The Covid 19 Stay Safe order has returned air quality to Los Angeles. Image credit: Debbie La Torre

An unprecedented amount of $52 billion has been made available to spend in response to the Covid 19 crisis, including for economic recovery. How much of this money to spend, and on what, is still to be determined:

In an interview with Stuff, Robertson also sounded a warning: the post-lockdown economy is going to be tough, unemployment will soar and the entire domestic economic structure of New Zealand could need rethinking.

The Government, he admits, is still trying to get its head around the depth of a potential economic nosedive.

The government’s response to this Covid crisis has been impressive, and gives hope that we can now expect an equally comprehensive response to the even larger problem of climate change.

On the other hand, there’s a very real threat that governments will choose to stimulate economic recovery in a way that worsens the climate:

the pandemic will likely slow the world’s efforts to fight climate change as governments and industries pause investments in clean energy and infrastructure… 

Relative to the parallel world in which the COVID-19 outbreak never occurred, our path to net zero emissions may very well have become more challenging, not less.

The government will be receiving lots of advice from a range of lobbyists of all stripes, within New Zealand and internationally. One of the more thoughtful pieces I’ve read is an article from energy expert Michael Liebreich:

If you think this will be over in a couple of months, I have some luxury cruise tickets to sell you…

The idea that pouring billions of dollars into electric vehicle charging stations, renewable energy projects or solar rooftops over the next few months is the best way to do this is fanciful.

As soon as the immediate crisis has passed, however, and attention moves to reflating economies, that is the time to ensure that clean energy, transport and smart infrastructure is at the heart of any longer-term stimulus. How might that be achieved?

Liebreich had visited New Zealand last year and was surprised at the lack of action in some sectors and industries.

Covid has given us the opportunity to reimagine the motorway system put to better use.

It’s important to remember the $52 billion is not from existing funds accumulated from tax revenue. It will be largely borrowed, to be paid back by future taxpayers. And although borrowing for economic stimulus is not new, the scale of this outlay and the knowledge that what we are experienced in building is not what our children will need, creates an enormous need for caution. This money will be wasted if it doesn’t work towards achieving the massive change that the IPCC has said is required to keep our planet liveable.

One question to ask about any spending is: How will our children cope if faced with a pandemic like we are facing?

They may have already struggled economically with climate change-induced wildfires, floods, droughts, horticultural pests and diseases, high numbers of climate refugees, or loss of markets due to geo-political instability. They’ll probably already be paying billions in carbon credits and mitigation.

Can we really load them with the cost of our recovery from Covid 19, while they’re coping with the cost of their own pandemic? If we are to spend their money, it must be in a way that improves their environment, and that also gives them the best chance of being able to pay this money back, in the climate-stressed future they will inherit.

In short, the economic recovery must involve establishing a New Climate Economy.

Image credit: Riddell, The Guardian

The new Climate Change Commission will need to be closely involved with the investment decisions for this recovery effort, because the government’s responsibility to reduce our emissions has been formalised by both international agreements and national legislation. Last year, the commission’s technical reference groups of subject experts met three times.

The terms of reference for the Technical Reference Groups say they:

will help the Committee/Commission Secretariat develop the analysis and test the robustness of the results and conclusions. This will involve providing a sounding board on mitigation options (including availability, cost trajectories, and likely uptake over time); feedback on modelling approaches and results; and exploring policy options and feasibility.

Even experts’ understanding of the options available to us seems highly variable. Where are these experts drawn from? Are they ‘agents of change’? Are they prepared to overturn decades of established practice in order to rapidly prepare each sector for a climate-ready economic reboot? Do they understand the need to:

  • Transform our transport system, with a focus on modeshift,
  • Transform our urban form, using the international guidelines from organisations such as C40,
  • Rebalance our range of industries in order to drastically reduce our shipping and aviation emissions and be more resilient,
  • Decouple economic health from economic growth, by establishing a circular economy,
  • Transform our democratic systems, to overcome the bias towards the status quo?

Auckland’s Motorway Network during Covid 19. Image credit: Kākāriki Two Ticks

Let’s look at the organisations represented.

The participants of the Climate Commission’s Transport Technical Reference Group are from:

  • Motor Industry Association
  • Kiwi Rail
  • Aviation New Zealand
  • Ports of Auckland
  • Auckland Forecasting Centre
  • Intelligent Transport System NZ
  • Drive Electric
  • Air New Zealand
  • Ministry of Transport (observers)
  • New Zealand Transport Agency (observer)
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority  (observer)

Will these organisations benefit from a complete overhaul of our economy and a radical new way of doing things?

