Leading Image: Sacrificing pedestrian environments and green infrastructure to sell (electric) cars.

Why do both our major parties plan to spend billions of dollars on new roads and sprawl development of farmland?

Our government is catching up on the backlog of rural road safety issues, is slowly improving rail and public transport, is funding “three waters” infrastructure maintenance and upgrades to assist brownfields housing developments and has introduced internationally-renowned planning changes to enable regeneration of our cities. But they are also funding and enabling the infrastructure for sprawl, including new roading projects.

And National has proposed roads.

If it seems like a good compromise to add new roads as well as public transport, and to build OUT as well as UP, you’re not properly understanding the problems of a sprawling city.

While we continue to sprawl and increase roading capacity, New Zealand will be unable to get its emissions trajectory on track. We’re currently set to emit 85 million tonnes more CO2e between 2021 and 2030 than would be compatible with our 1.5C goal. It seems both parties are in a type of climate denial. Understanding climate change but failing to provide consistent climate-appropriate policies is a behaviour called “implicatory denial of climate change”.

It’s not due to a lack of options. Land use and transport planning for climate is a well established field. Auckland has a compact city strategy and both “modeshift” and “healthy streets” form part of our transport plans. Yet billions of dollars are going into roading and infrastructure to support sprawl.

This election year it is reasonable to ask:

  1. Why do economists justify road building both ‘to accommodate growth’ when the economy is strong and ‘to stimulate growth’ when it’s not?
  2. Why do neither major party offer a consistently roads-light, climate-friendly, economically-responsible policy of transport and land use planning?
  3. What can we understand from National’s transport policy announcement being hosted by Beca, a consultancy providing the “technical expertise” used to justify our road expansion plans?
  4. If several sectors and industries need overhauling in tandem to bring the change we need, what will reduce the enormity of this task and make it seem less daunting?

This topic is the subject of a critical review paper in the journal Energy Research and Social Science called The Political Economy of Car Dependence.

Car-dependent transport systems are an important component of ‘carbon lock-in’, i.e. “the interlocking technological, institutional and social forces that can create policy inertia towards the mitigation of global climate change”

They exposed:

a deeply self-reinforcing system, apparently immune from economic and political pendulum swings, able to bend the forces that sway the rest of the society to its purpose. In some ways, it is a comprehensive (and rather depressing) political economy anatomy of carbon lock-in.

Yet there is hope in the paper:

Can we learn any lessons here in breaking free from these interlinked elements of lock-in? We believe the answer is affirmative…

we show that moving past the automobile age will require an overt and historically aware political program of research and action.

The paper delves deeply into five elements of car dependence and how they reinforce each other:

  • the automotive industry;
  • the provision of car infrastructure;
  • the political economy of car-dependent land-use patterns;
  • the provision of public transport; and
  • cultures of consumption of the automobile.

In this post I will just look at some aspects of the first two.

The provision of car infrastructure

The paper details how the introduction of the motor vehicle led to changes in how we use our streets, in the street environment itself, and in traffic regulations. Together, these changes made walking, cycling and using public transport slow and inconvenient. This history of how our transport system became inequitable clarifies the need for policy to reverse the situation now. Whether the Labour Party’s values of equal access and social justice or the National Party’s values of equal opportunity and personal responsibility are followed, we need to see road space reallocated and regulatory rights for (non-driving) users re-established.

The paper then moves onto the subject of road building and widening.

Road building typically requires large, expensive, state-funded projects and thus considerable political justification and legitimization. We argue that five typical ‘strategies of legitimization’ can be identified.

Let’s look at these in turn.

The first of these includes two apparently contradictory appeals to economic growth. First, the necessity for road building can be presented as arising from economic growth, as more economic activity means more car ownership and use, in turn leading to additional road space requirements… The second variant sees road building as being required for economic growth, despite the weak empirical evidence on this relationship…

These arguments are extremely effective, as they justify road building under any circumstances, and invoke economic growth, which is routinely considered a political imperative.

Boom or bust, the argument is always for more roads.

The second strategy appeals to ‘popular consumerism’, which sees growing consumption by the public as inherently positive and worthy of encouragement. This argument assumes that increasing car use reflects ‘consumer preferences’ and thus deserves to be provided for with additional dedicated infrastructure…

A third justification is based on the idea that roads assist with regional development and the reduction of spatial economic inequalities, by facilitating economic growth in the regions in which they are built…

The combination of this more left-wing justification with the more right-wing appeal to popular consumerism is particularly powerful, as it means that road-building can be justified from across the political spectrum, and is thus easy to present as an obvious policy choice that has “transcended party differences… Road building and maintenance can thus come to be seen as a matter of basic political common sense… This means that many of the justifications for road building discussed here, despite being firmly in the repertories of the ‘road lobby’… often do not even need to be voiced.

Left or right, the answer is always more roads.

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford leads the ribbon- cutting to open new traffic lanes on the Southern Motorway. The Pescara Point pedestrian bridge in the background will open next year.

The ribbon-cutting for new traffic lanes on the Southern Motorway.

A fourth strategy of legitimization presents road building as the main solution to the problems generated by increasing motorization. Here it is argued that new (and ‘better’) roads will reduce congestion (by providing the necessary space for handling traffic ‘flows’) and improve safety (through the segregation of different types of traffic, e.g. long-distance and local)…

[but] greater road provision can result in increased traffic, through the mechanism of ‘induced demand’. The resulting feedback loop – whereby more roads create more traffic, which in turn leads to calls for further road building – has been identified as a key driver of the self-reinforcing dynamic of car dependence. This ultimately results in the exacerbation of the congestion and safety problems that road building was supposed to solve.

Image credit: Greater Greater Washington

A final legitimization strategy is based on technical expertise: road network expansions are officially sanctioned to be in the general public interests (on a scheme-by-scheme basis) by experts applying appraisal methods that are considered to be objective and scientific. Traditional transport planning approaches and mainstream economics methods of appraisal such as Cost-Benefit Analysis often have a bias towards road building, for example when they disregard or underestimate induced demand, or privilege motorists’ travel time savings over environmental impacts and accessibility for all road users. In practice, though, these approaches and methods are often used to confer legitimacy to transport decision-making (on grounds of scientificity and neutrality), even when the decisions are taken mostly on other grounds.

Image Credit: Andy Singer, via fietsprofessor on twitter

A key goal of the road lobby is to ensure that road expenditures are insulated from competition with other spending priorities, as well as from political scrutiny and the consequences of alternation of different parties in power. This can happen when governments, for a range of reasons, earmark funds or adopt investment appraisal and decision-making procedures that are biased towards road building.

The automotive industry

We don’t manufacture cars in Aotearoa, but the automotive industry’s influence is international.

