This is a double length post, for leisurely weekend reading. You’re welcome to just flick through to the headings you’re interested in.

The Council’s Long Term Plan is under consultation, and submissions must be in by noon on Monday (22 March 2021). The plan sets out the budget for the next decade, but will be refreshed again after three years.

Here is the webpage for the consultation.

Here is the consultation document.

Here is the supporting information – where more detail is given.

It is important to be conscious of the democracy we enjoy – however imperfect it is. It created this process and gave us this voice. But democracy is vulnerable to climate change just like everything else is. We must stabilise the climate below a 1.5 degree rise, or climate change poses high risks of geopolitical instability and domestic unrest, ecological disasters and soaring costs. We cannot assume peace and democracy will survive if we don’t do everything we can to slash our emissions this decade. The plans being considered right now are critical for success.

We need to:

  • Get this plan right
  • Cut our emissions
  • Inspire other cities to do the same
  • Save the planet
  • And save democracy while we’re at it

So no pressure then.

There’s no way that I can cover all the issues so instead I’ll start with examples that illustrate the mindset and belief system underlying the plan.

Amongst the key challenges, Council lists climate change, but has neglected the safety crisis. Investing in a safe transport system is investing in our people and it’s the first step to reducing our transport emissions in an equitable way.

I’ll start with something I like in the Long Term Plan, and want more of.

Street trees.

The plan calls for some 11,000 street trees additional to the current policy of replacement when one dies and of putting new trees in some streetscape plans. It also has a new approach to incentivising Vector to underground the powerlines. I’m interested in others’ thoughts on whether this could have perverse effects.

But is this enough? Our streets form a full 50% of Auckland’s open space. Trees reduce temperatures and provide shade, enabling people to comfortably walk and cycle on hot days, and they are critical to our success at becoming a compact, low carbon city because of their improvement to street liveability.

Auckland needs trees at a spacing of 20m – or closer – both sides of the road, and for our 7500+ km of streets, this means over 750,000 trees.

Council has advised me we currently have about 150,000 street trees – so we need to find a way to plant about 600,000 more. They need to be planted this decade so they can be providing decent levels of shade – and finding their own water – before climate change brings more extreme weather events. That means 60,000 new street trees per year.

Because street trees are part of walking infrastructure and placemaking in the road corridors, their planting should be funded as part of the basic management of the local roads. It’s as important as the concrete and asphalt, line markings and kerbs.

To scale the proposed policy up, Council needs to instruct Auckland Transport to reallocate funding from sprawl roads or “intersection upgrades” that involve widening.

Also, Council needs to overrule Auckland Transport’s position on people planting their own trees and instead provide the public with a long list of species suitable for different streetscapes which will form canopies. And maybe run some volunteer planting days.

Next, something that should be in the Long Term Plan:

Image credit: @playmeetstreet

Opening the Streets

A full city-wide Low Traffic Neighbourhood Plan is a fast, cheap way to make our city liveable and low carbon, and it makes traffic engineering easier by reducing vehicle travel demand. It’s something Council and the Local Boards could lead, tasking AT with some elements of delivery.

And there should be funding for a programme of regularly opening our streets to the people, to help demonstrate the benefits.

Next, two sorely-needed pieces of responsible fiscal management that also aid climate action but seem to be held up on ideological grounds.

Repurposing Carpark Assets

The Long Term Plan lists these assets:

The at grade carparks alone are enough land to accommodate over 50,000 apartments.

But the value of $200 million seems very low. The chart below is from an OIA request just about car park buildings. They alone were valued at $660 million in 2018/2019.

Note that the park and rides are included elsewhere, and considered part of public transport:

Perhaps the value of all this land is listed elsewhere? Either way, Council has not identified carparks as an important asset to repurpose into climate-appropriate mixed use development including housing and local green parks. Why not?

Excessive carparks are yet another subsidy to driving that worsens the experience for people using other modes and prevents modeshift. Repurposing them would reduce traffic, emissions, and improve walking and cycling considerably. It would be responsible from a housing, health, safety, climate, fiscal and equity perspective.

Car Parking Levies 

Auckland is missing out on a significant source of revenue.

Sydney introduced a parking levy in 1992, which provides ring fenced funds for public transport investment. The levies currently are:

  • NZD 2,677 a year for each private parking space in the city centre
  • NZD 946 in selected town centres

Another example is Nottingham where a workplace parking levy was introduced in 2012. It applies to employers who provide more than 10 parking spaces and is NZD 830 per space per year. The funds were ring fenced from the beginning to extend the tramway network.

A 2017 study demonstrated its impact on reducing congestion.

