Auckland Transport recently cancelled Connected Communities (aka ConCom), a flagship programme launched in 2018 that was intended to deliver walking, cycling, public transport and safety improvements along 12 key corridors in the region.

These weren’t going to come cheaply, with AT budgeting to spend about $100 million per corridor. In 2021 the programme was downgraded to just six corridors.

The original ConCom corridors (Gt South Rd had multiple sections)

As I said back in May this year, ConCom is a prime example of a rotten process defaulted to by a broken organisation. It was often referred to by advocates (and even some AT staff) as Con Job, because it had been running for nearly 5 years, had paid out tens of millions to consultants – and hadn’t delivered a single street improvement. Worse, it had also prevented other projects from making improvements if they were even remotely close to one of these corridors.

The only project being delivered out of this programme is the Great North Rd improvements, which were finally signed off by the AT board last month, but only after considerable community pressure. And that’s a project that was handed to the ConCom programme already designed and consulted on. The only other project that reached the stage of public consultation on a design was New North Rd.

AT blames its current funding situation for the cancellation of the programme:

Our Connected Communities programme was established with the intention of optimising key transport corridors across the region with a focus on getting the most out of the existing infrastructure and developing solutions with local boards and the community. The programme was designed to develop solutions that addressed the needs of all modes while taking a dig once approach to minimise overall cost and disruption.

With changes to our funding context, these types of comprehensive solutions are no longer affordable in the short to medium term given other competing priorities. Accordingly, the Connected Communities programme, in its current form, has been stopped.

But documents I’ve received following an official information request show that the problems with it go much deeper, and further back.

In 2021, AT commissioned KPMG to conduct a ‘Health Check’ on the programme (click here to see the full document) , which was delivered in November that year. It’s so damning, you have to wonder why the programme was still languishing about 18-months later under the same leadership. KPMG says:

The original intention of the ‘Health Check’ was [to] answer the following summarised three questions:

  1. Is the programme appropriately scoped to deliver best-value investment for AT?
  2. In the context of value for money, complexity and implementation timeframes, what level of trade-offs could be considered?
  3. Is the current model for delivering ConCom the best option, or is there a better alternative and are the right mechanisms in place to ensure commercial tension for delivery?

Delving a bit deeper on that first question, KPMG says:

Q1: With the work undertaken to date, the projected implementation costs are in the $100m range per corridor to deliver multi modal outcomes. Within the broader context of increasing demands for investment on the transport network, is the programme appropriately scoped to deliver the best value investment for Auckland Transport?

In the absence of a Programme Business Case, it is very difficult to understand how the current programme delivers on AT‘s strategic outcomes. We appreciate that since the inception of this programme AT’s strategic outcomes have evolved to include climate change, urban development, customer experience, safety and integrated city master-planning with Auckland Council and key Crown agencies.

The SSBC technical outputs were generated in July 2020. These were created without key overarching guidance (new management information), such as the latest AT SOI, Climate Change direction as well as key sections of the full Business Case are still outstanding to generate complete assessments (e.g. fully considered BCR’s). To date only a Technical Emerging Option was generated. These are now outdated, no testing evident post SSBC and have not concluded.

From what we’ve seen, the reduction of scope from 12 corridors to 6 corridors was performed with limited outcome focus or quantitative analysis to compare and contrast which corridors were of strategic importance and delivered the highest return on investment. Appendix A and B shows where the corridors sit on a comparative to other transport projects

KPMG used the scope to focus on some key areas, and a summary of their findings are shown in the table below. Note, all of those red and orange dots are not bullet points – they’re ratings of how AT performed on each measure. I can’t recall seeing a report card this bad before.

From the work performed we have identified that there are a number of significant issues with this programme. Whilst there has been a significant amount of solid technical work delivered, we have found an absence of ‘programme thinking and alignment’ and limited evidence to form decisions on how the programme should progress.

*Green represents the rating that the programme was originally expected to do. Orange represents the rating for what consultation could be and not reaching its potential. [Ed: Oddly, it’s not spelt out what Red represents – guess it speaks for itself?]

The comments behind those ratings are equally alarming, highlighting significant gaps in leadership, governance, strategic direction, and the fact that no consideration was given to costs. There are so many concerning comments it’s easier just to put them all here.