The participants of the Climate Commission’s Land Use Technical Reference Group are from:

  • Toi Ohomai
  • Fonterra
  • Beef and Lamb
  • Ngāi Tahu Farming
  • Agrioptics
  • Horticulture New Zealand
  • He Oranga mo Nga Uri Tuku Iho Trust
  • Scion
  • Lincoln University
  • Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
  • Rabobank
  • Department of Conservation (observer)
  • Ministry for Primary Industries (observer)
  • Ministry for the Environment (observer)

Will these organisations work to overhaul urban land use planning? Actually, this is quite an exciting list for a group to advise on rural land use changes, so perhaps another Technical Reference Group, with urban land use as the focus, should be formed.

“So nice to be Queens of the Road”. Image credit: E.S.

Appointments to the technical reference groups were probably made by the Interim Climate Change Committee with guidance from bureaucrats from the relevant ministries. Was there sufficient focus on determining which sectors need the most change, and on finding people already demonstrating vision for how to make that change?

It is expected that they will meet at least three more times before mid-late 2020 and that the Commission will also engage with a wider range of technical stakeholders through additional workshops and meetings.

Engaging with this wider range of technical stakeholders is critical and instills hope that the obvious gaps might be filled.

Our government is focused on the well-being of our people, present and future. It’s important the advice they hear now, in preparing a response to Covid 19 – at a scale of spending that we have never seen before – is not just from the incumbent sectors that have resisted the change to a low-carbon economy. They need to hear from progressive experts thinking outside the square who can help us establish a better future; one in which we can adapt to and minimise climate change.

Dominion Rd during Covid 19

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77 comments

  1. I agree we will need to transform or transport systems and urban form but the C40 ideas on urban form might need to change as well. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense having too much development in a single centre. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense encouraging the use of public transport. Maybe we need to focus on smaller town centres where people can walk, cycle and yes drive their own car. Perhaps living through a pandemic might change how people feel about working in a huge overcrowded centre. Maybe road pricing could be introduced to discourage people living in one town centre and driving across the region to work in a different town centre.

    1. The C40 advice works for the cities we have, miffy. We have town centres; C40 would advise us to make them more people-friendly, more full of nature, less dominated by paved spaces for cars, and easier to reach safely by walking and cycling.

      “C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.”

      Any vision you have of town centres that encourage people to ‘yes drive their car’ won’t fit C40’s goals. But the vision I have of town centres, which encourage people to walk and cycle, does.

      I think living through a pandemic will change how people think about quality healthcare and government decision-making. Anyone watching the trajectories of cases for each country won’t be wary of city living, but of the independent mindset that created both US-style ‘democracy’ and US-style suburbia.

    2. “Maybe road pricing could be introduced to discourage people living in one town centre and driving across the region to work in a different town centre.”

      That is a luxury for a time when you didn’t have to take whatever work you could get and live where you can afford rent. Those days are gone now.

      1. And for a day when women were expected not to work. Couples who live in one place while one of them works in another are not going away.

      2. What are you basing that on? The average driving time per day was 30 minutes a day in the early 90’s, peaking to 35 minutes before the GFC, and is now slightly below that. Allowing for more congestion over that time and a fairly flatlining PT time per day, that represents an overall distance drop, doesn’t it?

        Or are you meaning you think it will head that way post lockdown/ mid-recession?

    3. Knowing the history of your postings: I’m not sure if you’re having a laugh/taking the piss.

      But the higher vulnerability of people in built-up areas to COVID-19 isn’t actually that much higher. Yes; people in built-up areas are more likely to put their hands on transmitting fomites (and those hands should be getting regularly cleaned anyway); those same fomites are also more likely to be regularly cleaned.

      Besides; the next pandemic may be one where people in rural areas and suburbs of detached housing are significantly more vulnerable. What if it’s transmitted by plant pollen and/or animals and/or is airborne, etc? Especially if it’s a fungus or bacteria…

      1. I think I stopped taking the piss when I saw all those trucks carrying coffins in Italy. I haven’t found much to laugh at since then. I am not sure anyone has done the study yet to see the impact of public transport as a vector. The part that is certain is that putting people in close proximity with random untrackable strangers is a mistake. If we stick with PT as the model then we will need to store the names and contacts of people on each bus and in each carriage.

        1. Erm, not really.
          Not many people are currently using Public Transport to begin with due to self-isolation.
          The possibilities of contracting it via Public Transport aren’t that high. It’s slightly possible via proximity to an infected sneeze or cough (the likelihood of which is diminished with self-isolation). And it’s more possible via fomites, although this is again negated if people simply thoroughly wash their hands at the first opportunity after using PT and don’t touch their face prior to washing.
          The reason why it spread in Italy so rapidly was because people had no idea that there was a virus on fomites that they were touching and then spreading to other fomites and then themselves.

          Now people are aware and are being cautious; the hazard has diminished significantly.

          And an awful many people contracted & spread it early by having close physical contact with other people, such as anonymous sexual intercourse. That’s also diminished with social isolation.

