This is the final post of Greater Auckland.

Today I can announce that I have been offered, and have accepted, the role of Chief Executive at Auckland Transport. I will succeed Shane Ellison, who announced his resignation last year. I will start in this role in early May.

While I am honoured and excited by this opportunity, I have mixed emotions. Winding up Greater Auckland, after nearly 14 years and more than 7,200 posts, has not been an easy decision. Greater Auckland has been an enormous part of my life, and I cannot thank all the other contributors enough, as well as all the commenters for engaging in the discussions.

Over those 14 years there has been a huge shift in the level and quality of conversation that have occurred about urban issues in Auckland and across New Zealand. I’m happy that we’ve been able to play a part in making that happen.

I thank the Board of Auckland Transport for making what is clearly a bold and courageous decision in hiring me for this role. For a bit of transparency, I was first approached by the recruiting agency a few months back as they wished to understand what I hoped to see in the next candidate for this role. I understand they talked to many stakeholders as part of this process. I must have made a good impression as this led to further discussions and – ultimately – selection by the Auckland Transport Board.

I believe the Board has appointed me because they recognised I was willing to lead a programme of significant change. There are many passionate people working at Auckland Transport, doing their bit to make this city a better place, but unfortunately their efforts are too frequently stifled. This is what I hope to change under my watch. I will be focused on bringing out the best in staff by improving the culture and processes they work within. By ensuring transparent decision-making is aligned with strategy, I hope to unleash the passion that our people have for making Auckland a better place.

The Board has asked me to match the courage they showed in appointing me to the position, by leading in the same vein. We discussed the need to take risks in order to aim for transport system transformation, and the Board has committed to supporting me in this.

As the outgoing CEO has said, Auckland Transport is fundamentally a delivery agency. It is our job to achieve the goals Auckland Council has set us, and deliver the change they – and through them the public – expect from the more than a billion dollars each year they entrust Auckland Transport with.

My goal is to make Auckland’s transport system one in which residents and visitors to our city find the easiest option for travel is always the healthiest and most sustainable option; and where the easiest operational decision for anyone working in the transport sphere is always the decision that will enhance the safety and liveability of our city.

I want Auckland Transport to become the sort of organisation where passionate and brilliant specialists flock – from around the city, the country and even the world – in order to be part of a thriving and exciting movement for change.

Under my watch, Auckland Transport will get on with meeting the emissions reduction and Vision Zero safety goals the Council has set us. Sometimes change will be tough, and I have no doubt that decisions we make will not be universally welcomed by all. I am rolling my sleeves up now to defend all the “tough, but right, decisions”, and to start demonstrating what is possible. This is why Auckland Transport was established at arm’s length from politics in the first place – to do the right thing, even if that is not always the most popular thing to do.

There is no doubt, a big job lies ahead of us. As 14 years of Greater Auckland posts record, there were decades of misguided decision-making that left Auckland’s transport system unsafe, unsustainable and inequitable. We remain a car-dependent city because the alternatives to driving just don’t work as well as they need to, for far too many of us. We can resolve our climate and road safety crises, but we need to radically change our transport system.

Auckland Transport will be asking Aucklanders to make changes – to drive less, to drive more slowly, to park around the corner rather than on a main road, and to minimise the risks and costs they impose on others – but we will also help them to do so, in ways that make everyone’s lives better, not worse.

I will lay out my vision for change in the coming weeks and months, through Auckland Transport’s communications channels. But let me make clear four things that will be different from day one:

  • First, we will bring back a dedicated and integrated walking and cycling team. It breaks my heart that despite strong political support, more available funding than ever, and clear evidence that cycling investment must play a key role in achieving the goals Auckland Council has set us, we have struggled so much in recent years to deliver the connected all-ages routes Aucklanders want and need. Transformational change is required to unleash the potential of walking and cycling in this city, and that requires a passionate and dedicated team to impel things forward. When I employ excellent staff, I will aim to retain and empower them.
  • Secondly, we will get the cars out of Queen Street immediately. As I said earlier, Auckland Transport is a delivery agency for Auckland Council. Back in 2019 Auckland Council unanimously voted to get the cars out of Queen Street – and we will do that on day one, as a symbol of our commitment to the shared vision for our city, and as a demonstration of the regeneration possible in centres all over the city.
  • Thirdly, we will replace all on-street parking on arterial roads with bus and/or bike lanes as quickly as we can. We will do everything we can to ensure that never again will lives be taken tragically, and unnecessarily, due to substandard infrastructure. Accompanying this we will also immediately start ramping up parking enforcement, with a particular focus on ensuring our footpaths, bike lanes and public spaces are kept clear and safe. These actions will, together, help in providing people with viable and safe alternatives to driving.
  • Fourthly, I will be making significant changes to the leadership of Auckland Transport. It is absolutely clear to me that people in senior and middle management have created barriers to progress. Anyone who has not already demonstrated their willingness to deliver change should not expect to remain in a position that requires change leadership.

