It seems that almost every day we learn more about the urgent need for radical action to avert catastrophic climate change. Not only are the disastrous consequences becoming clearer, but after years of relatively stable emissions, they are actually increasing again. We need dramatic reduction in emissions, so business as usual is not only inadequate but increasingly reckless when it comes to the long term future of the planet. Waiting for ‘someone else’ to take the lead just doesn’t cut it.

Auckland and New Zealand must lead on tackling climate change. It is a defining issue of our time and setting ambitious zero-emission targets is the only way we will make a serious impact on reducing our carbon emissions. – Phil Goff

Auckland’s unusual governance structure, with one council in charge of such a large area, means that making big and bold change should be easier here than in other parts of the world. Auckland is increasingly a city that many other cities can look towards – a big step forward from the past when we were seen as a good example of what to avoid. This means bold action on climate change is an area Auckland needs to lead on. The actions we take to reduce emissions not only have the immediate benefit from those particular reduced emissions, but they can also help guide other cities around the world – creating a “if Auckland can do it, why not us?” phenomenon.

From Council’s documents, we would expect to see bold action on climate change. Focusing just on transport:

Auckland’s Low Carbon Strategic Action Plan talks of:

  • Reducing the demand for travel
  • Focus growth in centres with good access to public transport.
  • Reduce the number and length of trips.

Auckland’s Climate Action Plan is intended to:

  • set a path to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • help prepare Auckland for the impacts of climate change.

The Auckland Plan 2050 says:

Efforts to develop a more resilient and environmentally responsible transport system must:

  • progressively eliminate transport greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need to travel…

The tricky step is getting these bold words into action. Sooner, not later.

Tomorrow, Council’s Finance and Performance Committee meet. It is an important meeting, because a few weeks ago the annual Statement of Intent (SOI) round started. Greater Auckland has put this diagram together to explain how the process works. There are a few acronyms there so I’ll list them first:

  • CCO = Council-controlled organisation
  • LOE = Letter of expectation. The Letter of Expectations from Council to a CCO is the step in the annual Statement of Intent process that sets the platform for Council to strategically direct the CCO.
  • SOI = Statement of Intent. This statement is from a CCO, outlining to Council their strategic approach and priorities.

Action on climate change requires a smooth transferral of Council’s wishes into CCO strategy. Last year’s round was a wake-up call to Council. Auckland Transport’s SOI (2018 – 21) was approved by the Finance and Performance Committee, but several dissenting votes and feedback around the table showed the SOI fell well short of reflecting Council’s wishes. Unfortunately, it appears Council didn’t learn some important lessons from that round. This round hasn’t started in a way that promises to improve the public’s impression of cohesion amongst the Council umbrella organisations.

The process began on the 22nd November, when Council’s Finance and Performance Committee resolved “Proposed priorities for the 2019 letters of expectations to substantive council-controlled organisations.” The directives set on climate change, and the direction set for AT, were neither bold nor aspirational.

The proposed priorities common to all CCO’s on the subject of climate change are as follows:

Climate Change

21. Addressing the challenges that climate change presents for Auckland is a priority for council. The impacts of climate change will require the application of new ideas and approaches to ensure that as a council group we respond to, mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

22. We expect the CCOs to outline how they plan to address climate change in their areas of responsibility, including the development of any measures to assess their performance in this area.

Do you spot the oversight? There is nowhere that it actually talks about reducing Auckland’s contribution to climate change. While “respond to, mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change” gives the impression of comprehensive coverage of the issue, it fails in the most important aspect: reducing our contribution. It also omits a requirement for the CCO’s to establish feedback loops to inform their processes; without these, success is a hit-or-miss affair. Here is what it needs to say:

Climate Change

21. Addressing the challenges that climate change presents for Auckland is a priority for council. The impacts of climate change will require the application of new ideas and approaches to ensure that as a council group we take action to reduce Auckland’s contribution to climate change, and that we respond to, mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Council’s targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be set out in the Climate Action Plan, with separate reductions planned for each source of ghg emissions.

22. We expect the CCOs to outline their action plan for how – in their areas of responsibility – they will reduce Auckland’s carbon emissions and address the effects of climate change. This will include details of the continuous measurement they will use to track their progress. It will also include details of how they will evaluate their strategy, specifically how these progress measurements will inform immediate changes to their action plan. We expect to see mechanisms in place that will rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

I’m going to focus on the LOE to Auckland Transport now, as transport is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland (40%), and rising. If there were clear intentions in the SOI about reducing vehicle kilometres travelled (vkt) and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Auckland’s transport network could change rapidly. Diesel buses would be replaced with electric buses sooner. Projects that add yet more road capacity would have to be sparingly implemented. Streetscape improvement projects would involve traffic reduction measures. Funding would shift towards the projects that support sustainable modes.

To date, Auckland Transport has failed to set appropriate targets for carbon emission reductions. It has set some targets for fuel use reduction. Taka-ite recently highlighted AT’s response about whether their now impossible-to-meet 2020 fuel use reduction target is still a target:

The target is still an interim target and, as highlighted in the Appendix, the targets ‘are aspirational/indicative of the contributions needed to achieve the GHG reduction targets, by 2040’. In this context, it is an interim target until it is refreshed/replaced.

A responsible organisation puts mechanisms in place to swiftly get back on track; it doesn’t just respond to failure by refreshing the interim target. And Council is fully aware that Auckland Transport’s current approach has failed to reduce Auckland’s transport carbon emissions.

Yet Council’s proposed LOE expectations are inadequate to convey Council’s transport objectives to Auckland Transport. They don’t include the most important climate change transport measure of all, which is the need to reduce the amount of vehicle travel. This should be added:

Auckland Transport’s key contribution to reducing transport emissions is in reducing vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT). Auckland Transport must develop, in conjunction with the Council, targets that relate to:

  1. a reduction in VKT per capita, and
  2. a reduction in VKT overall.

