I think it’s fair to say that we’re pretty excited about the potential of the new government to deliver a significant change to urban issues in New Zealand, and particularly in Auckland. It still feels really weird to think that the government has actually changed. This blog has existed for about as long as the government were in power. Their policies and actions have played a large part in shaping what we’ve become.

It’s no secret that, by in large, we weren’t a huge fan of the outgoing government’s urban policies, especially their almost singular focus on big roads at the expense of all else. However, over the last nine years not everything they did was bad. So, I thought I’d put together a list of top 10 urban achievements National delivered during their latest time in government.

1. Didn’t cancel Auckland’s rail electrification

Sometimes, what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. Electrification definitely falls into that category. Originally approved and budgeted for in 2007 by the last Labour government, it was put under threat by National who promptly cancelled a proposed regional fuel tax, which was intended to use to pay for it and put the project through a review. Thankfully, in late 2009 and after around a one year delay, it was finally confirmed that electrification would go ahead.

Following years of construction and testing, at the end of April 2014 passengers were carried for the first time. It took till July 2015 for all lines to see electric trains running and the impact they’ve had has been nothing short of remarkable. In April 2014, Auckland’s rail network was carrying around 11.1 million trips annually. Today, less than 3.5 years later, the network is carrying 20.2 million trips and we’re still seeing double digit percentage growth. Usage is well ahead of projections, an unmitigated success.

Electrification has not only transformed Auckland’s rail network but helped set up the city for the future. Without it, we wouldn’t even be discussing #2 on this list …..

2. Started the City Rail Link

The CRL is Auckland’s most important transport project and has been around in one form or another for close to 100 years. It is now well and truly under construction. When finished, it will end up being one of the most transformational projects Auckland has ever seen.

Yet, for the first half of their tenure in government, National rubbished and ridiculed the CRL. One of their more memorable quotes about the project came from then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who in parliament quippedI take big issue with the suggestion that the city rail link is useful or popular“.

That all changed in mid-2013 when Prime Minister John Key suddenly flipped the government’s position on its head and agreed to help fund it. The change in heart has been attributed poor internal polling and pressure from the business community, especially those wanting to develop sites along the route. They did however place some bizarre conditions on the project if it was to start sooner than their delayed timetable. What they didn’t count on was Aucklanders taking to rail travel like we have, passing their ridership target in August, three years early.

Seeing the writing on the wall, a year ago National finally jumped on board with funding the project now. They may have been reluctant to support the project but as the saying goes, better late than never.

CRL under construction on Albert St

3. Urban Cycleway Fund

The UCF has been one of those ‘surprise and delight’ policies. We were surprised National would even propose such a great policy, and it’s one that has delivered some delightful outcomes. The policy effectively changed the conversation about how we invest in cycle infrastructure overnight and laid the foundations for a more bike friendly future. No longer is a skinny bit of green paint on a road considered an acceptable solution. Many of the projects delivered with the help of UCF funding, such as Te Ara I Whiti (Lightpath), the Nelson St and Quay St cycleways, among others, have not only changed how people get around but how Aucklanders see their city. There are many more great projects in the pipeline too.

These projects have also been a success in usage too with ATs cycle counters showing good growth across the network. We’re even starting to see network effect benefits as new connections get made.

4. An amalgamated Auckland

Many of the discussions we’ve had over the years would simply not have been possible without Auckland having being amalgamated, including setting up Auckland Transport the way they were. Of course, this isn’t to say that everything has been perfect and couldn’t be better but we’re getting better urban outcomes now than before the supercity. Projects like the CRL or plans like the Unitary Plan would have been next to impossible without the amalgamated city National created. Not that they have always agreed with them and it’s the clash of views that led to the next item on our list.

5. Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP)

For many years we were seeing Auckland come up with good visions and plans only for National to rubbish or ignore them. It wasn’t that they had better or even competing ideas, they just didn’t want to agree with the council and especially then Mayor Len Brown. We’d even seen them work with the council and Auckland Transport on the City Centre Future Access Study, which again confirmed the CRL was needed, but upon release National disowned it and claimed it was flawed.

That changed in 2015 when National agreed to work with the council on an agreed plan for transport in Auckland. Starting with just agreeing on the basics and how things would be measured, they came up with various options for transport packages before coming up with a final proposed plan for Auckland. Despite asking some of the wrong questions, we got a relatively good outcome. For the first time National had to admit we can’t build our way out of congestion with more roads, that interventions like road pricing were going to be needed and that we need a Strategic Public Transport Network of rail and busways to complement our road network.

ATAP isn’t perfect though and just a year later the document had to be revised because Auckland’s population growth has been much higher than originally expected.