Auckland had 27,592 private parking spaces in the city centre in 2007 – it’s probably similar now. If Council introduced a levy in the city centre at Sydney’s rates, that initially would reap $73 million a year. However, we could expect 10% of parking spaces to be quickly taken out of commission to avoid paying the levy, as was recorded in Perth. After this likely drop in spaces, Auckland would still see $66 million revenue per year.

Workplace levies city wide would be a significant revenue stream.

Council should have been requiring government introduce any legislation required to achieve this since unification, but last year when Covid affected Council’s finances, it’s unbelievable this didn’t get established quickly.

Now, onto the biggie.

Climate Action

Auckland Council has had plenty of time to ensure this Long Term plan addresses climate change:

  • New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002
  • Council has been a member of C40 since 2015,
  • Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019
  • Council adopted the Auckland Climate Plan in July 2020

Since the Council renewed their C40 membership last month, there’s been no change in political or economic outlook. So Aucklanders should be able to expect the Long Term Plan to give full effect to the commitments Council made then, which include that Council will:

  • be on track in 2024, to deliver the Auckland Climate Plan, including its emissions targets,
  • mainstream the climate targets – using the necessary financial, regulatory and other tools – in the “most impactful city decision-making processes” such as this Long Term Plan,
  • demonstrate global climate leadership and inspire others to act in support of the Paris Agreement.

The Long Term Plan has a climate package and that’s all good. Make sure you give a tick to support it (you know the silly numbers games that go on.) But it’s less than 0.5% of the budget, not “mainstreaming” the climate targets at all.

Yet Council say they would need more money to meet the targets:

As we’ve seen with ATAP, low carbon projects can easily be funded by halting the expensive and destructive projects, in a win-win reallocation of money from bad to good. Council have also had since July last year to figure out new revenue streams, and as I showed above, have ignored some big ones.

What the plan is missing is the concept of transformation – making organisational U-turns. Mindset is preventing progress.

The Development Strategy

Council lists rapid growth as a “challenge” when in fact is a climate action opportunity.

In Auckland, population growth offers us a chance to take enormous climate action: to change our urban form rapidly. If all the new housing built is achieved through intensification, the city will become more compact – bringing more amenities to walking distance of more people more quickly. This is the core climate action a sprawling city needs to take, and we could be world leaders at it.

Aucklanders know the ecological destruction sprawl is causing is unsustainable. We know that putting on barely-used bus services to new subdivisions is costly when those same homes put into existing low density suburbs would’ve increased ridership on an existing bus service, making it more economical. We don’t want the long commutes and the too-long-to-cycle distances. We don’t want the obesity and mental health problems that come with the car dependence, nor the reliance children have on being driven around.

And the costs of the infrastructure required for sprawl are just unacceptable. But we’ve been fooled that the economists’ “law of supply and demand” means we have to keep releasing land for development in order to keep prices down.

It’s a fallacy. Recently the OECD studied how to decarbonise land use and transport in Auckland, and found sprawl will send house prices up further if we persist with it:

In addition to reducing emissions, policies that increase population density may entail further social benefits by curbing the growth in the cost of housing. By implementing a set  of land-use policies that enable widespread densification, the tripling of housing prices in Auckland projected in the period 2018-2050 can be reduced to an increase of 57%. The  associated welfare gain of such policies is substantial. The report finds that this gain exceeds 7% of net income in 2050.

The Auckland Climate Plan signalled that the Development Strategy needs review. This Long Term Plan should have overhauled the funding in preparation for stopping all sprawl as part of the climate emergency.

The legacy of all this sprawl includes all the extra infrastructure we need to maintain. It shows up, for example, in the increasing cost of Auckland Transport’s renewals programme:

Sprawl means the cost of renewals will go from being a smaller part of our capital expenses to around half by 2031! It is an inexcusable, irresponsible legacy to be leaving for our children.

Which brings us to:

The draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP)

This transport plan is a part of the Long Term Plan. It was just released yesterday, which doesn’t leave enough time to really consider it.

At its core, it has sprawl roads inducing traffic, and is based on serious flaws of understanding about how to create modeshift, improve safety and encourage lower carbon travel.

However, at best, an investment-only approach could only hope to hold private vehicle travel to today’s levels – leaving the problem of existing travel and emissions.

The diagram below illustrates the mindset problem well. The left hand green box below includes all the emissions reductions Auckland Transport think they can muster without policy interventions from government to help with EV uptake (and pricing).

It’s as if they’ve never heard of cities that have reduced their transport emissions through modeshift before the era of electric vehicles! Remember how Ghent planned to increase its cycling modeshare by 13%age points over an 18 year period? And how instead of 18 years, it only took them 7? Berlin is aiming for 82% sustainable modeshare, and Vancouver for 67% sustainable modeshare by 2030. That’s how you reduce emissions.

