This week we are taking a break from our usual Friday roundup. It’ll be back next Friday.
We have all been waiting to see what impact Auckland’s new mayor and council might have on the city’s transport direction. The messages so far have been pretty mixed.
Meanwhile, Auckland Council’s complex architecture of plans and strategies that provide direction for Auckland Transport’s activities remains in place. And in most cases, it would require a complex and lengthy process of public consultation to change those plans and strategies.
Despite this, it seems like Auckland Transport’s Interim Chief Executive Mark Lambert is already suggesting the organisation might ‘jump the gun’ and embark on significant change to their current plans and strategies.
A worrying article published yesterday on The Spinoff by Hayden Donnell reported on an internal staff meeting:
Auckland Transport will be putting some cycling projects on hold and making sure it considers cars more in road upgrades, its top executives told an all-staff meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
Interim chief executive Mark Lambert said the change in direction was a response to a letter from incoming mayor Wayne Brown, staff members present at the meeting told The Spinoff…
…Though Brown doesn’t have the authority to set AT’s direction, and any actual policy decisions are the responsibility of the council’s governing body where he has just one of 21 votes, Lambert said the letter would be treated as an informal letter of expectation, two sources say.
Lambert said the agency would respond to Brown’s instructions by making sure road users who can’t walk, cycle or use public transport are considered more in project planning, revisiting some cycling projects that are now more controversial than they were before the election, and looking at delegating more decisions to local boards.
Lambert also signalled a potential slowdown in public transport investment.
Obviously there’s a process issue here, with AT jumping the gun ahead of formalised direction from the Council. And while on paper the Mayor might have the numbers around the Council table to push for a change in direction, the Council is fairly evenly balanced.
So, this pre-emptive interpretation of the Mayor’s letter would represent a significant change in direction that’s arguably inconsistent with a whole variety of Council plans and strategies, let alone with the Government transport plans and strategies that also guide what Auckland Transport does.
But setting aside the process issues, what’s perhaps most worrying here is how it looks like Auckland Transport is now jumping to attention to respond to this political direction – when they seem to have spent most of the past five years or so doing everything they can to avoid giving effect to Council‘s political direction around making our streets safe, and focusing less on cars and more on enabling people walking, cycling and using public transport.
Reaction to this news is about what you’d expect:
I'm told interim CEO Mark Lambert has also told AT comms to stop publishing any material about cycling or climate change because that could embarrass him. This is insane. https://t.co/ETBLWq932F
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) October 26, 2022
Confirmation that all of those top tier execs at AT have been waiting for this for ages, after delaying any succesful projects for years. https://t.co/gxcpg00icJ
— Jon Turner (@JonTurnerNZ) October 26, 2022
Perhaps above anything else, we have been enormously frustrated at how bad Auckland Transport has been over the past few years at giving effect to the Council’s strategic direction.
It wasn’t always certain whether this inability was due to just a general challenge of getting stuff done, or whether it was because key leaders within Auckland Transport simply didn’t believe in the task they had been set – and had been malevolently working behind the scenes to undermine achieving this direction.
Sadly, it seems it was the latter and that the organisation have been acting in bad faith with the council, government and the public.
In other news Heidi has decided to resign from Greater Auckland in order to concentrate on more direct action and other creative endeavours. She says, “I wish the Greater Auckland community well, and will continue to enjoy reading the posts and comments. Once I have some other tasks completed, I may be able to submit some guest post ideas in future. Thank you to the Greater Auckland team – who have generously taught me so much, and who give an incredible amount of time and energy to this work. Truly amazing people. Thanks, too, to the readers who take the ideas further out into society, and to the commenters who regularly contribute their knowledge and thinking. These public discussions are incredibly important.’
The Greater Auckland team thanks Heidi from the bottom of our hearts for her simply massive contribution over the years and what she has brought to us. We wish her the best of luck, and look forward to her future Guest Posts.