The biggest challenge Auckland and the rest of the country face with transport these days is not the policy, as that aspect is generally in a fairly good space with the likes of ATAP and the current Government Policy Statement. Instead the challenge now is in delivery to ensure that the projects needed to implement those plans and policies happen in a timely manner, or happen at all. In that regard, as I wrote a month ago, we’ve become increasingly concerned about the performance of the NZTA who appear to be in complete disarray. That view was based on a number of observations we’d made.

Since that post we’ve seen more even more evidence of this issue, which is now reaching more mainstream media.

About two weeks ago Newsroom also reported that the NZTA was in disarray and that it threatened Auckland Transport projects.

Some major Auckland public transport projects are at risk of delay because of what Auckland Transport calls the “opaque” situation at NZTA.

The agency is in disarray and under review by the Ministry of Transport over its regulatory function, and its problems are now having a ripple effect.

Fears over the likely holdups surfaced at a council finance committee meeting on Wednesday looking at the organisation’s quarterly figures.

AT chair Dr Lester Levy told the committee the question of what was happening – or not happening – at NZTA was a critical one, “and an area of current concern. We need the whole eco-system there to be at the highest level of momentum and there are changes there that are quite distracting for us.”

CEO Shane Ellison said the situation was “quite opaque. We’re not getting a whole lot of visibility and the relationships that we had (at my level) are not what we had previously. Obviously we have an interim CEO (former Chorus head Mark Ratcliffe) and obviously they’re dealing with a number of different things. We’re trying manage that as best we can … but the key issues are, business cases and funding requests are not being approved in a timely way.”

Ellison said five instances where projects are being held up have been included in a letter sent to NZTA.

Then, a week ago Todd Niall over at Stuff reported on this too.

Transport officials in Auckland are frustrated at lengthy delays for government funding approvals and additional costs being added by red tape.

A major revamp of the transport interchange at Waiheke Island’s main ferry wharf spent a year going through NZTA processes before being denied funding in the forseeable future.

A planned bus and rail interchange at Puhinui may miss its America’s Cup deadline amid repeated rejections by NZTA of the scope for a business case seeking funding.

Auckland Transport’s chief executive Shane Ellison has listed the projects in a letter, and NZTA has admitted it is struggling with the level of funding bids from around the country.

Auckland Transport said the projects affected were those already on a list of work agreed between the council and the government, in ATAP – the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

In a letter to NZTA’s acting chief executive Mark Ratcliffe, Ellison said relatively small projects were also being hit with the high costs of full-blown business cases required by NZTA when it considers funding.

Both of these refer to a letter from AT’s CEO Shane Ellison to the NZTA. This letter was further referred to yesterday by National’s Transport Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith during question time in Parliament

Last week we asked Auckland Transport for a copy of that letter and they’ve provided it to us. It is below in full.

There’s a lot in that relatively short letter. Here are a couple of thoughts on a few of the issues raised:

Key Themes – The NZTA uses the following business case approach and the intention is that larger projects get more scrutiny. This is understandable to a degree but I wonder how many times all these extra business cases end up resulting in a materially different project. Also, at each decision gate, projects can be thrown back to the start of the loop. This is an issue that’s not unique to the NZTA and I see it in other sectors too where rigidly following the process is considered more important than the outcome. This is what appears to be happening with many projects today and as AT note in point 2, some of this appears to depend on which desk at the NZTA something lands on. I wonder how many of our key PT and cycling projects are landing on the desk of a grumpy old guy who doesn’t like those modes?

Wellesley St – It’s extremely concerning that staff from the NZTA seem completely unaware of what’s actually happening in Auckland. This is not the first time we’ve heard of this issue and it’s not just the NZTA who suffer from this – In fact I’ve witnessed it first hand in some meetings I’ve attended.

Pukekohe Electrification – It would be interesting to hear what all these ‘gaps’ are but I understand that for one of them it was considered AT hadn’t investigated enough alternative modes. I guess AT should have checked if Lime scooters could have done the job instead or if they could just replace the rail line with another motorway.

Puhinui Interchange – At the rate the NZTA seem to be taking, we’ll be lucky to even see a business case approved before 2021 and it will be 2031 before anything is built.

Huapai roads – Did AT fundamentally leave out some key design elements or did someone at the NZTA see these projects as an opportunity to get something else tacked on?

For all the projects mentioned in the letter, we’ve heard stories about many many more that are suffering the same fate as these. The NZTA need to sort these issues quickly and the minister needs to take a more active role in sorting this out.