At Greater Auckland we have had several long discussions about whether we can continue to operate the blog, including with some of the authors and contributors who were involved in earlier years. We have concluded that today’s post will be Greater Auckland’s last.

I wish my Greater Auckland whānau all the best, and thank them for the many years of help, commitment, expertise and hard work they so willingly and freely gave, to set the course for a greater Tāmaki Makaurau.

We have achieved much, and we will continue to do so, in new ways. Please keep advocating for Auckland to be greater and ensure that Auckland Transport is held to account for delivering a better city

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou kātoa,

Matt

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83 comments

  1. I have read this blog for many years. For the many excellent posts, the fascinating discussions, and the tireless advocacy, I thank you. I know you will do an excellent job in your new role, and I wish you all the best.

  2. Well done, Matt. Looking forward to the revolt in some quarters, especially regarding the removal of all on-street parking. It will all seem like a bad dream. Wait . . . am I actually dreaming? Bugger.

    1. The first bullet points were good but the 3rd and 4th were problematic. We need change but there has to be a democratic process and I suspect you would end up in an employment Court with the 4th.

  3. This is exactly what we need. Very well-written. What resonates with me the most is the statement that AT is the delivery agency of Auckland Council. I think a lot of people at AT actually forgot about that. They should be doing what AC is telling them to do, I can’t understand why this is not the case.

  4. Please don’t make blanket rules without listening to some of the small guys. Phill Pirie is on Mt Eden Road is correct- he will be wiped out. We need little local businesses like Piries Butchers. Traffic flows along there in busy hours when he’s not open. So let people park there after 10am. Makes sense

    1. This isn’t about traffic flows, it’s about equitable access to opportunity. Any business that requires people to put their lives at risk just trying to travel around their city sustainably, is a business that has an unethical and unsustainable business model. Do be careful bringing Piries Butchers’ name into this; he may see people boycott his business, thinking this unethical position is his.

      Part of AT’s job is to bring evidence to the decision-making. There is ample evidence that businesses are served well by creating less traffic-dominated environments and by enabling people to move around by bike and bus. Reallocating parking lanes to bike and bus lanes improves the business environment for retailers. Tim Welch has a good article covering some of the research. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/ideasroom/parking-kills-businesses-not-bikes-or-buses

      1. Wow! In the second paragraph you state it is all about the evidence which is great and should be the basis for debate. But is completely undermined by your unethical bullying attack in the first paragraph. Please practice what you preach.

        1. There are two parts to my first paragraph:

          – One is explaining the concept that the demand for parking to remain to “support a business” is a demand (albeit misguided) that people risk their lives to support that business – which is not ethical. Understanding this is an important shift people need to make. Outside this particular butcher’s shop there is not room for parking and protected cycling. Citizens, including business owners, need to understand that people have a right to get around their city on a protected cycling network, so it must have precedence. This is about kids getting to school, elderly people keeping active, people getting around without causing climate change. It’s important. This block of shops is also at a corner, so the parking around the corner simply needs to be managed properly.

          – Pointing out that because plenty of people understand the first point, there is a real risk that people will boycott a business that opposes bringing safety. This is simply true. People boycotted the West Lynn shops for this reason, for example. A cakery business was pretty quick to point out they’d been misquoted in the media, recently, for this very reason. I’ve no idea if Vicki is associated with the Butchery business, but it would not be fair to drag their name into a bad PR situation.

          I didn’t bully. I challenged the way people should think about things.

      2. I’ve noticed more and more businesses are posting political messages on social media or just on posters in the shop. Tuesday night was the first time that I noticed this at one of my regular places and I refused to even enter the shop. I wonder if business owners realise just how few issues actually have unanimous support and how much business they stand to lose.

        1. I think a lot more people have gotten sucked into the totalising illusion of social media where you don’t have to interact with anyone who doesn’t share your views, business owners included.

    2. Yet they still seem to have butchers in countries that don’t have street parking on arterials. They seemed to do ok in London when I was there, in fact the local shops were a million times busier.

  5. Aaaahaaaa! The headline got my attention and then I remembered – this one was almost believable though!! Have you thought of applying?

