A few weeks ago I looked at a history of Harbour Crossing options with details of various proposals for new crossings of the Waitemata Harbour from 1988 through till now. Since I published it, the post has had me thinking a bit more about how we preserve public documents and reports and if our agencies are doing enough in this regard.
Of the reports covered in the post, I came across the 1988 and 1997/98 reports in the library one day, the 2003 study was found by looking through the Wayback machine and the 2008 to now reports were hiding on the NZTAs website, only find-able via a google search.
The NZTA and the Harbour Crossing aren’t the only examples, another is light rail. Since Auckland Transport first announced light rail back in 2015, they had updated their website with information and a number of reports as to why it was needed. For example these are screenshots of the Light Rail page (left) and a separate page focusing solely on the airport and Mangere (right) from the wayback machine. It’s was never clear why AT needed two pages.
As an aside, one of the claims against light rail recently has been that there was no business case completed. As these images show that’s clearly not the case as a number of business cases had been completed and they line up with the various stages of the NZTAs business case process (below).
Once the project was handed over to the NZTA, AT removed all of the information on and just linked to the light rail page on the NZTAs website. However, the NZTA page doesn’t include any of the AT reports.
Why highlight this?
As I see it there are a few key issues at play here.
- Reports like these contain a huge amount of information that can help shed more light on projects and help understand why certain decisions are made. For example I know that having the information available and by having had an open mind it certainly changed my perspective on the airport debate. The internet has made it easier than ever to then disseminate this information to the public – we certainly wouldn’t exist if that wasn’t the case. This means that those reports can be put online and so don’t need to sit in a library gathering dust. At the same time, these examples show that with a few clicks of the mouse, agencies can simply remove that information. It might seem minor today but those reports could be extremely valuable to future, especially by anyone trying to to do research.
- These reports aren’t free and can cost tax/ratepayers often large sums of money to commission. That fact alone should mean they remain accessible in the public domain.
- While some of this information is available on the wayback machine, that’s not something that should have to be relied upon to provide an archive.
What should be done?
I get that agencies don’t want to be having to maintain pages for projects that have been completed, cancelled or they are no longer in charge of delivering. Similarly leaving old reports that have since been superseded on their website may not be ideal either (in certain circumstances). Instead of just cutting all the links to old pages, like AT did with Light Rail, perhaps they could put them in an archive section somewhere on the website, such as ATs publications section.
While I’ve focused largely on AT, that was just because light rail is a recent high-profile example. The same issue exists across many councils and agencies for both local and central government.
What do you think our agencies need to do to about keeping old reports available?
Finally, while the Light Rail pages are essentially gone, the documents themselves are still (currently) on ATs servers if you know the links. They’re on the Wayback machine too. However to make them a bit easier to find, I’ve linked to all of them below.
- Emerging technologies for rapid transit – Part one: Future-proofing investment decisions (PDF 2MB).
- Emerging technologies for rapid transit – Part two: An evaluation of specific technologies (PDF 1MB).
Central Access Plan
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case (PDF 4.5MB).
- Central Access Plan Strategic Assessment (PDF 1.87MB).
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case with peer review (PDF 252KB).
- Bus Reference Case Report (PDF 2.7MB).
- Stage Timing Model (PDF 2.1MB).
South-western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transport
- South-western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transport indicative business case (PDF 5.6MB).
- appendix A – SMART investment logic map (PDF 110KB).
- appendix B – Heavy rail – General arrangement plans (PDF 21.5MB).
- appendix C – Light rail transit – General arrangement plans (PDF 12.3MB).
- appendix D – Bus rapid transit – General arrangement plans (PDF 17.8MB).
- appendix E – Hybrid bus rapid transit / heavy rail – General arrangement plans (PDF 12.5MB).
- appendix F – Shortlist option estimates (PDF 214KB).
- appendix G – Auckland public transport model outputs (PDF 10.7MB).
- appendix H – Onehunga branch line challenge workshop report (PDF 4.3MB).
- appendix I – Auckland airport rail alignment challenge workshop report (PDF 1.1MB).
- South-western Airport Multi-Modal Corridor Project scoping report (PDF 3.7MB)