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76 comments

  1. The disarray at NZTA is almost certainly due to being deliberately defunded by the previous National Government in it’s quixotic quest for a budget surplus at any cost. RNZ reports here – https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/368512/more-big-trucks-on-the-road-fewer-checks-on-inspectors – on how defunding wrecked the regulatory functions of NZTA for vehicle inspectors, and you can easily infer that the sclerotic impact of chronic underfunding has impacted the entire agency.

    1. Sorry, not a good enough excuse. We are now halfway through a new Government’s term. This is not merely a regulatory function failure; NZTA is failing at a strategic level despite the Govt, Council and a large swathe of Auckland who agree many of these changes are needed urgently and probably are at least five years overdue already. If, despite all that political will, the NZTA cannot deliver on one of its core functions, then that is a matter for the current Government.

      1. I agree with you to an extent, but I think the incoming government was taken by surprise at the extent of the rundown of the basic functions of government that occurred under the fetish for cuts that characterised Bill English’s time as finance minister. Rebuilding morale, re-establishing capacity and re-creating institutional memory takes much longer than people think.

        Also, Grant Robertson foolishly committed himself to a set of arbitrary and idiotic budget rules, making it difficult to get the funding required to rapidly rebuild the Agency.

      2. Correct we are halfway through a term of a new government…a government that has done very little apart from passing some bits of legislation and making some PGF announcements. I wonder if Twyford really does have a clue about any of his portfolios when we look at the shambles that is Kiwibuild. People all around the country are questioning his competence because there are gaps all over the transport system that are barely even being acknowledged let alone addressed. So far the government has been big on promises but mightily short on action.

    2. The funding for transport has been rising steadily and substantially, though. It’s not underfunding that’s the problem, more that the machinery is set up for big state highway projects and road widening, which they like to call road improvements.

      1. Though the transport budget has been increasing, it is spread thinly across a lot of projects. The big highway projects themselves are being delivered at the lowest cost. Corners have been cut, including quality control and project supervision, in order to reduce cost. This is now becoming evident with high profile defects on sections of the Kapiti and Waikato Expressways. This all comes back to NZTA being bled dry in order to build the most big highway projects possible.

  2. If the relationship “are not what we had previously” then the situation is dire. Every conversation I have ever had with anyone at NZTA regarding AT has resulted in head shaking and wry smiles. They have always had a condescending near contempt for AT. Now that they are being forced to work much more closely it’s no surprise they are not aligned despite all efforts to ensure that they are.

  3. How likely is it that the disarray is going to result in cancellation of big projects like Light Rail to the airport? Would it mean that the increase in taxes in order to fund these projects were for nothing?

    1. Stop that negative thinking right now.
      Light Rail to airport is happening, it’s bigger than NZTA and the PM has promised it. We are being taxed for it so any suggestion that a tax is unnecessary is just foolishness beyond the pale. Grow up. 🙂

  4. Matt, it would not take long for you to list all the leadership changes in the last two years that have caused the total destruction of relationships. You know them all.

    AT might also have the grace to change themselves, and show why.

    However with three major reports into NZTA and MoT coming to Parliament shortly, and big legislative moves about NZT and MoT as a result, this system is heading straight for gridlock very fast.

  5. Oh my god. If you follow that link that Matt’s given to the “business case approach” and choose the “single-stage business case” you come to this video: https://youtu.be/nASHsSuvZb0

    NZTA – SHAME!

    They give a typical example of NZ’s transport network – a place where people are dying and being seriously injured, and nothing but monitoring has been done about it. People who want to cycle can’t do so on the dangerous roads – so they can’t cycle as transport. They are dependent on their cars, and to cycle, they have to drive to a cycle trail. Yes – quite a typical situation.

    Access to this cycle trail is “the fly in the ointment”!!! Pretty much like cycling altogether, eh, NZTA?

    Instead of getting to the heart of this problem, NZTA lead you through the process, with no focus on the vulnerable road user at all.

    Blindly putting this in a video shows that NZTA have not taken on board the review of Austroads: It found a number of ways Austroads doesn’t align with the Safe System, and says that the most vulnerable users should be the starting of the design.

    While a fundamental change in mindset is what is absolutely called for here, the video instead asks practitioners not to do so. And just concentrate on the “Best Next Step”.

    Government: You’re not going to get your GPS implemented when NZTA is so far behind the ball.