  6. Well done Matt and well smithed ……. the irony is that you would probably have made a good CEO fro AT … best of luck

  7. Wow ! I don’t care what date it is – that would be transformational, and definitely SHOULD happen – it would be perfect if you did indeed go for that job and get it. What’s the bet that they offer the position to some crusty old fart instead, who promises not to rock the boat? Absolutely brilliant Matt, and team, and I think that they (AT) should admit right now that their search is over, and that Matt is the heir apparent to the throne…

  8. It would be fun to see how long you could maintain all the loft ideals once faced with actually having to do the job. Having to make the decisions about where the limited budget can be spent and knowing that although you are at arms length it is those arms that are passing you the money for your budgets. How long you can force your desires through a legislative process (and legal team) that was created in an ad hoc and piecemeal way with no overall shape in mind and certainly no intention to make transport decision making easy or logical. Once free of our happy echo chamber here in Greater Auckland you will also have to start owing an obligation to respond to all the requests and demands of the much larger majority of people who care more about their personal convenience than others safety or the impact on climate change.
    It would be a wild ride but then I suspect a genuinely nice guy like Shane Ellison came into the role wanting to achieve pretty much all the things you want to achieve. But the job is harder than it looks

    1. Aha ha ha ha.

      “owing an obligation to respond to all the requests and demands of the much larger majority of people who care more about their personal convenience than others safety or the impact on climate change.”

      It seems some clarity about where the obligations lie is probably the first step required.

  9. It must be difficult to do these posts when someone has already claimed they will dig a tunnel from Auckland Central to the airport and run light rail in it and it should cost no more than $29 billion.

  10. Congratulations on the new posting Matt. Well done, and loo0king forward to have a city with proper public transport solutions.

  11. I hope you have applied, while many around here would be sad to see your insightful analysis of complex issues gone, the greater good you could day would be truly transformational.

    I’ve previously said the Kathryn King should be appointed as AT CEO, I’ve changed my mind, Matt L for AT CEO.

  12. Hey I work for AT and…sounded great, I would fully support the goals and actions outlined. Almost emailed it to my colleagues and then I read the comments and click. Keep up this important work- we urgently need change- just read the latest on the new lynn to avondale cycleway. How do we get it sooo wrong.

  13. Certainly the right man for the job, although I noticed he didn’t mention trains in his priority list? I have appreciated this Greater Auckland forum over the years, kia kaha

  14. Fully support you in your new role
    Your first priority is so spot on – undo the scrapping of the active transport team.
    Driving a bulldozer through the organisation has to happen.
    Regardless of the date – fantastic outcome. You have our full support.
    In other early april news – Viv Beck on National Radio suggesting we need to slow down the 10y plans to reduce on street parking. Viv could be your 2IC, just for balance.

  15. I wonder if there is a faction in AT,using this “leadership vacuum” to put their heads above the parapet. Admittedly it seems to only be one voice,at the moment,but this is the strongest rhetoric,l have heard ,coming out of AT for years.

  16. Bit of a stupid post really even if it is April fools day getting people excited then let down. Mind you the post reflects the true nature of Aucklands public transport and its aspirations all a bit of a joke.

  17. Congratulations.

    Now where is that UGBF Walfisch 57 bus for Birkenhead. It was promised 7 years ago and still no trace of it. Maybe you can follow that up now.

  18. Wow. Truly sad to see the end of Greater Auckland, this is the one post and newsletter that I ALWAYS stopped and read immediately that I saw it.

    So on the one had sad, and on the other excited by your vision and the actions I hope you can force through. This could be a defining moment for our city.

    Good luck Matt! And thank you.

  19. Nice one… now can you at least stop using the name Greater Auckland? It sounds like a little brother of MAGA franchise…. TransportBlog sounded much better.

  20. Absolutely outrageous. A democratically unelected extremist that wants to join in the social engineering experiment, which is ultimately ageist, anti those with disabilities et al. Tradies, taxis, shops, those on limited incomes, those that park and ride … the list goes on and on … all for the pro pushbike mob, that very very small minority that like to scathe the majority who cannot ride pushbikes. So many untruths coming at ratepayers.

    1. Bitter much? The city is changing, land use changes are demanding transport options. Good, reliable and safe transport options. The status quo is not an option anymore. I don’t quite get where your negative sentiment comes from. Would be good to sit down and have a coffee and a chat sometime.

    2. You do know that no “extremist” is going to take roads away right? Maybe use a bit of space for public transport and bikes, nothing to panic about for the disabled, etc.
      plenty of cities already do this, Auckland being so car obsessed does not make it a Mecca for disabled, elderly, etc, it’s actually the opposite.

  21. good follow up to your April Fool’s post last year Matt. Easily spotted this time round; we appreciate your hard work on the serious side though.
    🙂

      1. Of course. The answer is more cars, more subsidised parking. More traffic and congestion. Transport and land use utopia.

