It’s Friday and we’ve got a long weekend ahead of us. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.

The Week in Greater Auckland

Another week, more train meltdowns

On Wednesday Kiwirail had to evacuate their train control centre due to the toxic smoke from a massive fire at a scrap metal yard yesterday. As a result all trains were ground to a halt until a backup in Wellington could be activated.

While it might not have been the fault of the rail network this time, ultimately it’s just another in what is now a long line of major disruptions to commuters on the rail network.

Then on Thursday a broken down freight train caused delays for Southern and Eastern line users.

It feels like we should have a counter, “It’s been X days since the last rail network meltdown”. I feel like if we did it would struggle to get into double digits at the moment.

Connected Communities Prediction

In the post on Tuesday we covered how Auckland Transport have cancelled their Connected Communities programme. Digging through the records we found this prediction by Matt of what would happen from 2019 and it seems very close to what actually happened.

I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong but at this stage I worry the programme it will be roughly similar to the following process.

  1. AT will spend 18 months working on multiple business cases, probably one for each corridor.
  2. They will come up with some semi-decent plans and put them out for consultation.
  3. As the plans will involve changing or removing carparking, a small number of retailers will complain, but be amplified by the media. The likes of the AA will get involved too, concern trolling the project by claiming they support better PT but not if it impacts on drivers.
  4. AT will then spend the next 6-8 months analysing the feedback from the consultation, ultimately watering it down and removing the most valuable changes.
  5. They will then take 2-3 years to finalise designs before looking to start construction, by which time many people will have forgotten about it and start complaining again.
  6. So maybe, if we’re lucky, we might see some mild improvements in about five years.

AT please prove me wrong.

The impact of the Clean Car Discount

Stuff have looked at the impact of the clean car discount.

The most noticeable impact is a spike in registrations of very-high-emitting cars just before the fees took force in April last year. In a typical month, car dealers would sell just over 10,000 of these vehicles. That shot up to more than 29,000 in March before crashing to under 2000 in April.

Since then, an average of 5200 gas guzzlers arrived each month, according to the Waka Kotahi data. On the back of that, drivers have bought roughly 48,000 fewer gas guzzlers than normal since 2021.

Used car importers in particular have shied away from very-high-emitting vehicles.

EV sales have trended upwards since the discounts were first introduced. Wait times of up to nine months suggest they’re more popular than import numbers indicate. In March, they had their best-ever month, with more than 3100 arriving onshore.

Sales of low-emitting cars are on the rise as well, with non-plug-in hybrids proving particularly popular.

Once again the death of the city was grossly exaggerated

COVID saw many people predicting the death of the city centre as more people work from home and it’s certainly not the first time it’s death has been predicted either. But the city centre is once again showing it’s resilience.

Rents for premium office space in Auckland’s CBD have hit a record high as the “flight to quality” drives the market, a commercial real estate firm says.

High demand for well-located quality office space, particularly around the waterfront, had pushed vacancies down and rents up, JLL’s latest Vertical Vacancy Review showed.

Prime vacancies within Auckland central had decreased to 8.1%, from 9.7%, in the CBD and 3.1%, from 4.1%, in Wynyard Quarter, since the second half of last year.

That represented an uptake of an additional 11,665m² of premium or A-grade space, and over half of the 45 currently tenantable office towers in the CBD and Wynyard Quarter were now fully occupied.


“And initiatives such as the pedestrianisation of Queen Street have created a more human-centric environment in the city centre that supports retail and hospitality investment.”

Yep that must be the problem

Tauranga could do with many thing but this isn’t one of them

Councillor Don Thwaites told Heather du Plessis Allan the congestion is caused by the building of 800 metres of cycle track near Tauranga City.

He said that the problem was a lack of roads, as there’s only one crossing each for the Te Puna Stream and Wairoa River.

Cities are for people

We agree with the head of the FIA – the International Automobile Association.