Large economies of scale and capital intensity in the car industry mean that high levels of production are required to recover incurred costs.

There are many negative consequences from this. For example, the industry fights:

tooth and nail against threats to its established business models, and… lobbies to water down regulations on issues such as safety and the environment.

The vehicles we buy are therefore less safe and more polluting than they could be..

Another implication is that

new and used vehicles depreciate rapidly…

[so] households are more likely to acquire a car in response to a change in life situation than they are to dispose of it when there is an equivalent change in the opposite direction…

In turn, the resulting high car ownership impacts our transport choices:

the cost of public transport trips (at least when paid on a pay-as-you-go basis) tends to compare unfavorably with the perceived marginal cost of an additional car trip.

Second, the multipurpose nature and surplus capacity of cars has wider implications for how people relate to them, and can potentially explain why, once acquired, they tend to dominate individual travel practices.

In summary, to prop up the automotive industry, we end up owning too many cars, and can rarely choose a cheaper model suitable for just our particular needs. They are bigger, more multi-purpose, less safe, and more environmentally damaging than they should be. Owning these vehicles then means we choose to drive for trips that should be done by other modes.

In turn, this lock-in to our vehicles influences mindsets – of people submitting, lobbying, designing, voting, and making decisions on our behalf.

The paper gives details on the many other elements that have led to our unhealthy dependence on cars.

The five elements of car dependence reinforce each other as follows:

Each cell shows causation in one direction, with the titles of the columns showing the cause, and the titles of the rows showing the effect.

Some conclusions:

Policies for moving away from car dependence will be wise to address the five interconnected elements together…

suburban sprawl can be seen as the effect of state capture by the car-dependent transport system, rather than an outcome of citizen preferences…

Our major political parties – whether their leaders claim climate change is this generation’s nuclear free moment or just a phase the kids are going through – are obliged to spend our money in a way that serves us and future generations best. This requires creating a low-carbon transport system and compact urban form, not building roads and abusing our ecology with sprawl.

With billions of dollars and huge, negative outcomes at stake, a gradual shift towards sustainable policies won’t be sufficient. Government needs to acknowledge the influence of the political economy of car dependence, and boldly overhaul our legislation, regulations, plans and processes.

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  1. Spotted the other day in Wellington. A large car carrier tied up to the wharf. And on the wharf row after row of large SUVs ready for their next cross country trip to the supermarket or crossing streams on the way to a school drop off.

    1. SUVs are often bagged but the diesel ones are often surprisingly economical compared to petrol cars – e.g. my brother in laws Hyundai Santa Fe doing 6.7 l/100km on a trip Nelson two Christchurch and back 5 people & luggage in vehicle. This is better than many petrol cars, certainly large petrol cars. OK there is the additional particulate pollution from diesels.
      But I guess this article is really about cars in general and as we know EVs do absolutely nothing to fix congestion, in fact may make it worse. If you no longer feel guilty about polluting while driving you may well tend to drive more in your zero emission “1 tonne metal jacket” (often more like 2 tonne)

      1. Can you please and elaborate on your ‘factual’ claim that EVs make congestion worse ? It doesn’t make any sense

        1. And Jevon’s paradox. Make something cheaper – and running costs are cheaper for an EV – and people use it more. Also, people who are socially-minded, and for whom their realisation of the problems associated with emissions and air quality has been an influence in buying an EV, will naturally also feel that an EV imposes less on society than an ICE vehicle, and will feel more free to use it more. The implications on traffic volumes and danger isn’t so obvious to some people.

    2. Perhaps the Government could set up a committee or Quango and appoint you to decide what type of transport each person needs. Clearly they are not making very good decisions for themselves and would benefit from your superior thoughts. We could all fill out an application form and submit it to you and then put our names on a waiting list for whatever mode you consider best for us. Maybe you could tell us what we can and can’t eat for lunch as well.

      1. Did you think that would sound funny? In fact it sounded mean.


        We shouldn’t have to campaign so hard to have clean air and safe streets. Rather than seeing Paul’s criticism of SUV’s as being a limit on personal freedoms, it would be better if you could understand that our unhealthy and unsafe transport system – including the vehicles that the industry is convincing the public to buy – is a limit on personal freedoms.

        1. Yes it did read a bit meaner than I had intended. My apologies to Paulc for that. My clumsy point was we live in a market economy where people sell things simply because other people want to buy them. It ensures we have bread, vegetables and coco pops. Countries have tried a system where some people tried to tell others what they could have and it didn’t work out so well, not just in the inevitable shortages but also the limits it placed on human rights. Fred Hayek said the road to serfdom starts when a group of well meaning people think that it would be better if good people just like them got to make other people’s decisions for them.
          I don’t drive an SUV. But if I want one I will buy one. If Paulc doesn’t like seeing rows of SUVs perhaps he shouldn’t look at them.

        2. Miffy, We live in a mixed economy where some things are provided by the government, and externalities are handled through a mixture of tax, regulation, and legal redress. Operating an SUV frequently in Auckland appears to damage other people and their property, violating a basic libertarian principle.

        3. How is an SUV any different to driving a large ute, a Holden Commodore or a Ford Mustang? Most SUVs use less fuel than those vehicles and most I see are carrying more people. Most are driven more carefully. None of this shit is based on anything other than spitefulness.

        4. “….we live in a market economy where people sell things simply because other people want to buy them.”

          I want to point out that marketing exists, and runs at about 1 % of GDP in the USA, UK, Oz…
          Most things people buy are heavily influenced by this.
          People need to know that a product/service exists and also FEEL that they need it.

        5. Car usage is not simply a matter of market economics reflecting user preferences. Cars are supported by massive amounts of public money and other public policy benefits.

          If all transport modes were 100% user funded then our environment would look very very different.

      2. If someone’s choice of vehicle impacts on others then yes. You can restrict access to certain things without needing a government organisation to allocate choices, this can be done with either bans or taxes.

        1. Yes I am all for Pigouvian taxes, but where is there any evidence that SUVs are a major problem?

        2. Of course SUV’s a major problem! They’re an inherently inefficient and over-heavy automobile that give a poor return in mileage for the amount of Diesel they consume. Their Diesel fumes are worse for the environment than petroleum-fueled vehicles. And they’re basically about image (and reassuring the sort of people who buy them), it’s not like most models are suitable for ever taking off-road.

          4×4 vehicles should be a tool for work, not for urban people to clog up the streets with.

        3. Bollocks. Rav4 2 GX 6.0L/100km or Hybrid 4.8L/1100km. Compare that with the Camry GL 7.8L/100km.

        4. I was mainly thinking of the higher clearance impacting visibility for others and also worse outcomes for pedestrians who are hit.