We can set meaningful targets as well, and change what we do to meet them.

The transport sector seems to be pegging their ambitions on EV’s for the same reason the system has become as polluting, soul-destroying and life-threatening as it is – their methods are faulty and they are dominated by people don’t want to change the system.

Council needs to do their due diligence on this. Relying on EV’s is regressive policy that misses out on the many cobenefits of using a vehicle travel reduction strategy, increases vehicle travel (due to lower operating costs) and displaces and limits the expansion of more efficient modes.

These transport plans will be infuriating many of the Councillors who recognise the poor direction they are sending Auckland. So why did the Mayor accept transport plans that so obstinately conflict with the Auckland Climate Plan and C40 commitments?

The link between roads like Mill Rd and Penlink and increasing emissions is robust. Our mayor has claimed climate change is his top priority but he’s sat by while Councillors have lobbied for road expansion and sprawl. These Councillors are wasting our time and our money, are undermining good urban planning for climate, and causing an enormous headache for the Council officers and Councillors who are actually trying to get our emissions on track.

The Mayor should be loudly pointing out the hypocrisy of lobbying for sprawl (and sprawl roads) while simultaneously voting for climate commitments (adopting the Auckland Climate Plan and renewing the city’s membership of C40). Had he publicly explained how irresponsible lobbying for roads is, and publicly demanded more climate-responsible behaviour, government would have been less likely to include those damaging roads in the NZ UP programme. In any case, there would’ve been some integrity to then trying to get the transport plans into a responsible shape for climate:

  • A few more big roading cuts, and no more motorway widening
  • A whole lot of active and public transport projects funded from the money saved in making all those cuts, and
  • An overhaul of a few out-of-date AT programmes.

Easy, cheap, transformational.

It required our mayor to challenge sprawlist Councillors – and sprawlist MPs – and demand they wake up to what urban planning for climate change is about.

It’s called leadership.

Other Transport Elements

We need a programme of emergency pop-up cycle lanes throughout the city, like Melbourne managed in the early stages of Covid (the thread is worth looking at):

There should be funding to implement a default 30 km/hr speed limit throughout the city, as Paris is doing. It’s an important element of a safer network for active travel, and is a quick pathway to transport transformation and major modeshift. It’s also easiest for drivers to adjust to than piecemeal area changes.

The Long Term Plan should have funding for consolidation hubs for deliveries and freight, to keep most trucks on the arterials and smaller vehicles on the smaller roads.

Governance Tools

The Auckland Climate Plan’s emissions targets haven’t been transferred into a performance measure in the LTP for transport emissions, apart from for AT’s assets (ie buses):

Council writes nice plans about modeshift and increasing active travel, but their performance measures are heavily weighted towards “ride quality” for drivers. There is no performance measure for implementing cycling infrastructure or modeshift. These are needed.

The Long Term Plan needs to put enough money into a team large enough to actually monitor all the performance measures and give feedback automatically to change programmes when they go off track. Not once every three years or year, but on a continual basis.

And funding is also a core governance tool. Funding for Auckland Transport should be contingent on meeting sound, numerical performance measures.

Community Services

Community services help ensure our diverse communities are socially connected so they are more resilient to social, economic, cultural and environmental change. This becomes more important in a recovery environment where some communities may be more impacted than others.

As a population grows, there are economies of scale and larger interest groups within society, that make it more efficient to maintain a wider array of community services.

Auckland Council is doing something seriously wrong, because they’re finding it harder:

At current funding levels we are not able to sustain the extensive community asset portfolio. 

Prioritisation ensures we invest in critical renewals to maintain compliance and satisfy health and safety requirements but at current funding levels the portfolio will continue to degrade over time.

There are three options to consider how to invest in the community portfolio: 

  • Status quo – our current operating conditions continue 
  • Additional investment – increased funding to retain existing portfolio and provide for anticipated growth based on current provision guidelines 
  • Focussed investment (preferred) – tailor our services and reframe our portfolio to ensure it is effective and affordable. 

This is outrageous, but not unexpected. It follows logically from two destructive policies:

Keeping rates low: Failing to maintain the assets built up by past generations, focusing instead on keeping rates low for the current generations, while ruining future prospects for future generations is extraordinary selfishness. 

And sprawl: None of this would be true if we were intensifying, because there would be a bigger population to share the costs of a more compactly held asset base.

The investment required to provide regional and local community services is significant and continues to increase as our community asset portfolio ages and grows in size as we respond to growth in Auckland and adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts. As our portfolio has increased in size the investment requirement to support those assets over the long term also increases.