        2. What do you think means the number of people dying per week in the US is dropping so much, miffy?

          https://twitter.com/SidSanghi/status/1244268784409608192

          Have a look at the 0 to 18-year-olds especially.

          Good policy on transport to reduce unnecessary death still involves increasing our investment in public transport. During pandemics we also need the resilience of good walking and cycling infrastructure, and good management of the public transport system. But moving policy away from public transport will cause a far higher number of deaths. As well as increase carbon emissions.

        3. There is much more to understand about that data I linked, as the thread shows. Boy there will be a lot of PH.D. research projects come out of all this. But we certainly knew well before Covid that different transport modes have many pathways to cause death and ill health.

        4. Daniel maybe I didn’t express my point clearly. Eventually counties will let their citizens out again and people will have to travel. At that point I don’t people will care if you catch a disease from touching things or breathing it in. You can’t sell public transport as fast & convenient but please for your own sake don’t touch anything. Most countries didn’t even try to get rid of COVID-19 so in most places it will still be doing the rounds periodically. We are luckier here. Maybe if it has gone completely from NZ people will be fine with riding squeezed against people they don’t know. In the USA and UK I certainly would use PT.

        5. Isolation won’t be ended until the authorities have determined that it’s run its course and there are no more infected people.

          If other nations are slow to determine this; there can be travel bans on those nations (which will probably be the USA).

          You seem to expect this to be some never-ending thing.

        6. Daniel you are assuming it will somehow stop. MERS and SARS stopped because they were contained. COVID-19 hasn’t been contained and can’t be contained as it has reached countries that are not capable of the actions necessary to stop it. Some countries like sub-Saharan African nations don’t have the resources to stop it and some first world nations don’t have the will or political commitment to stop it. Given it is as infectious as a cold then it is reasonable to assume it will become a permanent thing.

        7. This disease is unique in that in early stages it was in the predominantly posh side of town, and indeed the posh side of the world. It was in the travelling, holidaying , partying, classes.
          The poor side of town, and the world, was initially passed by.
          But once it escapes into this poor side, the combination of crowded housing, poor hygiene facilities, and poor health care availability, will be absolutely devastating.
          The world will not be free of this disease until these populations obtain immunity. Unfortunately immunity for most of the world population may well be the result of infection rather then a vaccine, with it’s associated horrific death tally.
          Locally, this why it is vitally important to give our national, breaking the chain measures, our absolute best shot. We need it to take care of our more deprived populations, which suprisingly are more rural, then urban.
          We owe it also to our island neighbours, we don’t want to export another disease tragedy into the islands.

      2. Daniel Eyre you say in another post “that US deaths from COVID-19 are rocketing and that this is a nation where not many people use public transport. Hmm, go figure.”

        A simple google search tells me that NY, which is hard hit by the Wuflu, has a population around 8.5 million. Another search shows that the daily weekday subway ridership is around 5.5 million.

        I may be a simple man, but that is not what I would call “not many people use public transport”.

  2. Maybe I’m wrong.
    But I don’t think that much will change once this pandemic has run its course. By the end of the year; most will be back to normal, at least in Australasia. Thus far; NZ has only seen one single death.
    Things might be a bit different in the USA where inaction from leadership means they might see millions in deaths. It might shock them into finally having a proper public health system and to stop relying on praying and religious delusion.

    1. Even if we get by relatively unscathed in terms of the virus the impact of a global recession/depression will likely be significant, especially if we have to close our borders for a long period of time to keep Covid from re-entering.

      1. Funny how in the early-mid 1920’s after the diabolical “Spanish Flu” pandemic, most of the world that wasn’t Germany saw “the roaring ’20s”…

        1. I’m not suggesting that a pandemic automatically results in a depression.

          However, the worlds economy has been looking for something to kneecap it for a number of years, Covid seems an obvious candidate.

          The worlds economy is also a lot more globalised now than it was 100 years ago, it’s hard to see something that is having such a big impact on movement causing anything other than at least a recession.

        2. The USA certainly had a boom in the 1920’s. That was due to a major change in world capital flows. Prior to WWI returns on European investment flowed back from the US to Europe. After WWI the USA enjoyed huge flows of money as loans and interest were repaid and as a result of the big plant up and high grain prices that resulted in the USA planting grains in dry land areas.
          In contrast UK economy peaked in 1920 and was smaller in 1928 prior to the depression. https://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1918_1940UKb_17c1li011lcn__UK_Gross_Domestic_Product
          None of these effects were due to the Spanish flu.
          So far most forecasters are suggesting world economies a U-shaped recovery, but that is predicated on a recovery from the pandemic first.

        3. The so called ‘Spanish’ Flu actually originated in the USA (to the best of anyones knowledge) and broke out most thoroughly on trenches of the western front.