          I’m not too worried about smaller SUVs as they are just glorified cars, Utes are my bigger concern for the reasons above.

        5. Manufacturers’ fuel consumption figures are only good for comparison purposes, as carmakers admit, they are not real world figures. Even modest sized SUVs are quite heavy (1500-2000kg), so they will consume more fuel than the average-size car.

  2. OK – here’s a conundrum. My car got stolen the other day, and the insurance payout is not really enough to buy a new one. I have a couple of options: buy another car (would have to be a cheap old dunger) or start a car-free life. While I’d like to buy a EV, their cost is way outside my budget. I’m lucky that i can walk to work, so a car is purely a weekend thing for me, but when i do go away for the weekend, I need something more than a bicycle as there are a few mountains in the way. There is a train, but it takes way longer than the car did. Suggestions? Anyone have the stats on car ownership costs?

    1. Options include InterCity bus and a rental car for weekend trips. With no overseas tourists i presume there must be some good deals with rental cars. Northern Explorer is coming back at Christmas and now even talk about it running during the next school holidays.

    2. I suggest you calculate how many km’s you are expecting to drive. Then work out cost of rental car for that many km’s. That will give you a figure to compare against the cost of owning a car.

    3. Oh no, but could be life changing. Investigate car hire. How frequently do you visit the beach? Every weekend? Twice a month?

      Don’t forget to include car storage, insurance, maintenance, tyres, etc in your calcs. I know lots of people in Melb and Sydney that store stuff in their apartment parking space, or sub let it, and use hire cars to get to their baches on weekends. Often with some kind of annual deal.

      I don’t know if our market is that mature, but right now hire companies all have surplus cars cos of the tourism slump. They ought to be keen on a regular customer….

    4. In 2015, the Australasian Railways Association did a comprehensive analysis, called “The Costs of Commuting; An Analysis of Potential Commuter Savings” which sets a lower bound (clearly if you’re in Auckland or Wellington the costs of parking, etc, will raise this considerably and costs have risen since.) They found:

      – The average New Zealander commuter pays $11,852.98 per annum in car ownership and running costs.
      – For those that decide to not own a car and commute with public transport instead, New Zealand commuters on average can potentially save $9,065.78 each year.

      NZ Stats show the average household spend $77.30 per week on purchasing a vehicle, and $74.60 on private transport supplies and services, so that’s $7900 a year, but I suspect it doesn’t include the cost of parking.

      This one is interesting from the US, which takes the AAA figures and converts them to a cost over a lifetime of US$1,906,060.52 : https://www.doughroller.net/money-management/surprising-lifetime-cost-car-ownership/

      I know the AA have an estimate too, but I just can’t see it at the moment.

      The situation you’re in is really an opportunity that most people with cars don’t have. You can give car-free living a try and see how it suits. Whereas when you own a car, using public transport can seem expensive compared to the marginal cost of another trip in the car.

      1. That’s only commuting costs Heidi. Car owners use their car for more than just commuting. Non-car owners tend to restrict their lives to where and when PT can take them there. They lose their freedom of movement.

        The article makes a fundemental flaw in that it links car dependency (which is a propaganda term, the reality is car choice) with carbon emissions and then goes on to say we need to reduce car use accordingly, but in fact cars will just become electric over time.

        People are not going to give up wanting their own on-demand transport. It’s one of the biggest progressive revolutions of humanity, so you may as well get used to the fact we will always plan society around roads.

        1. For office workers; the most usage of the automobile is from commuting. And given traffic jams; it’s often wasteful.
          I don’t hear much about gridlock in the weekends (except in Sydney Australia on Saturday mornings)

        2. It is both — a car surely comes in handy if you want to travel to the 99.9% or so of places in NZ which are unreachable on public transport.

          On the other hand having to use a car for everything is more like a millstone. It is expensive, and once you’re in a populated area it also gets clumsy and dangerous. Do you have any experience dropping kids off at school? That is a proper pain in the butt if you have to do it by car.

          It doesn’t make sense to take away the choice to drive to places, but it also doesn’t make sense to take away the choice to ride a bicycle if you’re only going a few kilometres.

        3. @roeland
          To be honest with you; it’s absurd to me how it’s become the norm to drop your kids off at school by car.
          I was never once dropped off at school. I always either walked, took the school bus, cycled or took the the train (and then drove myself in the final year or so).

          Why on earth do people wear out their automobiles for what’s usually repeated cold-engine running and waste their petrol?

    5. Possibly a Cargo e-bike? That bit bigger if you need to grab a few groceries etc. Also can add a trailer for large items. Then see if there is a car share programe in your city (Theres a couple in Auckland/Well already) and hire cars for the weekends away. There is a little bit of admin involved but unless you spend every weekend out of town I think the costs would be in your favor.

    6. Thank you all. Excellent suggestions. Definitely too far to get to the beach on a cargo bike (there’s a motorway involved) but that’s a good suggestion for round town. Thanks for the link Heidi, i’ll check it out.

      1. When my husband finally sold his (almost never used) car last year, we thought we’d be using CityHop and hiring cars to go out of town. And we still intend to, but we haven’t actually done so. What we’ve found is that every time there’s a choice of how to go, the bus is the better option. I’m not saying it would be for everyone because it does take longer. But I imagine you might find it similar sometimes, Guy. And if I had the choice of a train, I’d be jumping at it, even if it’s longer than driving.

        There’s a real joy in not having to concentrate on driving and on seeing the scenery from higher up (particularly InterCity coaches). Particularly when you pass the big logging trucks and think, “Glad I’m not driving near them.” There’s also a real joy in exploring public transport like this and building up a different set of knowledge and skills.

        1. An outing on PT with small children is a great way to occupy time too and they find it way more fun than a car trip.

          When we went to one car we thought we would use City Hop a bit too, have never used it. I’ve hired a car a couple of times when meeting friends in the Central NI for climbing trips but that’s about it.

        2. Jezza – You can uses an EV for local urban running which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than a fossil fuel powered vehicle.

      2. For the beach house: Ebike + train, and Bob’s your uncle. Railway station in spitting distance and the E to cruise the hill regardless of groceries/ booze on board! Otherwise, Mevo

    7. Do what you want to do. If you want the convenience of a car and want to be able to go anywhere you want whenever you want then buy a car. If you get pleasure out of the hassle of not owning a car then don’t own a car. You know you and what your priorities are. You have to weigh up the personal utility you can get from a car versus the personal utility you can get from telling everyone you know that you don’t own a car.

      1. Yes. I hadn’t thought of that relative benefit: There really isn’t any personal utility from telling everyone you know that you do own a car, is there? You’d just look like a tosser.

