economist concerns about the impact on their Southdown site

8.5 I acknowledge that I have not undertaken a quantitative economic assessment but for the reasons outlined an economic analysis of a transport project is unlikely to ever be complete.

…..

8.9 If Mr Murray is struggling to identify the cost it can hardly be expected that the Transport Agency could have done so. In my view it would not be practical for the Transport Agency to quantify this cost within its economic analysis

On even questioning the BCR. Surely the link between the BCR and the RMA is fairly straightforward. If the BCR meant an alternative option provided a better outcome, and one that didn’t impact the environment as much, then how can it not be relevant.

8.15 I reiterate that the BCR is not a relevant matter under the RMA and the BCR is only one of the tools used by the Transport Agency when making an investment decision and considering alternatives.

This of course comes hot on the heels of Finance Minister Steven Joyce complaining about the quality of business cases and pointing fingers at the City Rail Link.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce is looking for greater discipline in assessing the benefits of large infrastructure projects in the future.

Some projects in Auckland, such as the City Rail Link, did not stack up on a traditional cost-benefit basis, he said, although the Government has committed to funding for it.

“I think there is unfinished business now for all of us to think about what are the true wider benefits of some of these projects and trying to get a bit more discipline to them in the years ahead,” he told the finance and expenditure committee at Parliament in response to questions from Greens co-leader James Shaw.

“From my perspective, I think it is important that we go through the benefit-cost ratio discussion.

What’s that saying about glass houses and throwing stones again?

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35 comments

  1. If we’re allowed to exclude construction costs in BCRs then I’d quite like to see a railway line built to Queenstown in a straight line from Dunedin.

    1. HSR via Auckland, Hamilton, National Park, Ohakune, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and Wanaka please.

    2. Exclude costs? Ok, cook straight tunnel please with maglev line up both islands. Auckland to Christchurch in two hours sounds good thanks.

    3. A helicopter issued to every household in Auckland please. Cost a trillion dollars but who cares? People on Waihiki can be two helicopter families.

  2. Simon Bridges is an embarrassment to this country. Julie-Ann would do such a good job as Transport Minister; hopefully the voters agree this September

    1. Unfortunately there is not a hope of getting rid of National. Labour is busy scoring own goals and only 1 in 10 vote Greens. So we will be keeping this lot.

    2. National MPs are just so damn smug, arrogant, and abusive. These are serious issues that we need proper debate on, but yet we just get this jokey, rude brush-off. To think I used to vote for them. Such a shame labour are a mess, they’ve got an open goal but are letting the side down badly.

      1. It’s the same with any 3rd term government. They get a sense of entitlement and deplore the need to explain their genius to lesser mortals. The same thing happened to the 3rd term Clark government which was ultimately brought down by hubris and arrogance – one scandal after another.

        This government should go the same way but Labour are a bit of a shambles and National will run a very negative (would you trust this mob) campaign.

        Expecting massive improvements in transport under Labour is a bit naïve anyway. They (with the Greens) didn’t really do much last time round

        1. Greens weren’t in Govt last time Labour had a go. And they (Lab) did at least allow/propose fuel tax and setup the electrification etc.

          Julie-Anne will surely be transport minister if Lab/Green get in this time.

          Also, Lab have already promised increased rail (ChCh + Auckland already).

      2. Yes, national are extremely smug and arrogant

        However, the greens have proven they are cut from the same cloth by packing their list with celebrities and rookies with little or no experience/wisdom/skill. Politics is not a game to be played by those who’d “like to do something” – look at the disasters when well-meaning amateurs like Trump get into power.

        Right now, NZ has its greatest shortage of political talent in well over a generation. While it pains me to say it, 3 more years of national would probably be better than a coalition propped up by the baby greens

    3. I just dont understand why such incompetent ministers and governments keep getting voted back in. Does the general public simply not pay attention?

      1. Websites such as this, Interest.co.nz and CroakingCassandra which have genuine intelligent debate have quite small readership. RNZ radio has a bit bigger audience and has good debate -Labour and the Greens should try to do better on RNZ and in social media in general.

        TV is a lost cause in NZ. The biggest audience for current affairs commentary is Seven Sharp -its audience is massive -hundreds of thousands of people (much, much bigger that John Campbell for instance was). I suspect these are mainly older people who have never switched the channel from public broadcasting days.

        In the recent Barclay scandal -the response from Seven Sharp was a clip showing various other politician scandals -this being a rightwing defensive position …..all politicians are bad, dishonest…. this promoting cynicism approach is bad for democracy/good governance….. but in the short term little old ladies/men vote conservative …..so who cares……. in the long term the risks of Trump coming to NZ rises……

        After showing the ‘all politicians are bad’ clip Mike Hosking spent a minute telling the public the Bill English/Barclay affair is a non-issue -including having this stated in writing behind him. The propaganda of telling the public what to think could have been from a one-party state…..

        Meanwhile this week on mediaworks their radio weekly political summary was Rodney Hide from the right (former far right ACT party leader) and Vernon Tava the Green Party candidate who ran on the leadership ticket of the Green Party being a centrist party which could go into coalition with National. So another right-winger. This demonstrates that Mediaworks is another forum avoiding genuine debate, especially when the issues are uncomfortable for their rightwing masters.