We expect Auckland Transport to outline how they will evaluate their action plan on reducing VKT, specifically how the VKT measurements will inform immediate changes to their action plan. We expect to see mechanisms in place that will rapidly reduce VKT.

Council cannot expect an improved SOI product this time around when the conversation has started so weakly.

So, what options does Council have to reconsider the LOEs?

The Finance and Performance Committee resolved to send LOEs in early December with the agreed priorities included. If the LOE priorities were to be reconsidered then these would need to be agreed by the committee, or the committee would need to delegate to a councillor or group of councillors the mandate to revise the LOE priorities. With only a handful of meetings before the end of the year this could be a challenge.

But it is possible. Council will need to decide whether the busy pre-Christmas workload can cope with a quick revision in order to set the SOI process up with more chance of success. Acting now will certainly reduce the workload later, and avoids the risk of public outrage around poor governance.

The CCOs will revert to Council with their draft SOIs by the start of March. This usually marks the start of the process for Council to give feedback and inform the final SOI (which lands at the end of July). Council’s conversations at any of these later points would be greatly enhanced if they could refer back to strong directives in the LOEs. With the recently agreed LOE priorities I wouldn’t be surprised if AT’s final SOI for the new round is met with the same reception that it was this year.

Aucklanders are expecting Council to make responsible decisions around climate change so we can feel our city is part of the solution, not the problem. Bold words don’t relieve the psychological stress that residents feel as a result of their powerlessness in this international crisis. Only progress does. Council needs to show strong leadership here. Councillors and local board members often bemoan the lack of control Council has over Auckland Transport. So when there is an opportunity to provide effective direction, it’s disappointing to see it squandered.

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    1. AT don’t really have much ability to change the private vehicle fleet from fossil fuel to electric. Hence the focus should rightly be on overall traffic levels.

      1. They don’t have to change the private fleet. Just identify and implement a few simple measures that could tip the playing field usefully. Try stuff. See what works.

        It’s not just the top level SOE that needs to call out reducing contribution to climate change. The next level strategies and operational plans need to do the same.. otherwise it’s all just hot air.

        What does the parking strategy say for example? Does it reflect the same goal, and take positive steps to enact it? Like making a more priority EV car parks for example (they don’t even need to be have chargers). Make them highly visible, make them free, increase the price of the rest accordingly.

        Or take business rates, what do they do to give businesses a steer to the same end? How hard would it be to count EVs per business? Or EV chargers?

        I have no idea how effective or not these kinds of things might be, that’s for others to consider, but the point is the strategy needs to be clear and explicit, and to encourage, or actually, require such thinking.

        Besides, the goal is very long term, 20+ years. There’s no reason why the SOE / LOI process can’t itself explore challenging the limits of current prerogatives. At the end of the day if AC / AT are to be effective in reducing Auckland’s and Aucklanders’ contribution to climate change, but don’t have the necessary tools or authority, then one or the other of them, or both have an obligation to act on that, including for example by lobbying central Government.

        1. Yes, all those methods would be good. However, strategies for reducing vkt are:

          a/ the most direct and cost-effective way to reduce transport carbon emissions.
          b/ what we should be doing anyway to improve the liveability of the city.

          EV vehicles still create congestion. They still pose safety risks to vulnerable users. They still take up too much space.

          I heartily agree that we should be switching to EV vehicles, but that switch can be a nice bonus on top of a fundamentally healthier transport strategy.

      2. The council has the ability to increase fuel taxes.
        Fuel cost is probably the #2 influencer on the shift from fossil fuel to electric.
        The #1 influencer would be the availability of electric vehicles people can afford. There are only so many Nissan Leafs that can be imported from Japan as there have only been about 100,000 sold there. We’d need to be buying all available every year.
        To get people to change, an announcement of 10c/L increase in tax occuring every 3 months for the next 5 years would probably do it, i.e. adding $2/L tax effectively doubling the price.

        Additionally the council should require vehicles registered to an Auckland address be required to pass emissions testing at every WOF, i.e. they would have to be maintained and pass the standards they were built to comply with.

    2. Yes – because everyone seems to forget that bikes are vehicles too as far as the Land Transport Act is concerned. So are trains, trams and buses. lets reduce the VKT of cars and trucks while we’re at it.

      1. Careful wording is really important, isn’t it? I hope the Council can avoid more faux pas like “reduce the number and length of trips” – type of trip should be specified more clearly. We certainly want people with reduced mobility, for example, and children, to feel they are much more able to take trips places and access their city.

  1. Well done Heidi. Great work. We didn’t elect Goff with his aspirations for real change in this area for him to lead a do nothing Council. For all we’ve got we might as well have elected some right winger who would have done as little and actually reduced rates & taxes. It’s time Goff developed a backbone and he and his Council appointed Officers to the Council and Board members to AT who will get on and do this real and pressing work. Otherwise we’re all toast!

  2. An interesting post and right on the money. The problem is, I think, we do not hold people accountable for what they cannot do or control. These words you call bold are just words, and no one knows how to achieve them. We are s**t scared of harming the economy and petrified into inaction on carbon. Just look at the ‘findings’ of the productivity commission. And the current debacle in Poland. At 40% of emissions, transport is a massive ship to turn. It is one thing to demand action, another entirely to have a playbook of actions that we are prepared to take.

    1. The good thing is that in the field of transport, the changes required to lower emissions would improve our lives, rather than limit them. They would also save us money: building and widening roads is an inordinate waste of our money, and driving is the most expensive transport mode, so encouraging mode shift makes good economic sense.