6. Northern Busway extension

At the same time as National first agreed to support the CRL, they announced a suite of motorway projects. One of those was the Northern Corridor (SH18-SH1). At the time a notable absence from the project was an extension of the Northern Busway past Constellation Dr. This was something we later learned was against the advice of officials. Later, they came to their senses and included the busway extension in the project and just a few weeks ago got planning consent. Construction is due to start next year and the busway is likely to be built “at an early stage in the Project“.

7. Waterview

We’ve been pretty critical of the Western Ring Route projects, mainly because the NZTA refused to build a busway on SH16 at the same time, something that we’re now going to have to go back and build at even greater cost. We’ve also been sceptical of the claims of time savings related to Waterview, not because journeys haven’t improved since it opened but because local and international experience shows they’re not likely to last. That doesn’t mean that Waterview itself is bad. Finally connecting up SH16 and SH20, to provide an alternative route through the isthmus and allowing traffic to bypass the city centre is a good thing.

It’s also positive in that it, temporarily at least, reduces traffic on local roads. That gives Auckland Council/Transport a golden opportunity to rethink how those streets are designed and the modes that are prioritised on them. We just hope they grasp that opportunity.

8. Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel

One of the key tasks that arose from amalgamating Auckland was to align the myriad of planning rules from the former councils. After starting out bold in a draft plan, the council scaled back on allowing for more housing in the formally notified plan following outrage from some groups, spurred on by the likes of the Herald who scaremongered to anyone who would listen/read – before long even three storeys started being considered ‘high-rise’. They cut so much capacity the amount possible was just over half of what was needed in Auckland over the 30-year timeframe the plan covered.

Auckland needs more houses and needs them quickly so there was also a need to get the plan implemented as fast as possible. If it had followed normal planning processes, we’d have been waiting years for all the various appeals to be sorted. The Council wanted the plan implemented immediately, National came up with a modified version of its Board of Inquiry process it developed for big projects – like its Roads of National Significance. It was called the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP). After listening to all of the evidence, the IHP released it’s recommendations back to the council and thankfully sanity prevailed. The IHP recommended a number of changes to significantly increase the amount of development possible. The Council ultimately accepted most of the IHPs recommendations.

Now we just need to build a lot more homes.

9. Losing the Basin Reserve Flyover fight

Nationals signature transport policy has been its Roads of National Significance and one of those was a series of motorway projects through and north of Wellington. As mentioned above, they also changed the planning process, introducing a Board of Inquiry (BoI) which was intended to fast track projects and prevent them from being held up by years of court appeals. That backfired though when the NZTA sought approval for a flyover around the Basin Reserve.

Most notably it set some useful precedents due to the impact the project would have on the neighbouring area. A lot of the failure can be attributed to the NZTAs poor planning however that can in part be attributed to the pressure to get stuff built that National placed on them.

10. Urban Redevelopment

The government owns significant chunks of land in Auckland. This is mainly though Housing New Zealand and in many cases the land is poorly utilised. While they absolutely haven’t gone far enough, and they often tried to do anything but build homes, National increasingly came to realise they’d actually have to build homes and use government land better. This is primarily being delivered as a result of beefing up Housing NZ with redevelopments like at Northcote. While many of these changes are welcome, they too have often fallen under the category of too little too late.

Housing NZ, also ended up playing a critical role in pushing for increased housing capacity within the Unitary Plan process.

The Hobsonville Point development is being used as a template for urban redevelopments in places like Northcote

Over the nine years National have achieved some positive things for our urban environment but it’s notable that many were either

a) a continuation of work by the previous Labour government or
b) only achieved after exhausting all options to try and not do something

With a new government we look forward to seeing some much better urban outcomes.

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85 comments

    1. Immigrants to a certain level yes. Mass immigration at the levels we have had (particularly with the majority from 2 developing countries) no. The sheer volume has driven up costs for residents across the board and resulted in council having to spend additional money in the wrong areas rather than being able to use that towards long term PT improvements etc.

      1. Immigrants improve Auckland by making it more diverse. Aucklanders now have a choice of food, dance, religion, sport and music which many other cities and regions lack.

        It is not just two countries that you should be concerned about – there are several countries that do not enhance diversity because of the numbers already here: UK, China, India, Philippines, South Africa.

        On the other hand immigration in recent years has been badly mired in rorts, corruption and widespread exploitation of naive foreign students. It has not resulted in per capita productivity growth nor increase in per capita GDP. It has resulted in Auckland homeowners and businesses getting wealthier. Auckland is becoming a less equitable society.

        If the government really cared about immigration they would not be expelling pensioners in their eighties who have sold up to live with their families. Last years arbitrary suspension of the family reunion category is proof of our last government’s lack of humanity.

        1. The last gov’s idea of having to earn >$45k to be “skilled” was also evidence of lazy thinking – If I was to be charitable.