Few people could claim to know more about cars than Jean Todt, the former rally car driver who went on to become the president of Formula 1’s governing body FIA and general manager of Ferrari.

But now, in his role as the United Nations’ special envoy for road safety, he says it’s time for their reign over our cities to end.

“It’s fascinating because I still love cars,” Todt said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. “But we need to accept there is an evolution in transportation, an evolution in the use of cars, and an evolution in what is allowed when you are a car driver. If you like speed, you go on a circuit, you don’t go on the roads.”

And some advice on how to get change done. AT could learn a thing or two.

As for dealing with the backlash that follows any move motorists think might inconvenience them, Todt says governments and councils should do their best to explain why changes are necessary and then get on and impose them. He reflects on his controversial 2018 decision, when in charge of Formula 1 racing, to make the “halo” driver protection bar mandatory on cars.

“Everybody was against it. People who are telling me, ‘You are destroying Formula 1,’” Todt says. “Today, a driver will not drive a car without a halo because it has saved lives. If it must be done – even if it is unpopular – you must do it.”

Doubling up

Stuff asks, how we could accommodate twice as many Aucklanders.

In 50 years, there could be 3.3 million Aucklanders in the City of Sails – but, given more floods are also predicted – where will we put them all?

Planners say building up, instead of out, is the key to making room for everyone.

In their latest population projections, Auckland Council and Stats NZ researchers predict that by 2073, there could be 3,384,500 people in Tāmaki Makaurau – that’s the highest estimate.


Dr Tim Welch, senior lecturer in architecture and planning, said he believes it’s possible to reach 3.3m people by 2073.

Welch, who teaches at the University of Auckland, said there is enough space in Auckland to accommodate twice its current population, but not without major changes to our car culture.

Globally, Aotearoa has among the highest car ownership rates – we’re seventh in the world, with 884 cars for every 1000 people.

We have more cars per capita than the US, which has 60 times our population and boasts 831 cars per 1000 people, and more than Canada too (731 cars for every 1000 people).

“Everyone owning a car and driving it every day is not going to be possible,” Welch said.

Instead, Auckland will need stronger public transport systems, and for the existing inner city road network to be better shared.

He said priority bus lanes, bike lanes and overground trams or light rail have proven effective overseas, and would work here too,

Tweets and threads of the week

We’ve long suggested that AT should be more open and upfront about the issues with public transport right now and what they’re doing to fix them so it’s good to see it finally starting to happen with this message a few days ago.

We should absolutely look to convert as many cars as we can to electric but electric cars are much heavier is certainly something we need to keep an eye on, especially in how it relates to safety.

When will NZ get it’s first?

What a transformation

And how about this demonstration

We’ve covered this before but hadn’t seen an image of the full tower. It’s good that they manged to use what was left of the old gasometer site after AT gobbled much of it up for a carpark that will never make back it’s construction costs (about $60,000 per carpark).

We agree, lots to do

Our CRL stations will be neat but these are another level

Auckland in the news for positive things

It’s pretty good

Have a great weekend.

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  1. If Auckland Transport wants to win back public trust, they’ll need to apologise about Connected Communities, and immediately roll out some tactical road reallocation projects to demonstrate that they acknowledge this was their sticking point.

    The LGOIMA responses to some probing questions a couple of years ago were already spin to cover the muddy decision-making.

    1. AT lost public trust years ago, before Connected Communities was dreamed up.

      Go back to the posts about Connected Communities on this very blog from a few years ago and you’ll find my comment saying something to the effect of “it sounds nice but I don’t believe they’ll go through with it.”

      In fact I seem to recall I was willing to bet $1000 they wouldn’t put a single cycle lane on any of the main arterials – no one was willing to take me up on that.

    2. Heidi – its bad at AT. I have been told the Auckland Council has to LGOIMA AT for a lot of information that they should be sharing.

  2. That Takapuna tower brings me great joy. Great place for a ton of rentals. Getting into town is very easy on the bus. It’s a nice place to live. Looks great. And it’s a huge cool tower.

