Greetings from Greater Tauranga. We are a newly formed group that aim to have an active voice in transport and land use planning for our city.

This first blog is an overview of the web of agencies, plans and agendas that govern our transport planning and in our view make it nigh on impossible for the bold and integrated planning required to  avoid the future that Auckland is now trying to untangle itself from.

There is so much going on in Tauranga City – with NZ’s highest rate of car dependency (97%!), some very large fringe suburban development being planned, and some very poorly designed/justified NZTA projects about to be built (the current one being the $120M, 1.5km, Bayfair to Baypark -B2B project – but that’s for a later post), which run directly through major parts of the city (Mount Maunganui).

The Tauranga City Council (TCC), BOP Regional Council (BOPRC), Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC) and NZTA are beginning to do some good thinking about what future public and active transport options should look like, but in our view are generally setting the bar too low – given that now is the time to plan boldly and hopefully avoid Auckland-like transport woes. This is all not helped by a really confusing bunch of inter-relating plans from all four agencies, which make things near-impossible to understand. So this post tries to explain these plans.

[Incidentally, there is yet another organisation called ‘Smartgrowth’ which aims to provide a forum, and unified view of land-use/transport for the region, however that has been largely ineffective when it comes to transport, as the various parties seem to do whatever they want].

Below is a diagram which tries to show the various plans as we currently understand them.

First up is the all-important Regional Land Transport Plan. The RLTP establishes the investment basis and direction for the next 30 years. It contains all the relevant district/city council transport projects, and then gets submitted to NZTA and the government for approval and funding. NZTA funds a significant percentage of the projects (typically close to 50%) within the RLTP. Importantly, the RLTP must reflect the current Government Policy Statement (GPS) on transport, which is currently being reviewed, so as you can imagine, things are very much up in the air.

The current due date for submissions on this is around February 2018, and the document is due to be finalised in April. However that time frame looks like it will have to be delayed, to incorporate the new GPS, which will be released by the Minister of Transport before Christmas. Whenever it goes out for consultation, it is vital that people submit on the contents of this plan. Greater Tauranga will be creating a pro-forma template to assist people in making submissions that support a multi-modal, transport system.

Below this regional plan sit the transport components of both the TCC and WBOPDC Long Term Plans (and those of the other BOP Councils not included here). These plans forecast for the next 10 years, with funding of planned projects for the next 3 years – including roads, bus-lanes, cycleways, etc. Any projects over $1M get included within the RLTP. Note these plans do not include, for example, the operation of the bus services themselves, which is funded by the Regional Council (see below), or projects on state highways, which are the responsibility of NZTA.

The TCC Long Term Plan includes a well-though-out Cycle Action Plan, that has incorporated community input from a variety of local cycle advocacy groups. TCC are also working on a Tauranga Parking Strategy, which will be a critical component. The WBOPDC Plan includes their Western Bay District Cycle Strategy.

The BOP Public Transport Plan is another key document. BOPRC fund the buses (along with NZTA) and plan all the bus routes for the region. The interesting thing here is that local councils, such as TCC, must construct any bus lanes and bus stops etc. to support the bus networks. The Public Transport Plan sets the direction for public transport in the Bay of Plenty for the next 10 years, and again it must comply with the government policy statement on transport, which will give much more emphasis to public transport in NZ’s larger cities.

Finally (almost) is the Tauranga Transport Programme. This document is a 30 year joint plan by NZTA, TCC, BOPRC, WBOPDC and SmartGrowth that aims to decide the key strategic transport priorities for the central part of Tauranga City. Projects identified here as being required over the next decade will go into the City Council’s Long Term Plans, while longer-term projects will shape the direction of future transport planning.

Those are the main plans. However there are also the Western BOP Public Transport Blueprint for Tauranga and Western Bay bus services, a number of Network Operating Plans, as well as NZTA projects such as B2B, SH2 Omokoroa to Waihi, and the Tauranga Northern Link (with Katikati bypass).

The upshot of all of this is that it is extremely confusing to understand who does what, and we imagine very difficult for those involved to navigate the system. Equally important, it is very hard for the public to understand how to engage and when.