          I accept that immigration needs to slow down, but I’m not convinced that the new gov has the “perfect” approach. Students are big earners and (allegedly) good at subsidising education for citizens.

          We also need to consider _why_ seasonal work is primarily filled by migrant labour, before making big changes to the relevant visas. The simple answer of “lazy kiwis” may have some truth, but the full story is likely to be much more complex. Much like the immigration question itself – Complex, with answers that take time to implement.

          1. Excuse me we are people of the land before our country became overloaded with people our resources drained to zero and then job overtaken by foreighbers we nzders worked our land successfully children parents and grandparent alike mate we can work like oxes academically we left that side up to the professional s with trust

          2. @Aroha – To say that the country is overloaded is a rubbish statement. Compare the density of even Auckland to that of many cities overseas, let alone the country. We’re not overloaded. Our infra is creaky, no argument, but we’re not overloaded.

            Can you elaborate on “resources drained to zero”? As for jobs overtaken by “foreigners”, look at the average article in the mainstream media – Kiwis don’t want low-paying jobs, so it falls to migrants.

            The rest of your comment, sorry – I really can’t understand the point that you’re trying to make.

        2. I would like to see the evidence that shows that “diversity” improves our society. If I look at the countries we try to emulate they are hardly diverse. Norway is 95% Norwegian with 3% other European, mostly other Scandinavians. Ireland, Sweden, Japan etc are similar. It seems like diversity has just become a mantra that is not allowed to be challenged.

          And call me a cynic if you like, but it seems that those who call for diversity mean diversity in their cuisine and not in neighbours. A new restaurant opening of Ponsonby Rd hardly counts. Aucklanders live very separate lives and this seems to be increasing. I don’t see many of the trendy liberals rushing to move in Mangere to soak up all that diversity or sending their kids to diverse schools. But I am sure these comments don’t apply to you Mr. Atkinson.

          1. In Finland I was shocked when my workmates laughed at a KKK dragonboat passing us by – I think a lack of diversity there led to a lack of sensitivity. Auckland compares favourable with Vancouver which I had heard was diverse but in fact the different groups stick much more to their areas than here. Please don’t throw rocks at Bob; you’re wrong on that front. He has certainly embraced diversity and understands many of the issues from a personal perspective.

          2. Heidi – that’s why I said I am sure my comments don’t apply to Bob; I’ve seen his comments before and see he is genuine. But there is a general trend I have noticed that those that love diversity don’t actually live it. I think of our former former PM Mr. Key allowed huge numbers to immigrate to NZ but lived in Parnell.

          3. Diversity is mainly in the mind – an average family usually contains more variety than the average traits of any two ethnic groups. Where diversity works is in permitting interaction with different mindsets; this is socially enriching.

            However when it devolves into multiculturalism you may get problems. As an academic pointed out a Chinese immigrant can live in Northcote and never have to use English; there are Chinese shops but also doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. Take this just a little further and you might as well call it a colony (as per Bengalis in East London today and the British Empire in Calcutta a century ago).

            Adrian is correct that there is no unambiguous evidence proving ethnic diversity makes a society wealthier financially. 150 years ago large scale immigration helped NZ and the USA exploit resources but in developed societies with no new resources to be exploited there seems to be no relationship; certainly Auckland is doing very badly with productivity and wealth creation compared to our trading partners.

            Social scientists have found a negative relationship between immigration and societies willingness to pay for socialism (a welfare state). We don’t mind being taxed to support the unfortunates in our society but not if we are thinking of them as foreigners.

            Conclusion: immigration should be carefully planned.

          4. Heidi – pardon my ignorance, but what is a KKK dragon boat? I have no idea. Mind is boggling. And whatever it is, what was it doing in Finland?

          5. Heidi, I saw the same kind of thing in a smaller city in Ukraine at a US cowboy themed bar and restaurant attached to the hotel I was staying in – filled not only with cowboy stuff but also Confederate flags that you would not see at a similarly themed bar in Western countries including NZ. I’m sure the flags were there out of that same kind of ignorance rather than any malicious intent.

            Having said that, I’ve seen plenty of NZers leave their chopsticks sticking up during their ricebowl meal at Japanese cafes which is about the worst cultural faux pas you can do with chopsticks (simulates Buddhist funeral arrangement of burning incense). So we’re not perfect ourselves even with a more cosmopolitan population in NZ.

          6. personal experience for me: I enjoy a range of foreign friends, good times and good laughs. I remember in the 90s being bored in the city. Good to see shops busy also. I dont like the word diversity its nothing to do with it. It’s about having passionate people who want to move here to create a better life and also enjoy this beautiful country. I like showing new people Piha beach and Mission bay roller blading. Also new ideas about economic models. We were copying UK until last 10 years and now we have more high rise living, smaller spaces, more games, more creative thought. Also more confidence, things like the water-view tunnel needed many foreign skills to solve. Sure there are some extremes going on but lets not destroy it completely. I think a UK/ Australia/ Canada / NZ commonwealth visa free travel would be rad.