    Best of all, the Takapunaite tears.

    Unfortunately given our current position in the building cycle, and interest rates being what they are, gonna rate this one quite low on the likelihood to get built.

    1. A cluster of new residential high rises is the only way I will accept that the second harbour crossing needs to go via Taka.

    2. I’ve been lucky enough to live in taka for the last decade or so, most local people I’ve talked to think it’s a great idea.

    3. I was part of the consenting team for at least two (could have been three) iterations of residential towers on that very same site back in the 2010s. As you say, the chances of big builds like this proceeding are always a bit of a gamble. But at least the car park got built so Panuku could build their buildings on the existing car park site north of Hurstmere. Oh, wait…

      1. Consents are on their way for that area. That’s why the alternative parking building was needed.

        1. “Consents are on their way for that area. That’s why the alternative parking building was needed.”

          You don’t get my point. That parking building was consented and BUILT at a speed that was mind-boggling for a Council project. Meanwhile, the Panuku housing is many years behind. Consents are underway? Well, maybe. I’ll believe it when the moving vans show up with furniture. Until then, we have once again pre-eminently favoritised cars at high cost to our ratepayer wallets.

        2. AT had been tasked with reducing vkt since 2014 at least. Choosing to build an extra parking building at Takapuna did a few things:
          – induced traffic
          – eschewed the opportunity to reduce traffic and create mode shift
          – wasted funding
          – demonstrated planning ineptitude.

          Given their responsibility to create a safe, efficient and effective transport system, AT should have leapt on the opportunity to repurpose parking to a different land use. There was no ‘need’ for the new parking building, only ‘blindly want’.

  3. Just as well Kiwirail building that new train control centre in Penrose/Ellerslie so will be far from a likely fire from that scrap metal yard again.

  4. A friend had picked up a causal shift in a retail outlet at Newmarket. The plan was too catch the train however because of the fire they weren’t running so she got chauferred to work both there and back.
    Which is hardly a good outcome. The alternative route suggested on the planner was 36 bus to Onehunga and 30 bus to Newmarket which is quite do able I suppose, but she has rarely used public transport so I can understand her being hesitant. It makes me wonder how many workers are being dropped off and picked up from Malls around the city every day. Afterall there is generally only three hours of free parking for customers only. So a nit picking type of person could suggest that lack of parking is leading to increased traffic congestion. What is the official response just so I know the next time I get into a discussion about traffic congestion and parking. I am sure somebody will be able to put me right.

    I wonder if we need public transport coachers who could accompany newbies around to show them the ropes for a couple of days. Another virtue which needs encouragement is patience but you need that in spades if you are driving anyway.

    1. Surely more parking at malls leads to more driving?

      I think most of the problem is the general disdain everyone has for PT here, in cities with normal PT it’s just accepted that you will use it and people talk about it (almost proudly in places like London how they navigated the tube and overground, etc). Here you are a last class citizen if you catch the bus and don’t drive your Ranger through town. It probably is improving but the cancellations don’t help together with the howls of protest from ZB, National and other backward looking clowns

      1. Yes this- hope it changes though. Our daughter, 16, was off school yesterday due to teacher’s striking for fair pay and conditions, she and a friend went from West Auckland to Onehunga – they took 5 buses and a train as part of their shopping adventure. At their age I think they understand that spending time on PT they get to chat and have a laugh and so see the time it all takes as a bonus.

    2. I think the answer is in the first part of your comment. The chauffeuring isn’t a result of insufficient parking, but of inadequate public and active transport options.

    3. There is a problem for vulnerable employees who need to stay late after the malls close, especially casuals at peak retail seasons. Services need to be running late enough to get them home. And they need to be safe from the small number of off-peak nasty riders.