Unsurprisingly, KPMG recommended a substantial overhaul in how the programme was managed and the outcomes that were being sought from it. Despite this, those running the programme seem to have gotten off lightly and were left in charge of it.

In March last year, KPMG also created this document for the board outlining a programme refresh for ConCom. It’s chock full of corporate buzz words and colourful diagrams about project roadmaps and potential staffing structures, but doesn’t appear to add much new information.

As a result of all this, AT effectively decided to start again, with a new programme they called… ConCom+. A Programme Establishment Case in October last year saw a clearer focus on the objectives sought. Emissions and Carbon Reduction was given a 40% weighting, with Mode Shift and Brownfields Growth each weighted at 30%.

This led to a (re)prioritisation of the original 12 corridors, with Great North Rd and New North Rd singled out as continuing regardless, due to how far along both projects already were. Notably, one of the big drivers for this prioritisation exercise was serving the area around Mt Roskill, Wesley and Three Kings, which potentially has a lot of overlap with the current plans for Auckland Light Rail.

As with the previously mentioned document, most of the rest of this report is filled with much of the same kind of generic corporate/government waffle.

Given the state the ConCom/ ConCom+ programme has been in – and that it still seems a long way from ever delivering anything – it’s no surprise that AT has now cancelled it.

But it’s hard not to feel huge frustration at the immense lost opportunities here. For starters, as Puketāpapa Local Board member, Jon Turner noted yesterday, how many small easy-win projects didn’t take place along or adjacent to various corridors because we were told ConCom would solve everything?

Then there’s the fact that, all-up, AT has so far spent over $32 million on this programme.

Of course, AT claims it hasn’t all been wasted. Here’s what they say they’ve got out of the effort to date – although it doesn’t seem like much.

Auckland Transport will continue to use many of the successful outputs developed within the programme including:

  • Community Collaboration Panels assisting in developing technical designs and incorporating Local Board representation.
  • Network approach for corridor improvements incorporating safety, bus priority and cycle outcome
  • Multi modal business cases for major Auckland arterial corridors
  • Kerb to kerb solution development to reduce Community and business disruption and cost
  • Dynamic bus and cycle lane option research and trials
  • Organisational wide matrix teams and programme management frameworks

At the time of the programme stopping the following deliverables have been progressed to be utilised by other project and programme teams:

  • Construction – AT Board reconfirmation of construction Great North Road, Newton
  • Design – completed for Ponsonby Road Infrastructure trials for pedestrian and safety improvements
  • Single stage business cases – completed for New North Road and Central Auckland Area cycling
  • Corridor business cases – completed technical emerging option for Great South Road, Great North Road, Parnell Road, Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Road, Remuera Road and Ellerslie Highway / Pakuranga Road
  • Investigation – Completed investigation and research into Dynamic Bus lanes

The data and outcomes forming the investigations and designs above will continue to be utilised across Auckland Transport including:

  • Construction of the Great North Road upgrade
  • Corridor sections incorporated into the Kianga Ora brownfield development street upgrades programme
  • Northwest busway designs for the Central City area incorporating Vincent St
  • Connecting development stages for Auckland Council Te Ha Noa Victoria St cycle lanes
  • Development of dynamic bus lanes delivery
  • Delivery priorities for bus priority, walking, safety and cycling programmes
  • Delivery of priorities for AT
  • Prioritization of corridor upgrades

Connected Communities wasn’t the first big corridor-focused planning exercise – readers may remember similar promising outcomes, principles, and plans that emerged from previous examples with names like Living Arterials and Corridor Management Plans – and it probably won’t be the last of its type, either.

Who knows. Maybe one day AT will actually deliver one of them. Imagine the problems that might solve.

PS As that last image suggests, the appendices of the reports are worth a look; they also contain feature things like lists of those interviewed, and benchmarking examples of corridor projects from other cities. As always, let us know what catches your eye.

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  1. This article points to much bigger and more fundamental issues with transport planning in NZ.

    1) There is no statutory requirement for long term integrated multi-modal transport/land use strategies (plans). RLTS’s fall short of being strategies.

    2) There are too many non-statutory transport plans – We do need them but the list should be statutorily set out. It could come via the GPS on land transport if it is treated like a NPS. Then there would be a consistent set across NZ.

    3) There is no integration with land use. The current Future Development Strategies show very limited transport infrastructure/services/policies.

