As the title suggests, this is a guest post from new Minister of Transport, Michael Wood

Firstly I’d like to thank Greater Auckland for the warm welcome when I was appointed Transport Minister. Transport has been a passion of mine even before I was given the portfolio as a member of the Puketāpapa Local Board. My family are keen public transport users and I have to acknowledge the strong advocacy for better services TransportBlog/Greater Auckland community have led over the last decade. I have no doubt the City Rail Link and Auckland Transport Alignment Project would not have happened without you. I’d also like to acknowledge my colleagues Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter. They had a big task of turning around National’s years of neglect, but thanks to them we’ve got a fantastic platform to build off.

As the new Transport Minister, I know I have a big task ahead of me. Transport shapes people’s lives, it shapes the way our cities grow and the ability of our regions to connect and thrive. Prior to being an MP I spent six years in local government seeing how well thought through transport investment can improve the way that people can move around their communities and connect with a range of opportunities, with the Te Auaunga shared pathway being one project I was involved in. Equally, living right in the middle of rapid transit “void” in Mt Roskill, I have seen how failures to make good investment have the opposite effect. I’m also deeply aware in this portfolio of the sad toll that New Zealand’s historic failure to make our roads safe has on people’s lives. Every week I receive a weekly readout of the Kiwis who have lost their lives on our roads and I am determined to push on with the implementation of Road to Zero to save lives and stop people being seriously injured on our roads.

Auckland is projected to grow by 730,000 people over the next 30 years and we all know if we want to avoid gridlock 24/7 then we need to make sure people have real transport options. COVID has meant public transport patronage has taken a real hit, but I believe it will slowly go back to the pre-pandemic 100 million trips annually and continue to grow from there. Without expanding our options to help ease bus congestion in the CBD and building important rapid transit links like the City Rail Link and light rail from the city centre to Māngere, we will choke on our own growth.

I’m personally committed to light rail. I announced Labour’s commitment to it back in 2016 and it’s an issue I’ve campaigned on for years. I live down the far end of Dominion Road and while I still sometimes take the 27W or the 25L into town, pre-COVID it was at capacity. When we go back to the levels of ridership we achieved last year, our city centre will once again be clogged with buses. Add in the huge housing growth expected in Mt Roskill and Māngere, and we simply have to get light rail done to avoid clogging our streets. I expect to make an announcement on next steps next year and the Government will engage with Aucklanders much more on this important project.

While big projects like light rail and the CRL are part of our strategy, we also need to help let people leave their cars at home with other projects and initiatives. Through ATAP, we developed a mode shift plan to help us make the investments to support more people onto public transport and walking and cycling. Every person who leaves the car at home both frees up the road for those that have to drive and reduces our emissions. We’re working hard with Auckland Council to help embed this thinking into our refresh of ATAP. We’re taking a mode-neutral approach not just in Auckland, but around NZ, and this is underlined by our Government Policy Statement on land transport 2021. For the first time ever, one of our strategic priorities is tackling climate change, so every transport investment will be evaluated on how it contributes to reducing emissions.

While achieving more mode shift towards climate friendly transport options is a major part of our plan to tackle climate change, I’m well aware we need to do more given transport makes up a fifth of all NZ’s emissions and 47 percent of carbon dioxide emissions . When the Climate Change Commission delivers its emissions budgets next year, we know transport is one of the areas where we’re going to have to make big changes. I’m aiming to make announcements on our plan to reduce transport emissions in the coming months.

Laying the foundations for the future is one of our Government’s main priorities, alongside keeping New Zealand safe from the virus and accelerating our economic recovery. Transport is playing a big part across all of them. On top of maintaining essential airfreight to support exporters and securing our maritime border, we’re creating jobs through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme. NZUP is investing $6.8 billion in transport to save lives, get our cities moving and boost productivity in the country’s growth areas. It provides a pipeline of work for the construction industry sector over the next decade, and thousands of jobs will be supported in the sector and the wider supply chain. About 650 people are already working on the programme getting projects ready for construction, and Waka Kotahi expects to award $500 million worth of NZUP contracts before Christmas, and works on the third main rail line between Quay Park and Wiri are underway. And through ATAP, there’s already shovels in the ground on the Eastern Busway, Matakana Link Road, SH20B upgrades, the Puhinui Interchange, Karangahape Road enhancements, New Lynn to Avondale Shared Path, and the Constellation Bus Station upgrade.