  3. With so many rubbish buses still around, due for upgrade any minute, AT should be pushing those to go electric asap. 2040 is 21-22 years away, why does everything have to be super-longterm with AT… by the time we get there they will probably be pushing it back even further like most of their current projects – oh just another year, just another year etc… get bloody on with it now and drop the excuses already…

    1. Totally. I get the impression no-one wants to put their head above the parapet and propose anything bold, lest they get shot at. Best to keep your head down.

      I’d go further and say that quite a lot of our larger corporations are relatively risk-averse. Fort businesses and governmental organisations alike, making bold decisions involves taking risk. Taking risk implies failing some of the time. When failure at any level is not tolerated but seen as a mistake then we’re going to get nowhere fast.

    2. Actually in Auckland the majority of the buses are brand new. All the double deckers, the LInks, the little ADLs. That’s probably why they are planning to replace the fleet in about 15 years.

      1. Who were the vision-less people presiding over the purchase of new diesel buses, Nick? With elections next year, is that something that should be highlighted in the campaign period?

      2. New? Are you joking? Majority of routes seem to have MAN 17.223 from 2003/2004 or similar buses which are getting old. The claustrophobic 2011 Enviro 200’s I would hardly consider new and are really not fit purpose anywhere but off-peak/weekends out in the burbs.

        The only new buses I see are either DD’s on very select routes or the odd newer BCI on rare occasions.

  4. No one in government, be it central or local is really taking this seriously. There is fiddling in the most minimalist sense to avoid annoying the “market” but nothing really. And the thing is with Auckland Council and the way it is structured, if it wanted to go no emissions it could and there would be little if any political ramifications because it acts independently of the pointless councilors we elect.

    Even Jacinda said it was a defining moment for her generation but since there has been a tentative move to cease oil exploration sometime in the never never and no other initiative I can think of.

    So where to? Borrow large and start the move to a grid lay out fast PT network using light or heavy rail with electric bus feeders from the corners of the suburbs. Not a maybe, not a really good idea idea, but a definitive this is happening move. Make it pure electric, make it fast, make it pleasant, make it cheap to use and make it so convenient you cant refuse the offer.

    Do not fiddle while Rome burns and keep the PT network based on buses, they are the reason more people drive their own cars. An El Cheapo base form of PT for a city that doesn’t really want PT.

    While we are still reliant on buses, start with battery buses for every new bus purchased from today (their batteries are a whole other environmental problem we can’t deal with) until pure overhead electricity is connected.

    And once a comprehensive convenient emission free network is established then tax cars off the road.

    The thing is in NZ, being a very strong subscriber to pure greed motivated market knows best capitalism, can this country even manage that? I have my doubts!

    1. “Tax cars off the road”.

      Individual mobility bad. Under no circumstances must someone be able to survive without being entirely dependent on the state.

      1. Uh, you may be shocked to find out who has a universal monopoly on planning, owning and maintaining the road network… (Hint: it’s not private individuals).

        1. You may be shocked who generates the tax revenues that enable that to happen. (Hint: It’s not paid for by snark).

        2. Don’t get upset, the state monopoly on mobility is your axe to grind, not mine.

          Having the state tax drivers, income earners and ratepayers to pay for the roads doesn’t make them any less dependent on the state for roads.

      2. Individual mobility is a fantastic thing, Buttwizard. Access is rightly a top priority of the GPS.

        But currently, it’s more like “Under no circumstances must someone be able to survive without being entirely dependent on the car.”

        Sustainable transport modes give independence to all age groups without costing the earth.

        1. There’s a huge difference between your (correct) argument of EVs still being a nice to have, but ultimately still presenting many of the same problems as cars; and the sweeping lunacy of a statement like “tax all cars off the road”.

        2. There is also the distinction between “tax all cars” and “stop subsidizing cars so much”.

          For instance the “cheap but fully occupied parking” anti-pattern. Doubly stupid because it is not only expensive, but also very inconvenient.

        3. Question, Chris. The price of the credits is set by the market for them, is that correct? And not many polluters are having to buy them, keeping the price low? I’m still getting my head around this (been a few years of trying.) How, then, is it true that “Every litre of petrol or diesel you purchase includes the cost of the New Zealand Units (NZU) purchased in the ETS to cover the fuel’s eventual carbon dioxide emissions”? The price will vary, and therefore can’t represent the actual impact of that CO2. Is that right?

        4. I also haven’t got my head completely around it. I think the carbon price was set 8 years when it was started, at what they thought was a fair price at that time. In the 8 years that have elapsed we’ve realised that the environmental cost of carbon is actually much higher than what we thought. So we need to raise the price. The best way to do this (according to Eric Crampton) is for Government to buy back a bunch of credits (which are limited) and then retire them. This raises the price of all the remaining credits.

          At the moment the ETS is in place but the price of carbon is so low that it doesn’t make any difference to anyone’s behaviour. Raising the price to the true cost of carbon would raise the price of petrol/diesel, and simultaneously reduce the costs of everything else (renewable power). So we’d get behaviour change.

      3. I am quite confident the way things are that this will not happen in the next 50 years. My proposals are realistic but essentially fictional.

        Just yesterday I read that the Permian Basin in the eastern US has far more oil than a petrol heads heart could desire, so good ol’ crude and its byproducts are not going to cease being any time soon.

        Perhaps a tax to discourage use as opposed to taking them off the road altogether.

        My point is I do recognise the trouble this world is in and something big has to be done.

        1. Transport emissions is NZ’s fastest growth industry right now. Even beating agriculture in terms of rate of growth. While not quite the largest percentage of the emissions pie yet, it will be there by 2050.

          The world has plenty of proven reserves of way more fossil fuels (oil and gas) than it can ever afford to burn if humanity wants to continue to remain living out of the stone age.

          That’s been the case for quite some time now. Finding you have quite a bit more of it is a bit like discovering the ocean your waka is currently adrift on, awaiting rescue, is 10 times deeper than you thought it was. Which as its all saltwater its useless to you when you desperately need fresh water to keep alive long enough, to you know, be rescued.