    1. Bl0ody oath that video.

      I know that Treasury, as the generators of the business case approach, is to some degree responsible for how it’s being applied. However I don’t know whether NZTA has taken it to a pathological extent, or whether it’s pretty normal in its super-process focussed, assumption-riddled (yet assumption-blind) approach.

      I do know there are a lot of folks with po-faces making a lot of money as business case consultants in Wellington.

      Is this the right way to ensure public money is spent wisely?

  6. When a public organisation is subject to “efficiencies” over a several years, aka cost cutting, and I’ve experienced it, I can promise you the damage to its functioning properly runs deep and long.

    Staff with far too much to do with too few people with far too high expectations end up not doing anything properly, because they simply can’t. They either leave, leaving inexperienced replacements to flounder or resile themselves to survival mode. And if this state of affairs is left too long, i.e., more than 3 years, the dysfunction becomes the norm. Think the health system, child welfare, justice, police, you name it.

    This DNA change in our public institutions and their staff will take years to fix.

    1. Great. And in meantime we should show them lots of love and understanding as after all they are us. Just struggling to do a job that’s beyond their current capability. We need to take each NZTA officer and give a hug.

      1. This is ingrained, you run organisations like this and their purpose for being ceases to be serving the public, it becomes satisfying budgets and their whole focus is inward.

        It’s just broken. You don’t get the useless levels NZTA have reached by accident.

          1. So cutting public function budgets and running down public services is socialism now? Wow, I always thought that was a neolib.

            This socialism is a tricky one isn’t it?

          2. It’s a byproduct of this country’s economic orthodoxy from the last 30 plus years but especially under the last governments strangulation of state service budgets.

            That is also no excuse for this lot to not start sorting their act out right now, but as I said before, the damage done is deep.

    2. What’s happening here is far more than cost-cutting. That video confirms my suspicion that the whole business case approach is preventing critical analysis of what’s gone wrong. We’re paying so much money, yet have little transport choice, are losing lives, and have rapidly rising vkt and carbon emissions. And what we see is NZTA actively training their staff to just concentrate on “the best next step” for an activity.

      Let’s hope that the interim CE or the chair board are making some changes that addresses this.

      1. Who knows but the place is probably stacked with years of road centric careerism to satisfy the last governments lost for tarseal.

        Twyford looks horribly lost, that letter looks like someone quickly passed it to him during that debate.

        What is an absolute certainty is light rail is never going to happen, nor Skypath nor electrification of the line to Pukekohe. Not unless the government acts to bypass this broken organisation!

        It’s just so much easier not to for these clowns

        1. Bypass NZTA and fund AT directly for projects like the Puhinui Interchange, Pukekohe electrification, third main etc. There’s been enough reports done on these projects already.

          1. Don’t be silly, moar business cases are essential.
            You just can’t have detailed business cases, such as the 2016 case for third and fourth mains, presented in a non NZTA format.
            Otherwise, it would just be transport anarchy with essential projects underway in short time. What would happen to the large investment in bureaucracy? All those expert project delayers left jobless. Please.

    3. “…When a public organisation is subject to “efficiencies” over a several years, aka cost cutting, and I’ve experienced it, I can promise you the damage to its functioning properly runs deep and long….”

      I have lived this as well and I 100% agree. People don’t thrive on change and uncertainty. You end up with a rump workforce with tanked morale, in an energy sapping passive and fatalistic survival mode that leaves them struggling with the basics.

      1. Yes, tanked morale from restructure 2 years ago and low expertise were factors in Wellington’s bus disaster.
        Today newspapers report that in February GWRC councillors extended the CEO employment by 2 years.
        Reward for failure AND/OR corruption ?

  7. It appears some in the agency are using process to relitigate ATAP. Or at least the parts of it… To say this is unnecessary and unhelpful is a considerable understatement.

    ATAP itself represents a huge delay. It was required because central govt didn’t agree with the fact and nature of Auckland’s growth. Determined as they were, through NZTA, to treat the whole country having one condition; as best served by rural highways, and urban places and economies being either unimportant or non existent.

    Years of negotiating went by, and even then it wasn’t until this government that there was finally an agreed programme and it was actually funded (in no small part due to the Regional Fuel Tax). At the heart of this is the final transformation of NZTA from largely a state highway provider to a full service transport agency (in truth a longer run project but this is should have been the final push).