While Auckland is very important to me, I will be a Transport Minister for all of New Zealand. I’m looking forward to working with local government on Let’s Get Wellington Moving and developing a rapid transit network for Christchurch. I’m going to continue the work of the previous transport ministers and keep supporting our regions, revitalising rail and implementing mode shift plans to unlock our biggest cities. My focus is on delivering these and other projects across the country to create jobs, support our recovery and get our cities moving.

There’s lots to do and we’re cracking on with it.

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  1. Very good. Said mode-shift twice, and a paragraph on climate action. Very encouraging.

    Key issues right now are how to shore up local authorities’ balance sheets, especially Auckland’s so that funding of PT services, as well as concrete and tarmac, can grow at the pace required to achieve those vital strategy goals? There’s modeshift keen to happen in our biggest city with improved; more frequent, and better prioritised current services, and safe on street bike lanes, so how can the new minister help (make?) AT deliver them?

    Also, GA; quite the scoop, and a great move by new minister to display his priorities and background.

  2. That all sounds great in theory but 3 years of nondelivery has left me feeling jaded. I’ll allow myself some optimism when I see contractors laying tracks up Dominion Rd.

    1. The Eastern Busway construction is only in full swing sort of recently but was planned, designed and talked about for years. Was held up by funding at one point admittedly and started before the Super City existed. These projects take years to start.

  3. Thanks Michael, really well written and im sure we say this for all of greater Auckland readers, that we are looking forward to the future with you as our transport minister.

  4. Thank you Michael. Very encouraging to have a local in charge of the country’s transport, and by extension, Aucklands transport investment fund.
    I would love to take this opportunity (if you’re reading the comments) to impress on you the viability and cost effectiveness of cycling. Hopefully there will be some increased investment in the area, in particular I’d love to see the isthmus (Manakau road) be connected through Newmarket, to k-road. This area is one of the most convenient places typographically to cycle from in Auckland and with next to no opex for the council and government, it would seem like a no-brainer.
    It’s also surprising quick, Onehunga train station to Britomart is 30 minutes if you get there as the train leaves, and 40 minutes if you bike but leave whenever you want. As soon as you aren’t going anywhere on the rail network its almost always faster to cycle. The only issue is the hair raising nature at the moment.
    AT seems to be dragging their heels significantly lately and a lot of the routes are not NZTA corridors. Is there a possibility to force AT’s hand?

    Thanks for the post. It’s good to know GA has some influence now!

    1. I agree cycling and walking are vitally important elements in reducing emissions and congestion. I think we should be focusing more efforts on local journeys, if families don’t think it is safe for children to ride or walk to their local school, they themselves wont ride to the dairy or library for the same reasons – they are unlikely to ride the 2-3 kms to a cycle highway.

      1. This ties in with Heidi’s point about low-traffic neighbourhoods, which are also the subject of ‘The Shared Path’ by the Helen Clark Foundation.

        “When well planned and executed, low-traffic streets and neighbourhoods can dramatically reduce traffic volumes, not only in the streets inside the low-traffic neighbourhood, but also in the surrounding residential area.”

        With lower traffic levels, streets become safer for walking and cycling.

  5. Thank you Michael. Keep in touch. Give us the reports that will help us better understand. Auckland is competing wifh Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai and LA and we must make it user friendly

  6. Great to hear Michael. What the public wants is less committees/consultants/reports etc and more action.
    Back in the day the Ministry of Works could come up with a plan and get it built (usually to a high standard) in a quick amount of time all without the aid of computers and other technology.

      1. Not much new that I haven’t already said but to reflect on the Newmarket viaduct that they built in 1967 that had to be replaced by a seismically much stronger one little more than 40 years later.

