It’s Friday again so here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.

The Week in Greater Auckland

Will it ever end?

Another week, another train meltdown during a peak time. When will this disruption end, and when will those running our rail network be held accountable for their appalling performance?

Free Fares are the last step

In recent years we’ve seen increasing calls for public transport to be made free. As this article highlights, free PT is really the last step in the process after first making PT a viable alternative..

As countries look to increase the use of public transport, experts explain why making buses, trams and trains free might not be a ‘magic wand’ to solve the problem.

Luxembourg recently celebrated three years of free public transport. And, according to the people who live there, it has been a resounding success.

As countries look to encourage citizens to ditch their cars to cut carbon emissions, could Luxembourg’s success be replicated across Europe?

“The quality of public transport needs to change completely,” says Francois Bausch Vice Prime Minister and Luxembourg’s Minister of Mobility and Public Works and of Defence.

“There is no magic wand. It’s not just one mode of transport which will solve all of our problems, but instead we must be truly multimodal, we have to mix them.”


The transformation in Luxembourg has been about far more than free transport, Bausch says. Over the last few years, the country has been investing around €500 per citizen per year on modernising and extending the railway network, for example.

“We invest four, five, six times more in the network, in the quality of the rail network than all the other European countries. And obviously, we have also completely reformed the bus system, the national buses that we have.”

“If you want people to change their habits, you have to make sure the alternative actually works,” he adds.

Luxembourg’s stylish trams – By Smiley.toerist – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I also quite liked these lines.

“You shouldn’t argue against something, but for something,” Bausch says.

“I do not make policies against cars, but for another mobility system in which the car has its place.”

National pushing for PPPs

Have National already forgotten the mess their PPPs caused with Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth, which not only didn’t prevent these projects from going spectacularly over budget, but also made any issues hard to fix due to the army of lawyers that had to get involved.

The National Party would create a National Infrastructure Agency and give it a mandate to pursue public-private partnerships and bypass some public input into key projects.

Chris Bishop, the party’s spokesperson for infrastructure, unveiled the plan at the Building Nations conference in Christchurch on Wednesday.

National would expand Crown Infrastructure Partners into a National Infrastructure Agency which would invite domestic and offshore investors to co-fund local projects.

It would also coordinate the various government infrastructure investment funds and act as a specialist delivery agency for complex projects.

Privately funded infrastructure projects would be allowed to impose tolls and other value-capture instruments to recover costs at a competitive rate.

It seems the only ones to really benefit from PPPs are the big international organisations who provide the finance for them – and who are normally protected from the risk, which remains with the builders and maintainers.

Sprawl profiteers not happy

Auckland Council is looking at scaling back the scale of greenfield growth that will be allowed, and also changing the timing of when some of what is left might occur. The sprawl industrial complex is not happy that their ability to pave over every acre of green space near the city might be curtailed a little bit.

Developers are complaining about a move to squeeze most new Auckland housing into existing suburbs in the next 27 years but Auckland Council says climate change, protecting the natural environment and a Government push are prompting it.

Graeme Causer, chief executive of land for Fulton Hogan, says multi-billion dollar residential plans could be jeopardised by a rule change to squeeze most new housing into existing suburbs instead of building on greenfield sites or those not previously developed.

He spoke for Future Auckland, which is a “concerned collective” of businesses and lobbyists: Stonewood Homes, Jennian Homes, Cabra Land & Property Development, Signature Homes, the NZ Initiative, Neil Group, Woods, Universal, Hunter, Generation Homes, JG Civil, Sensation Development, Highmark Homes, Hibiscus Contractors, Laura Homes, Renewal Construction, Jalcon Homes, Fowler Homes, JVJ homes, Kiwinest, Platinum Homes, Dines, WLY Homes, Modner Environments, North Bright Homes, Mr. Build Homes, Alba Homes, Millstone Residential, Brandmad, Malco, RAL Homes and HHC Homes.

But nothing is yet decided by the council which has invited submissions on the scheme, open till early next month.

While lots of noise is made about the impact this will have, as I highlighted recently around 80% of all housing consented in recent years has still been within the old urban limits – which are not being changed.

A chance for congestion charging?

Business Desk reports:

Action to advance congestion charging could happen before the election, BusinessDesk understands. Labour and National both support the idea, although National has said its support is conditional on the removal of the Auckland regional fuel tax and Act wants any scheme to be revenue neutral. BusinessDesk asked transport minister Michael Wood whether he intended to introduce a law enabling Auckland and potentially other councils to introduce congestion charging, also known as road pricing, before the election.