  5. I work for a multi-national firm with colleagues and clients in cities big and small, across the world. Anecdotally, nowhere has pushed the “CBD is dead” mantra more than NZ. While no one is busting to get back to 5 days a week, no one else is claiming we should shut up shop, set up permanently at home or have 20 satellite offices to accommodate where the employees live.

    I think that despite most of us living in urban areas, NZers still have a provincial mindset. They resent the city and you see it in discussions around PT, cyclways, intensification, apartments and pedestrianisation.

    Or maybe its because many just see it as a place for white collar workers, when its actually a hub of learning, living, culture, food and entertainment.

    1. I think a part of the population here is a self-selecting group of people who moved here, halfway across the world, specifically because they don’t want to live in “a city”. Or in “crowded apartments”. Maybe they are wondering when this entire thing with apartments, cycling, and public transport, and a ‘city centre’, finally goes away.

      With COVID maybe they thought ‘finally’. But, no. Not going to happen.

      Stupid thing is: another tower in Takapuna is not the thing that will prevent you from living in a standalone house. If anything these towers will somewhat cool down the market, making it easier to afford said standalone house if you want one.

    2. “NZers still have a provincial mindset”
      Isn’t this the truth.
      Funny though, when they do travel they come back raving about the subway or the tube and cycleways through cute old quarters.
      Couldn’t work in NZ though, we’re special somehow.

      1. Yes, what is wrong with people.

        Then we have this interesting development to come out to perhaps give an excuse for not having a liberate the lane for cycling and walking.

      2. “Funny though, when they do travel they come back raving about the subway or the tube and cycleways through cute old quarters.”

        Does my head in. Like, you know, we can have nice things too, right?

    3. Building multistory buildings in existing developed areas is commercially very fraught.
      Just ask Fletcher Building, how their Event Centre and Commercial Bay contracts worked out.
      Acquiring rural land, getting it up zoned for housing , then building the roads and services, followed by building single unit dwellings, is very lucrative.
      Just ask Fletcher Building, or look into their annual reports.

      1. That’s because a lot of the costs of building in greenfield land are placed on others (taxpayers for roads, say) or future generations (covering the maintenance opex for low-density, disjointed development).

        Its a systematic thing. Yes, building (more intensified) in urban areas is difficult spatially and socially (perceived license) both. But it’s the only way forward unless we change our economic / tax system to level the playing field.

        1. Effectively our “Business and Developer Friendly” politicians campaign on maintaining or increasing these very real, but obscure subsidies.
          We need much more transparency on political party, and candidate donations.

        2. So if it’s so hard how come Ockham have nailed it? Fletchers don’t want to try. They’re the epitome of; “doing what you’ve always done will get you what you’ve always got”.

        3. In answer to Mr Plod.
          I suspect that some well aimed political donations are more effective then changing what to do, in ensuring profitability.

  6. Why didn’t Train Control in Wellington automatically take over from Auckland Train Control ? .
    Or is they had to find extra staff in Wellington or did they have to fly them down from Auckland ? .

    1. Or why are they not inter-connected via a optic fibre cable laid alongside their own rail tracks, so that they can operate the network fully, from either Auckland OR Wellington – or even both at the same time? How come the organisation that owns and runs a network, cannot run their organisation over a network?

      1. No the Auckland staff would have to send a telegram. Then there would be a delay while Wellington trained someone in Morse code to figure out what it said. Then they would courier a reply back by roads (because the trains are too slow) and maybe then both offices would buy a fax machine so that the Fat Controller could explain there was a fire. Eventually they would open the lines back up and give the driver of the train a big wooden token allowing access to that section.

    2. Photographs of the New KiwiRail Control centre in the Hutt Valley clearly show the Auckland track layout illuminated on the upper bank of screens.