          The flu was a symptom of the war, and the roaring 20s were the economic bounce back from the the same war that resulted from a new era of industry and financing.

          It remains to be seen whether this virus without the corresponding war will have the same effect.

    2. From my side I think even the slightest change in the US is wishful thinking – the denial and blame game has already started – and “his” supporters are not wavering. Did you see the pictures of the church congregation hugging and kissing? I have no more imagination what needs to happen to undo the brainwash for these people.
      But getting off Heidi’s topic here.
      I am afraid that nobody in charge is currently sitting down thinking: how can we start anew? They just wanna “undo” it all.
      In my group of friends everybody hopes that this will bring change – but they are the same people who have worked and lobbied for change before this.
      So I would be overly pleased to be wrong but I fear I am not.

    3. You are more optimistic than I am. The reading I have done says SARS-CoV-2 is Positive Sense Single Strand RNA virus. That group includes the common cold which has no vaccine or cure and gives only about 3 months immunity, Dengue which is worse the second time you get it as well as all the more deadly versions. If we are lucky it will be stamped out in NZ but that means we will need strong border controls and quarantine so the tourism sector will be buggered. We will only be able to accept visitors from COVID-19 free countries (unless they can be quarantined for 2 weeks). Just moving capital out of tourism and into other productive areas will take years so you can expect high unemployment as the country restructures. If we don’t eradicate it in NZ then we will be like most other countries where it will be endemic and come back in waves.
      Either way we will do things differently.
      It will only all go back to normal if someone finds a vaccine and if people have a reasonable period of immunity. If only one of those doesn’t happen then normal isn’t an option.

      1. While Coronaviruses have no cures; they can still be eradicated if they have no hosts as they can only live on non-biological Fomites for a certain period of time.

        1. I don’t understand your point. How can they have no hosts so long as there are people, bats, pangolins, camels and dogs?

        2. What I’m telling you is… …how they’re dealing with it.

          There’s a lockdown so infected people can’t spread it to others. Then it runs its course: The infected people now isolated from everyone else either have their immune system defeat it (which is the vast majority of them) or they die.

          Then the virus has no more hosts and is on no more fomites.

        3. Yes that is how NZ, China, Taiwan, Iceland and a few other countries are dealing with it. But in the majority of countries that isn’t the case. Some are doing almost nothing, some like India and sending hundreds of thousands home in a major migration, some like the USA and Australia are going through the motions while keeping their businesses open. In most countries it won’t be eliminated and will become endemic like rhinovirus. That means we will have months or even years of closed borders and possibly that will be permanent. So it will not be over by the end of the year as you have suggested.

      2. You can not eradicate any member of the Coronavirus family as the muted to survive and COVID-19 virus will be no exception.

        Currently, the virus has slow mutation process unlike other Coronaviruses, but it is very disruptive, as it has a long incubation period and spreads using healthy hosts that may not show any symptoms they have the virus and is fatal when the human host immune system is compromised.

      3. I agree with most of your comment, but we have to factor in, there will be other virus like pathogens that have been laying dormant in the world’s permafrost for thousands of years that will be released besides the methane and other nasty gaseous omissions, as the global permafrost continues to melt due to planet warming.

        Since it was noticed the world’s permafrost has seen melting since the early 1980’s, I am open to the concept that the COVID-19 virus could have originate from melting permafrost, that activate itself through wild animals but not deadly enough to kill its animal hosts, hence its characteristics of having a long incubation period and only killing its human hosts that have compromised immune systems.

        1. There’s also many thousands of viruses in the oceans, any of which can theoretically mutate into pathogens.

        2. Daniel Eyre – I agree with you. The problem is, we do not know what pathogens are going to evolve whether its from permafrost, the sea, etc as the planet warms.

          Since there is no hand book on how to deal with planet warming, as an island nation, we need to look at the worst case scenario that NZ becomes isolated and self sufficient, hence the move to a sustainable environment friendly economy that is primarily focused on domestic consumption, sustainable environment friendly manufacturing and food production, urban, regional development and transport planning, 100% recycling, etc as the current global manufacturing, supply chains, travel and trade will not be around. As a country, we need to take off our ‘here and know fossil fuel consumption based’ tinted glasses and and start to have out of the square thinking and planning to adapt to an increasing warming planet.

    4. “to stop relying on praying and religious delusion.”
      I wonder how the current huge investment by individuals in firearms is going to form part of the American response.

  3. “Appointments to the technical reference groups were probably made by the Interim Climate Change Committee with guidance from bureaucrats from the relevant ministries. Was there sufficient focus on determining which sectors need the most change, and on finding people already demonstrating vision for how to make that change?”
    Clearly the answer to that is no. The next question is how to highlight the bias and ensure public and politicians are ready to correct for it. That’s an ongoing problem and maybe COVID19 will wake more people up to it.