    Yet it feels like there may still be holdouts against this inevitability dragging their tyres along the tarmac of this change. Add to this the still apparent difficulty some in Wellington based institutions have with understanding or accepting Auckland’s scale, growth, form, and national significance…

    Just one example. Cities everywhere in the world have moved their infrastructure condition forward by using the deadline that big events offer. This is simply because there are always thousands of reasons to delay investment, change, vision. Without even artificial deadlines it’s hard to get much done, let alone new or transformative things.

    But also the often fragile hoped for economic and social benefits from big events really are conditional on these decisions. That NZTA look like they are going to sabotage both SkyPath and the Puhinui connection being ready for the Am Cup and APEC, through insisting on rigid long winded business case and other pedantic processes, appears extraordinarily petulant and over-reaching. And ultimately unforgivable. Those responsible appear be looking for risk in the wrong places…

    1. Queen Street’s future is being determined by Willis Street.

      And each of the big reports coming into Parliament are going to paralyze NZTA even more than the perpetual restructures that have annihilated most of the relationship network that has otherwise kept Auckland moving.

      I’m not at all sure if the Minister knows how deep is the quagmire of transport. It will now take another Parliamentary term to just get the institutions re-aligned.

    2. Patrick – we people in Wellington are fully behind Auckland’s push to grow into a world city in terms of scale, growth, form and national significance, and dearly wish that your city would sort its shit out. We want Auckland to work – it is an embarrassment as it is. We don’t want to have to have a $100 taxi ride into the CBD each time we visit – we have fully charged up Hop cards just like you, and already we know to take the Skybus or the 380 to Papatoetoe.

      We’re not really tourists, and we’re definitely not residents. There ain’t nobody in Wellington that wants to live in Auckland, that’s true, but we do want Auckland to succeed beyond its wildest dreams, and become a real city one day, and to do that, we want you Aucklanders to spend up large on putting in all the Light Rail and Heavy Rail that you can fit, cause clearly the road network has run out of room.

      1. It’s interesting you should refer to Auckland as an “embarassment as it is” because I’m finding Wellington is just as much and probably more of an “embarassment” in transport terms. It can’t even organise integrated ticketing.

        1. Pointing out that Auckland is an embarrassment does mean that Wellington isn’t an embarrassment …

          Agree that Wellington’s lack of full integrated ticketing is poor.

          But Auckland doesn’t have full integrated ticketing either (ferries are excluded). And there’s no proper off peak pricing (something so basic that even GW managed it (eventually))…

          1. Pointing out that Auckland is an embarrassment doesN’T mean that Wellington isn’t an embarrassment …

            (Gaah! should red my own post properly)

          2. Ferries do however use the same smart card, HOP, as everything else. Their lack of integration is a central government decision, a hang-over from Steven Joyce favouring his mates in the private and their profit margins over a legible, easy to use transit system for Aucklanders. AT can’t change this without central government passing legislation.

          3. HOP on ferries is integrated ticketing. Equal fares to an equivalent bus trip would be integrated fares. I realize that it is a small point, but it’s worth getting right.

        2. Agreed. Sadly.
          Same government (2008-2017) largely responsible for the lack of progress in both cities.
          And Christchurch.

          1. Yep, so much money swallowed up in ministerial boondoggle road projects. As well as the failure to invest in public transport, the run down of road safety (& lots other things outside transport) was appalling.

            National need a decent spell in opposition, during which they would ideally learn about how cities work & how NZ cities could work better (because they don’t seem to understand cities despite most of them living in them).

        3. Zippo – you’re absolutely right – Wellington is a chronic embarrassment, with a totally dysfunctional Regional Council that doesn’t know its arse from its elbow, bus companies with 17,000 fines for lateness or complete absence of buses, bus hubs that haven’t been built and buses that run without appearing on the indicator boards, trolley buses that are scrapped without any kind of replacement, a City Council that literally can’t organise a new set of foundations for a Town Hall in 7 years, a world-famous film Director that the Council appear to be determined to irritate at every monthly meeting, a complete and utter incoherence at designing Cycle Ways, whether in Island Bay or elsewhere, and a bunch of retards called Lets Get Wellington Moving, who seem determined to do anything BUT what their name implies. Lack of Integrated ticketing is just a minor fly in the ointment compared to the rest of the list….

          But on the other hand, we have now changed the logo on 2 streets of pedestrian signals (a green Carmen on Cuba St, a green Kate Sheppard near Parliament), and painted a street crossing like a Rainbow. That’s not a bad result for the last 10 years, is it? Can we get a gold star on our foreheads now?