The most important document in our view is the RLTP, as this is the plan that is submitted for government funding of all the key projects and the various council’s transport plans. Whatever gets into the councils’ long-term plans and the RLTP will set the platform for the development of our city. There are growing calls for a much bolder and visionary approach to public transport and active transport modes, as we all know more roads are not the solution.

How to get this message through to the 4 parties involved (5 including Smartgrowth) is no easy task, and delivering a joined-up work plan currently seems impossible. Perhaps a dedicated Tauranga Transport agency is worth considering? Although, again this may have the downside of separating the land-use decisions from transport which may just perpetuate the problems we currently have.

It’s a real mess. What do you think?

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  1. Confusion is a well known commercial strategy (think internet pricing plans) and it seems it like it might also be one favoured by some parts of our public bureaucracy too. What better way to make it hard for the bothersome public to get involved, without of course appearing to want any such thing, not to mention how busy all these groups must be meeting and planning and meeting and aligning plans and meeting…. And what better for established vested interests to ensure the status quo marches relentlessly on.

    This really doesn’t look efficient, nor particularly democratic, does it?

    1. Speculating about shadowy, powerful malicious figures is trivial because it requires no evidence and gives the impression that you’ve figured out The One Big Thing That Ties Everything Together! It also creates resentment instead of promoting positive action to engage with specific problems.

      In reality, both government and business are composed of large numbers of specialised experts who focus on one area and aren’t required to simplify it for a mass audience. The people whose job it is to explain it to the public often aren’t experts and things end up getting explained badly.

      In short, Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

      There are always going to be inefficiencies in government and imperfections in transparency. The real question is if you as a citizen are prepared to take the time to comprehend difficult problems or just throw stones.

      1. I don’t disagree, it’s more a question of emphasis. But we do have lazy low level corruption in NZ, which is more like convenient group think than anything, but the outcomes are similar… status quo is maintained and needed change is hard to effect. And the usual established players get the benefit of public investment, and the public often not… call it what you will, but this set up in Tauranga is clearly suboptimal, and so familiar to how it was in AKL pre-amalgamation.

  2. Hell if Christchurch can’t manage to make it work and they basically have Christchurch City Council as the local body and eCan as the regional body – then how the heck will the current mess ever work in Tauranga?

    Seems to me that you need to look at the common factors between Christchurch and Tauranga planning issues and it begins to look like NZTA and such are the spiders in the web here. They love to Divide and Conquer, so the more regional parties in the mix, the more they can play them off each other.

    Only way for meaningful reform is to tackle things from the top, the GPS, NZTA and some structural reform of the regional bodies into a more cohesive whole.

    But it also seems to me that no one in the region with enough clout is doing a serious enough long term look (and by that I mean beyond the next 10 year RLTP horizon) to decide what kind of city Tauranga and environs should become [is it a big country town, a major retirement and lifestyle refuge destination for former Aucklanders, a rival to Auckland, a large port town or the next Gold Coast?] and what milestones to aim for on that journey along the way. Without that plan everything idone s just ad-hoc and piecemeal.

    Within such vacuums, Government agencies like NZTA will ride into the mix and decide the outcomes whether you want them to or not.

    Which is exactly how Auckland got where it is. With a motorway through the middle and other dubious decisions that still haunt us decades after they were made.

    1. From a Christchurch perspective -I certainly believe we are on a march to repeating all of Auckland’s urban planning mistakes of the 60s to 90s…..

      1. Believe? They are (IMO). I spent my teens and early twenties growing up in Christchurch. I now live in Perth, but it’s been incredibly disappointing watching from across the ditch a case of replacing what was lost instead of doing something revolutionary and future proof. (Through tragic circumstances) CHCH has been given a blank canvas to go back to the drawing board and do something amazing, be a leader and the envy of NZ but are getting the same old sh*t. Disheartening to say the least. I’m hoping the change of government brings some fresh thinking but I feel the ship has already sailed, and the government is to busy focusing elsewhere.