    1. That list for the Transport Technical Reference Group is seriously worrying. Seems to be a recipe for a transport systems that relies on electric vehicles to cut emissions (i.e. the status quo).

  4. I see there’s a third reference group on “Heat, industry and power”. Many academics in it.

    Seems to me your idea of getting a fourth one on urban land use set up is what you should lobby for – and provide some cap to the damage the status quo transport one might cause.

  5. Once we are out of this employers should make genuine attempts to allow most of their staff to work from home at least 2 days a week.
    Tax incentives could be offered on the condition that businesses implement and regularly monitor (and report on) travel management plans.
    We need to get traffic down by 30% on a permanent basis.

    1. Has a study ever been done on what percentage of staff can work from home?
      I guess that my hairdresser could work from home, but that would mean that I would have to travel to her place. My plumber certainly couldn’t fix my pipes while he is at home. Likewise for most manufacturing industries.
      Movie and TV production would be a whole lot different with all of the actors, producers, lighting crew etc all in their individual homes.
      I agree that a certain number of people in shiny arse occupations could work from home, but my question is genuine, what percentage of the workforce would they be?

      1. When I retired I was working in a call centre that employed about 200 people between 0500 and 2400.

        When lockdown was announced the IT department managed to get every person set up to work from home.

        I don’t know if that will work longterm but for the 8-10 weeks that is likely to be the lockdown period it is an intelligent alternative.

  6. COVID-19 pandemic is a glimpse to what will happen as the planet warms.

    Whilst COVID-19 pandemic is a moderate human induced pandemic. Unlike the other members of the Coronavirus family, it has a long incubation period (2-14 days ) and only affects people with impaired immune systems which means it can be carried by younger and/or healthy people that do not show signs of having the virus. The latest research has found that the virus has split in to 8 species as it spread globally and it appears at this stage, that the COVID-19 does not mutate as quickly unlike other members of the Coronavirus family making it no a ‘killer’ virus like Ebola, SARS, MERS, etc. Researchers have found that COIVD-19 virus is naturally made not in the Lab, from animals, especially ‘scally’ type of animals like the Pangolin which could be the source of the initial infection at Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan where Pangolins are sold for human consumption.

    COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the current global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel, health and economies. Due to the nature of the COVID-19 virus having long incubation period and have the ability to travel by healthy hosts, the WHO has warned there could possibility be a 2nd or a 3rd wave, which will cause further major ongoing disruptions to global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel, health and economics and the full effects of planet warming hasn’t even started. The IMF has already stated last week, that the world is now in a recession due to COVID-19.

    What this moderate pandemic has shown, the world so dependent on globalisation and than any disruption can and is showing, that country economies are or will suffer. As the planet warms there could be a total collapse of global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel and economies resulting that countries will become more self sufficient and isolated.

    So what is the future and what NZ needs to do to restart the economy. Since our current low wage, service based neoliberal economy is not compatible to future health pandemics and planet warming, as an island nation which is predominately a food producer, NZ needs to start moving to a sustainable environmentally friendly economy in manufacturing, food production, 100% recycling, research/development in green technologies, urban and regional and transport planning, etc, so we can be more self sufficient and get better financial returns of what produce and sell and not relying that heavily of global manufacturing and supply chains and starting adapting to a warming planet.

    Moving to a sustainable environmental friendly economy and planning to adapt to a warming planet is not going to be cheap, as the government will be footing the bill, which will means the comfy consumption and car based complacence lifestyle prior to 25 March will be a shadow of its former self.

    1. > there could be a total collapse of global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel and economies

      This pandemic has disrupted all those things but other than travel they haven’t collapsed, and let’s be thankful for that. It’s not obvious to me how climate change will cause those things to *collapse*.

      > Since our current low wage, service based neoliberal economy is not compatible to future health pandemics and planet warming,

      Actually a service-based economy is well positioned for pandemics and global warming. A large fraction of service workers can work from home or service a local community. A large fraction of service jobs can be configured to have low environmental impact. Our restaurants are shut down for now but at a lower alert level I think we’ll have restaurants open for contactless food delivery.

      Manufacturers and primary producers (which we need!) and tourism operators seem more vulnerable to climate and pandemic shocks.

      1. I think you need to look pass the current pandemic, as this is the glimpse to what is to come as the planet warms.

        Yes, this moderate pandemic is disrupting global manufacturing and supply chains as countries go into lock downs and depending if there is a 2nd or 3rd wave of COVID-19 affecting countries which could delay the global manufacturing and supply chains going back to capacity prior to the pandemic. The IMF has said the world’s economy is in recession.

        Planet warming will have a greater disruption on global manufacturing, supply chains, travel, trade, travel and economies than what this pandemic has done, as unpredictable destructive storms, droughts, health pandemics, etc become more common and destructive, forcing countries to become isolated and self sufficient.