        Mind you, I think people get plenty of social mileage from talking about parking hassles, don’t they? So maybe I’m missing out on that one. 🙂

    8. I would face a similar dilemma if my car disappeared.

      I’m considering Cityhop car share, instead of another car. Or just rent a car , depending on how often you travel out of town.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. However I can’t help thinking that the car is the only transport option for the vast majority. This means quality roading is essential and will continue to be an ongoing requirement needing substantial investment.
    Leaving aside all the negativity with internal combustion, which will eventually be replaced with electric propulsion, the preference for individual private transport vehicles will always be preferred.

    1. Exactly. The motorways are chocka up here in Auckland on the weekends.

      PT is not an option for the majority of people who want to get out and about most of the time.

      For me, If I want to go to Sylvia Park or the city, the train is an excellent option. However, if I want to go to multiple destinations and pick up groceries or hardware etc. the car is the mode of choice.

      1. Hence an article on reducing that dependence. 90 % of what I buy from Bunnings I can carry so I walk, for the other 10 % I drive. I’m lucky though as I live near Bunnings, unfortunately we’ve set up our cities so realistically most people need to drive even if they are just getting a couple of door hinges.

        1. We going to the likes of bunnings and mitre10, I find there is a very small window of items that are too big to carry in a bag or my hands, but still small enough to fit in my car. It’s usually a box in the hand or delivery for me.

          It reminds me of someone who once said in all seriousness “I have to drive to the mall, how am I supposed to take a new fridge freezer home from Noel Leeming on the bus?” I just asked how regularly he bought a new fridge freezer, and whether it fits in his Corolla.

        2. And of course it is simply much easier for everyone if you just ask Noel Leeming to deliver. There’ll be a $20 delivery fee or something similar, but no strained back for you, no chipped paint on the doors, no scratches in your Volvo. You just pay, and walk away.

        3. Someone just bought a washing machine from Noel Leeming. Delivery was $150 so nah. Hooked up the trailer. 5 minutes job done. No scratches or chipped paint. No waiting on delivery house arrest. I could walk to bunnings but I’m normally in a rush to get something finished. Try carrying back 80kg of cement or a 6 m long stack of 4 by 2’s.

        4. If you own a trailer and a car with a towbar it makes complete sense to go and pick up the washing machine, especially if you live in a rural area where delivery fees are higher.

          Less than half of cars in Auckland have towbars fitted though, and an even smaller portion of the population own a trailer. Once the cost of fitting a towbar and buying/hiring a trailer is accounted for, delivery will be the cheapest and least hassle option even for the majority of car owners.

        5. Yes. The paper explores how buyers are convinced that the vehicle they buy needs to fulfill multiple different purposes – however rare those trips are. There’ll be many people out there with vehicles capable of towing heavy loads who might do this trip once every 2 years – so they’re wasting fuel and polluting our air every day on the basis of a one in 2 years trip.

          Redesigning our freight and parcel delivery system is actually quite a fun topic I’ve been saving up information on for a while but I haven’t found the time to write about it yet. We can do it so much more efficiently and safely than we do.

        6. Delivery for whiteware from Noel Leeming is $79 within 50km of a store. You must be living somewhere very remote to be charged double the standard fee.

        7. This example doesn’t matter much anyway. How often do you buy a new fridge, compared to eg. getting groceries or going to work?

      2. Vance – The reason the roads in Auckland are chocha, it is 50 odd years of short sighted bad car based urban planning, has create the sprawling mess to what Auckland is today. Despite the planet is warming every minute of very day, all the bureaucrats in Auckland Council and central government have their talk fests to make Auckland sustainable environmentally friendly livable city and region only to come up with lets build more roads and continue the sprawl solution.

    2. Hopefully you will enjoy reading the paper, too.

      “the car is the only transport option” = car dependence

      The paper is about how to overcome this problem. Our agencies are having to work hard to increase transport choice. You’ve expressed the mistaken tendency to justify substantial investment in new roading based on the failures of the current (roads-first) transport system to provide for our society’s needs.

      The best way to approach understanding this is to remember that many people don’t drive. These people are the ones most likely to be facing transport poverty, so it is their needs that we must attend to.

      Updating our roads to be the ‘quality roading’ that meets our knowledge of what society needs will cost a lot of money. It’s critical we don’t make that job bigger by continuing to add more roads.

    3. There is another aspect to car-ownership that Heidi has not addressed here – the zone of personal space, especially for intimate acts. Let’s face it, a car does enable two occupants to take a personal bubble of space away from immediate family and friends and permit kissing / snogging / making out on the back seat in a way that a cargo bike or public bus rarely caters for. I know, I know, base thoughts indeed and surely you could just walk to a local park instead, but for younger members of society in particular who want to get their rocks off, a car has great advantages. Frowned upon in a taxi, actively discouraged in an Uber, practically impossible on a Scooter, and downright uncomfortable on a bicycle, there is plenty of sexual freedom in a vehicle, as promised in a hundred love songs from the 70s and 80s. Little Red Corvette? Baby You Can Drive My Car? Take Me Home Tonight? Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Young people can’t go and rent a room by the hour, but they can take the family car and park up. I think if we’re being honest, we need to recognise this use as well.

      1. Ah come on give the young people ( and older ones) some credit for their own inventiveness. I’m sure courting couples in cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona found away around their lack of car based kissing seats.

      2. The other advantage to using a car is not having to sit with ferals.

        Let’s face it, it’s bad enough during the daytime, It’s even worse on a Friday or Saturday night when using public transport.

        Being stuck on a train or a bus with a bunch of thugs is not my idea of an enjoyable night out. Unfortunately feral behaviour is not dealt with adequately here and discourages people from using PT at certain times.

        1. I can’t say I’ve ever had that problem in a lifetime of using Public Transport in different nations.

          The only real trouble I’ve ever had was once upon a time when some schoolboys from a certain Catholic boys School in Silverstream Upper Hutt couldn’t handle copping their obnoxious behaviour back and made the mistake of trying to make it physical.

          Do you actually use public transport Vance?

        2. I’ve managed to use the train and Northern Expressway buses from time to time Daniel. I also use the airport bus when traveling.

          The train is very convenient for me to use as there’s a station nearby and there’s good bus options as well. More often than not, using a car is more practical.

          Unfortunately, living in South Auckland means you have to contend with the ferals on occasion.

      3. @Average Human
        I think that was more true in those cars from before the ’70s. You know, those ones with those big bench seats?

        Somehow folk in those Asian and European nations seem to be able to make out with no problem. They seem to do it discretely in public, like on public benches. Personally; I prefer that, I find that NZ’s public spaces are sterile and impersonal.

      4. I’d been thinking we could use cars as modal filters to create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Some of those lovely ones with the bonnet and boot taken off and planted with brightly coloured flowers. Or sculpted by an artist who’s good with a metalwork and can maybe twist two cars into a lovely embrace.

