Here’s our weekly roundup
We and some of our friends are holding an event in a few weeks on Monday 10th August.
The challenge is clear: Auckland must dramatically decarbonise its transport system in just 9 years.
So how quickly can we get there?
Come and learn how New Zealand’s climate change commitments will give legal power to our advocacy and action!
Dr Paul Winton of The 1Point5 Project will share his analysis of how best to reduce transport emissions, and Jenny Cooper QC of Lawyers for Climate Action will outline why our transport agencies are legally obliged to act now.
Lucy Lawless will then lead a lively panel on how climate commitments and legal obligations coalesce with strong advocacy – to create a potent context for transforming Auckland’s transport priorities, fast.
Note: This is a free event, but space is limited – so RSVP ASAP to reserve your spot!
There really is a lot of change on the way to our planning systems. Following on from the Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development last week, this week they released a review of the Resource Management Act.
Among its recommendations is the replacement of the existing RMA by two separate pieces of legislation; a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.
Minister for the Environment, David Parker said a review of the resource management system was long overdue.
“The RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment,” he said.
“There are significant pressures on both the natural and built environments that need to be addressed urgently. Urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing. Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.
The review panel said the proposed new Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA), taking a substantially different approach from the RMA, would focus on enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations.
The proposed Strategic Planning Act would embed integrated spatial planning across all regions of New Zealand. It would set long term strategic goals and help integrate legislative functions across the resource management system including the proposed NBEA, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act. This will allow a broad range of matters to be reconciled to ensure better future planning, including for infrastructure and housing.
It recommends greater use of national direction by the Environment Minister and a more streamlined process for council plan-making and a more efficient resource consent process.
It also proposes a new separate law to address issues related to climate change adaptation and the managed retreat from areas threatened with inundation.
The Panel’s view was that any future resource management system should give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti and provide a clearer role for Māori in decision-making.
This sounds positive and if enacted as suggested, it seems one of the potentially significant outcomes would be that many of the planning functions currently undertaken by Auckland Transport would shift to the Council.
I imagine that changing the RMA is going to be a significant undertaking, and if the recommendations are enacted, probably quite a lot of work in the future for councils around the country. But with National also promising a similar sounding change in their election policy, it seems likely as something that will happen.
It’s another road
Speaking of National, they made another transport announcement this week, another road. This time a $200 million ring road to the North of Palmerston North.
Like a few of their announcements this election, this doesn’t sound like an unreasonable idea as getting trucks out of the middle of Palmerston North would surely be a positive step, though $200 million sounds a lot – have they spec’d it for a motorway? The issue really becomes when all the various elements of their policy come together and how realistic it is to fund that. They can’t just magic up money.
It’s also worth noting that this is also the area where Kiwirail are looking to build a massive new freight hub.
Long Distance Trains to return
Following calls from 18 councils along the route, Kiwirail have announced they will bring back two of their long distance tourist trains, Northern Explorer between Auckland and Wellington in Summer and the Coastal Pacific between Picton and Christchurch in Spring. It seems one of the reasons Kiwirail hadn’t restarted them is they continue to view them only as tourist services and not something that could be used for other trips.
“A record winter school holidays on Interislander and a highly successful winter promotion of the TranzAlpine gives us the confidence that the public will support these tourism trains which will be back in time for the summer holidays,” KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said.
I think Kiwirail need to think more innovatively about how they can get more passengers to use the network rather than it seems treating them like something in the way of freight.
Notably yesterday Transdev suggested they could look to run an overnight service
An overnight sleeper train between Auckland and Wellington could return without the support of KiwiRail.
Transdev, which operates Auckland’s commuter trains, has put its hand up as a potential provider of a sleeper service if KiwiRail isn’t willing to add a passenger option between the two main centres.
“There might be room in the market for a different offering, which could be more focused on passenger travel. My gut feeling is it could do quite well,” Transdev chief executive Greg Pollock said.
The only passenger train to run between the cities since 2012 is the Northern Explorer, which is marketed as a premium tourist offering, focused more on scenic views than travel.
And finally while we’re on the topic of long distance trains, the new Auckland to Hamilton service now has a new start date of November 2 following being delayed by COVID disruption. This might not be the only service in the region long term though
Waikato regional councillor and chair of the rail governance committee Hugh Vercoe told Stuff they are also looking into a rail service that connects Hamilton city with Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville.
This combined with growth enabled by the new NPS could form a nice little regional network for the Waikato.
Home building unabated
There are obviously concerns about the future of the economy as a result of COVID, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the latest home consenting data. During June the Auckland Council consented over 1,400 building consents, the second most for any month over the last year and up 25% on the same month last year. It also means that over the council’s fiscal year they issued 14,780 consents, more than any other fiscal year since records began in 1990.
As you can see above, there’s also be a stark change in the mix of dwellings with a huge increase in townhouses and other more urban housing typologies. For June specifically, townhouses were the biggest category.
Speed limit changes
In at least a decent part of the opposition to the speed limit changes that came in a month ago, primarily in the city centre, in Rodney and in Pukekohe, was concerns about making journeys take a lot longer. A month in and AT have released the results of a survey of the impacts.
More than half of the survey respondents who were aware of the changes felt their travel time had increased. Data shows that within the city centre, the speed limit change has had little to no impact on average journey times.
Where increased average journey times have occurred, these have been less than 1 minute.
As expected, the catastrophising was just that for the sake of it.