It’s important to both keep a well-maintained portfolio and to make sure it is fit for purpose. But this gap is actually reasonably small and should be funded.

The gap between capacity and renewals requirement is approximately $800 million over 10 years. Because some of our assets are old and in poor condition it is prudent to consider how well they can meet our current and future service requirements before we continue to invest significantly in them. In some instances, alternate options may offer greater value and benefit to our customers. 

What is prudent is planning for climate, which means planning for people to live more locally, retaining our local community assets and increasing rates and finding other revenue streams – particularly those that would encourage behaviour change away from climate-destroying practices.

Which brings me to:

Asset Recycling

The theory of asset recycling is fine. Technology, cultural values and challenges are all changing so it makes sense to buy and sell different assets to ensure the asset base remains relevant.

But when maintenance is deferred until the asset needs “renewal” is that considered a new asset? And does that mean its “renewal” warranted the selling of another asset?

Because to my mind, that will simply erode our asset base. It is the responsibility of each generation to pay – from its rates and revenue – for the maintenance, renewal and upgrades of all the assets it needs.

We propose to increase our asset recycling target over the next 3-years from $20 million to $70 million each year. This is on top of other asset sales programmes across the group including those undertaken by Panuku, including as part of the Transform and Unlock programme, and as part of our corporate property optimisation strategy.

How many Aucklanders understand what this really means? I’d like the Long Term Plan to have the information presented in a way that makes this clear to people like me, who aren’t accountants.

In preparing the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 staff identified a pipeline of non-strategic, non-service assets that could be considered for sale or long-term lease. This work supported the council’s decision to set a target for $244 million of asset recycling in the 2020/2021 year. Alongside the work to deliver on this target staff have continued to identify further opportunities for asset recycling. To support the supply of investment capacity it is proposed that asset recycling targets are increased to $70 million per annum for the first three years of this plan.

I think the $244 million is too high and that should be for the decade? Am I right?

What is not clear to me is if Council’s real net worth is increasing or decreasing, and whether we’re simply eating through our capital to fund new “assets” that are little more than maintenance-heavy sprawl infrastructure.

Can any reader help? Because this flowchart is inadequate and has me feeling uneasy:

Climate planning is not central to this process. Instead, “Assets are not held for financial returns” is straight out of the neoliberal play book, and prevents good planning for the future.

This is EXACTLY the sort of impactful decision-making process that C40’s member requirements mean about using the necessary financial regulatory and other tools to mainstream the climate targets.

Councillors committed to mainstreaming these processes, but haven’t given oversight of what the Council officers are doing.

Developers are building sprawl roads and infrastructure every year, and vesting them in Council to form part of the asset portfolio. For all I know, Council could be slowly diminishing the assets that return an income and building up a set of assets that are an enormous liability of maintenance.

Yet our children need as many revenue-earning assets in the future as they can get to help pay for the enormous and irresponsible renewals and maintenance burden we’re leaving them.

Council, we need to see a chart of our real net worth, adjusted for the increased complexity and cost of systems and adjusted for purchasing power – given how much more property costs. Separate out the non-revenue earning infrastructure like roads and pipes that are liabilities, and, finally, it needs to be worked out on a per capita basis. 

If that isn’t rising, we’re depleting the Council’s asset base and ruining our children’s chances in yet another way.

Benchmarks

Too often, we hear that the actions we want from Council can’t happen because of various financial reporting and prudence benchmarks that Council is meant to meet. These benchmarks are discussed on pages 195 onwards:

Rates affordability benchmark

Debt affordability benchmark

Balanced budget benchmark

Essential services benchmark

Debt servicing benchmark

As these benchmarks aren’t mentioned in Te Tāruke-ā-tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan, I doubt they’ve been climate-checked. The Long Term Plan needs to have a:

Generational equity benchmark

Asset conservation benchmark

Climate readiness benchmark

Environmental stewardship benchmark

And probably several others.

Overhaul

We’re struggling to find the money to maintain our assets and to modernise our city for two reasons.

First, Council is failing to use the tools they have for gaining revenue:

Auckland Council has a suite of tools available to meet these funding requirements, including:

  • Rating (both general and targeted)
  • Growth charges, development contributions, and special purpose vehicles;
  • Fees and charges for the services we provide; and
  • Partnerships, for instance with central government or the private sector, working towards shared priorities.

Second, we’re continuing to sprawl, which makes everything harder to do and more expensive. The Long Term Plan is entirely ruined by three “fault lines” preventing better policy in land use and transport planning:

a) continued and very large scale spending to produce increases in road capacity in many parts in and between towns;

b) continued allocation of scarce space to car parking in preference to other uses; and

c) continued encouragement of land use planning for patterns of activity which depend on car use for access.

