As part of the announcement on Saturday of additional government funding for the Eastern Busway, Minister of Transport Michael Wood and Mayor Wayne Brown also announced plans to work together on a new transport plan for Auckland.
Alongside this important step, Auckland Council and the Government have confirmed a path ahead for crucial futureproofing projects such as getting the best return out of the City Rail Link, Auckland Light Rail and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour crossing, Transport Minister Michael Wood and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown have announced today.
The Minister and Mayor also acknowledged the Eastern busway extension is an important step towards an agreed broader plan to futureproof Auckland with one high-quality, joined-up transport system, which includes cars, buses, trains, ferries, cyclists, pedestrians, freight and passenger rail and light rail. As well as enhancements to the existing transport system, the agreed plan will include a range of projects including maximising the return from the CRL through heavy rail improvements, the Northwestern busway, Auckland Light Rail, and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour crossing. The agreed joined-up plan will require clear decisions and timelines to be made about the future use of Auckland’s publicly owned waterfront land, currently being used by Ports of Auckland Ltd.
“The Government and Council have committed to work together to advance our priorities, provide certainty and deliver progress for Auckland,” Mayor Brown said.
“The Minister and I agree that it is important for there to be a focus on the immediate and pressing needs facing Auckland including reducing congestion, establishing a clear plan and timeline for the future of Auckland’s publicly owned waterfront land and fixing Auckland’s current public transport crisis. Together we will ensure central and local agencies are responding to the wishes of Aucklanders,” the Mayor said.
“Alongside this,” said Michael Wood, “the Mayor and I will work together constructively on city-shaping initiatives that we are strongly committed to and have mandates to advance including work on the Mass Rapid Transit system including buses, trains, ferries, the CRL, Auckland Light Rail and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour Crossing. This work will be supported by the Government’s draft New Zealand freight and supply chain strategy to be published by June next year, which will inform investment decisions by central and local government and the private sector.”
A single ‘comprehensive’ transport plan for Auckland sounds great on the surface, but the reality is we already have a plethora of ‘single transport plans’. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Auckland Plan
When the government amalgamated Auckland under a single council in 2010, it required in legislation the creation of a spatial plan for Auckland that covers the subsequent 20-30 years.
The legislation includes the following:
- The spatial plan must –
- provide an evidential base to support decision making for Auckland, including evidence of trends, opportunities, and constraints within Auckland; and
- identify the existing and future location and mix of –
- residential, business, rural production, and industrial activities within specific geographic areas within Auckland; and
- critical infrastructure, services, and investment within Auckland (including, for example, services relating to cultural and social infrastructure, transport, open space, water supply, wastewater, and stormwater, and services managed by network utility operators); and
The following section notes that the creation of the plan “must involve central government, infrastructure providers (including network utility operators), the communities of Auckland, the private sector, the rural sector, and other parties (as appropriate) throughout the preparation and development of the spatial plan.”
Work started on the first Auckland Plan immediately, and the final version was adopted in 2012.
It was then updated again with the new version, now called The Auckland Plan 2050, adopted in in June 2018.
It was the original Auckland Plan that, for example, set the the City Rail Link as the city’s top transport priority for the first time.
The one downside to the Auckland Plan is that it is necessarily high-level; however it sets the agenda for Auckland and the key goals the mayor seems to have – such as changing the use of port land –would best be dealt with in the Auckland Plan.
Is the mayor planning to refresh the Auckland Plan to achieve this?
Government Policy Statement
This nationwide policy statement isn’t certainly isn’t a comprehensive transport plan at the city level, but it does set out the government’s transport policies and associated funding priorities over a 10-year horizon. The important thing here is that all other plans have to be consistent with and give effect to the GPS. Any changes the mayor may want to see will still need to take the GPS into account.
Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP)
The RLTP is another statutory plan, as its name suggests, for the region. This one sets out in detail which projects in the Auckland area will be funded, as well as how and when they will be funded over the coming decade. It is prepared by Auckland Transport but also includes all projects from Waka Kotahi and Kiwirail.
Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP)
ATAP was first created in 2016 when Len Brown was mayor, as a way of getting the Government and Auckland Council on the same page when it came to the long-term transport strategy for Auckland. Prior to ATAP, the government had been quite hostile towards Auckland’s transport aims and didn’t even agree on basic things like the level of growth Auckland would experience.
Since then ATAP has had multiple revisions, the most recent being early last year.
There are some big problems with ATAP though, such as, in its current form it will continue to see emissions increase when other council plans require it to be doing the opposite. Further to that, despite being an agreement between the Council and Government, the government’s transport agency, Waka Kotahi, tend to just ignore the plan. In the past we’ve heard that the state highway’s teams just pretend it doesn’t exist and carry on BAU while their funding teams don’t provide the level of funding agreed.
We’ll need to wait and see – but a new version of ATAP, even if it has a different name, seems like the most likely outcome from this work.
On top of those mentioned above, there are a heap of other plans and strategies that have impacts on how our transport system is designed and managed. For example:
- The Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP)
- Network Operation Plans
- The Asset Management Plan
- The Auckland Freight Plan
- The Auckland Parking Strategy
- The City Centre Masterplan
- The Roads and Streets Framework
- Vision Zero
And of course you could add other key frameworks such as the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway, the long-planned Auckland Cycle Network, and AT’s internal planning around Future Connect. (There are also cupboards full of Corridor Management Plans for the city’s arterials, most of which have never been given effect to, up to and including the recent rebranding as Connected Communities).
These are just some of the plans that exist now, but the idea of having a single transport plan dates back decades. The most infamous of these is the Master Transportation Plan of 1955, which is the plan that set Auckland off down the path to auto-dependency by focusing almost exclusively on roads, most notably the motorway network.
The problem for Auckland has not been a lack of planning. We have heaps of great plans, strategies and programme business cases – but they’re mostly sitting on shelves gathering dust. The challenge is in implementing them, and it remains to be seen if the Mayor and council will be able to stop AT from chasing shadows and delaying important projects. If the council can’t do that, will this new plan join the dust-filled tomes?