        But you’ve given me the idea that maybe we should use old VW Kombis that are no longer fit for driving. Sort of like a community space, for people needing a bit of time by themselves, or small groups of giggling preteens, or couples. The young ‘uns could bring their blankets, the boomers will like it because it’ll remind them of the good old days on their OE. What’s not to like? 🙂

    4. “the preference for individual private transport vehicles will always be preferred.” – Well I agree. Love my bicycle. We should be spending more money on that.

  4. I think it would be informative to survey those living in various suburbs of Auckland to find the levels of happiness, job satisfaction and incomes.
    Are families in distant suburbs the new poor?
    Do people like living in apartments?
    Do students living in distant suburbs achieve as well as those living within walking distance?
    Which groups attend more sporting or cultural events?
    Which suburbs do our international students prefer to live.
    Are people living in a stand alone homes more garden friendly?

  5. I hate to be dependent on cars just as I would hate to be dependent on public transport and walking or cycling. I am not keen on hire cars. I just don’t like the idea of giving the companies my credit card details from which they can deduct whatever they want. I use public transport whenever I can and haven’t being in a taxi for years including overseas trips. I have never being in an Uber.
    Unfortunately sprawl will be with us particularly if our population continuous to increase. When I look at Nationals plans for new roads and tunnels I wonder how many immigrants they intend to import if they get into power. How else will they pay for it. There is an interesting letter in today’s Herald which contrasts Nationals road building think big with Labours electrical think big project Onslow pumped hydro scheme which will enable us to move to 100 percent renewable electricity. I know which side I am on. But I am on side with National rail plans of extending electrification to Pokeno and introducing a shuttle to Huapai. Sprawl will be necessary but it shouldn’t be encouraged until other areas are built out and clean transport modes are in place. I call it green sprawl. Its much easier to build a cycleway in a new suburb than to try and retrofit it to an existing one. So the future is or should be electric. Sooner or latter trucks , buses and cars will be predominately electric. We must green up our grid it should be our number one priority.

    1. There are a number of things to be concerned about when handing over information but providing your credit card to a reputable rental company over a secure platform isn’t one of them.

      You can hire a car without a credit card, you just generally need to pay for the zero excess option though.

      1. That may be so but I don’t want any part of it. Still I won’t be around forever and the younger generation will do things differently.

    2. Thanks, Royce. I agree that sprawl shouldn’t be encouraged until other areas are built out and clean transport modes are in place. In practice, this means that sprawl being necessary at all is a myth. This is easy to understand when you look at the size of our city and what it could house.

      I wasn’t able to discuss the paper’s land use patterns but I will write more about this in future.

      1. Sprawl will be necessary if the number of people who are coming to live or coming back to live in New Zealand continues to increase. I do not want a repeat of the 2016 and 2017 housing crises where people mostly Pacific and Maori were forced to live in cars in South Auckland because the likes of Joyce’s and co wanted to pump up the economy with migrant workers and bogus student on residency enabling scam business courses.

        1. Hopefully I can convince you otherwise.

          We need to be building homes at pace, yes. This is true for all the people stuck in overcrowding and in places too far from where they want to live, as well as for all the increase in population we are likely to see (and NZ has become very attractive recently!)

          But this does not require sprawl. Rather, it shows the huge opportunity we have to radically improve our urban form.

          Improving the ‘three waters’ pipes, streets and other infrastructure in brownfields areas is far cheaper per home than building sprawl roads and infrastructure.

          And do we have space? Absolutely. Not by doing it with incremental 2 or 3 infill houses at a time. But by doing it well, with Barcelona or Paris level intensity, plenty of parks and green infrastructure, and a transport transformation.

          The city will be glorious. The only thing stopping us is this waste of time, effort and money that’s going into road expansion and sprawl development.

        2. I disagree that more urban sprawl is necessary.

          The town centres and urban suburbs of NZ have very low population density by world standards. Why not have the shops in the town centres of NZ on the bottom floor of 3-4 story buildings, with people living above them? It means more money for the building owners and more potential foot traffic for the shops. Why not have more low-rise blocks of flats, in the streets adjacent to the town centres?
          And why not repeat this sort of urban from near the transport nodes of the cities?

          It’s not like there’s not still plenty of suburbia of detached housing for you if you really can’t live without the back yard and feel intimidated by any crowds of people.

        3. The number of people moving to New Zealand doesn’t have to keep increasing. There was already a shift in eligibility requirements, I think early in 2019, and since the lockdown there has been a net outflow of people, which will continue for a while as the temporary visa extensions expire. Longer term, there is no economic or environmental reason to continue with our policy of rapid population growth (2%/yr cf world average of 1%)

        4. @Heidi
          I have long disputed the mantra that NZ has “a lot of space” for sprawl like the USA or Australia or South Africa do.

          A lot of NZ’s Islands are made up of mountain ranges which have little to no potential agricultural potential. I think it’s past time that NZ stopped encroaching sprawling on to agricultural land.

  6. An outing on PT with small children is a great way to occupy time too and they find it way more fun than a car trip.

    When we went to one car we thought we would use City Hop a bit too, have never used it. I’ve hired a car a couple of times when meeting friends in the Central NI for climbing trips but that’s about it.

  7. Great article Heidi. You asked, “Why do both our major parties plan to spend billions of dollars on new roads and sprawl development of farmland?” In addition to all the factors you mentioned from the article, surely Labour’s berserk “NZ Upgrade” announcement in February was partly or even largely electoral politics – they’ve seen roads play well for National and decided to preempt them with a complete reversal. There may be more to it but only the Cabinet & senior ministry people will know the details.

    If so, then to make progress we need both major parties to change.

    Yes, “both parties are in a type of climate denial”. But one of the strengths of the Zero Carbon Bill is that it will force a confrontation of this issue very soon. My understanding is that work is underway on emissions reductions plans for various sectors including transport. A few days ago, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that their government’s 2017 and 2019 climate plans did not fulfil their own 2015 climate law, being “excessively vague and aspirational”.

    I wrote about the incoming Irish government’s climate plan at https://blog.planetaryecology.org/2020/07/24/irelands-sensational-climate-plan/. It’s quite specific. 20% of all transport funding will go to walking and cycling. “Each local authority will be immediately mandated to carry out an assessment of their road network, to see where space can be reallocated for pedestrians and cyclists. This should be done immediately.” That’s what we need in New Zealand.

  8. I’ve been reading this site since the TransportBlog days and this is an issue that has been touched on a lot in passing but never really confronted head on. It’s very important cause this is at the heart of all of the problems with land use / transport planning / urban development in NZ. So good work Heidi, this article is one of the all time greats.