  1. The list does feel like clutching at straws. Most of the positive things only happened after a lot of kicking and screaming and in face of negative polls on the issue. Others (like Auckland amalgamation) were supposed to deliver something else, but luckily for us it backfired on the government. Being glad for not cancelling the electrification sums up pretty well the attitude of the previous government on urban issues.

    1. Did a single new PT project get started (spade in ground) under National? Only one I can think of is the CRL – has that moved on from the original cut and cover bit the council started without the government?
      A wasted 9 years…
      The problem is I wouldn’t be surprised if this government is even worse. After Winnie spends billions on his pet projects, I doubt there will be any left for Auckland. And he seems to be heavy rail only, but there aren’t many viable heavy rail projects remaining in Auckland.

      1. I have been wondering if it could be viable to run heavy rail down the middle of the Southern Motorway between Mt Wellington and Takanini. This would provide rapid transit to a section of South Auckland which has few good options or proposals.

    2. Absolutely Pshem – you said it. National’s record on transport is a disgrace and a threat to the country’s future wellbeing; all that wasted money. And they try to pretend they are good economic managers.

        1. Actually our GDP growth per capita has been pretty poor. National have only achieved growth through immigration – not that I’m anti immigration but this isn’t real growth.
          National were handed a country with very little government debt by the last Labour government, and handed it back with a lot more.

          1. Treasury said we were facing a decade of deficits.
            Btw. I see you forgot to mention the GFC. Christchurch and Kaikoura.

          2. Treasury often get it wrong and didn’t take into account higher dairy prices, lower oil prices, lower interest rates.
            Christchurch was mostly paid for by insurance and reinsurance while Kaikoura was too with a costly but not excessively so in the grand scheme of things road/rail rebuild.
            The GFC did hurt however it also resulted in many citizens returning home boosting the economy. The low interest rates helped.
            If National has continued investing in the NZ Super fund rather than stupidity stopping contributions the country would now be about $20B (might have even been $30B) better off!

          3. Vance you forgot to mention stupidly high house prices that will constrain the young to ‘working for the man’ forever – and stifle any possibility of innovation in the future. National have been very short term focused.

        2. Vance, they have been average financial managers. Have a look at this link to see how they increased government debt (and how successful the previous Labour Govt was in reducing it.).https://tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/government-debt-to-gdp
          And Jacinda may have said that about Bill English, but she spent the whole campaign being nice.
          And it is important to note that the current government wants to again pay down government debt and is re-starting payments to the Cullen fund as someone will have to pay for government super in 10 years time.
          Most people believe that English and Joyce are great financial managers because that’s what they have told them. I suspect those in poverty and on hospital waiting lists don’t share that view.

        1. It took us one hour and 5 minutes to drive 7 km yesterday, approaching Warkworth from the Matakana direction at about midday. We gave ourselves 1 hour 35 minutes to get our son from Omaha to a rehearsal in Orewa, and were 25 minutes late.

          That’s induced traffic resulting from road building. We tried to do it by bus but couldn’t. I think the money spent on roads has been ill spent.

          1. Isn’t that bad traffic from a lack of road building? You would have been fine had the motorway been extended past Warkworth!

          2. Sure, if you’re happy to go the way of Atlanta. I’d prefer accessibility, healthy soil and a rich ecology instead of spreading the city out, asphalting over everything, carbon emissions and car dependency. Always happy to include links if you really have missed that traffic is proportional to roading capacity. Up at Omaha many holiday homes had 3 or 4 flash cars outside – 1 per driver.

          3. Jimbo, don’t forget the previous labour government had a Warkworth bypass on the books, which would have dealt to that problem years ago. But National cancelled the cheap and effective highway upgrades to spend nine years planning for a mega motorway that never got built.

            Which is the better financial manager again?

    3. That’s the point I made on twitter directly to English & Joyce themselves when Joyce waxed lyrical at all the stuff they’d done before the election. Everything except the cycle fund was only gotten after the govt got dragged to it kicking and screaming whereas the other side showed in their plans and policy that they understand the city. that I said to both was the key difference on Auckland between the two sides. Now the other side has got three years to prove they do understand Auckland.

      Let’s not forget it took the the last Labour govt until midway through their 2nd term to start moving on Auckland infrastructure. That meant that the plaque on many Auckland rail developments shows the project was opened by a National govt minister. Ardern and friends can’t afford to waste time. She has to get right into it. I hope this blog won’t be too afraid to criticise if she doesn’t. It’s one thing when you’ve got a govt who you didn’t support and whose policies are broadly different to your own. Of course you’re going to criticise and your expectations of progress have to be tempered. But when you’ve got a govt you supported (includes myself) and it doesn’t put it’s promises into practice then it deserves to be panned in no uncertain terms at the end of the 3 year term. Hopefully this blog will continue to professionally judge govt actions and policies giving compliments and brickbats when and as where required.