The Long Term Plan is continuing the same business-as-usual practices that are keeping us locked in high carbon systems, denying us the revenue we should be harnessing and investing for our future.

It is not fit for purpose and needs to be completely rewritten from a climate and people perspective.

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52 comments

  1. Auckland Transport / Council —> “no no, doing what has been done / is being done overseas dozens of times would never work here. We’re the special snowflake. Oh and all the studies saying otherwise we can conveniently ignore”

    Another point about the tree planting. My flat mate who worked at the council this summer says the community tree planting days always work out more expensive than just getting the pros to do it themselves. And this was talking about big blocks of trees, rather than one every 20 meters on streets. Plus There’s the underground services to worry about. I want more trees more than anyone, but there could be some real disasters if we’re not carful.

      1. What’s wrong with pohutakawa? Presuming they have enough room / people prune them correctly they seem fine

  2. Right now Watercare are digging up Arran Drive in Orewa/Millwater (for the next 8+months). This road, and the existing underground services, are less that 10 years old. The current project is to significantly upgrade the current stormwater/wastewater pipes. Given Watercare were around before Millwater was developed, how the hell was the existing infrastructure, paid for by developers, allowed to be so under-specced? This is why outer city development is so expensive – they keep having to re-do it at crazy short intervals.

    The new Briscoes / Rebel Sport store currently under construction in Silverdale is an entire mass of carparking. Someone at Auckland Council and Auckland Transport has signed this off. We keep hearing that Auckland Council have a zero carbon plan but I’m not seeing it. We’re being lied to.

    Added to this is the new station designs for Drury etc. These are well paid professionals being paid to design this stuff and it continues to be sub-par. We’re being taken for a ride by Auckland Council and their various agencies and then being told it’s all our fault.

    These are but a couple of examples.

    1. Most of these developers have designed the water/s systems for homes that have 1 bathroom , 1 toilet in them but when the house is constructed the owners want 10 bathrooms , 5 toilets and 3 bedrooms as most don’t want to use the same room as they are scared they might catch/see something that might scre them .

      As for those big box stores why can’t they raise them up 1 level and put the carpark underneath ? , here on Waiheke they built a new Countdown and 99% of the parking is underneath and outside the store is 1 loading/taxi zone , 2 carprks and a bus stop and on the otherside of the road around 8 parking spaces .

      1. Re parking; that’s basically what they’ve done. The downside is the environment outside the store will be awful for pedestrians / cyclists. 4 lane access road with no cycle lanes. Regardless of words from the mayor, councillors and Auckland Council, we’re just continuing to build a high carbon city.

      2. Adding more toilets to a house, doesn’t mean more human waste. It simple means that the total household human waste will be distributed across several toilets!

      3. The water usage doesn’t scale with the number of bathrooms. It’s the number of people. Because there are more toilets in a house doesn’t mean a person will take more dumps.

        1. I was looking at the way of the usage within a short period of the day there will be more used than in the time of te old house when everyone spread it over say a 2/3hr timeperiod . It’s a bit like when everyone gets on the road during the rush hour the pipes have to be larger for that period of time , and the rest of the day they may be smaller . So you have to have larger pipes for the peak period .

    2. “These are well paid professionals being paid to design this stuff and it continues to be sub-par.”

      How could the station designs be improved? Please elaborate.

  3. Hi Heidi,
    Great article.

    A parking levy should be a no brainer. At least 66% of the levy should be for public transport service improvement. The rest can be earmarked for funding loans for capital improvements for public transport, walking and cycling.

    I’m concern that we are not providing enough to improve public transport services. We need to make public transport far more convenient and not just at peak times.
    The trains should be running at least every 15 minutes outside of peaks and run to midnight. After CRL the minimum frequency should be every 10 minutes to midnight. There should be far more Frequent bus routes and these should be running at every 10 minutes all-day to midnight. These aspirations are set out in figure 14 in the RPTP

    https://at.govt.nz/media/1979652/rptp-full-doc-final.pdf

    I don’t see the funding to achieve these ta

    1. Thanks, Charles, and yes, good point. That’s another important plan that’s being ignored on the basis of the self-imposed austerity that stems from car dependent thinking.

    2. “The trains should be running at least every 15 minutes outside of peaks and run to midnight. After CRL the minimum frequency should be every 10 minutes to midnight. There should be far more Frequent bus routes and these should be running at every 10 minutes all-day to midnight.”