          You’re right. Wellington is even more of an embarrassment than I care to admit. But we were talking about Auckland, I didn’t want to steal the show…

          1. Wellington is getting left behind in so many ways, all that mega motorway building is going to wreck the place. Its all 1960s style planning.

          2. Luke. That is what is great about Wellington, it retained a lot of its heritage and did not destroy its city centre like Auckland.

            A decent light rail connection to Wellington airport would be all it needs to do away with the insane motorway/flyover plans they had.

          3. Wasp – “insane motorway/flyover plans they had” ? – it’s not past tense, it is current – ie they still have…. new plans for more roads to be announced in coming weeks…

          4. lets face it, LGWM really stands for lets grow wellingtons motorways. Transmission Gully, 4 lanes to the planes. With some token greenwash thrown in.

      2. Guy I wrote; ‘some in Wellington based institutions’ nothing about the views of Wellingtonians. Sorry I should perhaps have said ‘central govt’… but the physical distance and silo does seem to influence this attitude; these may even have been Aucklanders originally (I dunno)…

  8. If Twyford is at the helm it’s going to be a nightmare like his Kiwibuild mess.

    In summary, it’s a mess and Twyford is at the helm.

        1. I don’t think she’s got anything to do with it. She’s great. However, Twyford….. his track record is alarming and could be the guy who brings down Labour votes in Auckland.

  9. You seriously have to wonder whether all these ‘business cases’ are worth doing all the time. How much money gets spent on these studies and reports, which could otherwise go into funding actual projects – and how many more projects would actually get built, or built much sooner, without so much time and money being wasted on ‘con’sultants reports.

    Public money should be spent on projects which will actually benefit the public, and not be wasted on hugely expensive consultants reports and studies for everything.

    It is usually pretty obvious what projects will work and if they will be beneficial or not. A bit use of ‘common sense’ is needed rather than the farce of using consultants and contractors to ‘advise’ on everything at great expense. The public would get a lot more for their money that they can actually see and use, if more public money was being spent on actual projects.

    If the majority of the public doesn’t agree with what projects money is being put into, they can have their say at election time when they get to elect the people in charge of making decisions.

    This then comes to the matter of NZTA, AT and KiwiRail. All these entities should be reporting to publicly elected representatives, e.g. the Minister of Transport, the Mayor and Councillors – and not to expensive non-publicly elected board members.

    Since the 1980s much of New Zealand’s important decision making and responsibility for essential services has been taken away from the publicly elected representatives and is made by privately appointed boards of directors – which come at great expense on huge salaries. These boards together with the overkill use of contractors and business cases for just about everything, results in a small number of people in our society making a massive amount of money from public funds, while the public get little say or control over those who are making decisions.

    New Zealand now has an ever-growing divide between rich and poor, with people living in cars or on the street like never before in our history, while top CEOs and board members of public (and private) companies, organisations and entities are pulling in ever-increasing ridiculously high salaries with more money and personal wealth that they could ever need.

    Those who are in elected positions of power, are conveniently placed in at ‘arms length’ from decision making and responsibility with so much outsourcing of decision-making.

    So this is why the NZTA (and AT) is in disarray – it is because of how ‘the system’ in New Zealand has been structured with the neo-liberal reforms and changes since the 1980s, which we are now starting to see as a society, have not been and are not better for society as a whole. A small minority have done very well under the current system, particularly private and foreign companies and investors, but the majority of the New Zealanders have not benefited from this system. Just look at wages and working conditions and the ability for New Zealanders living and working here to buy houses now compared to before the 1990s. Look at traffic congestion, the number of large heavy trucks on our roads and the number of people being killed on the roads now since the 1980s.

    Until the Government decides to make some more radical and courageous reforms to New Zealand’s governance structure, particularly with essential services, you won’t see the likes of Twyford or Goff doing anything to fix the problems with NZTA and AT. Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, the next decade will all be the same with everyone sitting in traffic, working 6 or 7 days per week on low wages with poor working conditions, with many never having any hope of owning their own home, while more and more public money is wasted on consultants writing reports and private and profit oriented company models exist for essential services.

    1. I agree there is too many hurdles to get through at the moment, but I’m not sure a return to the old system of politicians making the decisions is the way to go.