          But the “tax” you speak of is coming, the feebate on imported vehicles will tilt the field away from fossil fuelled vehicles will come in, But in conjunction we also need emissions testing of the vehicles already here, or you will simply cause the fleet to age even faster than it is now as people defer retiring old [fossil fuelled] vehicles.

          For NZinc that would be “big” something for sure.

          For the rest of the planet, won’t matter much. But then a large part of the devloped world is sitting around hoping some technological solution not yet invented will come from nowhere to save us from ourselves.

          While it might be the case, it will, I think we’d be better paddling our waka towards where we think land is, than simply drifting about on the ocean hoping against hope for rescue.

          But you need good leadership, and consensus on the folks on the paddles to ensure you don’t paddle in different directions. Which is what AT and AC appear to be doing now.

        2. The feebate is a rort on so many levels. First see what the MTA has written…/282157882312027

          I hope that Matt will publish the piece that I have written, because the feebate fails on so many levels, the first being that it doesn’t significantly reduce emission levels. Amongst other things it also represents a transfer of wealth from the less well off to the more well off.

          A far more effective solution is to induce people to travel by any other method than fossil fuel cars. Cities like Vienna are headed towards a mode share of only 20% for cars by 2025. If there is a will it can be done.

        3. Yes, but history tells us that running out of oil might not actually be a factor.

          We didn’t stop using horses because we ran out of horse feed, and we didn’t stop using steam power because we ran out of coal.

        4. I kind of disagree Nick. The US appears to be fully focused on oil self sufficiency to the point of being an exporter and from the President down there also appears to be no time for anything other than a world run on oil. At best climate change is unproven, at worst a lie. There is massive money behind shale oil and billionaires don’t get to be billionaires by thinking of anyone or anything else but themselves.

          If oil means getting seriously rich, that is all that matters! Yes the US is backwards but they are an awfully big player.

        5. Stone Age didn’t end due to a lack of stones.

          We’re already on a transition away from the dumb tech of burning stuff to power civilisation.

        6. Waspman, I think it may be that there’s even more money to be made in disaster management. So if you’ve resigned yourself to climate change being a given, you can set yourself up best in the disaster management space if you make as much money now from oil as you can. It doesn’t mean that people still with hope shouldn’t try to stop them doing so.

        1. They are practical for short distances, maybe to get you to a stop, sure. But they are not realistic commuting options for time-poor individuals or in places where there is poor transport options, who everyone just ignores until they need to hand someone a bill to pay for those who do.

        2. Maybe, but they’re a damned sight better than cars are. Jaysus, imagine the able-bodied amongst the masses thinking they should drive for their commute! And expect society and future generations to pay for the privilege. Now that’s nonsense.

          Of course, sprawl is the killer here. And once we commit to lowering our vkt, the need for shorter trips will put more pressure on Council to override the NIMBY’s resistance to intensification. That’s the key step.

        3. As Heidi points out, walking is an entirely realistic option for the able-bodied. When I lived in Manchester as a younger guy I walked 5.5km each way, daily, to work and back. No problem.

          I was never time poor for commuting unless through my own foolishness I’d had a bit too much to drink the night before and missed my alarm clock. Then I simply took the bus.

          Ten years in that city and didn’t once own or need a car.

        4. Oh come on. In what possible universe would people happily spend an entire hour commuting each way? Some people do, which comes with various negative consequences (stress, divorces, etc.)

          The main constraints on walking, cycling, etc. are the fact that in general we refuse to build homes in central areas, and that doing so is just not culturally acceptable. (witness the cycling hate week and the e-scooter hate week we had in the media recently). And also, how exceedingly unpleasant walking and cycling is in most areas. As an individual you don’t have much influence over these factors.

        5. Well roeland, perhaps that is a question you could put to the thousands of drivers who already spend that long and longer commuting at a snails pace every morning and evening along Auckland’s motorways?

        6. I can assure you many of them are not enjoying that.

          I have quite enjoyed living in a spot where I could do most of my daily movements on a bicycle a few years ago. But you have to be able to afford the sheer cost of housing in such areas. Looking for a house you can afford is quite an eye opener.

          I’m not disagreeing that cycling to work is a good thing, just don’t yell at the wrong people.

  5. NZ just a very small pollution, even all we don’t do anything, the impact to the global climate is minimal. We must change the large countries first or our efforts is a waste!!!

    Don’t dream, NZee.

    1. It should be easier and faster to do in a smaller country, there is no reason we can’t do it here. Plus it will make our local environment better too – which is meant to be one of the selling points of NZ.

      The rest of the world will probably get there before us at this rate…

    2. This is the silliest argument of them all. And one favoured by the oil and gas shills.

      Every group of 5m people (or whatever) can’t change the whole globe, but the whole globe can’t change without each subset change themselves.

      We are responsible for ur own emissions; no one else.

      And there are so many advantages for nz transitioning to the post carbon economy as we are net importers of the bad stuff, but have more than enough potential to generate all our own energy resources renewably.

      It is a process and we need to get going on this liberation now…

  6. Great article. My comment is slightly off topic but connected with climate change. It seems quite a bit of the discussion about improving transport in Auckland is about getting people to and from the airport more smoothly. But can we really afford in climate change terms to have 40 million passengers passing through the airport by 2040 – as stated by Auckland airport? They are spending a million dollars a day on improving infrastructure. In contrast the terrible toilets at the Auckland InterCity depot cant be fixed. That is a low carbon form of travel in and out of Auckland. Anyway, a group have set up a Facebook forum called Fly-less kiwis to consider the significant challenge posed by flying. No easy answers expected 🙂

    1. I quite agree, Paul. And if air travel is linked with our economy, it needs to be delinked. Central and local government need to accept that the environmental cost of tourism is huge – both in a local and a planetary sense, and that we need to find other, more sustainable sources of income.