        We just need to look what is happening in NZ know, with current drought conditions in the North Island and half of the South Island plus a country is in lock down with closed boarders, add another 3-8 degrees to the country’s mean average temperatures, add in increase humidity to the top half of the North Island, warmer and drier Spring and Autumn shorter wetter winters which we have already seen this years, gives a good indication, as an island nation, we need to start planning and adapting now to planet warm by using a sustainable environmentally friendly economy.

        With regards to ‘service based’, our economy has been reliant on low wage industries to provide ‘cheap’ products and services that resulted in a growing gap between the haves and have nots. Tourism which has been our biggest export, is a leisure product, has spawn a lot of small to medium business employing low wage workers that feeds of it. The so call ‘gig economy’ which is service based, is really self employed contractors who are paid a ‘commission’ not a wage, to do a job.

        Tourism will rebuild its self but not to the same level prior to 25 March but it will take 2-5 years to international tourist arrivals to 1 million which can handle on the current national tourism infrastructure. Yes, the hospitality industries will grow again and life will come back to normality except we will have 9-15% of the work force out of work, so spending on luxury/leisure products and services will not be the same. prior to 25 March, as people will watch their pennies.

      2. “global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel and economies… other than travel they haven’t collapsed… It’s not obvious to me how climate change will cause those things to *collapse*.”

        Really? In what timeframe and under which scenario are you thinking, Robert?

  7. My prediction is that by the end of the year we will be back to the way we were pre-March this year. Nothing learnt, no wiser.

    But never let a crises go to waste. Many people will use fear and panic to push their agendas. However, we aren’t going to see any massive change in NZ. We might see a few token gestures – like the so-called climate emergencies the Auckland Council declared – but real change no. The best we can do is incremental change and even then it is no guarantee that will be better.

    1. The COVID-19 pandemic is a glimpse to what is to come as plant warming increases, having a major disruptive effect on the current global manufacturing, supply chains, trade, travel, health and economies.

      The low wage, service and consumption and fossil fuel based economy NZ is currently using, is not compatible to future health related pandemics and increase planet warming. As an island nation, we need to move to a sustainable environmental friendly economy so we can self sufficient by not being dependent of the current global manufacturing and its supply chains and starting adapting to a warming planet.

  8. Hopefully the Government will look to invest in clean energy infrastructure projects as part of the economic stimulus recovery.

    Significantly improving the rail network would be a good move, with a number of projects which could be carried out across a number of regions. Projects like building the Marsden Point line and Avondale-Southdown line, reopening the line to Gisborne, triple tracking / quadruple tracking and full electrification of the Main Trunk line between Auckland and Hamilton to enable the recently proposed new high speed tilt train service to be established. This sort of investment will be a game changer in terms of providing new viable realistic travel alternatives as the Government seeks to reduce carbon emissions.

    The Government should go a step further and actually develop a new main trunk rail route between Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo-Napier-Wellington with a combination of both existing lines upgraded and building new lines to fill the gaps (good regional stimulus projects), along with electrifying the whole route (good clean energy project which could potentially be powered by new geothermal power stations being developed around Taupo).

    A line along this route would link nearly all the main population centres, forestry areas, mills, ports, popular tourist and holiday destinations, along one line. Creating a new rail route using one primary main trunk line linking all these together would enable a much more efficient rail service to be offered for both freight and new passenger services, e.g. with new fast modern tilt trains. This would be a real nation building project, which would provide a real mode shift opportunity for both freight and inter-regional travel.

    1. Yes, re-establishing a good rail route framework through the country would set us up for good rail freight and passenger rail. A bus network can be built around it, too, meaning the whole country can be connected with electric public transport. Together, these steps would vastly improve transport safety, lower our emissions, enable regional development and provide access for many populations that are in transport poverty.

    2. Agreed.

      To make this happen though the Government will need to take a much greater lead in implementing new Climate Change based policy and projects of this scale. Leaving it to KiwiRail as a commercial decision for them to make will result in a substandard scaled back version with things like 25km/hr points and turnouts which they are still to this day installing around the Auckland metro network. We are never going to have rapid rail, let alone 160km/hr tilt train lines so long as this sort of practice still continues.

      The Government needs to take greater direct charge of major infrastructure projects like rail, light rail, cycleways, State housing and affordable housing. Doing this with separating the infrastructure from KiwiRail and merging it with the existing rail land holding company NZ Railways Corporation, which should take ownership and responsibility for not just heavy rail, but all commuter passenger rail, as well as light rail in Auckland and Wellington, reporting to a recreated position of Minister of Railways. KiwiRail should remain as just a State-owned rail operator, paying to use the network with rail user charges along with any other operators.