More speed cameras

We’re getting nine more speed cameras in Auckland:

In partnership with Auckland Transport and NZ Police, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will install nine new safety cameras in Tāmaki Makaurau in the coming weeks, to encourage people to travel at safe speeds and to make safe driving choices on our roads.

This is the first phase of the safety camera rollout under the Road to Zero road safety strategy, supporting a vision for an Aotearoa New Zealand with no deaths or serious injuries on our roads.

Steve Mutton, Director Regional Relationships (Tāmaki Makaurau) Waka Kotahi says that increasing the number of safety cameras in Tāmaki Makaurau will help keep our communities safe, particularly on high-risk roads that carry a higher likelihood of death or serious injury due to crashes.


“The cameras will be installed over the next few weeks, with more expected later this year.” says Mr Mutton.

All nine are in rural areas with 80km/h speed limits. Hopefully the next tranche will see more urban ones too.

  • 95a Ostrich Road, Franklin
  • 155 Mill Road,  Pukekohe East
  • 121 Waitakere Road, Taupaki
  • 1456 Waiuku Road,  Waiuku
  • 197-227 Glenbrook-Waiuku Road,  Waiuku
  • 1680 Dairy Flat Highway,  Dairy Flat
  • 825 Papakura-Clevedon Road,  Ardmore
  • 582 Linwood Road, Karaka
  • 49 McKenzie Road, Kingseat

On a related note, income-based fines might be something we should also explore.

A wealthy driver has been fined 121,000 euros (NZ$213,000) for speeding in Finland, where such penalties are calculated on the basis of an offender’s income.

“I really regret the matter,” the main newspaper for the Aaland Islands, an autonomous region of Finland in the Baltic Sea, quoted Anders Wiklöf as saying in an article published Monday (local time).

Wiklöf was driving 82kph in a 50kph zone when police stopped and ticketed him Saturday. Along with getting the fine, he had his driver’s license suspended for 10 days, the Nya Aaland newspaper said.

Cycling to build cycleways

A great story from Tauranga.

Day worked for a company helping to build Tauranga’s cycleways. To better understand cyclists and the product the company was delivering, he trialled riding an e-bike every day in September.

The experience left a lasting impression and led him to mostly replace his vehicle with an e-bike for commuting and daily errands.

“Rain, hail or shine, I rode everywhere,” he told the Bay of Plenty Times. “It was really good, I learned a lot.

“To experience it first-hand is a powerful tool in our planning and now I choose to ride the bike over the car regularly.”

Day’s commitment to using the e-bike had numerous positive effects.

There were no parking costs, no servicing fees and no fuel worries, and it cost very little to charge it up.

He found he could often reach destinations within the city faster than he would in the car, and found himself less stressed by avoiding congestion.

He also liked that it produced zero emissions and contributed to cleaner air.

Much like buying a first car, Day advocated for others to consider e-bikes as a symbol of independence.

“In and around town, what’s the need for cars? Most cars only have one person driving in them from A to B.

“I’m not against cars but I think we need to make the most of this investment [cycleways] with our growing population.

“The roads should be left for the people that need them — tradies with their tools, ambulances and emergency vehicles, taxis, and Uber.”

I bet it will help improve the quality of the end product too.

One for the “But farming can’t be electric” crowd

A cherry grower near Wanaka has gone nearly fully emissions free thanks to a home-made electric tractor and a brand new one is on the way. What really stands out are those operating costs.

“My goal is when farmers come to see this electric tractor they are blown away by its capabilities.

“Power in New Zealand can be really cheap and much cheaper than diesel.

“On orchard we would use our tractor for probably 300 hours a year depending on the season. But if it is free or autonomous, what’s stopping us using these tractors for more things. Maybe we could use it for 1000 hours and become better farmers and have more yield.”

Casey will use the new tractor for just about everything on his small orchard. Spraying, mowing, weeding and even gathering data on his trees into an app call Fruit Minder, so he can constantly use power wisely and better his emissions.

When he and wife Rebecca arrived, the orchard ticked up an annual energy bill of $60,000. By ditching the fossil fuelled engines and going electric they brought the bill down to $21,000. Then after adding solar power and battery energy their total now sits around $3000.

Tweets and threads of the week

Auckland Transport have clearly picked up their comms game around bus drivers. This follows on from a video last week about what AT are doing about the bus driver shortage.