      This is effectively what brought us RoNS. Despite the deserved criticism they get here they are actually quite popular, the main reason being they are used by many people infrequently. While we might not make a huge number of trips outside of our home town each year we remember the annoying traffic because we are holidaying at the same time as everyone else. Therefore we dream of what the road would be like if it were turned into a motorway, we are generally not thinking much about the cost.

      Analysis of cost and benefits is vital to ensure our money is spent wisely.

      1. But unfortunately it’s very hard to put a long term value on benefits. Which makes the whole process pointless IMO.

  10. I agree there is too many hurdles to get through at the moment, but I’m not sure a return to the old system of politicians making the decisions is the way to go.

    This is effectively what brought us RoNS. Despite the deserved criticism they get here they are actually quite popular, the main reason being they are used by many people infrequently. While we might not make a huge number of trips outside of our home town each year we remember the annoying traffic because we are holidaying at the same time as everyone else. Therefore we dream of what the road would be like if it were turned into a motorway, we are generally not thinking much about the cost.

    Analysis of cost and benefits is vital to ensure our money is spent wisely.

  11. 1) Poor policy decision to increase the FAR and not also increase the resourcing available to review the business cases. NZTA needs to find additional resources even if temporarily

    2) “In a letter to NZTA’s acting chief executive Mark Ratcliffe, Ellison said relatively small projects were also being hit with the high costs of full-blown business cases required by NZTA when it considers funding.” – The business case requirements should be proportionate to the capex or capex+opex if substantial. NZTA may need to lighten up the requirements if the business cases are too expensive.

    3) NZTA needs to prioritise the business case assessments nationally – e.g. address those related to the americas cup etc first where there are external constraints.

    4) NZTA

  12. Time for the Minister to restructure NZTA out of existence and staff the replacement agency with skills and attitudes that match the scope of their work now, not what it used to be.

    The cost of redundancies would be more than made up for by the savings from less dicking around by grey tarmac-lickers.

  13. Holy heck what a shambles. When is the government going to realize that they’re running things now? Surely you don’t have to be a totalitarian regime in order to get things done. Or maybe you do…

    I would be seriously fuming if I was Minister and this was going on.

  14. When I worked for the Government in the 1970’s for a very short time they had performance reviews. I imagine they have them on steroids now. Make the number two KPI after safety completing projects on time with pay cuts for non compliance.
    Having said that maybe take the 3rd main off NZTA all together and just tell and give Kiwirail the job and the money to do it. After all the provincial growth fund just gave Kiwirail money to re do the Napier Wairoa railway line.Put the electrification on hold and purchase some batteries for enough EMU’s to do the Pukekohe run. Maybe Auckland transport can build the Puhinui interchange with NZTA doing the busway. After all the Manukau bus station and the Otahuhu railway stations are superb. I will not venture an opinion on the other projects as I don’t know enough about them

  15. So is it safe to say that the w2w 3rd main will not be happening because it’s a Kiwirail project and the govt funding body for rail projects, nzta, does not recognise KR as one of the organisations permitted to make an application for funding. Hence no funding so no W2w 3rd? And so far the govt have decided not to directly fund KR for the 3rd or 4th mains.

  16. This looks like if we radically change NZTA or the processes would add on 5 years to delays. Not doing anything is close to that anyway in the short term. The good news is not every project is related to NZTA & we seem to have construction resource delays anyway at present. Might therefore be good to either merge them with something else or break them up into smaller entities.

    1. NZTA needs to be restructured and made directly answerable to the Minister of Transport.

      KiwiRail needs to have the infrastructure division split off and merged into the current rail land holding company NZ Railways Corporation. The NZRC to become a rail agency directly answerable to the Minister of Transport and to take on a greater planning and development role of both heavy rail passenger and freight, and light rail. It needs to become the rail regulator and set nationwide standards for rail operators and to separate the current conflict of interest that exists with KiwiRail being both the network owner and an operator.

      KiwiRail should remain as a separate SOE rail operating company, paying an access fee to use the rail network along with other operators.

      Auckland Transport (and all the current CCOs) need to be restructured back into departments of Auckland Council and be directly answerable the Mayor and Councillors.

      The Government needs to take a more pro-active lead in helping address the lack of capacity and resources in the construction sector, with re-establishing the Ministry of Works and Development.