    3. I would expect its just the time it takes to bring in on-call staff from their days off to cover the extra control desks.
      Its makes sense that both control centres should have facilities to run the entire country as part of business continuity plans for losing one centre due to a natural disaster. But you aren’t going to pay for twice as many staff to have half of them spend their time sitting in the control centre just waiting in case something goes wrong.
      Its a 24/7 operation so I expect they build shift work rosters to have the number of staff you need on shift in each centre under normal operations, plus build in some on-call capacity to deal with things like staff sickness or incidents. They likely have enough on-call capacity to manage short duration loss of once centre for up to a few day with longer duration outages potentially requiring staff to be flown to the other city to ensure staff dont go too long without rest days.

  7. The principal point, which regular users of public transport understand, and many drivers of private vehicles do not, is that you are not personally responsible for piloting a public transport vehicle. Bus pilots, train pilots, ferry pilots and crew all do all that work for you, you are just required to be pleasant to your fellow passengers, kind to your wonderful chauffeur, and sooner, or later, you will disembark at your destination!!! What slows down public transport? Non 24 hour bus lanes, non 24 hour no parking lanes, AND FIRST AND FOREMOST the continued favouritism for the automobile by the generation in power that view them as their major source of freedom.

    However, I caught the 7am train to Swanson this morning, and the 8am back to the city, with the sun rising over Henderson. Better than any bach in the colder months, in my humble opinion!!!

  8. Thank you for calling out the train disruptions this week – please keep it up because the media no longer seem interested.

    I work in incident management and, in my view, the delay in getting comms out to customers and making the decision to move to Wellington (I believe the fire started at 4am) shows that Kiwirail doesn’t treat the rail network as a highly available, critical piece of national infrastructure.

  9. >In their latest population projections, Auckland Council and Stats NZ researchers predict that by 2073, there could be 3,384,500 people in Tāmaki Makaurau – that’s the highest estimate.

    Look at the previous population projections for Auckland – even the highest estimates were woefully lower than the actual increase.

    1. Plus climate change. Lots of added Pacifica and Northern Australia refugees will move south, because their houses are either underwater, or in constant 40c plus temperatures.

      Auckland politicians “This shows why we need wider motorways”.

    2. So double our existing population.
      And unless we make radical changes to how we get around, double the number of cars/utes,
      So doubling the existing 1.2 million of them to 2.4milion of them.
      Isn’t it 3 carparks per vehicle, One at home, one at work, and one at the businesses between?
      So over 7 million carparks at 30?m2 each.
      Over 200000 hectares of impermeable surface that very quickly turns rainwater into stormwater.
      Just for cars actually doing nothing.

      Peter Nunn has a really interesting 2015 post here on this subject.,110%20square%20metres%20for%20parking.

  10. On the the question of doubling up, Stuff should be asking about residents down in Pokeno, Town with no rail corridor to Auckland frequently, when there’s a mass migration coming into that area. Having a Pukekohe – Mercer electrification with grade separation and line being double tracked whole way would be fantastic for Pokeno and Mercer cause of frequency and connectivity without reliance of private vehicle.

    With the towns growing, comes population growth, Pokeno 5,060 people currently with with big development of residential housing , likely to reach 15,000 by 2030, along with factories likes of Synlait Milk, Yashili New Zealand Dairy Co Limited, Pure NZ Spring Water, (currently under construction) Hynds and whisky distillery being set up for employment, which makes a case for a case for permanent rail service to be running every hour of the day.

    Mercer makes a fantastic place for a rail/bus interchange since it’s close to the SH1. Also means could have the Intercity buses would be arrive into the station, pick up passengers and connect to places like Taupo, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth. It would reduce the amount of private vehicles on our roads if there was an rail/bus interchange at Mercer since commuters would have more access and reduced travel times travelling by transport providers. At the moment in Auckland, if you’re living some parts of Auckland likes of central Auckland suburbs like Ellerslie, Remuera, Onehunga, Greenlane and further south west suburbs Mt Roskill, Hillsbourgh, don’t have good easy to find access to Intercity buses, would be even better commuters like around Papakura, Drury, Pukekohe, Tukarau and Pokeno. Intercity doesn’t have good accessible intercity bus stations. If the Government stepped in and built a rail/bus interchange at Mercer it would benefit a lot of people and climate.