  2. Haha losing the Basin Flyover fight. That is credited to the Board of Inquiry and the judges in the subsequent High Court judicial review, which was initiated by the government because they refused to back down.

  3. Might not be considered urban but the New Zealand bike and walk trails through nz have been a fantastic tourism initiative. I think they were the one’s who started and promoted this.

    1. Converting rail lines to bike trails could be seen as a sad loss of expensive infrastructure. Bike trails alongside rail lines or elsewhere is inspirational.

      1. I agree only in part, “could” be seen. Depends on the case.

        Some rail lines will never again be worthwhile, due to the population base served being too small or due to other factors (perhaps road _is_ the most efficient method for some areas). In these cases, it is better to remove valuable assets (wood and steel) before some “enterprising” person steals it. Sometimes freight volumes will not justify the opex, regardless of funding method.

        Of course, I’d agree 100% for lines like Napier-Gisborne for example.

        1. The question to ask is: do we know what the economic and energy situation will be in 50 years’ time or 100 years’ time? Obviously it was radically different when the rail lines were put in. I imagine it’ll be radically different again, yet planning seems to assume stability in economy and energy.

          You *could* (nice word, don’t you agree?) see that removing rail lines is a desecration of the effort put in by our ancestors and a robbing of possibilities from our descendents, given that we can only guess at the environment they will find themselves in.

          1. When rail lines are closed in continental Europe they generally leave the tracks where they are until they rust. This at least keeps the corridor *officially* as a railway and looking like a railway, and makes it harder for opportunistic developers with crony-connections among local politicians to carve bits off.

            Britain by contrast historically tended to rip everything out and lost many valuable corridors in the past which would be extremely useful today.

            Happily our more-recently-closed lines have so far been left in place, though one stupid exception to this is the line into central Rotorua.

            As for asset-recovery, I have it from a trustworthy source that the scrap value of the track removed from the Otago Central Branch failed to cover the cost of its removal! But at least in that case the corridor remains, now re-purposed as a cycleway.

          2. Yeah Dave B, it’s interesting to see the UK in recent years reopening quite a few lines that were closed in the 60s under Dr Beeching. Of course because all the infrastructure was ripped out they’ve probably had to spend a lot more than they would’ve to reinstate those lines.

  4. National did ok, but could have done a hell of a lot better. Hopefully after a term or two of Labour, National will realise PT spending should not be a political issue, but an essential service for any urban area.

  5. Nationals top 10 urban achievements reads exactly like a government that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything that would benefit the majority of ordinary people.

    Electrification was supposed to be partially up by the 2011 RWC. Principally Stephen Joyce’s delaying of it meant the 40 year old ADK’s had to be rebuilt, more SA sets had to be ordered than anticipated, both at great and unnecessary expense, the rail network was horribly underdone and to this day electrification has meant a loan rather than paid for by taxes. Economic geniuses, I think not.

    It is easy to argue a unified Auckland was also supposed to usher in a National Party mayor, in John Banks, followed by the liberation of billions of dollars council owned assets, also known as asset sales, to National Party donors and supporters. It failed and we were punished by a shit load of non cooperation from central government that one could, again, easily argue, culminated in Len Brown being rolled by the dirty politics dept of National.

    Thank or blame focus groups and polling in 2014 on the CRL finally and so begrudgingly being agreed to even with what John Key hoped would be with impossible conditions attached. I think Len Browns single minded vision more than anything else and his decision to go it alone without National did it in the end.

    In fact most anything in this list is the result of opposition party’s making polling headway with positions on PT or other public initiatives that in their last term meant National had to plagiarize in a half arsed manner to remain relevant rather than carrying on with their counterproductive blind ideology.

    But I do agree absolutely with your sentiment that I too am “pretty excited about the potential of the new government to deliver a significant change to urban issues in New Zealand, and particularly in Auckland” Damned right there!

    1. What a load of rubbish. Len Brown rolled himself by not keeping his trousers on.
      I’ll also remind you that Labour sold 17 state assets. I’ve also heard Goff talk about selling the port.

      Like everything, it’s suddenly ok if Labour do it.

      In the meantime I look forward to the rail line to Rotorua reopening along with the Napier – Gisborne Line, the SOL and the upgrade of the NAL.
      Maybe the Wynyard Tram will start running again as well.