      CRL will enable trains every 5 mins in the peak and 10 mins offpeak. Can you explain who will pay for buses every 10 minutes and where will all of the extra buses go when they arrive downtown? If the frequent bus routes move to every 10 minutes, how many additional passengers will be required to pay for the additional operating costs??

      1. Frequent buses to downtown are already every ten minutes or less at peak times, so there is clearly both the fleet and the terminal capacity to do that off peak also.

        The question is basically how to pay more drivers to get better utilization of existing bus and Infrastructure resources in the off peak.

        That’s probably not as much cost as you think. Auckland spends about $100m a year on bus subsidy. It’s maybe $30m a year for ten minute frequent buses all day and night.

        Take it from the roading subsidy budget.

        1. That’s just wasting money running more empty buses. Use the funding to build attractive modern time competitive PT ie Light rail, busways, more tracks for heavy rail etc. We’ve had decades of subsidised buses, it just fritters away cash for no improvement.

        2. What do you mean no improvement, bus ridership is three times what it was two decades ago. The subsidy per passenger has dropped consistently as the patronage has gone up in response to actually useful service levels.

          In 2001 almost nobody took buses off peak. Now off peak makes up 70% of bus patronage. That’s where the growth has been.

          If you want to fritter away cash by all means rely on light rail and busways to fix things. The $5b required to build the airport line is enough to run those extra buses for 170 years… and that’s before you start to subsidise it. You can bet a new rail line will cost a lot more subsidy that $30m a year. Rail has the worst farebox recovery ratio in the city.

    3. The current RPTP clearly states: “This level of funding enables the substantial public transport capital programme outlined later in this Plan. However, there are still limits – constrained operating budgets will restrict the level of services that can be supported and not all public transport capital projects can receive funding within the next decade.”

      ie: there is no funding for many of the items on the wish list, without increasing ratepayer subsidies, or increasing taxes.

      1. That’s what half the post above is about. Cars are less efficient cost wise, we keep burning money on the infrastructure maintenance and upgrades for them. We could have a much more efficient system.

        1. Yes, and there’s no reason the RPTP should be aspirational while we waste billions of dollars on the supporting growth programme.

    4. Yes good stuff Heidi. And yes the parking levy is a no brainer. Particularly in the city where the plan is to have less cars than present why wouldn’t Council want to discourage the development of more car parks?

  4. In 1990 I did Tim McBride’s Environmental Law paper at the Auckland Law School. He had us discussing how the law could respond to global warming, it was even an exam question. I don’t recall a single person arguing we shouldn’t do something and nobody anywhere in New Zealand was arguing we should dick around for the next 30 years and pay lip service to the issue. But NZ has actually gone backwards. Somehow people gave up on science and replaced it with their own ‘belief’. I think a carbon tax is now the only hope. If everyone creating carbon paid the Govt for each tonne we would all think twice about how important the activity is. The benefit of a tax is it can be set high as a penalty to reduce carbon gases to the level you want rather than wimp out with some international carbon price based on fraudulent credits that seems to be the cap and trade model.

  5. I’m definitely going to submit about needing to keep the community facilities so my kids can walk to a library or community centre with their kids. This whole thing does indeed reek of neoliberalism – it feels like the Council doesn’t even notice the city is degrading so much.

  6. Heidi
    You left off the list Auckland’s Low Carbon Plan of 2014. I can see why as it made no difference, so it has much similarity to the current plan.

    Here’s what one commentator said at the time: Dr Rhys Jones, co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council. “However we believe the plan could and should be more ambitious with its overall targets.”

    “Auckland Council’s overall target for emissions reduction – 40% by 2040 – is too low and too slow”, says Dr Jones. “To play our part in the global response to climate change, Auckland, as New Zealand’s largest city, should be aiming for near to zero carbon by the middle of this century. This is 100% possible, especially as Auckland’s emissions mainly come from transport and energy use.”

    Back in 2009, almost quarter of a million New Zealanders signed on for a target of 40% reduction of 1990 levels by 2020 as our fair share of global emissions reductions. Five years later, the need to reduce carbon is even more urgent. “The world’s expert climate scientists tell us that we need to rapidly move towards a low or zero emissions economy if we are to avoid overheating the planet with massive negative impacts for human health”, says Dr Jones.

  7. Heidi,
    I think it’s useful to look more closely at the performance of AT’s car park buildings.

    If this was a private sector asset, say The Warehouse, then the cost of operating The Warehouse Milford would include its share of Support office overheads – all the costs arising out of running The Warehouse Way including salaries, opex costs etc. It would also include finance costs.

    With these factors taken into account the financial return from even the most successful car park looks very different. For some unknown reason AT has decided to operate as the lowest priced operator.