      Travel around our country in a low-carbon-footprint way is difficult and poorly served by filthy and inadequate amenities with, for example, no way-finding information for visitors to Auckland at the Intercity bus station. Since the tourism industry has failed to take steps to improve the situation themselves, the government must step in to improve facilities and services – for carbon footprint and safety reasons even if they can’t get their heads around the equity aspects of having nowhere to change your baby’s nappies!

      I note that the private nature of Intercity is why AT don’t think they have to do anything about their lack of wayfinding information, despite the RPTP covering private and public operators. The private sector cannot respond to public requirements as well as the public sector can.

      1. I agree with you about tourism. Currently, NZ has an out of control dirty, low wage, ‘super market’ style low to medium yield tourism industry that has suffered years of under investment and long environmentally friendly sustainable planning, that uses an infrastructure that is designed for 1 to 1.5 million visitors per year with 2 million tops, struggling to cope with 3.8 million visitors per year.

        Out of the 3.8 million tourists per year, 465,000 are from China, which uses a Chinese only tourism infrastructure, made up of Chinese tour operators using old buses with Chinese driver and tour guides, staying at prominently Chinese owned accommodation providers and eating prominently Chinese owned restaurants. It is projected to have 1 million Chinese visitors by 2020/2021.

        Unfortunately, NZ is perceived by most international visitors as small country, where Auckland is the only major city and Rotorua, Mt Cook and Queenstown is a 2 or 3 days drive away with a quick ferry ride between the North and South Islands, hence the increase in the use of rental cars and campervans and/or quick flight from Auckland to Queenstown on Air NZ and Jetstar. Unfortunately Tourism NZ and other tourism industry lobby groups keep re-enforcing this view.

        Initiatives from the government and Tourism NZ like – the $100 million tourism fund, the Tiaki Promise, etc, are quick fix bandaid solutions, that is not going have any effect on the current infrastructure woes and/or visitors arrivals.

        If NZ wants to have tourism as a 2nd or major export earner, NZ needs to spend $3-5 billion to upgrade our tourism infrastructure cater for 3 million visitors per year, which is environmentally friendly, sustainable and tourism friendly, offering medium to high yield quality tourism products and services. At the moment, there is no political or industry will to do this.

        With regards to your comment about InterCity, they have no obligation to own and operate a network coach/bus terminals. Yes, they will work with city, district and regional councils to provide inter-regional/long distance terminals, like Hamilton and Christchurch and lessor extent in Wellington. The so call upgraded coach terminal at the Rotorua i-Site not is not passenger friendly. At least Queenstown Lakes District Council is planning to build a new tour/coach terminal sometime in the future. In the meantime, Athol Street carpark is it for Queenstown.

        Whilst I agree you with about SkyCity Coach terminal, that is an issue with Auckland Council and/or Auckland Transport to provide a proper coach terminal but it seems they are not keen of having tourists arriving by bus into Auckland. In fact, Auckland is not tourist friendly as all main tourist entry/departure locations, like the airport, railway station and SkyCity are shocking.

        1. Auckland Council and Auckland Transport don’t think it’s their responsibility either.

          Regional bus services could be fantastic and could drastically cut both our vkt and our road toll. It’s obviously not going to happen if we leave it to the private sector to provide. Why shouldn’t it be the responsibility of government (central and local) to influence mode share on the rural roads as they have started to do on urban roads?

        2. I agree with you, Inter-regional/long distance coach services is great way see NZ, as bus travel time in most cases, is similar to driving a car between destinations. As I mentioned, it is down to town/city, district and regional councils, not central government, to make visitors fell welcome to their town, city, district or region.

          In Auckland case, Tourism Auckland and Auckland Council is not interested, as the don’t see the point. Just look at the on going construction site called Auckland airport, the container station for long distance trains at the Strand and Skycity coach terminal. All three are telling the visitor, we are not interested in you other than your money.

          It can be done. Just look at the Bulls bus transfer hub. It is covered allowing two bus to arrive/depart, making luggage transfer easier, has 2 toilets, a small visitor Information centre and a cafe next door for refreshments plus it is in the town centre.

          I notice that Gen Zero or Greater Auckland are not going out of their ways to put pressure on Auckland Council and Tourism Auckland for proper central city suburban, regional, inter-regional, tour and long distance bus/coach interchange like the Christchurch Bus Xchange.

        3. Maybe they should. I’m still not sure why you claim it isn’t the role of government, though. Government has signed us up to the Paris accord. Government sets transport policy, and is responsible for road safety. Of course regional bus travel – with all the details – are within government’s scope. Lobbying local authorities might be the pragmatic step, but there’s no reason government shouldn’t get involved.

        4. Heidi – It is not the role of government to tell InterCity Group they should operate a network of coach terminals for the sake of the tourism. Its like telling Air NZ to operate their own terminals. Unlike Air NZ which has government shareholding, InterCity Group is a private owned by Ritchies, Tranzit and SBL (Suburban Bus Lines) Nelson and as you know, they are well established family owned bus businesses and they believe in operating buses only.

          The Minister of Tourism could have a quiet words to Tourism NZ, who could strongly advise town, city, district or regional councils, it would be invest if bus terminals.

          Hamilton Transport Centre is owned and operated by Hamilton City Council with some financial help from Waikato Regional Council, Christchurch Bus Xchange is now owned by the Christchurch City Council, even the Bulls bus transfer hub is owned by the Rangatiki District Council.