Opening a street for people doesn’t need to be complicated or ugly:

A question for readers. This project (edited to update: apparently it’s the Pompallier Terrace/ Ponsonby Road safety upgrade, but Great North Road also remains up in the air until the AT Board decides whether to go ahead this month) would be well underway by now, had AT not paused it for no good reason.

Yep, that’ll work – at discouraging people from visiting the beach:

A way to make ugly asphalt repairs on otherwise nicely paved areas a little bit more attractive:

We don’t even have construction boondoggles.

A great thread on how the Swiss design and integrate their entire nation-wide public transport system.

The little Innovating Streets project that could! Nice to see this pocket park still being enjoyed and refined, adding a little life to a city centre street. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of this sort of thing via the Streets For People programme and as the promised climate-focused rapid rollout of street reallocation starts to happen.

Have a great weekend.

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  1. A. “Sprawl profiteers not happy”

    Make them pay the full costs of greenfield development and then see how unhappy they would be.

    “However, this will still only cover 49% of the costs of supporting infrastructure to support the new neighbourhoods.”

    B. “National pushing for PPPs”

    We either end up with monopoly profits (Sydney toll roads) or PPPs going bankrupt, get bailed out or still request additional funding (multiple examples). They aren’t easy to get right.

    From a NZ Inc benefit/cost assessment PPPs do nothing more than hide a cost off government books and we can pretend we haven’t borrowed the money (NZ Inc still pays for them and at a higher interest rate).

    If road users weren’t so heavily subsidised there would be more funding in the first place to maintain, operate and improve the network.

    1. Just to clarify:

      “If road users weren’t so heavily subsidised there would be more funding in the first place to maintain, operate and improve the network.”

      Full road user pricing (rather than subsidised) would reduce the need for congestion related works and also reduce maintenance costs through lower VKT for the same $ amount.

  2. ‘He spoke for Future Auckland, which is a “concerned collective” of businesses and lobbyists’….concerned they can’t make billions easily whilst being subsidised to do it. Wil someone with of the businesses and lobbyists?!

  3. Congestion charging in Auckland is due to be introduced in stages from 2025. There have been plenty of plans, and it’s been all over the media last year. I’d be expecting construction of gantries to start happening soon.
    This announcement about letting councils do something smells like a smoke screen for his airport shares mess, or a coverup for not implementing the plan.

  4. “when will those running our rail network be held accountable for their appalling performance?”

    What exactly would “being held accountable” look like? I see this a lot in social media politics – people being all huffy about “consequences” and “accountability” suddenly lose their voice when asked what that would actually look like, and (if they come up with an answer) how that would actually improve performance.

    1. Strong words spoken awkwardly? Nothing else will change because they will operate under exact same systems and end up producing the same outcomes.

      I agree repeatedly saying to be “held accountable” is a bit of a waste of time. We need the underlying incentives and structures changed.

      Kiwirail have nearly zero interest in good outcomes for the passenger trains that run on their network. All the track user charges are put into the NLTF, the spending of which is allocated randomly through political decisions. They dont lose anything by shutting track for months and setting Auckland train ridership back years. Their only incentives are to make sure the freight can still run.

  5. In other news Michael Wood has now sold his airport shares. Does this mean there will no longer be Government support for an expensive light rail project to the airport?

    1. Meh, he was certainly being an idiot about it (not divesting them), from what one hears, but do you really think there was any corruption about whether or not his 12,000 dollars in shares went up or down a bit in value due to his decisions as a transport minister?

      I mean, any politician who owns a house in Auckland should on that logic be prohibited on voting on any decision regarding housing or zoning, because an average Auckland house earns that much in value in a month in a good year, based on policies that restrict housing.

      It speaks more to Wood being a bit naive or ineffective (neither of which are good for a minister…) than about there being any influencing, or corruption. Who’s going to replace him, if he’s permanently going (is he likely to)?

      1. I genuinely don’t think he ever linked the two issues in his head but he was totally incompetent and now nobody can ever show he didn’t intend to. Useless Ministers is exactly how Labour governments fall. The dude should have been sacked over his bike bridge nonsense. Now all we can really hope is to try and push National back towards the centre a bit.

      2. Yes this is a storm in a tea cup. What difference does a few shares make on any of these decisions when their salary is way more $ anyway. He’s a good transport & other portfolios minister, probably so busy with these is why they were not sold earlier.