      The Government should also look at other means of finding funding for much-needed major transport projects, such as introducing tolling on all motorway onramps across Auckland. Also to introduce a Railway Police division of the NZ Police, to seriously address the problem of fare evasion and vandalism to Auckland’s trains and rail corridors. Transdev-employed Ticket Inspectors and AT-employed Transport Officers do not have enough power or deterrent factor to be effective in dealing with the hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money being lost on making up for fare evasion and repairing vandalism.

      The Government also needs to look at the bigger picture of how it sources its income for funding the essential services the country needs to run with implementing major changes to the tax system to make it fairer and ultimately have it collect more from those who avoiding paying their fair share.

      The bulk of the tax burden in NZ is borne by workers, yet the rewards of our economic system are largely skewed towards the owners of capital. Is it right or fair that workers have every dollar of income taxed while those getting rich through capital gains – absent any effort of their own – pay virtually no tax on that income at all?

      In its latest survey of household wealth, Statistics New Zealand found the richest one percent of New Zealanders hold 20% of all wealth, while the poorest half of adults – 1.8 million Kiwis – hold just 2%. Statistics NZ reports that the richest 20% of NZ households have seen a rise of $394,000 in their net worth since 2015 – almost $360 a day, every day for the past three years – while the poorest 40% have seen zero increase in their wealth over the same period. Contrary to the scaremongering of right-wing pundits, the vast majority of Kiwis will not be impacted by any wealth tax. In fact, if the revenue raised through wealth taxes is used to reduce GST and/or income taxes, many will be better off.

      As pointed out by National’s own Tax Working Group in 2010, and subsequently ignored by National, New Zealand’s tax base is far too narrow. What we need is a fundamental restructure and re-balancing of the tax system that shifts taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth while clamping down on tax-dodging by corporations and rich individuals.

      The Government should implement a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax where each person declares *ALL* income irrespective of source and pays tax the same as everyone else, a Land Tax to discouraging land banking while also promoting more efficient use of land, and an Inheritance Tax on estates valued over $1 million.

      The Government should replace the Goods and Services Tax with a Financial Transactions Tax, and replace the Emissions Trading Scheme with a proper emissions tax so polluters pay for the mess they make.

      And the Government should bind income tax levels to multiples of the median income, with the first $20,000 income tax free, putting more money in the hands of those who need it most, directly stimulating the local economy, creating more jobs and ultimately leading to more revenue.

      Re-balancing the settings of our economy would help bring about a fairer, more just and humane society. Of course, tax is only part of the equation – what people really need is liveable wages, secure employment, affordable housing and a decent safety net for when times are tough.

      Put this in place, together with making much-needed radical changes to the governance structure of our essential and public services, then we might get the desired outcomes we need, such as for transport.

      1. Mostly agree with your comments on taxation. However, I don’t think giving Councillors more say is the way to go. They are elected by a relatively small proportion of the population and quite frankly a number of them are idiots, who got elected based on name recognition and saying some popular sounding stuff.

  17. As a recently departed manager at NZTA, I am gutted that our organization has been debased over the last couple of years and I don’t think the low point has been reached yet. My former colleagues eagerly await the MoT Regulatory Review to then set out a course for the start of a massive turnaround.

    There are many reasons for the cause of this downturn, Waspman has hit the mark for one of them noting the NLTP funding and baseline operating budgets are separate and whilst the former increased and so did project size and complexity, the budgets for core services including FTE did not.

    Another cause would be the quality of leadership since the inaugural CEO Geoff Dangerfield left in 2016. Perhaps a question the Review is considering would be how did the CEO who resigned in December 2018 ever get appointed? That and the leaders he placed around him for the last 2 years is a major contributor to the disarray. In 2017 /2018 over 300 quality staff resigned through the bungled transformation.

    Readers should also be aware that another significant impact were the directions and priorities of the Minister and Associate Minister of the previous government in their last year of office. Not caring about the road toll so the reduction in investment to Road Policing, loss of key staff in the Advertising & Education teams and reducing the compliance burden on road users, shifted focus away from where it has always been needed. Again the shame of it here is NZTA let go a lot of technical experts who did not align to the number one priority of customer focus and so essentially they were perceived as grumpy old men, who didn’t fall into line with new management. These people gone meant the expertise for most functions the NZTA performs is at far lower capacity and capability.

    The short of it is there is no hiding the disarray now (although it has been evident to most inside the Agency since mid 2017) and it will have significant impact for some time yet sadly. All the best to the new cadre of people that have the task of restoring trust and confidence to partner agencies, road users and Ministers.