        5. Kris – if airports…

          -put breastfeeding mothers out in the elements while they wait for a bus, with no cover, as happens at regional bus terminals,
          -had foul, graffiti-covered bathrooms in which you don’t even want to put your hands into the filthy hand drier or touch anything,
          -didn’t provide any information to passengers arriving about how to travel onwards,
          -gave no (and sometimes incorrect) information to people waiting for arrivals,
          -don’t even provide drinking water

          … there would be an inquiry and government would put measures in place. So it should be with regional bus terminals.

          Government should also get involved in the routes and services and prices because to get people shifting mode from car to bus will take a removal of subsidies to driving and a removal of opportunities for private companies to take profit from bus services. And because of the safety and carbon emissions implications.

    2. Your comments, are right to mention the cost of domestic and international air travel (currently excluded from CO2 regulations worldwide).

      But you then also assume that some or total de-carbonising of air travel is impossible.

      Currently it is, but that won’t always be the case. And the form it eventually appears in may not be the same as we have today.

      When that is achieved, then flying people [and cargo] may well turn out to be more efficient for many people and time sensitive freight than alternatives or putting them on roads or railways.

      And airports [like train stations before them] may be welcomed [back] into cities instead of banned to the boonies as they almost always are now. Thanks to noise and pollution, traffic and other issues.

      You might say well it will never happen, and you may be right, but then they were saying that about electric vehicles 20 years ago too. And the airport is planning for some eventuality that they will still be relevant in some form or another in 2040 and beyond. Who knows what 20 years of advancement in moving cargoes and people in evacuated tubes (ala Hyperloop) will achieve or even look like. It may be that by then the Airport at Mangere is simply a now disused relic of a bygone age being turned into housing?

      Certainly I think the smarter people in the NZ Tourism industry are well aware that the carbon footprint of encouraging long range air travellers to come to clean and green NZ is a bit of a two-faced ask now, and only going to get harder still in the future as the truth behind the image emerges.

      As Bill Gates has said, we overestimate what we can achieve in 2 years and underestimate what we can achieve in 10 years.

      I am sure that regardless of all that, we will still have broken toilets at the Intercity Bus terminal in 2, 5 or 20 years. Somethings never change. Even if its now the Intercity Hyperloop terminal.

    3. Actually improved Intercity Bus travel could be one of the easiest ways for New Zealand to decrease carbon emissions and Councils can do something about it by improving bus depots. The new bus station at Manukau is just awesome and well used when three or four Intercity buses roll in each day just after lunch. There is often 100 people waiting there. I wonder what happens up North do the Intercity buses stop at any of the North Shore bus stations. I could imagine Councils from the regions could apply for money from the Regional Growth fund to fund facilities. And maybe the bus companies could be given grants to use battery or Hydrogen electric buses. After all the Govt has spent up big on improving roads might as well use them for buses. And carbon savings from reduced car and air journeys would be huge. And less road accidents.

      1. I have written to Shane Jones and Winston Peter’s arguing that improving long distance bus services should be supported by the Provincial Growth Fund. For some small towns these buses are a vital link to the outside world. And they are especially important for low income people. But I have had no response.

      2. Royce – InterCity Group is improving their travel network with Great Sight providing scenic tours and ‘point 2 point’ scenic coach travel, improving the standard InterCity inter-regional/long distance travel using the old Mana Bus double deckers and rolling out more services using InterCity Gold brand with its premium seat product.

        InterCity Group started on 21 Nov 18, its Skip Travel brand, based on the Mana/Naked Bus business model for the North Island. At this stage, there is word if the Skip Travel Brand will be used in the South Island.

        1. The buses might be getting better but the supporting infrastructure needs a huge improvement. Perhaps the Minister of Transport needs to have a meeting with mayors of towns and Phil Goff from Auckland and sort out all the poor quality toilet stops. Taupo is a shocker for example.

        2. Its nothing to do with the government. Its is more about town/city, district and regional councils getting their act together,

          I do agree with about Taupo especially since its a transfer hub. The Taupo i-Site wanted to charge InterCity and Mana/Naked Bus for their passengers to use the i-Site’s toilets. InterCity and Mana/Naked Bus said no way, hence the current situation.

          The bus transfer hub at Bulls is a good example what rural towns can do. The Bulls transfer hub is covered allowing two bus to arrive/depart and make luggage easier, has 2 toilets and a cafe next door for refreshments.

  7. Nobody is going to do anything meaningful about climate change. Our economy is based on ruminants and long distance air travel and nobody wants to be poor. The French people don’t want to be poor, the people of the USA don’t want to be poor and nor do the Australians or Chinese.
    The best you can hope for is some meaningless words saying climate change is really bad and we will do everything we can unless it makes us poor. ie nothing.

    1. This is nonsense. It’s just a version of the lazy; if we can’t change world and everything overnight withoutactually changing anything then it can’t be done. Fossil fuels keep us poor; we are entirely on the other side of the carbon ledger.

      Anyway change is inevitable, we can either choose it or have it happen to us.

      1. Hardly nonsense. It’s fact. People don’t give stuff about climate change if it means they have to accept a crappier standard of living.

        Our wealth is based on dairy which is built on the relatively cheap energy of fossil fuels. You can deny all the facts you like, doesn’t make them any less true.

        Can we transition to another source of wealth? Sure. But our wealth is all tied up in housing and we are too poor to invest in business. It takes a major crisis to move a society to act and we haven’t got that yet. We are still rich enough to mostly insulate ourselves from reality. Slow boiled frog and all that.

        1. Good points about wealth tied up in housing. But societies can make decisions around progress towards better environmental outcomes. People care about their children’s future. They’re just a bit slow to take action. And influenced somewhat, I imagine, by big players with contrary agendas.

          Truth is, there are plenty of ways that good environmental decisions improve our standard of living. The German people returned secondary packaging to the store at the counter and brought in practices of minimal packaging almost overnight. Twenty years ago. There was no obvious incentive for the people to do that except for caring about the environment. As just one of many examples…

        2. People care about their children’s future. → On one hand, I would hope so. On the other hand, the average council meeting over here very convincingly tells me otherwise.