        It was obvious all along.

  22. If only this was true. Having someone like yourself leading AT in the direction it actually needs to go with a clear vision and purpose would be a refreshing change from the disappointing organisation we currently have.
    I only hope that they do end up with a CEO who does see the need for significant change to deliver better use of active modes, public transport and reduced emissions.

  23. Bloody hell I wished this was true!

    Best April 1 post yet although I remember years ago the post about the 15-tyre bus to be introduced

  24. Bloody hell I wished this was true!

    Best April 1 post yet although I remember years ago the post about the 15-tyre bus to be introduced. Lol

  25. You should get this published in Metro magazine then we can all sit back and have fun watching the drama and hysterics unfolding.

    Better still, send it to our well known anti-cycling radio jock and see how long it takes him to click…

  26. In other breaking news: Waka Kotahi announces that the NLTP will make a single budget sum of $1b for the next three years, for AT to determine how it is spent, with KPIs for GPS outcomes. Business Cases are to be dropped. The new AT CEO will be free to commence design and construction without further reference to WK for funding approval.

  27. “You had me for the first half, I’m not gonna lie”

    I was just emailing some Important People with the news when I came back to post gushing and excited congratulations. And that was the moment was about to type ‘this is too good to be true’ and ‘never in my wildest dreams’ I remembered the date.

    What a crash.

  28. Lord knows who AT will actually end up with as the next Chief Exec, but I know that (despite the date) many at AT would love to have you in the job, Matt. The tone of the chatter I’m hearing about this post certainly shows that you’re far closer to many of the staff’s line of thinking than their own Exec is. I think Shane meant well, but came up against The Blob and all of its long-held fears of upsetting the car-dominated media and parking-biased ‘consultation’ process.
    Reading this post, all I could think was ‘if only it wasn’t 1st of April!’

  29. Auckland Council is delighted to announce that Matt Lowrie will be leading Auckland Transport for the next chapter in tackling Tāmaki Makaurau’s transport challenges.

    At yesterday’s Planning Committee meeting I presided over an engaging interview the committee had with Mr Lowrie. The committee was enthralled by a range of innovative ideas put forward, including the unsealing of 200km of Rodney roads to accommodate the Rally of New Zealand.

    It was very much a two horse race between Mr Lowrie and a Mr Musk leading up to yesterday’s final two interviews. Unfortunately Mr Elon Musk could not be interviewed, after flying to Oakland rather than Auckland for the interview.

    Mayor Goff and councillors extend to Mr Lowrie our full support.

    Cr Chris Darby
    Planning Committee chair
    Auckland Council

    PS. Mayor Goff would normally make this announcement but on Friday afternoons he prefers to shoot rabbits.

  30. Congratulations Matt I am sure you will achieve great things. A better person could not step up and take on the role knowing you have the depth of knowledge and commitment to meeting Auckland’s transport needs. A great appointment by AT.

  31. Have been waiting in excited anticipation for what you would come up with on this year’s April 1st. And though I didn’t read it until the early hours of April 2nd, I wasn’t disappointed. Well done.

    If your appointment to Auckland Transport doesn’t eventuate as above, how about Matt for Mayor!

  32. omg I got so excited. especially with all those changes coming…. That’s so cruel… But to be honest it should be true. And if AT would care or even pretend to care about Auckland transport they should make that decision. Though we all know they don’t and won’t

  33. Lots of words about what you want, what the board wants, and what the council wants – nothing much about what the people want. You are right that AT was set up to be more removed – not from politics though, from the people it is supposed to be there to serve. AT, and the Council, are there to do things FOR the people, not TO the people. Too much of AT’s work has been at odds with the wishes of the community – directed by ideology and wishful thinking, rather than solid, evidence based decision making. In fact it’s even been shown that some of the “data” AT has used to justify projects has been seriously inflated. I imagine if you carry on like you say in this blog, AT will become even more loathed by the majority of Aucklanders than it already is – which is a pretty though thing to do. All the best.

      1. evidence based decision making…

        You want to keep your job, think carefully about your next decision…

        1. ??

          I was merely pointing out to Nigel that he was getting mighty upset over an April Fools post. There’s no need to vaguely threaten me.

  34. All the very best Matt for this new and exciting role. AT is in good hands with you at the helm. I have been following this blog from the very beginning, and it definitely has changed my views on so many topics not including transport and infrastructure, and how important it is to get it right (which we are not!). I really am looking forward to seeing you driving change at AT.

  35. A major problem with what you want to achieve will be to get what Auckland Transport to align with what Waka Kotahi approves as legal
    On example resident parking on the crossings designed for it on Franklin Road Freemans Bay

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