        1. Designed to be far too high by a railway engineer who didn’t realise cars could drive up and down slopes. Then replaced by an even higher viaduct.

        2. Erm I guess the understanding behind seismic protections and design hasn’t changed much in the 40 years since it was built….. oh wait it has!
          Nevermind that it needed to be replaced by a larger bridge anyway and a stronger one was just an added benefit….

        3. Driving south on the old viaduct you could see the new deck was higher. Once it opened you looked down on the old deck.
          The late Russell Dickson once told me he arrived back at the Ministry of Works in Auckland, after building dams in the South Island, too late to stop the Newmarket Viaduct being built so ridiculously high. In his words it was designed by a railway engineer.

        4. Figure 4 shows the lowest part of the new cross section is around a metre higher than the lowest of the old. You can call that mm if you like, somewhere around 800 to1000 of them. They built it higher. Every time I drove across it I thought of how Russell would have smiled and shaken his head.

    1. Didn’t the increase in gross weight of the trucking industry mean that the viaduct was under designed for the loads.

  7. Thanks Michael, I am optimistic this is going to be a great term. I look forward to seeing progress.

    I hope you can get traction on rolling out city-wide Low Traffic Neighbourhood Programmes, default Speed Limit changes in line with the Stockholm Declaration and Vision Zero, a National Public Transport Network, and rapid city-wide Safe Cycle Networks.

    And that you can explain to your colleagues that responsible climate action involves ensuring our city is compact – so the sprawl has to stop now.

  8. Thank you Michael! I know GA has had a huge impact, love them, but the single thing that stands out for me was Auckland City Council deciding to build and then board up the tunnel to Britomart before Britomart was confirmed. Hopefully we get all of light rail underway, but even a start would be better than nothing we’ve seen to date.

    Also congestion charging and bikeways.

  9. The statement that transport accounts for 20 percent of our transport emissions but makes up 47 percent of CO2 emissions is interesting. No doubt due to the methane from livestock. To me organic methane as opposed to leakage from oil and gas production is part of the natural carbon cycle and it breaks down relatively quickly to carbon dioxide when exposed to ultraviolet light. One idea I came across recently was to build some kind of mechanism to accelerate the oxidisation of the methane in the atmosphere to carbon dioxide. It seems to me that it would be the less problematic of the various geo engineering solution to climate change that has being put forward. I understand that they were experimenting with some kind of photo catalytic process.
    Anyway I will wait with interest for our ministers plan to decarbonise transport. May I suggest he takes a good look at how our railway can help. And he may need to look outside the conventual wisdom of what is suitable for rail transport and also where it can be delivered too and from.

    1. Methane will rise to the troposphere and stratosphere, where it will last (on average) for 9.6 years and 120 years respectively. Exposing the methane to chlorine will result in hydrochloric acid, that in the stratosphere leads to ozone destruction… Lower troposphere may avoid ozone damage, but is also irrelevant – How are you going to get chlorine produced and distributed in volume and height?

      I note that reduction in UV exposure has been seen to reduce the production of methane and nitrous oxides in plant matter, which for NZ isn’t a major contributor when compared to biogenic methane.

      Not my field though, so perhaps I’m missing something?

  10. No mention of congestion charging? Given that the report was released only a day or so back, I’d expect the Minister to at least mention it in this post.

    I suspect – I hope I’m wrong – that this, coupled with a huge silence on the subject from politicians on all sides since the report was released, means that congestion charging is dead in the water and they are just going through the motions so no one has to take the blame for officially cancelling it.

    1. This post may have been written before the report was published.

      Every party in parliament is onboard with the concept of congestion charging. A city center cordon (stage 1 in the report) would be uncontroversial. Implementations beyond that (stages 2 and 3) will involve some public debate.

      What Labour appears to be trying to do is build consensus around the issue so that it’s depoliticized, which is a good idea. That would explain why things have been a bit quiet about it.