  3. That wire diagram reminds me so strongly of Auckland in the 1990s and early 2000s – and to be honest remembering all those micro-territorial battles and the huge lost opportunities for modal shift just made me sick in the stomach just looking at it.

  4. It’s hard to imagine Tauranga / Mt Maunganui / Papamoa area becoming anything but another miniature Auckland.
    Greg sums it up nicely with regards to NZTA playing off the different Regional Council’s regarding which area gets which next big by-pass or highway project and funding allocations.

    1. A “miniature Auckland” – wow the possibilities are endless.
      Heavy Rail passenger link between Apata and Te Puke via the airport.
      Harbour tunnel – should it be LRT or Road?
      Light Rail from the Mount to Te Puna with a branch line to Papamoa.
      Road tax to encourage cars not to drive on Hewletts Road…..
      Where to have the Regional Rail Service terminate – the Mount or Tauranga.
      The discussion is just starting guys!

      1. Yes agree its bad, but it actually has very good potential to be a great PT and cycling corridor for commuters. Long and skinny means a high frequency bus network can easily be achieved within 10mins walk of almost everyone – throw in some bus priority and boom you have a faster and cheaper journey to work than the car (due to congestion).

  5. Yep its messy and hard to understand. Needs a government reform, but the TCC Councillors could take the lead on puahing for change. Looking forward to an article on that waste of money project Baylink that wont do anything to improve journey times to work, has no PT elements to it, creates a segregation barrier for peds and people on bikes and cuts off our longest off road sealed cycle route. Can Labour step in and stop this waste of money. Use the $120m for bike and bus improvements will be way better.

    1. Very good points. The Baylink project will be Greater Tauranga’s next focus along wit the lack of bus lanes, no integration with the proposed bus interchange behind Bayfair – not to mention the fact that it just funnels congestion 1km down the road…

  6. I think the current focus needs to be creating good bus priority running in to the CBD during peak times to try increase patronage. At the same time designate rapid transit corridors running out east to Papamoa parallel to SH2 and south towards Tauriko. The mode can be decided later although I think BRT is the only realistic mode with population size (even in 20 years).

      1. Have you used the silly new parking meters
        You can’t read them in the sun the screen is too low the methods of the programming are beyond most people. You see people having trouble all the time
        the extra charges are extortion

  7. I find it amusing seeing that car dependency figure, as I recall that in the Aotearoa Bike Challenge in March this year, the Tauranga City Council had a very high participation rate.

  8. Thanks for the interesting but depressing post. As soon as I saw your diagram of all the different transport plans, I could tell one thing. In Tauranga, there is no transport plan other than appeasing every vested interest in sight. When the growth stops, it is going to be ugly.

  9. Looks like Smartgrowth is winning. The basic idea is build lots of more intensive land uses and don’t provide any transport at all and just assume people will use a non-existent bus. They use the word smart in their name the same way East Germany used Demokratische in their name.

  10. I think you need to enlist the help of Julie Ann Genter and Phil Twyford here. They are the ones able to knock heads together and cut through the local labyrinths. And by all accounts, they should be sympathetic to calls for non-MOAR ROADS solutions.

    Their non-performance in failing to save Wellington’s trolleybuses from local-government ineptitude is worrying precedent, but as this was early-on in the piece we should give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they will soon pick up the pace. (They’re on notice however!)

  11. Oh my I live in Tauranga and believe me the traffic is not that bad, what would help is if helicopter parents would let kids walk or ride to school. Was on Cameron Rd last night at 5.30 no traffic, the only real issues I see is going over to Welcome Bay at peak time apart from that we have no idea what traffic is, is this group for real or are you just another group of the perpetually outraged on the internet