    Along with Mercer, it should be part of Auckland region! Not Waikato region! During the Covid-19 pandemic, had lockdowns which meant government had to create a border for Auckland since its the most populous. The southern border was all the way up to Mercer along Mangatawhiri, if another pandemic was to happen again, border would needed from Mercer and Mangatawhiri. Makes sense for both of them to become Auckland in-case of another pandemic such as Covid-19 pandemic we’ve as a country experienced!

    Phase 1 should be to invest in electrification between Pukekohe – Mercer, about $400-$500 million project. Complete construction by 2026 – 2027, along with adding stations in Buckland, Tuakau, Pokeno and Mercer. Get famers in the area to sell their land in Tuakau, Pokeno and Mercer to build subdivision of houses and shopping centre. Get Aucklanders to move to these areas since lifestyle and cost of living would be cheaper there. The first stage of Auckland – Hamilton electrification should be to extend electrification from Pukekohe to Mercer should construct standings for EMU units.

    Phase 2 should be to invest in electrification between Mercer – Huntly and complete construction by 2031, along with adding stations in Meremere and Te Kahuwhata. Get investors to buy land in Meremere ,Te Kahuwhata and Huntly to build subdivision of houses and shopping centre. Get Aucklanders to move to these areas since lifestyle and cost of living would be cheaper there.

    Phase 3 should be to invest in electrification between Huntly – Hamilton/Frankton complete construction by 2033 – 2036, along with adding stations in Ngaruwahia and Horotiu. Get farmers to sell off land in Ngaruwahia, Horotiu and Rotokauri to build subdivision of houses and shopping centre. Get Aucklanders to move to these areas since lifestyle and cost of living would be cheaper there. At Frankton station should construct permanent standings for the EMU units.

    1. Also note that a Pukekohe-Mercer electrification would benefit anyone commuting anywhere in the country, easier connection and more frequency, which provides choice of mode.

    2. Mercer has a tiny population of 123 (2018 census) and is pretty close to Pokeno to warrant a passenger rail stop but I admire your enthusiasm. But you could do what you are proposing at Pokeno with regards to an interface with bus services. A quick on off from the motorway but also a town centre that could be built upon.
      Check the population density map here, even Pokeno is tiny though I suspect that is out of date now.

      1. Pokeno has no room for standings, for the EMU’s, only place for it is Mercer, where there’s plenty of room to accommodate. Easier access for an intercity bus/rail interchange and easy to locate without needing a map or GPS, cause its right beside SH1, Pokeno needing to use the GPS to find the station.

        1. They could use Pokeno the Same way as Swanson is used now but with a 3rd line there for KR’s trains to by-pass either way .

        2. david L, 3rd line isn’t needed at Pōkeno, rail needs to be extended to Merced to handle frequency cater and purchase more trains, means need of more standings no more space at Pukekohe, only place is Mercer

  11. The death of the city isn’t a prediction, it’s actually happening. Maybe not in Auckland yet, but look at New York where office buildings are at 50% capacity and the commercial office market is predicted to collapse within the next few months. All across the US it’s a similar story, and when the market collapses it will take down a lot of banks and have global flow-on effects. Add to that the prospect of global conflict, and it’s not hard to see the day coming where cities will be unviable as people seek land to live off in a post-economic world.

    1. NYC’s vacancy rate as of a month or so ago was just over 17%. Historically high, yes, but the same as around the time of the end of the dotcom bubble (so we have been here before) and well short of 55%. If you need it stated more clearly, almost 83% of office space is leased.

      There is some monstrous new developments hitting the market, so developers have confidence. And besides, companies leaving NYC are doing so because of tax issues, mainly, and heading to other cities in Texas and Florida, in particular. Its swapping one for another.

      The city is not dying, its just changing, as it has done for hundreds of years.

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