          New Zealand’s approach to ‘being green’ is like “Oh, we have a large amount of m² to spread our pollution of only 4 million people, so we‘re good”. Where do you put kitchen scraps and dead batteries? Landfill. Oh well.

        3. Better? Maybe a bit less homicidal in traffic, and a bit less overtly blase about getting people homeless.

          And less dishonest about being ‘green’.


          Are NZers prepared to pay for this over and over? What about Mission Bay that already floods now?

          And the study by Westpac earlier this year shows that we can have a carbon friendly economy with little impact on growth.

          What if every family relied on public transport to move around? What could be achieved by reinvesting the wealth that this would create in something other than cars, petrol, garages etc

          At $5000 per sq m the average garage costs about $100,000. Surely this money could be better spent elsewhere? It would lower house prices for a start.

          We are only bounded by our imaginations in how we seek to address this problem.

    2. I’m sure you’re right – but correspondingly, I’m sure that the world is all collectively doomed. It is the classic case of testing cultures in a Petri dish. The populations starts small, but keeps expanding, feeding on the food source. It grows and grows and grows, and at all those stages it sees nothing wrong with continuing to do what it is doing. Then, the day before it keeps doubling in size, it realises that tomorrow it will reach the limits of the dish, and that it has no other option. Then: it dies.

      There is no real alternative to our wretched “civilisation”. We are the bugs in the dish – and the planet Earth is our Petri dish. We aren’t surviving with the current population of 7 billion, and we certainly won’t survive with a population of 10-12 billion. We’ve polluted the air. We’ve polluted the water. We’ve used up all the readily available water and easy to gain resources, and we’re pulling in favours from our grandchildren, who are going to be completely screwed. The oceans are dying. The fisheries are destroyed. The whales are beaching on masse. The coral reefs are bleaching. The Amazon basin is getting wrecked, to plant palms, to provide bio-fuels and stock-feed. We are worse than the worst plague of cock-roaches. We deserve to be wiped from the planet.

      The Guatemalans marching on Trump’s border wall and the Libyans rafting over to Sicily are just a sign of what is going to come sooner or later – mass starvation, mass population displacement, mass drought, and probably, mass war. The developed world has it all – NZ could sustain a population of hundreds of millions if we wanted to – on the basis of Hong Kong etc – so we will be in the over-populated nation’s sights as well.

      The only thing we (the entire world) could, potentially, do is to adopt a policy of negative growth – NZ already has negative natural growth in population – but we import people to change that and to keep in line with other countries who are growing too fast. Our whole economic model is set up on having continual growth, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that you cannot have continual growth forever on a limited resource base.

      I do find it amazing though, that we are the only species alive who have the brains to see this, to understand this, and to do something about this. We are the cause of it all, and we could be the solution too, but we choose to piss about and do nothing.

      Happy Christmas.

        1. Miffy – I’m pretty sure that they are the ones who keep saying there is no planet B. It’s the rich mad millionaires who are booking tickets to Mars. Does Elon Musk really think he would be fine living on the red planet, with just a small Tesla for company?

          My large comment above was in response to Miffy, not to Patrick, but the point is the same – we could do something, but we aren’t – so change will be forced upon us. And its not a question of: whether we like it or not. We won’t (like it) at all.

      1. My assessment is the same as yours, Guy M.

        Mass migrations, conflict zones, drought.. we ain’t seen nothing yet. It won’t be millions of Middle Easterners and Africans heading to Europe, it will be 10s of millions then 100s of millions.

        The energy transition is coming, but unfortunately (understatement) it’s too late and far too slow. Vested interests in fossil fuels and related industries, many of them more powerful than most nations are doing their best to keep it that way. Governments too: witness the USA, Russia, Saudi, Kuwait blocking the UN report at Katowice today.

        Happy Christmas to you too.

        1. The mass migrations we have been seeing are noting to do with climate change. They are the opposite. People will do anything to get into a country that uses lots of energy to give themselves a high standard of living. Humans have achieved remarkable feats in lifting themselves above the brutal laws of nature. But there has always been people who hate humanity and who quite frankly were delighted to discover climate change was a real thing as they had been predicting that humans had wrecked everything years before it was ever a fact. Finally the greenies, the nutters and the maltusians had something. Forget all the ice age stuff, the peak oil bollocks, the running out of food nonsense the epidemics and multitude of end of humanity ideas. Finally they had one that worked. With this one they could at long last make people live their way, riding bikes, eating lentils, crushing their own museli, expounding on how bad civilisation has been for the ecosystems and falsely claiming we were better off as tribesmen.
          The temperature will rise a bit. There will be more wind. People will live a bit higher up. Oil will still flow, ruminants will ruminate and New Zealand will still try to attract people onto long distance flights. Happy Santa’s birthday.

        2. You could interpret that as that there’s money in going green. Or that those making money from fossil fuels are setting themselves up to make money from the need to sequester carbon, giving themselves a competitive advantage over late-starters.

          Not sure I understand how the technology works.

        3. How many months does that thing need to operate to fix one hour of tar sands mining? Canada is like Norway. They pretend to give a bugger while getting rich on fossil fuels. Yet secretly they are looking forward to climate change. At least Russia is honest about it. They pretty much admit that global warming is an advantage to them.

        4. Heidi it is a simple process where tax payers money input and carbon credits are output with a by-product of large corporate profits for the owner.