    Shane Bennett

    1. When I lived in Avondale in Auckland 14 years ago, traffic was “not that bad” either, and we watched it turn into a total shocker within 5 years. Traffic has increased by ten percent in the last two years in Tauranga, there’s a new community of 15,000 people about to be housed East of Papamoa, and no bus lanes planned on the new motorway extension going in from Bayfair to Baypark. A repeat of what happened on the Western Link in Auckland when they expanded the motorway there without putting in bus lanes, while simultaneously putting 15,000 houses into Massey. We’re not the outraged on the internet, we’re the people watching history repeat and dead keen to make sure it doesn’t. Thankfully there are many in Government and here in Tauranga, both in and outside of the organisations in that flow chart who want the same, but it doesn’t happen by sitting on our hands. Enjoy Cameron Road today (and maybe try it at 8:30 am for another perspective) and we’ll all try to make sure you can still enjoy it in ten years … from a prime seat in a self driving electric bus…

      1. Yes, this is the experience that needs to be explained. I see many people who leave Auckland “because the traffic is so bad” yet often go and recreate that same car-dependent lifestyle – complete with car-dependent voting preferences – in places like Tauranga.

        I wish NZTA would run an honest advertising campaign about motorway expansion and road building. They could explain why any travel time savings are temporary due to induced traffic adding to congestion city-wide. In fact, if NZTA are going to be released from their road construction and truck lobby shackles under this new government, and acknowledge the reality of induced traffic, the public of New Zealand kind of deserve an advertising campaign of this sort.

  12. Yes the heavy rail will work beater then light rail at this so got the other light rail got it same way as Heavy rail but its light and blame all the people taking cars instead of public transport since they go to gym and shopping and movies and coffee where busses do go so don’t take car take bus even if its long distance busses and catch a urban bus on the way back from rotaoua and te puke and KatieKatie ? Its not that hard yes its faster by rail with no traffic

  13. The best way to resolve Aucklands current traffic woes is to do absolutely nothing further. Instead use those funds for improved roading in sattelite cities in the regions so that Aucklands problems are not replicated elsewhere. If people are silly enough to continue to migrate to Auckland and businesses transfer there thus experiancing the mounting transport problems when there is no real need to be there that is their call and the consequences rest with them..

    1. Sounds a bit like the urban decay that car dependent sprawl creates, complete with destruction of agricultural soil and wilder places of ecological diversity. Alternatively we could stop funding roads in Auckland and use the money to improve public transport and active mode infrastructure, giving people a real choice.

  14. Never fear! Thanks to Jacinda and Winnie, Simon Bridges has been kicked out out on his arrogant posterior and can no longer stomp his “little foot” and demand his pernicious and frankly dim witted schemes. The myopia of certain Motorway motorway motorway focussed government agencies will lift and common sense/ best for the public solutions will arise. Long live collaboration, cooperation and working for the public good. Perhaps the good people of Tauranga could drive less, car share and use public transport and will all be better for it. It is great to have Tauranga joining us in the Transport Blog – let reason, common sense and smart design prevail.

  15. Mostly we have huge numbers of cars and roads because, although many people say we need better public transport, they actually drive. And while global warming is a terrible thing many hope that only Kuribati will be affected and that’s so far away that you can try not to think about it; no need to leave the car at home just yet!. Largely NZers seem to be climate change ignorers, slightly better than deniers I guess.. Some people in Tauranga might change their driving habits if bits of Papamoa drop into the sea.

    The small changes that are happening to Auckland’s public transport ridership have been the result of hard fought for change. It is a constant battle against the status quo. For example, the south american woman in East Auckland who believed that if her daughter rode public transport there was a chance that she would be hi -jacked. Another current example is the shop owners in Northcote Point who say their business is being decimated by the installation of bike lanes. What about when the predicted thousands arrive via the Skypath? Will AT be blamed for the huge surge in their labour costs?

    I read the Labour manifesto last night and I am heartened that at least Auckland is starting down a path of more sustainable, economically efficient and beneficial transport systems.

  16. Love all your comments. I have said for many years that rail should be used more for public transport. I see an opportunity for for a rail bridge to Tauranga city from Bayfair Estate area so it can connect with bus users from Bayfair mall, the subway is already in place from Bayfair mall, oh yes and there is already a rail bridge in place as well…funny….or as that solution way to simple?sometimes the best solutions are right in front of us but we all have our heads so far up our ….you know what’s….. to see it!

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