      Also to re-establish the former Ministry of Works, reporting to the minister of Infrastructure, to provide the much-needed scale needed in the construction industry to carry out these major infrastructure projects and build housing on the scale needed.

      These Crown entities should also be used for a major apprentice training program to provide the number of skilled staff on the scale required.

      With many people likely to become unemployed following the Covid-19 shutdown and the large worldwide recession which is likely to follow, a large Government-led retraining program in these areas, will help NZ pull through and provide the country with the infrastructure it desperately needs.

      1. I agree with with you about separating the national rail network away from Kiwirail Holdings Ltd freight and scenic passenger train operations, making Kiwirail Holdings as a rail operator only. The national rail network should be come a strategic asset being a steel road transport network, like Air NZ, State Highways and Regional Road networks are.

        I agree with you about re-establishing a new version of the Ministry of Works.

        I would like to see the re-establishing new versions of the DFC (Development Finance Corporation) and the Rural Bank as public investment banks using the Robobank investment model under written by the Government, allowing the general public, superannuation funds, etc to invest in the development of NZ’s sustainable environmentally friendly economy.

    3. I agree with you. The national rail network needs to a strategic asset as a steel road networks as the current State Highway and national regional road networks are.

    4. I was agreeing with you until this:
      “triple tracking / quadruple tracking and full electrification of the Main Trunk line between Auckland and Hamilton to enable the recently proposed new high speed tilt train service to be established”

      There’s no necessity for any of that horrendous level of expenditure. It’s only ~140km of track between Frankton Junction and the Auckland CBD. A quality and attractive commuter service is possible with much lower investment in some simple curve easements on the existing corridor, better scheduling, in the third main project. There is no need for any third nor fourth tracks between Papakura and Hamilton nor any need for tilt trains and electrification wil not be needed for a long time.

      1. I think triple tracking of the track especially between Pokeno and Ngaruawahia would be need, due to increase freight and inter-regional passenger train frequencies. Remember, Hamilton is an island freight port and hub for all types of freight and passenger rail travel from the south and east.

        1. Quadruple tracking is definitely needed on the NIMT between Westfield and Pukekohe with the amount of growth planned and to accommodate future freight and passenger movements expected.

          Full double tracking south of Pukekohe to Hamilton should certainly be pursued, but with bypassing the current slow route through the Whangamarino Swamp (why would you build a railway through a swamp?!), with a new route perhaps down the middle of the new Waikato Expressway between Mercer and Rangiriri. The expressway has a very wide grass median along the middle of it, which would be more than wide enough to accommodate a full double track railway.

          The ECMT line between Hamilton and the Kaimai tunnel should also be double tracked.

  9. Investing in rail would be an excellent move by the Government as a major infrastructure economic stimulus initiative. Let’s just hope they have the foresight to be visionary with the opportunity this major shakeup the Covid-19 Caronavirus has brought about to the normal way of life at the moment.

    Another rail line they should reopen is the one to Whakatane. This region has already suffered a big economic blow following the recent White Island eruption.

    The line running along the beach along the Bay of Plenty coastline to Matata is very scenic and if they were to relay the line to Whakatane, a tourist train, perhaps a steam train, running along the coast between Tauranga and Whakatane, would be a great economic stimulus project to help this suffering region.

    1. Yes this would be an excellent initiative. I know this area well and agree it is very scenic section of line, every bit as good as the Coastal Pacific route in the South Island. A line to Whakatane would bring a lot of good to the town.

      1. Only if people actually use it. Will they?

        Whakatane’s a nice town but if you catch the train there there isn’t a huge amount to do within walking distance. Especially if catching a boat to White Island is off the menu.

        1. If people are looking for domestic holidays instead of international ones, Robert, why wouldn’t they go to Whakatane? Particularly once “regional development” has enabled local people to establish sustainable businesses to cater to New Zealanders doing so, and once there’s safe walking and cycling infrastructure so it’s all a pleasant experience.

  10. I think it should be a time to reset emissions targets. Time to abandon a system based on some arbitary date in the decades ago. We should reset mandatory targets on new allowable elevations from what is being achieved right now.
    Pollution levels should never be allowed to rise again to anything approaching what they were before the shut down.
    Councils should be using the time right now reallocating carriageway space to build quick and dirty cycleways, bus lanes and wider footpaths and repurposing street
    side car parking. Existing road space allocation should not be just preserved for the return of motor car domination to the considerable degradation, of so many parts of our precious environment.

    1. As someone who spent most of my working life in the policy world or around its edges this is a pessimistic view. Groups are always pushing to change the status quo and there can be quite large shifts in thinking over time. One area I was involved in – and wrote a brief history of – was parental leave, There used to be much opposition to introducing paid parental leave especially from employers. But now it is almost universally accepted. The status quo used to support railways – then it went against that – but as we saw in Europe before the shutdown the status quo was rapidly changing to support fast trains and overnight services. I see where i live a road next to the sea where people often drove too fast and were against traffic calming is now a pleasant cycleway with people often walking down the middle as there are so few cars. That might change people’s thinking as they use it in that way over four weeks.