        1. Surely the real point is he has been a hopeless Minister who keeps making stupid missteps. Now he has managed to make the Government look useless for no gain at all. Helen Clark wouldn’t have kept him anywhere near her Government.

          Have any of you ever been told to do something twelve times?

        2. Yeah, it’s an absolute balls up (sure we do not need 24/7 media coverage) but he has blown it and shouldn’t be there anymore. Sad and the talent pool is drying up

      3. Agree it’s unlikely corruption was his motivation but it certainly wasn’t naivety either. The guy is a pompous twat whose slippery hair style matches his words. He didn’t sell them because he thought the rules didn’t apply to him. The nonsense he has spouted to the public about all these projects he has promised is outrageous – anyone who defends him or minimises his actions is blinded by their own political outlook.

      4. It’s not the act, its the cover up.
        He was told 12 times by parliament to sell, and lied about being in the process of selling over and over.
        He lied about it to the media.
        He denied rights to a competitor of Auckland Airport, after being told multiple times to sell and knowing he had a conflict of interest.
        Others have gone for much less.

      1. Maybe we could get Auckland Council to transfer all their airport shares to the Minister for Auckland. That would make them more difficult to sell.

  6. Fare Free Public Transport is without a doubt the greatest step we can take towards recognising our extinction is a very real prospect. It is the next step in liberation away from the freedom that the automobile first provided, and you do not have to drive!!!

    Well being could only be quantified in the stars and they are infinitely numerous; as a very studied professor pointed out, we are star dust. So Ziggy was correct and he sure knew how to play guitar (also sing)!!!

  7. On speeding I’ve notice the police parked up on Ian McKinnon a few times in the last couple of weeks, they quite like tucking themselves into the intersection between the the Northwest Cycle Path and the city bound Ian McKinnon bike lane. I assume it’s for speed control which is great because there’s something about the Dominion Interchange that makes drivers think they’re on a bloody motorway even though the speed limit is 60.

    1. Building a motorway-looking road and telling people to stay under 60 is like handing someone a Q-Tip and telling them to keep it out of their ears.

      More traffic calming is needed, then the cops won’t be needed.

  8. Why does Waka Kotahi/NZ Police not need to consult on speed cameras? Ostensibly they’re for safety, yet we see AT consulting on safety matters, including what kinds of tool/measure/device should be installed.

    1. Heh.

      A bit like all the disruption / road cones / noise associated with upgrading water, wastewater and stormwater assets. Consultation isn’t needed to upgrade or maintain safe water/wastewater networks. But somehow, when it involves safe transport networks, it does.

  9. Not good news about Kiwirail.
    “Regulators were concerned about any potential emergency evacuation of passengers during a fire or a derailment.”
    “…state-owned company struggled to address the “safety risk” of people potentially evacuating a “poorly maintained” 8km tunnel on foot.”
    “activities in the Otira tunnel could cause death, serious injury, or significant property damage”
    “KiwiRail has not demonstrated a level of risk assessment and risk planning to the standard that the regulator would expect for an underlying safety risk of this nature”

    1. The same concerns could be made about the Homer Tunnel , which probably has more people going through it daily in an arguably less controlled environment. However this tunnel does not get anything like the same scrutiny as Otira – possibly because it is owned by Waka Kotahi?

  10. “You shouldn’t argue against something, but for something,” Bausch says.

    Someone Greater Auckland blog can learn from. Sometimes instead of vilifying people who use cars because they don’t have any other option and charging them extra money for getting to work maybe argue stronger for those other options instead. Argue to make peoples lifes better, not more complicated.

    1. Yes, people don’t have options and GA is arguing for more options!
      They don’t vilify people who use cars.
      They call out the idiots who defend cars as the only option to move around when the rest of the world has long since moved on from the 1950’s.

      1. because currently IT IS the only option for most people. things like congestion charging shouldn’t be considered unless there are options for those people. Towns in Europe with congestion charging had better PT than Auckland 30 years ago and also improved since so we have a lot to improve before such ‘ideas’ can be implemented.

  11. GA spends practically every post arguing for something that isn’t car-dependency, for the choices and options you say should have been provided 30yrs ago..

    People can take that as it comes and think about what is possible, or consider it “vilification” because cars will have to make some sacrifices if we are to provide those choices. That’s logical because cars almost solely dominate our transport landscape and corridors.

    Every person who says they want options for PT before congestion charges usually is not prepared for elimination of parking on arterial routes or allocating lanes for buses and cycles. They label that vilification or “anti-car”.

    Rock. Hard place.

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