    The question that you rightly ask is, why aren’t these assets marked for sale? And the answer has to be that AT wants to continue to have low priced car parking in the city which is to the detriment of PT. Of course it is much worse than that, because although PT prices rise every year, most car parking prices do not – how long has there been $2 parking on weekends?

    What about Desmond and Molly Jones and their two kids, from Takapuna, who want to go in and see activities on the waterfront? Make car parking prices prohibitive and they could not do it. But isn’t that the purpose of free weekend travel for kids? To make PT more affordable for families? (I suspect it was all about securing a few election votes, but never mind.) As usual, AT practices don’t operate as part of a coherent whole.

    There needs to be a fundamental re-think of all parking so that as Desmond and Molly leave the house they are not singing, “we’ll take the car, we’ll take the car.”

  8. The Auckland Electricity Consumer Trust (now Entrust) still owns 75% of Vector. This should be legislated by Government to hand its assets over to Auckland Council much faster than the current date of 2073. Among other things thins would enable Council to require Vector to underground all its remaining lines, which would in turn enable far more tree corridors than there are.

    I’m sure Vector would scream if the Government did this, but it’s time to get Auckland much more integrated.

  9. I’d like to see a lot more effort an subsidy put into Public Transport operational subsidy, rather than concentrating on capex and renewals all the time. I think the government is in the mood for fast wins if they were asked properly.

    I’d make the first three stages from the CBD free for everyone all the time. This would in turn encourage developers to follow demand for public transport around the isthmus. In both pt and in roading, we can’t build our way out of this.

    1. We had that policy for 50 years before Britomart opened, all money spent on operational subsidies and next to nothing on renewals. Capex was virtually non existent. All that lead to a grossly, substandard PT system that was unattractive to the vast majority of users even at cheap fares.

    2. Ad,
      I’d also like to see lower fares, but rather than adopt an unproven solution I would like to see us follow the example of many European cities and adopt cheap monthly and annual passes. These schemes seem to commit people to public transport. Vienna with a population of 1.8 million has 800k people with an annual pass. It has 950 million annual trips – cf Auckland with 100 million.
      Simply making something free doesn’t engender any sort of commitment to using it. Public transport on weekends is free, but you don’t see trains and buses overflowing with kids, just as you don’t see that with Auckland pools.

    3. Yes, investing in operations, not just capex and renewals, is important. It’s what’s required to run a public transport network as opposed to a set of routes. To achieve our goals, the mode needs to be attractive, not just for certain times of day or for certain types of trips, but in a way that means people who don’t drive aren’t reliant on chauffeuring, and that people who can’t afford a car, don’t have to buy one.

  10. A major item missing in the LTP is removal of Auckland’s dangerous and extremely inefficient level crossings.

    Once City Rail Link increases train frequency, all the networks around the west and south are going to turn into a total mess with barrier arms forming queue-backs for hours and hours at peak times.

    So far as I can tell this budget isn’t in either the NLTP, Kiwirail budget, AT budget, or RLTP. Also it doesn’t appear at even the level of a study anywhere.

    1. An unintended consequence of more PT,trains that block cars,makes me wonder whether AT have factored this into their thinking,probably not ,because they can’t even legislate to make cars give way to buses pulling out from bus stops.The barrier arms could be effective tools to curb rat running

      1. What thet need is barrier arms on both sides of the street either side of the grade crossing to stop cars weaving around them , and chains hanging off the arms basically to cause damage to the car i.e. scatch the paint work and to remove the dangly bits off the vehicles basically as a warninng to stop and wait .

        1. The problem with that is if you accidentally mind blank and drive onto the crossing you could get trapped in and get hit by the train. Even if you could drive through and break the flimsy arms, people wouldn’t.
          Like you said, maybe chains, where you could obviously get through but there would be some penalty to the cars paint or something.

        2. Jack when I got my licence in “73” you were told to Slow Down , Change Down and be Prepared to Stop , And if you didn’t do that the MoT Officer failed you and then you had to go back to the start . So don’t they teach people that now ? .

        3. They also teach people to not run red lights or run cyclists or pedestrians over and to never exceed the speed limit. The driving tester will instantly fail you for any speeding, not stopping at stop signs etc. But uhhhh still seems to happen. One of the main points these days is to design infra that’s forgiving to people’s stuff ups.

          I also did my driving tests in a town that has no rail crossings. So I have no idea about that one. It’s probably in the road code but I don’t remember all ~200 theory questions any more.

        4. Jack, would people accidentally mind blank and drive onto the crossing if there’s a barrier arm in the way?

    2. Yes I’m worried about a number of rail things not appearing anywhere, especially since there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of oversight about what money is being spent on. It’s critical we get rail improvements happening – and you’d think the government, with its freight focus, would be making sure they are. I fear the PT budget might be pilfered just to get some basic stuff done.