      And if we’re really lucky they’ll put a canopy over Davies Ave at Manukau so commuters don’t get wet crossing over to the bus station from the train station because Len Brown couldn’t be bothered stumping up the money to terminate the Manukau Rail Line in the council carpark instead of where it is.

      1. Very bitter.

        Are you telling me the entire National Party have been little angels? Whatever!

        Browns reprehensible behaviour got nailed by the smear department running out of the PM’s office long before we knew it existed. Had to go. Pity more of the same didn’t go on with National members!! At least he wasn’t bribing millionaires and conflicting his interest with rather compromised business deals

        What are the 17 assets sold by Labour that wasn’t under the Roger Douglas/Richard Prebble pseudo ACT Party era when Labour turned into something no one thought they voted for?

        And then how many under Helen Clark?

        1. Deflect. Deflect.
          I’m glad you didn’t mention misusing a council credit card.
          Don’t mention the TPP which we now find is suddenly ok because Ardern supports it.
          Anyway, let me know when I can book that train trip to Rotorua.

          1. Look, Wellington is rife with it. Families torn apart constantly. The media usually just have a gentleman’s agreement to keep quiet. But then they and the PR consultants are in on the game, too.

        2. The NZ public has been, on the whole, remarkably sanguine about Len Brown. He came, he sang, he did a little dance, he shagged on a table – in other countries he would have been hung out to dry. In France he would have been applauded. In Britain, they called the head of one minor party Paddy Pantsdown for at least a couple of decades after a love tryst was uncovered. But Luke’s rumour is, I think, unfounded. Sounds like the sort of thing that Whale Oil would put out there.

          Not sure, Heidi, whether I can agree that “Wellington is rife with it”. Perhaps it may be better summarised as “Politicians are rife with it”. The rest of the good people of Wellington don’t need to be slandered with their shenanigans….

  6. Apart from the Unitary Plan IHP I think the titled should be 9 Things National Were Dragged Kicking and Screaming Over

    Not really showing Government success but more of their failures that lead to those respective points.

    But they are now consigned to history and a new administration is in power – time to get things really moving like some Airport Lines, and the Third Main to Papakura

  7. Great list Matt, and as others have implied above I know it was a bit of a struggle to get to 10 🙂

    However, there should probably be something in the list about Christchurch. The National government’s rebuild programme left much to be desired. They reneged on a lot of the things they said they’d do, and every single “anchor project” has taken longer to get off the ground than initially anticipated. Still, there’s some good in there, and we should acknowledge it… I guess the main thing is that Christchurch doesn’t tend to be on our radar so often as Greater Auckland.

    Some of the things they did do include: 1) committing to the Christchurch CBD. They gave strong signals that they would reinvest in it and help it to rebuild. As it turns out, of course, they ended up doing it pretty slowly. They’ve contributed money to several of the “anchor projects”, including the Convention Centre, Health Precinct and others. 2) bringing government staff back to the CBD. They’ve leased a pretty substantial amount of office space across several buildings, as well as in the Justice & Emergency Services Precinct. 3) Giving financial support to allow the Cathedral to be repaired.

    Certainly some negatives for Christchurch as well – but we’re focusing on the positives today!

    1. re: Christchurch [and Kaikoura/Wellington]

      While it is true that National had to cope with two serious earthquakes in its 9 year tenure.

      They certainly ended up going around the mulberry bush in getting the many promises they made immediately post-quake delivered. Just like they did for the projects Matt listed above.

      And they totally ignored the will of the people of Christchurch, expressed clearly in the [completely & artificially rushed] “100 day” plan for a better city and simply ended up replacing “like for like” as cheaply and nastily as they could [contractually] get away with, like the government was some overseas controlled insurance company more interested in the welfare/dividends of the shareholders than the people affected.

      And lets not forget, it was the previous National Government in the early ’90s [of which some of those current National MPs were most definitely part of] – who bought in the cap of only the 1st $100K of damage being covered by EQC – without thinking through or putting place mechanisms to deal with the thoroughly predictable insurance mess that was going to cause and did in fact cause Christchurch folks, when the inevitable biggish one did hit.

      They [and Labour and the outgoing National Governments] could and should have taken more steps to mitigate may of the obvious flaws with such a model. Of course, the vested interests of insurance companies and building owners and also squeamish ministers who don’t want to think about those issues ahead of time played a large part in the putting of those things into the too hard basket for too long.

      Many of those folks affected by the quakes are still waiting for their broken homes and lives to be repaired (or re-repaired) or to be compensated fairly to the level that they paid for in their insurance premiums all those years prior to the quakes [and also since].

      EQCs clear lack of preparedness for a event of the scale that happened, events of which are in fact almost their primary reason for being – clearly indicates that the focus was on the wrong things before and after the quakes. They can and should have been looking to the past [Like Napier, 1931] to come up with ways to harness the resources of the public and private enterprise to best effect prior to the events unfolding so that they can deliver whats they are tasked by law with doing. They got there in the end, but what a painful and costly exercise for everyone involved.