  9. Automobile dependency in New Zealand has become entrenched, people’s entire lives and the shape of urban living has been molded around it. It took more than 50 years, with lobbying behind it, to entrench it. So, unfortunately, it’s going to take some time and money to end it.

  10. A late reply to Miffy. Yes i do understand a bit about how economies work having spent most of my career working as an economist. Free market economies do work very well in supplying goods and services – good and bad. But even many neoliberals do realise behaviour can be usefully nudged in various directions – hence taxes on tobacco. Having emissions standards – like most advanced economies have – would shift some car buying behaviour – as would have the feebate scheme or a much higher price for carbon. Yes it does require some judgement about which direction we should point society in, but i would have thought given the need to drastically reduce transport emissions – and to make cycling and walking safer – that we should be discouraging – although not banning- the purchase of large SUVs.

    1. Where I live most SUVs are driven by women and are used as family cars. On the other hand most large utes (which have nothing on the back) are driven by men who see these vehicles as more manly. Your desire to tax and discourage SUVs may not be intentionally sexist but that doesn’t stop it from being so. Perhaps you could reframe your idea in terms of engine size or fuel consumption or emissions or some other measure of actual effects. Perhaps you could try and imagine yourself in the position of someone who needs to move their family around who likes a safer vehicle (larger are safer than smaller despite the star system) and who likes sitting a bit higher where they get a better view. Perhaps you should criticise sports cars before SUVs.

      1. I doubt there’s a person on here that thinks we should tax SUVs but not Utes, probably just omitted to mention them.

        1. Larger might be safer for those in the vehicles. But plenty of good studies that show that large vehicles do more damage to pedestrians and cyclists they might hit. And I did include double cab utes in my idea of SUVS. Sure a few plumbers and farmers use them but i see lots of soccer mums using them too.

        2. SUV’s are actually considerably less safe when driven at over 50km/h due to their higher centre of gravity. Older ones also lack crumple zones.

        3. King-cab style ‘utes’ have largely replaced the former choice of Falcon or Commodore family sedans. Curious that in today’s world, the major car manufacturers in the USA no longer make a family sedan – Ford USA now just make trucks (SUVs) and Mustang, leaving the smaller car sector up to Ford Europe (Focus etc). Chevrolet now make the Silverado (ute) etc and the Corvette.

        4. Paulc – completely agree, as I mentioned in a previous comment, it’s the pedestrian safety that concerns me with these vehicles not the emissions.

      2. miffy the whole conversation started because Paul saw a lineup of SUV’s. He discussed SUV’s because that’s what he saw. You’ve then based your argument on a misplaced idea that he was targetting SUV’s instead of all the vehicles that are less efficient than they need to be. Easy to lose the thread like this; we all do sometimes… but let’s accept that this is what happened here.

        But in saying, “larger are safer than smaller despite the star system” you’re displaying an untypical (for you) myopic thinking. Larger is not safer. The larger the average vehicle becomes, the higher the forces involved, and the larger the danger overall. Larger only provides safety to occupants due to relative size, ie larger is safer by domination. And that’s not the way forward.

        Also, in bringing up gender differences and claiming sexism, you’ve again followed one myopic pathway. If you want to discuss gender differences, you’re going to have to start at the beginning, which means understanding how our driving-based transport system excludes and restricts both women and men, and that women are excluded and restricted on average more so than men are. Specifically with regards to SUV’s and larger inefficient vehicles, both women and men suffer from the danger they present, the miscarriages and premature births due to air pollution, from the loss of children’s independent mobility that these dangerous vehicles contribute to, and from the fumey environment near schools as the culture of idling one’s suv there ramps up.

        We all suffer, but children suffer disproportionately, then women, and finally men.

        Could our friendliest resident troll please have a good night’s sleep or a mellowing cup of chai, and up the quality of discussion? 🙂

        1. Even better I went and picked some home grown zucchinis. That calmed me down especially since they have been selling at $30/kg.
          I accept pretty much all you have said, yes the whole system is skewed against children and women. But given where we are starting and accepting it would be better to start over, a larger car is typically safer than a smaller one because you have more steel in front of you so you are further from the energy dissipation point. Yes that only applies to occupants, but if you are going to cart kids around then most people buy to control the one thing they can actually control. If all cars were crash tested in one group then only large cars would get 5-stars. They split them into size categories so that some small cars can get 5 stars but your kids will be safer in the back of a large car than in a small 5-star car. But none of this has much to do with the debate of SUVs versus cars. The real difference is just how high up you sit. Some people like sitting high and going slow, some like being low down and going round corners fast as if they are on a race track. I would prefer a world full of people driving kids in SUVs than a world full of salesmen driving sedans like lunatics. As for the nonsense above about fuel consumption, they have all missed the point. SUVs are not just cars with additional weight. They are mostly designed for fairly sedate motoring while sedans tend to be tuned to accelerate faster, so now if you compare likely alternatives then there isn’t much in it. A Rav4 can use less fuel than a Camry, a 3.3L Kia Sorento uses less than a 3.3L Kia Carnival. A Mazda CX5 uses only a little more fuel than a Mazda 6 car.
          My real issue was we shouldn’t go thinking we know what size of car people should buy any more than we would claim to know what type of window coverings they should buy. (Except for Roman blinds, nobody should ever have those.)

        2. Zucchinis at this time of year? They must be in a warm spot; well done. I have some tiny capsicums, too.

          I think choosing a larger vehicle because it will inflict the damage on the other car is choosing to impose on others. And choosing a taller vehicle because you can see further, knowing the height will limit the visibility of all road users especially children, and inflict more damage on vulnerable road users in a crash, is choosing to impose on others. Choosing a larger or taller vehicle that pollutes others’ air more than a smaller vehicle is choosing to impose on others.

          And given how many of these drivers sit in their vehicles outside schools leaving the engines idling at pickup time – which is the ultimate in selfishness – I don’t think I’m far off the mark.

        3. They are called Partenon F1 from Kings Seeds for sowing late spring to early autumn. They are very dark green and taste great. I built a hinged cage covered in chicken wire to keep the neighbours 4 cats off but on cold nights I throw a plastic tarp over it. Mrs mfwic suggested we grow vegetables in case of a major economic depression or break down of civil society or something but so far all we have eaten is lettuces and zucchini but the broccoli is looking close. I have always been anti growing stuff in the past as when everything ripens usually the growers have theirs ready too and prices plummet. Perhaps I will have to build a greenhouse and take up the hobby seriously and give up trolling.
          But telling people what car they should have is a bit like telling people who they can marry. Most people make totally weird choices but they seem to like their own choice so surely that is what matters.