        5. miffy at 2:27- FFS but not worth the time replying
          miffy at 4:32 – totally agree
          miffy at 4:34 – LOL – not that you deserve knowing that. 🙂

        6. Heidi it is the duplicity that annoys me most. Every country leaves their favoured industry out of any carbon liability. Early industrial nations make sure we use 1990 as a benchmark so they will never have to pay for the industrial revolution. Cold countries like Russia, Canada and all of Scandinavian will be winners but know it is rude to gloat. Then enthusiasts in this country claim that our making a change will benefit our children when we can’t even make a measurable difference. If the big polluters change then we should too but there are no prizes for being first, only poverty. This is far too costly to change just for the sake of showing off.

    3. I’d word it “nobody wants to be poorer than everyone else”. I reckon most people are quite happy to do away with a few luxuries, as long as it’s the same for everybody. What people hate is making a sacrifice and then seeing someone else not making that sacrifice. But as long as everyone is forced to make the same sacrifice then we’re much happier to endure it.

      1. That is so true. I know quite a few people who instead get their satisfaction from being outliers… but the best way to change is for everyone to do so together.

  8. RE: “Auckland Transport’s key contribution to reducing transport emissions is in reducing vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT). Auckland Transport must develop, in conjunction with the Council, targets that relate to:
    a reduction in VKT per capita, and
    a reduction in VKT overall.”

    1) Its not just VKT, but the Euro standard of the vehicles as well. Later Euro standards also include CO2 limits.

    2) Transport is just a means to an ends. It cant be considered in isolation to land use & thus the unitary plan. Given transport is the most dominant infrastructure issue related to land use, there are good arguments for an integrated landuse/transport planning authority

    3) Congestion pricing would go a long way to removing excess CO2 emissions from congested traffic conditions & incentivize people to use PT and active modes.

  9. After years of short term urban planing focused on the car as the primary means of the urban transport with PT is a secondary means, is now haunting Auckland.

    Auckland needs to stop expanding outwards and go upwards to reduces its VKT’s and emissions foot prints, develop a long term environmental friendly sustainable urban and transport vision and plan, that focus on low emissions PT transport to reduce car and truck usage, stops nimbyism, stop encouraging non beneficial immigration, stop relying on slow wasteful ‘hammer n nail’ housing development and construction, stop land banking, strongly encourage or demand the greater use of manufactured prefab housing development and construction that is based on quick consent and resource approval using a range of approved housing plans, greater use on PT, cycling and walking and so.

    If Auckland doesn’t take full control with the help of the Housing and Urban Authority and government, we will be still having these discussions, as Auckland becomes more of basket case and the sea creeps its way up Queen Street.

    Auckland stop whining and pull finger out to make Auckland an environmental friendly sustainable a more compact city to live in.

    1. Well put.
      The one thing missing is the need to acknowledge that the government has to embark on a massive, subsidized apartment building programme in good PT supporting locations. Land and build costs are so crazy that there’s no other option.
      Eden Park would be a good start. It should be bowled, the government should buy it, and should build several thousand high rise apartments.
      Golf courses should also be looked at, for some serious high density development (not half assed 3-4 storeys, we need lots of 8-10 storey plus)

  10. Councils aren’t setting carbon targets because they know their plans would look bad and they don’t have the nerve to produce effective plans for the major switch of transport from cars, which is needed to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Waikato Regional staff seem to be looking to stage 2 of the RMA reforms to be their excuse to take effective action. They say, “Stage Two amendments will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater in particular. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019. A key component of Stage 2 for WRC will be in relation to climate change. There is some indication that Stage 2 will look at strengthening the mitigation role of the RMA to support the national transition to a nett zero carbon emissions economy.” Presumably Auckland will do the same. So far government hasn’t made it clear whether stage 2 will be effective.

  11. You know how the home in the ozone layer is getting smaller, not bigger. That’s because the whole world agreed to get a little poorer to stop the hole getting bigger.

    The same will happen with GHG. Plus if you look 50 years away reducing GHG emissions makes us less poor than doing nothing.

    1. Yes but it required the countries who used most of the cfc’s to agree the Montreal Protocol which was later ratified by all of the countries in the United Nations. It wasn’t a process where Nauru said they would ban them and all the major polluters said the hell with that. It also had a much lower opportunity cost. People in France didn’t take to the streets and smash war memorials over a change in coolant. The issue with green house gases is that so many people gain from the products that create them and some people even stand to gain from the effect of climate change itself.

  12. Miffy, I am old enough to remember the days when NZ made cars – four major plants from memory. And we coped when they all closed. And likewise we will cope again if we have half the number of car salespeople that we have currently. And we may even have a stronger economy because money might be invested in productive assets. I am reasonably confident because of the example of some European countries who do have a higher GDP and have a less car centric approach.

    I am convinced that we will have a more affordable Auckland because we won’t have AT sucking rates money to build ever more roads, resurface existing roads, subsidise parking and provide free parking.

    I am led to believe that AT have said that they won’t charge for park and rides unless they create new parking at a particular venue. So they are operating in completely the reverse order of how they say they operate all other parking facilities in terms of the Parking Strategy. Note carefully the words, “how they say” because what they say and do can be completely polar opposites.

  13. Great article Heidi. I wish I could post my photo from the 27th Nov of that big ole ‘hey drive your car to the city for cheap’ I snapped on the back of a bus. I will say ‘say’s some of it’, rather than ‘says it all’, as there are a bunch of other things that have been telling a story too.

  14. Nice piece.
    And, importantly, we need a planning framework that enables much more density than the unitary plan, backed up by a concerted effort by central government to build mass housing in locations that are supported by PT ( because belief in ‘the market’ to solve the housing crisis is misplaced).
    I for one am a little tired by what I see as some rather limp rhetoric from council

  15. Hi Heidi, great article. I am working with an advocacy group called the Waitemata Low Carbon Network. We are presenting to the Finance and Performance Committee on 19 February regarding the letters of expectation (particularly the letter to Auckland Transport). You’re analysis is really helpful and are going to suggest they adopt the wording in your post (or something very similar) in a supplementary LOE.

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