      And yes National [and EQC] did apply some lessons learned from Christchurch when Kaikoura happened nearly 12 months ago now. But again the lack of preparedness and resilience shown in the infrastructure [not just SH1 but in the “alternative route”, lack of coastal shipping options etc bodes ill for when the next inevitable natural disaster sch as when Alpine Fault ruptures.

      In a long and stringy country that straddles the “roaring 40’s”, and two major tectonic plates you expect better planning for these sorts of events – especially as they occur in a routine and clockwork fashion.

      in fact, NZTA only mentions infrastructure resilience as a reason for their many projects pretty much only when they want to ram through a controversial Transmission Gully style motorway project. Resilience doesn’t just mean making something like a bridge stronger, it means way more than that and includes not putting everything in one basket, having alternatives ready to go, and pre-staging materials and resources so you have what you need closer to where its going to be needed. I don’t think NZTA get that part. They and their political master are going to have to.

      Yes Newmarket Viaduct was replaced ‘cos it wasn’t up to the revised resilience standards of today. But that was a Labour Government project [as was VPT], so can’t be claimed by National as “one of their” better ideas. And while you get a small credit for not cancelling an already committed to project. Thats relatively easy as the money has already been found from current and future budgets, so its a no brainer to let it roll on.

      It is true however that the huge cashflows and related spending on construction from 2010/11 quakes no doubt helped springboard NZ Inc out of the GFC well ahead of other members of the G20. While at the same time sabotaging the construction/building in the rest of the country as resources and workers [local and overseas] were funnelled into Christchurch’s rebuild.

      And yet, looking back 7 or so years on it appears we have really squandered the opportunity it gave us, in more ways than one.

      And thats the true cost of these various delays and knuckle dragging we saw from National on all these projects – the true cost is really measured in the opportunity cost of these bad or delayed decisions not the few dollars saved in delaying the inevitable.

      These all simply precluded achieving a better future for all of us. And thats the part that we should all be angry and sad about.

      1. Just out of interest I think the Newmarket viaduct was replaced because it was structurally unsound, in a big way (water ingress into those red concrete castings that made up the pillars at least was seriously compromising its ability to stand up, full stop). Its life expectancy was far longer than it lasted.

        It wasn’t done for any other reason.

  8. I agree with Waspman, Pshem and Ben Ross, National had shown reluctance in not doing in to much in regards public transport, housing, controlling growth in low quality immigration and their stance on the city rail link (which was a no brainer) in the Auckland region except for their precious road building for their truckie mates.

    Their version ‘affordable’ of affordable housing – the Hobsonville Point project ended up not being ‘affordable’ housing but expensive compact housing. The list goes on.

    They knew there were problems looming but did nothing about it until they were under pressure by the electorate to doing something but they left it to late and now they are in opposition.

    The new government now has to spend money to get things back to what it should have been.

  9. I also agree with above comments.
    It’s admirable to be gracious in victory, but let’s be honest and call it what it is;

    National’s loss is a massive victory for the future of urban renewal in Auckland city.

    You just can’t frame it any other way…

    1. There’s a lot of renewal currently underway in Auckland.

      One such example on the Stuff website today is: A third of Auckland’s trees felled.

      Law changes means 90 per cent of supercity’s residential trees are unprotected, Tree Council says.

      All happening under a left-wing council led by Phil Goff.

      1. Not true, it was in fact your National Party under the buffoon Nick Smith who took away the councils ability to protect trees, for their developer mates.

      2. I’m pleased to see you and I have the same concern around trees. Don’t you think the National Party’s amendment to the RMA was the reason for the removal of protection for trees? That’s what I’ve always understood. Here’s an article that mentions it briefly: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/71688662/resource-management-act-removes-blanket-tree-protection-for-urban-areas

        “The government amendments to the Resource Management Act (RMA) come into effect on September 4 and lift the blanket tree protection in urban areas. Auckland Council general manager of plans and places Penny Pirrit says the council is not allowed to re-introduce general tree protection rules.”

  10. If I remember correctly, Waterview was another of those projects that was initially proposed by the previous Labour government, pooh-poohed by National and canned when they came in, and then adopted again a couple of years later.

  11. No 3 is the previous govt’s big claim to fame, and 5, but then their total misunderstanding the urban realm made it necessary, and I will be forever grateful for No 2. No matter how late, it’s very exciting to have it underway now. So much joy for this.

    But the main thing is that AKL is now well poised for transformation through transport infrastructure investment and has the government to make that happen… Extra joy.