        4. Ah Miffy, retired as a frustrated transport consultant, gone green as a zucchini consultant, but shying clear of being marriage cosulantant.
          When I was a young engineer I was given a definition of a consultant.
          The lad who knew the 54 ways in the Karma Sultra to make love but had yet to get himself a girl friend.

        5. Nice. Worth trying, because August zucchinis are pretty special. At the local community garden they’re using cloches now made from insulnet (I use them when I’m gardening seriously too) but up at the garden they’ve been recording soil temperatures, and the difference has been 3 degrees or so. Which is worth it. Also finding they’re keeping the moisture in well which is (worryingly) important at the moment.

          I’d never tell anyone who to marry but a few laws to keep us healthy and protect the vulnerable don’t go amiss. 🙂

    1. A bit sad that we blew the one true chance we had… the disappearance of traffic was wonderful, and transformative. Pity it is back to “normal” now.

  11. This discussion of the political economy of the car doesn’t discuss the huge infrastructure of jobs and businesses that underpin the car economy – auto-electricians, panel beaters, tyre shops, battery shops, wreckers, spare parts outlets, spray painters, mechanics of every description, muffler and brake specialists, WOF & servicing centres, gas stations and their vast infrastructure of fuel tankers, real estate and staff – I would not be surprised if the wider automotive sector contributed over 25% of all economic activity in this country. Now, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who works in this vast hinterland of blue collar support for the internal combustion engine economy who would be keen on trading it in to become a minimum wage wheel jockey at a bike shop. To replace them all by market mechanisms would require a revolution in electric propulsion vs. internal combustion engines akin to the advantage the car gave over the horse. Not much thought seems to have been given to how to manage this transition, but simply ignoring the potential fate of people involved in this sector is not a good idea in a democracy where those people have votes.

    1. Consumers vote in even bigger numbers. If the majority of car users find an electric car cheaper to run or they feel better driving it, then muffler shops will have little option but to adapt.

    2. It is being felt around the world to a far greater degree than in New Zealand. In Detroit, obviously, the car manufacturers deserted the city and it has been largely destroyed – massive decline. To a far lesser extent and as a better managed example, the German car market is also facing massive decline, with BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Audi all looking at ways of electrifying their fleet without losing thousands – even millions of manufacturing jobs. Closure of engine-manufacturing plants is the leader, with all that expertise in precision engineering potentially disappearing. I believe the Germans are taking a proactive approach rather than the ‘Hands Down for Detroit’ approach – but they’re still worried. Our problems are minuscule by comparison.

    3. Agree, Sanctuary. It’s what drew me to help set up a Transition Town group 13 years ago, and it’s something I’d love to research more. We’ll get pushback from some of the people employed within the industry if they don’t see an alternative economy emerging and political support for the transition.

      There are clearly better things to spend our money on than maintaining expensive equipment for mobility when we can meet that need more cheaply (and with better outcomes). In addition to some robust scenario mapping and NZ-specific economy/industry planning, we need to start simply levelling playing fields as we find opportunities to do so. This will allow entrepreneurs to lead the way in an organic fashion.

    4. You’re right these industries do employ a lot of people. And ending car dependency would put a big dent in those industries. However not as big a dent as what market mechanisms will eventually do to those industries anyway. How do I know? Cause this is a continuous process that has already been happening for decades.

      There used to be service stations in every tiny rural settlement and just about every major intersection in some cities. Now cars are a lot faster, more reliable and have longer ranges on a single tank. So there’s no market for small service stations anymore.

      Mechanics that provide WoF services used to be more common. Now cars aren’t required to have the WoF renewed as often, and when they do there’s generally less maintenance needed. So now there are fewer mechanics around.

      All cars used to expensive and of body on frame construction, so were worthwhile to repair after a crash and it was feasible to do. Now most cars have a monocoque chassis with crumple zones and are a lot cheaper than they used to be. So it’s expensive and often not worthwhile repairing crashed cars (just buy another used Japanese import). Hence crash repairs aren’t as big business as they used to be.

      Electric cars will still need some servicing but a lot less than a current ICE car does. This reduction in running costs will be just one more incentive to switching from ICE. Although if left to the market it still won’t be fast enough to address the climate crisis.

      A potential sector to redirect labour towards is recycling. Extracting the minerals for batteries out of the ground is very environmentally destructive. It would be a lot better to get those minerals out of old batteries instead. Currently that doesn’t happen enough because the environmental destruction isn’t priced in to the material supply chain.

    5. And yet that transition is already under way, ready or not. My total servicing bill for my (electric) car in the past year left me change out of $60.

    6. There used to be a huge industry around horses as well. Should we have kept riding horses to keep those people in jobs.

      I mean why not? Saddle subsidies instead of road and fuel subsidies.

  12. Increasingly I think that car dependency in New Zealand (and especially in Auckland) is part and parcel of the even thornier problems of housing poverty and job insecurity.

    If you’re required to both live wherever you can afford and work wherever you can get a job – no matter how far one is from the other – then in many situations the easiest answer to reach for is “car”, especially if you’ve got early/late/unpredictable starts and finishes, or have family and friends in that situation to consider, or simply if you need to be able to accept a job that requires own transport or at least a driver’s license if one comes up.

    We might need parallel transformations in housing and employment before we start to seriously shift the dial on car dependency for the mass of New Zealanders. I look around my neighbourhood at living standards that seem to have barely shifted or improved in 20-25 years and wonder what kind of rising tide is going to be needed to lift those boats.

    1. Yes. This is one of those situations where tinkering isn’t going to help much. The issue is huge. Trying to solve each problem independently gets undermined if the others aren’t solved at the same time. If we acknowledge the interconnectedness and attempt to solve them all at the same time, every aspect of the change becomes easier, assisted by the work being done on the other aspects.

      Low level infill, for example, is just tinkering. It creates concern about ‘parking problems’ when in fact incremental sprawl creates bigger parking and congestion problems.

      Comprehensive block-by-block development of 4 to 5 storey ‘perimeter housing’ developments around beautiful leafy parks, supported by undergrounding the power, upgrading the pipe infrastructure, providing healthy streets with trees and protected cycling and bus priority, etc, plus planning properly for schools and other services altogether reduces vkt and emissions, improves access and social outcomes, improves green infrastructure and stops farmland being destroyed… and much, much more.

      We need a leader with vision. Or maybe Jacinda can do this – but she’d need to change her political advisors and find some political strength to lead.

  13. I’m not for public transport or for roads, but I do support a properly priced transport system so that resources are well allocated whilst also meeting goals of improving total per capita welfare (wellbeing).

    Roads are substantially underpriced and moves should be made to address this issue, e.g:
    – fully priced parking (return on asset) by councils
    – congestion tolls
    – vehicle local air pollutant emissions excise tax
    – fully ring fencing crash costs so they are born by road users via an excise tax or other.