      Many of the roads were put in after the rail lines, which have been in place for a long time. Grade separation should really come from the roading budget.

  11. Funding as a core governance tool.We have already seen a good example of this with tactical urbanism.AT ending up being highly embarrassed by having their first attempt rejected by WK as it was such a weak attempt. Central Govt have a crucial role here,no funding for emissions increasing projects.

  12. Heidi, I assume the OECD report you’ve quoted above is the one you referenced in the comments of the post on the NPS and up-zoning.

    It is rubbish to say that “Recently the OECD ….. found sprawl will send house prices up further”. The OECD report didn’t say anything of the sort.

    The drop in prices for the densification scenario could simply be due to more dwellings being provided. Likewise more sprawl could reduce prices by adding more dwellings than envisaged in their reference scenario. It’s a different analysis if you want to look at the impacts of sprawl vs densification.

    And the only reason you are fooled by the law of supply and demand is because you don’t understand it. The law in no way requires what you say it does.

    1. Clearly the authors held many assumptions steady between the different scenarios and will not have imposed a different number of dwellings onto some scenarios than others. If the scenarios with land-use policies that enable widespread densification have produced a higher number of dwellings also, bonus.

      The OECD study is indeed a comparison between sprawl and densification, because the reference scenario is based on our current policy settings, which include a significant component of sprawl, and the point of difference between it and the densification scenarios is that the latter, unsurprisingly, allow for a lot more densification and require far less, if any, sprawl, for the population growth settings assumed.

      The study found exactly what I said – our current policy settings are sending house prices up. We need to stop destructive, costly sprawl and spend the money on quality intensification instead.

      1. It is true that our current policies are sending house prices up, but you didn’t say that. You said something quite different.

        But the fact that our current policies are sending house prices up doesn’t mean that sprawl is a problem for house prices. The problem (from a house price perspective) could be too little sprawl rather than too much. The OECD paper hasn’t tested that because they’ve only looked at a reference case which looks like it is loosely based on the current constrained environment – which pushes house prices up.

        Also the reference scenario is not an exact match of our current policies. For a start they said they didn’t even model infill.

        And if the OECD wanted to separate out the effect of sprawl vs intensification from the effects of additional dwellings (whether through sprawl or intensification) then they would have needed to do some analyses where the number of dwellings created was the same for both scenarios. There is no suggestion they have done this and no reason why they would given they weren’t looking at this question.

        1. Yet sprawl is a problem for house prices. This is well known. And not just for house prices. It hits us in the pocket when we pay for transport, housing, health and environmental repair. The report says:

          “Auckland’s low population density, high degree of car dependency, and inefficient provision of public transport are closely related to the issue of diminishing housing affordability in the city… the regulatory mechanisms that generate the conditions for car dependency also contribute to higher housing prices. This means that policy initiatives regarding land-use regulation could both reduce greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources and address the issue of housing affordability.”

        2. How is it well known that sprawl is a problem for house prices? If this were true it would be interesting news to all the people who follow the commentary on the NZ housing market. It is widely understood that additional supply will reduce property prices and that allowing sprawl is one means of providing more supply. And the housing deregulation zealots point to the example of cities like in Texas where uber-sprawl leads to particularly low housing prices – the opposite of what you say.

          Intensification is also a potential solution to housing affordability as the OECD seems to be saying. But it’s not the only solution.

  13. All those at-grade car parks need to be taken off AT and brought back under council control. AT only control them by some quirk of fate that the land happened to be used for parking at the time of the council amalgamation. If AT want one back let them put forward a business case that takes into account financial return, environmental considerations, traffic congestion and social outcomes. I guarantee that AT would struggle to make a single business case stack up. The added bonus is that AT’s business case could then be compared against other business cases (e.g. housing, community facilities, etc…) and we could clearly see what we’re missing out on by subsidising parking. If the local businesses kick-off then let them also put forward their business case to buy and operate the land as a car-park.

  14. Great article Heidi, I work for Auckland Transport and you make a compelling case we are not allowing for the very real climate emergency and urgent need to decarbonise. U turn required. Folks get caught up in their mindset, systems, budgets, govt bureaucracy and difficulty implementing radical change. We need to stop and face reality – that we are failing to reduce emissions at the radical pace required to keep temps under 2 degrees…1.5 degrees in my view now almost impossible, less than 1% chance especially with international failure to change. So switch to climate emergency mode and reorient the city to radical transformation. Would be great if you can come and talk to AT…present the truth and need for change. Decades of failure needs to be reversed.

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