Every year Auckland Transport publishes a Statement of Intent (SOI) which sets out what they plan to achieve for the next three years, how they’ll monitor their performance and how they will contribute to the longer-term outcomes Auckland Council aims to achieve. a

The process to create the SOI is a little bizarre:

  1. The council create a Letter of Expectation, such as this one, setting out what their priorities are.
  2. Auckland Transport then come up with a draft SOI
  3. The council then provide feedback on the area’s they’d like to see changed/improved.
  4. Auckland Transport decide if they agree with the changes and the final version gets signed off.

It’s bizarre because despite being ‘owned’ by the Council, it’s not uncommon for council to want to see changes and for AT to not include them.

The Council signed off ATs latest version just a few weeks ago but the Mayor has now sent a letter to AT requesting that they consider making changes to incorporate four areas.

  • Road safety improvements
  • Climate Change
  • Placemaking
  • Relevant council committee resolutions

This is positive to see as the top three are all things we’ve pushed for focus on in the past. It’s also notable as combined with some other recent council meetings, suggests the councillors are finally starting to flex some muscles with AT.

Here’s the letter which was included as an attachment to today’s Finance and Performance Committee

There’s some good stuff in there and it will be interesting to see how AT respond.

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  1. In the current legal setup between AT and AC – Does AC has any real power over AT? Or is all they can do is write ‘stern letters’ and hope that AT won’t go completely rogue?

  2. Thanks, Council. Thanks, Goff. I particularly like:

    “Concern over the need to review the Roads and Streets Framework and the perceived risk this has of diluting effectiveness.”

    Good stuff. This review certainly risks diluting effectiveness of Council plans and strategies; that’s what it’s for. Keep the pressure on.

  3. This is clearly a step in the right direction, but the language is still strange. A lot of “coulds”. I can’t imagine Minister Twyford being so gentle with NZTA.

    1. Twyford is not the owner of AT so he can say what he likes to AT and get away with it.
      Auckland Council (AC), not so much.

      I am sure Twyford would only put AT [actually, its CEO] on the carpet within the privacy of Twyford’s [or the AT CEO’s] office. But in the end it would not make any difference.

      Because the stupid situation is that no one [even AC] can “direct” AT to do anything, instead what we see here is that AC are inviting AT to write back to AC with some “suggestions” for modifications to the current SOI’s – SOI changes that are in effect despaerately wanted changes that AC require, but it can’t legally tell AT what they should be or make them do so.

      So we have this convoluted “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” situation going on between AC and AT and for which AT is free to turn its back on anytime it wants.

      So, AC only puts SOIs in place [by AT] for the things AT wants to deliver and be measured against.

      So its happy to be measured on SOI’s for “Arterial productivity” for instance because its all about flow. And AT spends a lot of time and money on that subject every year.

      But its not so happy to be measured against many other things though [like bus lane rollout performance].

      But no SOI in place = no accountability between AT and AC.

        1. NZTA is an organisation that Twyford as Minister of Transport has a legally delegated authority over. So he can get up and be blunt, and really kick their arses [and the MoT too] without much pussy footing around.

          In theory AC as “owner” of AT should be able to do the same. But in law [by design, not oversight] it cannot.

          Twyford is also pretty blunt about other things he is not the minister for too when he sees they are getting in the way of his portfolios. And given he is both housing and transport minister a lot of intransigence and general issues he faces from external parties comes from the likes of AT time and again I am sure.

          Yes, I am sure he can and does treat NZTA quite differently from how he would treat AT.

          ‘Cos unlike NZTA, AT actually has no one who can really tell them what to do in the same way.

          The Government indirectly by their appointment of directors to the AT board and by the seemingly cosy relationship NZTA has with AT, so by controlling NZTA, Twyford can sort of influence AT.

          But the old Auckland Council via the mealy mouthed words they use? [and who are the thrust of the post]?

          Not a shit show.

          But everyone sees that AT is simply a bastard child “wannabe mini-me” product of NZTA, and Twyfords knee must be twitching pretty hard to hold back that boot at times I’m sure.

          What we really need is for AT to be brought back under the control of AC. After all the assets AT owns and “administers” are actually those owned by the people of Auckland and are managed by AC, via delegation [but limited control] to AT under the current law.

          We need the law changed as the arse about face situation we have now with AT and AC suited the last government, but has served no one else, including the people of Auckland at all well.

        2. If AT were controlled by council, the direction could change every three years if the other ‘wing’ is elected. I’d rather they be somewhat independent.

    2. Twyford holds a lot more direct power over NZTA than Goff does over AT. AT is answerable to it’s board, which is answerable to the Council Chief Executive, who is answerable to the Council, there are a few arms between Goff and AT.

  4. I’m left wondering what an “evidence-based benchmark for future carbon emission based reductions” might look like, and if AT or the council are in any sort of position or have the expertise to develop one. This sounds more like something for central government.

    1. There’s a good chance they have an eye on the emissions charging scheme in London – and if one world class city can do it, why not another?

      I don’t know what options they have short-listed for the congestion charging pilot, but you could imagine one of them (a more complicated one to deliver) using emissions as the metric.

      It would need central government buy-in, but that’s the case for almost any major change in thinking in this space.