  12. I would list the top achievements of the National Government as:
    1/ Homelessness
    2/ Child poverty
    3/ Underfunding of the health system
    4/ Selling state assets to their cronies
    5/ Failure to act on climate change
    6/ Increased pollution of waterways
    7/ Dirty politics
    8/ Running roughshod over a generation of treaty settlements by declaring the Kermadec sanctuary without consultation.
    9/ Foreign ownership of houses and farms
    10/ Lying about the cost of Labours policies.

  13. It’s good Labour are going to commit us to the TPP to help pay for all these grand plans.
    Maybe they’ll reopen Hillside Workshop and build all the trains we’ll need there.
    Btw. What’s happened to all the outrage and noisy protests from the left about the TPP?
    No dildo throwing. No frothing at the mouth and acts of intimidation from Bradford, Kelsey and their cohorts.
    Suddenly it’s all ok when it’s Labour doing it.

    In the meantime I look forward to weekend adventures in Helensville once train services resume there.
    Thanks Labour.

    1. Thanks Vance. Definitely we need to keep the TPP on the agenda! Why Labour continued to support it after the US and Japan joined and ruined it, I’ll never understand. Do you know much about where it’s headed now? The last I heard was that it was left in a state that the US was going to get all the advantages of it without being a member… which is probably a gross simplification.

  14. I’m late to the discussion obviously, but I’ll say an appreciative word for the outgoing government. While they could have gone faster, they *also* could easily have gone screaming in the wrong direction. Conservative parties in Australia, the US, and parts of Canada often do. Think of the retrograde New South Wales administration, which is ripping out cycle lanes and ramming a $17 billion motorway tunnel through Sydney.

    National’s moderately progressive approach is a breath of fresh air relative to that kind of thing.

    National’s moves towards good urban transport policy during the last three terms in office could be the start of a good thing. The Urban Cycleway fund and the CRL will create a positive and popular legacy for NZ’s cities. I hope that when National is back in office they will build on that legacy, and that while they’re out of office they don’t fall into the trap of reflexive opposition to further change.

    Finally, an underappreciated part of National’s legacy is that a lot of good planning has gone on under their watch, especially since ATAP. Auckland Transport and Auckland Council also deserve a lot of the credit for this – a happy consequence of local government amalgamation?

    Basically, the next 3-4 major public transport projects for the city have been planned and designed to a good amount of detail. There are some i’s to dot and t’s to cross, especially with how they’re going to be funded. But the projects are nearly ready to build, and that wasn’t the case three or six years ago.

    1. Yes we are blessed to have a right that isn’t very. And a left that isn’t very either. We are a sort of radically centrist nation.

      The right does a fair bit of redistribution (too much of it to landlords though), and the left believes in the market to deliver bunch of its aims.

      The US is full batshit cray, and Aus and Canada are run by their Big Carbon lobbies…

  15. I just wanted to remind everyone about the electric trains that originally that govt had Aucklanders paying and not even owning them. Let us not forget that kind of shit. The best thing that can be said about the last govt is as Peter and Matt said that they did eventually change their minds and come to the party. That’s some progress from earlier National govts. Hopefully with some new gen younger MPs, the next time they’re in govt they might take another step and even get with more plans from the start.

    I’m still frustrated that their intransigence has cost the CRL 2-3 years construction time, and again like Rugby WC 2011 (Both Labour and National to blame) we won’t have as good a PT offering as we could’ve possibly offered for the next big events taking place in Auckland in 2021. One thing I never saw in the election coverage was about a possible quickening of the CRL build. Do any of the blog authors or any posters know if this was discussed by Labour and its allies? If a couple of years could be trimmed off the current planned opening time of 2023-24 it would be fantastic.

    Lastly I agree with the statement about the Super City. It may not be perfect (what system is?), the fact Auckland has one unified council has been a big part of projects like electrification and CRL that have been around for almost a century coming to fruition. If anyone doubts me, read the bio of Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, Urban Legend, and you will understand it’s just about a miracle anything got done in Auckland until fairly recently!

    1. The easiest way to complete the CRL is to get 2 TBM’S to dig the tunnels at the same time instead of drilling 1 then dismantling it returning to Mt Eden and starting all over again to drill the 2nd

  16. Yes will be interesting looking back on Nationals legacy, sure did slow some good projects down. Out of interest, how did and or who was really behind the urban cycleway fund idea?

  17. The moderate centrism that Patrick mentions can surely be attributed to MMP. Remember the radical swing that occurred in the eighties from a highly regulated welfare state to a hands-off cowboy market?

    Also, while I agree that National did many good things, you can hardly credit them with the amalgamation of Auckland. That was initiated by Labour with a Royal Commission that looked to the opportunities. National finished implementing it by bringing in Rodney Hide and Mark Ford, who focussed on cutting costs and getting back to basics, by removing public and political input into Council-owned enterprises, including especially AT

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