    1. I just want to say a huge thank you to Gutted, for fronting up and posting here. Really really useful to have your comments on this page. Feel free to tell us more. Sorry to hear that it has gone all a bit pear-shaped.

      Reckon it will recover? Any timeline on that?

      1. Thanks. At least two years as re-establishing the level of capability needed will be challenging. If the regulatory functions are taken away from NZTA, then the recovery for the ‘system design and delivery’ could be quicker. The interim CEO has moved on some of the leaders that have contributed to this disarray and there are a few more needing to go yet.

      2. I’d say two to three years from my experience in other government departments.

        They good news is even when things are bad stuff doesn’t completely stop happening, it just slows down.

    2. Very interesting, especially your comment ‘NZTA let go a lot of technical experts who did not align to the number one priority of customer focus and so essentially they were perceived as grumpy old men, who didn’t fall into line with new management.’

      This is a good reminder that the problem doesn’t necessarily sit with older male’s, it can just a easily be caused by newer younger people bringing in change that doesn’t really make sense.

      1. Yes. Or younger people saying old stuff in new ways and being listened to because they’re saying what the establishment is wanting to hear, and have the credibility of being young.

    3. Gutted I know a lot of the middle management in NZTA pretty well.
      You are dead on.

      So many of the managers there now have no special transport industry knowledge; they are brought in simply because they speak an early-2000’s buzzword-bingo managerial language that perpetually reifies their class into ever higher managerial ranks from one public agency to the next.

      However you put too much blame on the previous government, and not enough accountability on the current government and those it has appointed.

      The structural change that will occur after the Martyn Jenkins report will result in further restructures and further relationship breakdowns as described in the AT CEO letter. That will take several years to right.

      Also the chaos within the NZTA Board members, and Ministerial inability to rein in NZSuperFund, shows a government without suitable governance muscle. It’s notable that there are no public board minutes since November last year: accountability or scrutiny impossible.

      Also the NLTP from this Minister was a hashed and hurried half-way-house document which has confused local governments up and down the country and as a result drastically choked the massive contractor industries.

      I seriously hope that your transport expertise is not lost to my industry, because it is desperately needed.

  18. This isn’t the first time central government has required business cases to be redone, e.g. CRL. There will be a rulebook of what needs to be included in business cases for different sized projects and for stages of larger projects. If gaps are being identified, then either the work isn’t being done or its not being presented as required. The rulebook is there to ensure that projects are justified, costed correctly, planned and scheduled so that a board can approve. Its like a machine, all the knobs and levers need to be worked correctly or it won’t operate. AT need to follow it and do it right first time to avoid these delays.
    The specific cases the letter identifies can be explained as follows:
    Wellesley St bus improvements = All options should have been identified up front and evaluated. This must have been skipped as an option with transfers sounds like something that should have been included.
    Pukekohe electrification – 11 gaps = Follow rulebook.
    Matiatia – funding reserved = Project not justified or of low priority compared with others.
    Puhinui – twice not approved a variation = follow rulebook.
    Huapai – not scoped and costed properly = follow rulebook

    1. “There will be a rulebook ”

      When? There isn’t one now (or at least wasn’t when I was last working on NZTA business cases less than a year ago).

      The problem is that there is *no* rulebook which results in arbitrary decisions from various NZTA managers. From your response, it’s pretty clear that you aren’t working on business cases, I’ll look at the two worst examples.

      Wellesley Street: When forming a business case, first you develop benefits that you are trying to achieve and key performance indicators to measure options. Then you consider all options *that are practical and would positively contribute to at least one benefit*. Forcing transfers, cancelling all bus services, and demolishing the CBD are all options to solve the problem of bus congestion. None of them achieve the likely benefits of increased PT modeshare, increased access to the city centre, and improved amenity in the city centre.

      Huapai: The whole point of a business case is to develop a scope and cost. You are saying that AT must run a business case to assess options, but that if the option that they assess to be the best and it’s scope and cost aren’t exactly the same as previously assumed then nothing can be built.

      Under your rules above, nothing would ever get built. I truly mean nothing, 0 things. Name a project and provide a link and I’ll show you a scope change and dream up impractical or negative options that weren’t assessed.

  19. I don’t usually live in NZ anymore, I haven’t posted in a couple of years, and I only occasionally get time or inclination to visit the GA blog site. However, I have to say that this is one of the most vital and important blogs I have seen in a long time. Well done to the GA team for being prepared to step up to shine a torch into a pretty dark place.

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