    2. If the Government were to reopen and build more rail lines to where the main forestry areas are, eg East Coast, Taupo, Nelson, Far North, rail could carry a lot more of the logging traffic instead of logging trucks on the roads.

      In order for this to happen though, the Government will need to take a much greater lead on implementing such policy and decision making, rather than leaving it as a commercial decision for KiwiRail.

      With NZ facing major issues with not only the likely recession from the Covid-19 pandemic, but Climate Change, there needs to be a major change to the current order, not dissimilar to the scale of which NZ experienced with Rogernomics and Ruthenasia in the 1980s and 90s (see ‘Revolution’, ‘In a land of plenty’ and ‘Someone else’s country’ NZ documentaries on YouTube).

      Leaving everything to the market and status quo is not going to provide the scale of changes and outcome we now need.

      1. Yes Kiwirail would need to abandon their unit train only approach and adopt a more network approach. The goal would be to have an open road rail interchange spaced throughout the network every forty or fifty miles including lines like the Kawerau and Kinlieth branches . Shunting would need to be reintroduced so that wagons can be moved between services at junctions. At the moment we have export/import containers traveling to inland ports and sidings but very little internal freight traveling between Inland Ports probably because these inland Ports are owned by rival Port companies . Anti competition rules could be invoked. Existing internal domestic freight which is largely also carried in containers runs almost exclusively on the main trunk with Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington being the major freight hubs in the North Island. These major freight hubs are under Kiwirail control. Some diversification of this into regional areas is required. My view is some of these hubs which could be run by entities other than Kiwirail could attract a subsidy both in their construction and operation. Kiwirail would counter that they do not have enough staff, wagons or locomotives however money has already being allocated for this by the Government and more could be justified as tonnage is increased. Things are very opaque at the moment some clarity should be applied so the general public can understand how the rail and road transport sector actually operate. Calls for greater money to be spent on either mode could be treated on an evidence basis.

        1. I agree with you. This is why the above ground national track infrastructure, signalling and train control needs to be separated out of Kiwi Holdings Ltd freight and passenger rail operations, leaving Kiwirail as a rail operator only.

      2. Gosh after watching those documentaries it almost left me in tears seeing the way this country has gone after the major economic and social reforms of the 1980s and 1990s.

        Maybe this Government might now look to the way things were before 1984 to again restructure and build up our country to be a bit more self sufficient again with a strong move back to having more regional development, and tighter borders to better protect this country from what we are now experiencing.

        Reinstating better pay and conditions for all workers with penal rates and greater union coverage of sectors like there was prior to 1991 would really help the current ‘labour shortgages’ in certain sectors, eg supermarket workers, which is nationwide issue.

        Supermarkets are not exactly suffering financially either – take a look at last year’s Rich List and see how many are Pak n Save store owners. Meanwhile most supermarket workers are on little more than minimum wage and get exploited.

        In the news today, the Government is ironically now going to allow supermarkets to employ immigrants who don’t have work visas to help address the current labour shortage. With the announcement that 3500 Air NZ staff are to loose their jobs, many would perhaps take on jobs in these other sectors experiencing shortages if they paid more.

        NZ needs to address the massive social and inequality divide between the haves and have nots which has really grown worse since 1984, as well as tackling the issues of climate change and housing shortages and affordability.

        On the point of housing, there are plenty of houses and room for growth in many regional towns, the jobs just need to be created in them again after they were lost with the Government reforms of the 1980s.

      3. Rural train lines will not be electrified so it would just replace a diesel truck with a diesel train. All a bit pointless.
        Sadly I predict that governments in Europe and the US are going to be a lot less focused on climate change now it is out of the media and people are more worried about money.

        1. “Rural train lines will not be electrified so it would just replace a diesel truck with a diesel train. All a bit pointless.”

          Rail lines use 75% less diesel per km. Seems to be a pretty good pooint there. Rail is also far safer than road transport. Plus, there is a good case to complete the electrification Auckland to Wellington and electirifcation of the main trunk would mean that almost all rail freight was electric powered for most of it’s journey.

        2. “Rural train lines will not be electrified so it would just replace a diesel truck with a diesel train. All a bit pointless.”

          Pointless how?
          Railways are still much more efficient over distance and/or with heavy loads., they still expend less fuel per kilometer than trucks.

        3. I am not sure that electrifying all branch lines would give a bigger emission reduction then reopening more branch lines, or even new branch lines. Spring Creek to the Golden Downs forests via Nelson for instance.

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