      Also note that there’s still a lot of work needed before congestion charging can be implemented. The proposed scheme requires more detail so that legislation can be drafted and taken through the parliamentary process. It’ll actually be impressive if they get the legislation in place by the end of this term (2023).

      1. LB – yes, you are right, it is likely that this post wasn’t just knocked up over breakfast and posted immediately so was probably written before the report was released. The lack of a mention of congestion charging becomes more understandable, indeed it would have been wrong for him to mention it and give the GA editors a heads up on what was coming. My bad – I’ve fallen for a variation on the “its more likely to be a cockup than a conspiracy” theme.

        (This comment posted two days later, long after it ceases to have any relevance – but it is important to acknowledge that information I was missing has changed my mind)

  11. Hi Michael, can you follow up why our heavy rail still has high dwell time, slow speed and poor off peak frequency? This is an ongoing issue and there is a lack of progress.

    1. +1 the train speeds and dwell times in Auckland are appalling!
      While we’re talking about trains and since any form of LR/BRT to the likes of Kumeu is at least a decade away, can we please get HR trains out to Kumeu/Huapai?! KR has just spent lots of money upgrading the line and tunnels.

      1. It’d have to be a shuttle of some kind, either diesel or battery because electrification in the tunnel is pretty expensive. Then you have to make a transfer anyway, why not make it a bus, because the speed is the same or faster and its cheaper to run ( I presume ) and then we have arrived at the current operation.

        1. Electrification need not be that expensive, and tunnels aren’t necessarily more expensive either since you don’t need to build all the supports etc for OLE they bolt it from the ceiling.
          The point of using rail is that it is a congestion free corridor, whereas a bus will sit in the same traffic as cars and be a lot slower.
          Transfers aren’t hard at Swanson if needed.
          Probably the best solution would be BEMU though.

  12. Great! I don’t know if MP’s are usually bold enough to write guest posts but I can’t see why they shouldn’t, and I like it.

    Good to hear your views, Michael. Can you make sure we get told more this term? Everything was hush hush and it felt like the government hated the public.

  13. “I’m aiming to make announcements on our plan to reduce transport emissions in the coming months.” – I am so looking forward to this! What I’m expecting: Clean Car Standard made official, announcement on RUC exemption extension for EVs, increase to low-emission vehicle fund as promised. What I’m hoping for: a work package to look at FBT on utes vs EVs and on parking vs PT; further speed-up to cycleways; directives to councils to free up road space for cycling. What would surprise me: a date to ban the importing of ICE vehicles.

  14. Thanks for the post but I’ll believe the talk when I see the walk. NZUP projects in Auckland comprise three crappy road projects and take up bulk of $3.6b funding so maybe have a review of those and the opportunity costs of kicking worthier transport projects down the line. Good luck with northern pathway too – I hear that has some issues.

  15. “thanks to them we’ve got a fantastic platform to build off.”

    Yes, they’ve applied the brakes, turned the wheel, and you can can now step on the accelerator. Good wishes to you on this journey.

  16. Refreshing to see a Minister front on this blog.

    Consistency in message is strong.

    I’m impressed with the courageous support for light rail, but hope he has the strength to resist more large procurement cockups.

    Needs greater political skill on the transformational projects, and needs demonstrating.

  17. Great post. Looking forward to light rail.

    I would also like to see:
    – 1.5m gap when passing of cyclists mandatory.
    – straight through traffic (including foot traffic) should have right of way at intersections over turning traffic.
    – open up red light running, speeding, and parking in cyclelane/footpath enforcement to private companies. Revenue gathering should be the objective, split 50/50 between private company and government. Private companies like Wilson’s can be bastards, let’s put that to good use.

  18. Michael, when you are making decisions about the scale and scope of the new light rail line down Dominion Rd I hope you will settle on a cost and level of service that we can afford to replicate across the city. There are transport issues across Auckland and we don’t want to blow the kitty on one line that just serves a few hundred thousand people.

    1. Or conversely, think about the future more than a decade out where the nearly triple capacity of Light Metro will serve us well rather than a slow crowded street running tram.