        In the UK ,Corbyn only started to do well in the polls, when the media were forced by legislation in the final weeks of an election campaign to be even handed. NZ doesn’t have this legislation or the culture of independent media organisations -BBC…

        1. +1 And we need a far stricter regulation on government funds and donations allowed for election campaigning. What National can achieve in its advertising with its big corporate backers is on a different scale to what the other parties can achieve.

          Or maybe a law that you have to read Dirty Politics before you’re allowed to vote in NZ? 🙂

          1. Oh no doubt the media deserve a large amount of the blame.

            I believe there is a dire need to have an independant, publically funded news organisation. It should have a set budget that rises with CPI each year and which cannot be influenced by parliament without a 75% vote of parliament.

  3. I’m not sure why trying to get some investment in PT when it has been neglected for so long means Julie Anne Genter hates roads? What a cock.

    1. Well put. What a child.

      I guess National will just keep employing their usually strategy that the general public don’t care enough to do anything and so they continue to do what they like.

  4. Wow – so there is no obligation for them to provide a relevant or truthful answer to any question! And 99.9% of New Zealanders will never watch parliamentary feeds like this, so what exactly is the point of such sessions?

    1. Better than what we had before.

      Send a link of this to your friends.

      Even if you don’t like the Greens, these are good questions. National are showing the signs of having been in power to long.

      EWL really looks just like pork barrel politics. Unfortunately the political process means even if it seems illogical they can still spend our money on stupid stuff like this.

      Unless we actively say no! Not voting because you don’t like any of the options is no excuse, sometimes you need to vote against the stuff you don’t want.

      If you don’t vote and don’t share with your circle about stupid stuff like the above, then it just continues.

  5. I love my Audi, I spent 60k on it, cars are freedom, this blog something something negative problem, status quo all the way(sarc)

    1. I have a Porsche. I am a strong advocate of public transport. It gives me choice and freedom.

      Also for some reason, I don’t know why, Audi and Holden drivers seem to be the worst out there.

      1. I’m still mulling when/if to buy a 944T. The best damned piece of kit they ever produced, if longevity, price, and performance are combined. Cheaper to repair than a 911, much cheaper than a 928

        1. I have a Marin. Beats any Porsche hands down for manoeuvrability and zippiness. Beautiful sleek lines in black and silver.

          1. Just re-reading The Royal Matthew’s post today, I’m not sure which message is meant: real or sarc? Reads like me sometimes on a Friday night.
            Marin, huh? Must research it. If you’re gonna have a car it mights’all be interesting. Trains most days though.

  6. Worst government ever. Apart from the previous National governments. Time to get rid of the current head of Treasury also whose policies the government slavishly follows.

    1. What I found objectionable in Minister Bridges reply, was that because, (his words) Auckland Council and ‘Auckland Business’ have prioritized the East-West link, it is ok to spend this enormous sum of taxpayer money thus abrogating any responsibility by him, to secure for citizens of Auckland the best design and ‘livable city’ outcome for the City, and even more importantly, abrogating his responsibility to expend taxpayer dollars in the most efficient manner.

      In other words, is it the duty of the Government to administer in the interests of ‘Auckland Business’ or ‘Auckland Council’ or in the interests of the people as a whole?

      Quite frankly this is clear evidence of poor management. Bridges has got this so wrong,at the very least, he should be severely admonished by the Prime Minister or removed from the portfolio, so that it can be given to somebody who really understands what their responsibilities are.

      1. Yes this is what struck me too. He was essentially saying that if Business wants it, Business gets it. So the National Party is Business, not a rational party governing a country well into the future.

        1. Looking in from afar these days, it seems there has been a bit of Bridges bashing of late.

          I offer the following: under his tenure; rail is now under a vastly sounder “legitimacy” than it was going into 2014 election, the decision was made to repair the Christchurch – Picton rail (as well asSH1), CRL is under construction, a number of new urban cycleways have been opened, the Capital Connection train was reprieved, and he has been a great champion of the electric car. When you consider these achievements, Simon Bridges was clearly “going against the grain”.

          Should National win again, my biggest fear for New Zealand is that Bridges may be replaced as Transport minister by someone more compliant to the wishes of “the old school establishment”. For bloggers who wish Bridges to depart – be careful of what you wish for.

  7. Yer dreamin if you think an old turbo 944 is ether a good piece of kit or cheaper to maintain/service than a 911. unless you hanker for an air cooled 911 donk.
    My 911 (991) is now a weekender, PT rail weekdays. It does however, highlight the bloody hard and uncomfortable seats in those EMUs.

  8. “7.8 Based on all the information available, I am confident that the economic benefits of the Project will outweigh the economic costs (especially if the construction costs are not included).”
    This really is an incredible statement, almost Trump-like. Construction costs are by definition economic costs, so says the NZTA Economic Evaluation Manual.

    The thing is BCRs and MCAs are not just about road versus rail. They should guide project selection more generally, including road vs road. I bet there are other road projects that miss out on funding because of turkeys like this one. What about simple realignments and passing lanes to fix up all those rural blackspots? Or just plain old maintenance?

    1. Plain old maintenance doesn’t have the advantage that new roads have: benefits calculated from erroneous travel time estimates, which come from blatantly incorrect traffic modelling.

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