    From a social perspective there is a need to provide a full coverage PT system so that those without alternate transport means can access all O-D movements at maximum frequencies of say 30min. This can be provided by a mix of fixed routes, on-demand transit to hubs and even on-demand point to point transit

    1. On-demand transit proposals are largely a product of car dependent thinking.

      People usually travel as individuals or couples. An urban vehicle trip taken by one or two people is most efficiently taken by fixed route, fixed timetable buses. This gives both energy efficiency and maximum flexibility to the largest numbers of users. Larger groups may be more energy efficient in an individual vehicle, but only for the trip, not for the system. Every larger group that takes a car or van is doubling up on the system – the bus is still required for the individuals and couples, but misses out on revenue from the larger group, reducing system efficiencies.

      On demand transit seems to be an attempt to scale up private car use into a transport system, but efficient transport systems don’t start with car dependent thinking at their core.

  14. I have argued for years that “People *like* their cars and they *like* to use them”. Much if not most of the time, a car is simply far more convenient. It is not enough to provide alternatives; we also need to think about constraining car demand, politically toxic though that is.

    Disclosure: I have managed without a car for over fifteen years, and live in a city with excellent public transport, but there are times a car would have been extremely useful, by saving lots of journey time.

    1. What people like is the reliability and dependability of their cars. I was on my cold and frosty (as much as Auckland does frosty) walk to the train the other morning at 6am when what looked like a nightshift worker or somesuch emerged from an office building, walked swiftly to her very average small five door compact Japanese import, jumped in and it cranked over first time before she pulled out and headed home, presumably with the heater soon the kick in. That car will do that for her everyday, without fail, for years and years and years as long as she gives it a minimum of TLC. Contrast that with the dogs breakfast AT serves up on the trains every week. Missed transfers, different length trains turning up for unexplained reasons, cancelled services, track faults, closures whenever there is a holiday weekend. The PT network has a long, long way to go before it matches the reliability of even a trusty 2012 Toyota Yaris waiting patiently in the carpark for its owner.

      1. The times of day that the reliability of a car on the road network can be trusted are shrinking, of course, with frequent motorway jams and crashes causing serious delays. But research shows a reluctance to attribute this lack of reliability to the mode. It’s another part of car dependence.

        You’d both probably be interested in reading the sections of the paper on the provision of public transport and cultures of consumption of the automobile.

        1. Lack of reliability is annoying, but it is often that you’re usually 5 times as fast as PT, and today you’re only 2 times as fast as PT.

          If you’re crawling on the southern motorway at 30 km/h it feels slow, but you’re still advancing faster than the trains on the track next to you.

          If you have to wait 15 minutes at a ramp signal, that is annoying but it is still less than the typical time you have to wait to connect to another bus.

          If you get stuck for an hour extra, that is really annoying but your total round trip will still be less than what you’d achieve if you’d try to use PT.

        2. @Heidi You keep on saying that the our roads are unsafe but the very opposite is true, statistics prove this.

          795 people died in 1987, that was the peak, 353 people died last year, so despite having a much larger population and far more cars on the road significantly less people died. Why are you so obsessed with say our roads are more dangerous, when statistically they aren’t, you’re scaremongering.


        3. What other sector would you describe as safe if 353 people died, many thousands were injured, and the danger to people was curtailing the freedom of many people?

          Officially, we have a safety crisis.

          You’re out on a limb there, Torsten.

        4. Heidi is quite right. Over 10,000 people hospitalized a year in NZ from car crashes. It’s the number one cause of serious injury and the number one cost to the ACC system.

        5. Yes, Torsten, we’re better than we were in the past because in the late 1980s we started to do the easy wins in road safety (like blackspot treatment, random breath testing, etc), plus there are always gradual improvements like vehicle safety features. But we’re stalling on the politically trickier stuff (e.g. lower speeds, safer active modes). Meanwhile other countries have improved far more than we have over the same period because they’ve been more serious about road safety, so you have countries like Norway with the same population as us but 1/3 of our traffic fatalities.

        6. @Heidi I’m not on a limb, the statistics are clear, our roads are significantly safer today that then have ever been. In the end you can throw massive amounts of money at a problem but it will still exist because people will still make mistakes. Road deaths will never reach zero.

          Most people don’t look up the statistics so are easily bamboozled by the anti car we know whats best for you brigade. 353 appears shocking but when you put it into context with the carnage from the 80’s where less people drove and the population was smaller its a massive improvement.

          Somewhere between 200-250 roads deaths would be an achievable number, to achieve that we would also need to vastly improve our driver licensing standards, it’s far to easy to get a license in NZ and our driver training standards are rubbish.

        7. Currently it is road building that is having “massive amounts of money” thrown at it. We need to reallocate that money, along with road space, and remove car bias in our regulations and systems. That’s what this article is about.

          Concentrating on driver training is a tired argument intended to take the pressure off the system changes required; used by the industries trying to prevent change to the political economy of car dependence.

        8. @Heidi which is necessary because we haven’t spent anywhere near enough on our roads; the state highway network is extremely lacking compared to pier nations.

          I’m sure you’ve already worked it out motorised vehicles aren’t going anywhere any time soon. ICE vehicles will be replaced in due course by BEV’s, BEV’s will still need roads and associated infrastructure, chargers, hydrogen filling stations and improved safety.

          There will never be a mass conversion to PT in NZ, we don’t have the population to make PT frequent and with enough coverage to make it viable on a nationwide basis.

      2. Agree, my car always starts but the time it takes to get places can vary quite a bit.

        I’d say the reliability is pretty even during peak times, the good thing is there’s plenty of room for improvement with train reliability, not so much with car travel.

  15. The Nats’ love of roads and cars is easily understood. Labour’s less so.

    Twyford has bought into the neo-liberal construct of urban plannjng – ‘Up and Out’ – so that partly explains it. The truth is, if the government started to build housing en masse ala 1950s, we would need little if any of the ‘out’.

    I suspect the other explanation lies in the employment generating benefits of road building. Of course, they could do other things (like build more apartments) that would generate jobs…

  16. We do have a vehicle manufacturing industry in NZ, we assemble buses and trucks, and there are some smaller vehicle manufacturers, Fraser Cars, Rodin, Tempero.

    If we had funded road building properly over the past decades we wouldn’t be in todays situation where our roading infrastructure is as substandard.

    You can also make the same case for rail, power generation, water you name it and you’ll find under investment in NZ.

    This across the board, both mail parties have failed, NZ has been following the same neo liberal path laid out for us by Lange and Douglas in 1984. Baring some relatively minor differences National and Labour are both centralist parties, there’s nothing right or left about either of them.

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