    2. It’s easy, do a carbon footprint on transport emissions and then create evidence based plans to reduce said carbon footprint.
      Carbon footprinting is easy with set rules – just need to hire / contract the right person to do so.

    3. Carbon from developing infrastructure is relatively easy to estimate. Carbon from operations can be easily based on fuel sales and vehicle mix. Compensating for fuel bought outside the region due to the local tax is also not that hard I would think.

  5. It is interesting to see a concern for performance in respect of “New Zealand Transport Agency co-funding levels”.

    Does AT have a history of not accessing the full amount provisioned for it under the NLTP?

    That usually only occurs if the local share is not forthcoming (a AC performance issue), or if planning doesn’t proceed on the estimated schedule (an AT performance issue).

    Alternatively, under the first scenario, if the actual budget is constrained beyond the assumptions that informed the RLTP and the NLTP, it implies a call to optimise the local share investment towards activities that draw a higher level of co-funding.

    Following a quick look, it begs the question: is there a back-log of level-crossing treatments from the last RLTP/NLTP?

  6. “How our newly adopted ‘age friendly city’ affects its relationship to safety, especially public transport transfers and end of journey safety.”

    This should be a key concern for AT – how will the public accept road reallocation to public transport when the transfers leave users in danger and pissed off with how inconvenient it is. If we actually listened to the UN, we’d be spending 20% of our budget on walking and cycling, so there’d be money for it.

      1. Heidi, yes car parking issues do deserve another thread (and I have proposed something to Matt), but for now my thought is that AT should just sell its car park buildings. They contribute nothing, except holding prices down and with the real estate market at or near peak now is the time to unload them.

        1. I’m all in favour of disposing parking buildings. There are very few instances when they can provide an overall benefit, they are:

          – Consolidating parking on the fringe of a town centre . It can free up on-street parking thus avoiding people driving through the town centre and around it looking for an on-street parking space. Reduce the instance of each property providing their own parking spaces on-site (poor built form and multiple driveways) It does however need to go hand in hand with active removal of on-street parking in the town centre, ensuring the facility on the fringe is near a major access point and strong restrictions on private developments being able to create new parking facilities within the town centre.

          – if you want to support short term-parking in town centres for trips that are not feasible by other modes (the private parking market does not generally provide for these trips as their focus is on long-term stayers i.e. commuters)

          It goes without saying that AT should also only ever consider a car park building if it stacked up from a commercial point of view (i.e. no subsidy)

        2. Benidorm, I am thinking that if AT sells its parking buildings they are still most likely to remain in that form, at least in the short term. I suspect they would be a goldmine for Wilson’s or whomever bought them because they would run them commercially and achieve a much better yield on assets. I am not generally in favour of flogging assets in such a scenario, but if the public entity can’t or won’t make an adequate return then the money should be invested elsewhere.
          I suspect a sale would have an immediate benefit of boosting public transport ridership with the benefits of a less polluted and congested city where buses could move more freely.
          Hard to imagine a win/win for both seller and investor, but it seems likely. The loser would be the car park user who would have to pay market rates, but I struggle to see a coherent argument that parking should be subsidised.

        3. It’s interesting but If we’re talking about the CBD car park buildings I don’t think that the immediate sale would necessarily increase public transport ridership if the building continued to operate as a car park. It’s the same number of car parks, and Wilson would want to fill them. AT’s pricing structure favours short-term parking over long-stay. Wilson’s typically favours long stay. Wilson’s would fill the car park with leaseholders and commuters probably at a cheaper price than AT currently does. That could potentially add more peak hour trips and worsen bus travel times (if the buses are caught in the congestion). If the council sold car park buildings (which I think they should) it should be conditional on the site not being able to continue operating as a car park.

        4. You could be right. Although, I was hearing about how it doesn’t take much fiddling with your phone to be able to park all day at the short term hourly parking rate, so maybe the reality at the moment is that most of the parkers are long-term paying short term?

          If such a prime site was sold, would a buyer actually keep it as a parking building, do you think?

  7. “Providing updates on collaborative work with council’s Resource Consenting Department”

    I can think of a few ways such collaboration would be useful. What was Council’s main concern? Is it that AT better manages the traffic safety issues during construction? That is a concern of mine and I’d like to see an effective strategy and practice.

    Or is it about resource consenting of AT’s projects?

    It would also behoove Council to look to its own practice: When it suits them, Council is overstating traffic effects from inner city PT-served development and ignoring the net reduction in traffic effects of such development (each PT-served residence is one less car dependent greenfields residence, thus less vkt through the city from that residence.) Worse, they’re stifling development by giving advice, eg 0.5 carparks/residence is fine, around which the design is based, and then recommending the consent gets turned down due to insufficient parking, in what appears to be a political knee-jerk reaction to NIMBY disapproval.

    So Council: transport and consents need collaboration, but every fox needs to look after its own tail.

    1. Heidi it is about shafting applicants and making projects more expensive than they need to be. Before AT existed planners would get advice from engineers and consider that advice in terms of planning objectives and policies. Part of the planners job was to disagree with engineers in their report when that was necessary. Now planners just do whatever AT tell them without question. AT for their part have a goal of making applicants pay for as much upgrading as they can get away with while ignoring the AUP and instead applying the old way of doing things.

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