      1. Are there any credible projections that the capacity of a street running system would get exhausted soon? Even if there was a capacity problem the best option might be to build another street running line on Sandringham Rd or another of the main arterials in the future when the capacity on the Dominion Rd line was exhausted.

  19. Great to see you here, Michael. Please do keep in touch with this community.

    Any thoughts on making e-bikes cheaper/easier for people to get, for some of those shorter local trips and last-mile connections from PT services?

  20. Michael, we last met when you announced Labour’s support for SkyPath in 2017 (pre-election). Unfortunately NZTA delayed the project by coming up with the grandiose Northern Pathway but that’s now dead in the water due to NZTA’s new plan for a busway + pathway bridge alongside the existing AHB.

    However as this will be some decades away, we need to talk about SkyPath as the lightweight, low-impact, low-cost, consented design as the interim solution. Sure NZTA dislikes it because it wasn’t their idea, but it is “shovel-ready” and has been begrudgingly approved as buildable by NZTA’s Board. Enough pontification, let’s do this.

  21. ” I live down the far end of Dominion Road and while I still sometimes take the 27W or the 25L into town, pre-COVID it was at capacity.”

    This is the part I like the most. He has experienced the PT system and most probably that it doesn’t often work as AT portrays it does. As an example published reliability figures relating to arrival times still seem like a huge fabrication.

    1. Their reliability figures purely relate to a bus starting from the beginning of the route and within a certain time window – they don’t measure anything past that point in terms of reliability or arrival at the end point of the run. It’s a metric designed to look good in reports, a demonstration that AT aren’t all that interested in the actual user experience.

  22. Dear Minister – Brilliant and Welcome. Great Start.
    I cannot imagine your todo list, and your challenges. But we’re jaded.
    Please get some easy low hanging fruit wins. Anything. We’ll Cheer.
    Road Cone off a lane of our bridge for the americas cup (and active transport) – you have a mandate – and my permission. Oh yeah – Ferry on the Manukau Harbour (its the other harbour…)
    Nga Mihi

  23. Great to have you sitting in the big chair Minister Michael and even better to hear you get out of it from time to time to ride the buses and trains. Now that you are the person that signs the Land Transport Rules into law and have majority Government behind you it will be good to see all sorts of progress in all sorts of areas.
    Making things simpler for Road Controlling Authorities to put the preferred projects into place will be one of those less sexy background administrative actions that could really help. Take Heidi’s call for low traffic neighborhoods – it would be so much easier if RCAs had the right tool kit of traffic control powers to put them in place. In fact it would be great if all the traffic control powers of RCAs were actually deliberately rationalised and updated rather than relying on a lot of the same language as the 1930s legislation that has just been shifted from Act to Act ever since with no over all plan or structure. You Rule making powers allow for this but it has only ever been done for the setting of speed limits and even then they short changed the country by requiring the clunky “bylaws” method – we saw how hard that made it for Auckland to get less than a third of the job done.
    It will also be interesting to see what comes of the Accessible Streets rule amendment package consulted on last year that seemed to go into the too hard basket for a coalition government.
    Good luck with it all. I’m glad to see you starting so positive and I’m sorry that over the next 3 years we are probably going to prod, push, hound, harass and rage at you as the reality of just how hard and complex this all is forces you to go slower than both you and us want.

    1. Yes, good call, TCDLexgeek! That would be great if this area of law was clarified.

      Our climate emergency means we need to change everything we’re doing in every sector and at every level – which of course has implications around rights in many parts of the law.

      The usual way to do this is to go to court. But any area of law that is impacting local government probably needs clarifying, instead, because it appears local government won’t take the usual pathways available to them, of doing what meets the country’s goals, seeing what gets challenged, and seeking clarification in a court. And then, if the court determines against them, seeking legislation change to meet the country’s goals instead.

      Since a weak kind of legal conservatism is preventing this critical step from happening, a clarification of this part of the law might be a better avenue.

  24. Hmmm ‘National’s years of neglect’. I think he tried to say Labour here. Does he also think that CRL was his partys idea?

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