    4) Land use and transport sit under different legislation.

    5) Land use and transport are funded differently. (noting travel is simply the derived demand from spatial land use layout and costs of travel)

    6) Transport policy levers sit at different levels of government.

    7) There’s not enough transport funding as vehicle use (& greenfields developlment) is very heavily subsidised creating too much vehicle travel demand. Thus projects like Connected Communities end up getting canned.

    8) There is no guarantee the proposed Regional Spatial Strategies will address the issue. The legislation may not get passed or could get removed depending on the election outcome. The RSS’s are a long way off and the legislative requirements dont seem strong enough in terms of comprehensive transport planning. It will probably need addtional NPS’s to set out the required level of detail in RSSs.

    8) If we had the long term integrated multi-modal transport/land use strategies (plans), then there would be a supplementary Programme Business Case to support the infrastructure/services/policy for the first X years of the Strategy.

    9) The Connected Communities project to be progressed (would have had to align with the strategy &) could have been part of the PBC and then gone onto IBC/DBC or SSBC.

  2. I don’t know how a programme of projects that was meant to be about bus lanes, cycle lanes and safety improvements couldn’t align with strategies. Regardless of how strategies change/get updated etc.

    Bus improvements big tick
    Cycle improvements big tick
    Safety improvements big tick.

    What I see from that report is that AT expected a small team (largely consultant lead by the looks) to deliver aspiriational changes that others in AT didn’t want to do.

  3. Oh dear. The Jargon, gobbledegook. They get those highly paid American law firms to write a report which is near impossible to understand and confuse people.
    Why $100 million per bike path? Incredible. AT always do their best to frustrate bikers and get the car lobby up in arms about the extraordinary costs and hating the biking community.
    A repeat of just about every failed AT bikeway project in Auckland such as the high cost unconnected, low use Pakuranga to Panmure bikeway, the Norana bikeway or Avondale to New Lyn bikeway.
    Just remove the car parks on the main transit roads and use tim tams and some paint similar to whats on St Likes Rd. $100 000 rather than $100 million would do it.

    1. They were never scope as “bike paths” they were full corridor rebuilds including everything all and sundry – as the above KPMG report mentions, “absolute” adherence to the TDM, i.e. as if you were building a new road.

      Any allowance for reality – whether constraints or funding – was belated and limited. By wanting to scope something that complied with all rules, but also tried to hurt no one (i.e. made no hard trade-offs, let alone courageous ones), they created… nothing actually able to to be implemented. And spent a long time doing so, while stopping other improvements.

  4. Nothing goes right for transit in Auckland.

    When we complain about it, either nothing happens; or it leads to the election of the hard Right who actively make things worse and laugh about it.

    I’ve said it before; time to give up on transit and focus on mass e-bike uptake. That’s something that can happen without being deliberately sabotaged by ghoulish bureaucrats and quasi-fascist politicians.

    1. Yes, although we still need to focus on transit to stop our kids getting saddled with the outrageous costs the fancy projects are going to rack up.

        1. And do what? Drive the SUV off the cliff with the speakers blaring “We didn’t start the fire It was always burning, since the world’s been turning”?

          I can understand why individuals burn out in this fight – I have myself, to a big degree, after a decade. But the cause remains right, and the fight is as important – or more – than before.

  5. All the money went to consultancies!!! No wonder there isn’t any money left to do some improvements.

    Just add a buslane road markings on the road – not too hard.

    1. AT like to spend most of their money coming up with grand ideas that they will never implement. Meanwhile actual problems are staring them in the face with obvious solutions.
      They should get rid of the plans and policies and spend 100% of the money on actually building stuff.

    2. “Just add a buslane road markings on the road – not too hard.”

      Ah, but first you need to do an area traffic model to assess whether adding that bus lane would cause more traffic congestion! Because after all – sage nodding, virtuous-but-sad sigh – if the next intersection gets congested, buses can’t get through that either!

      Also, we need to ensure that we have public license – so really, how about we do a T3 lane instead? But then, too few people can use that. So a T2 lane would be best. If the modelling allows.

      And while we are at it, I think we should assess whether local business associations really support buses. I think we should do a consultation exercise, then a parking demand survey – to assess whether we need to add more parking back in – and a business case would not go amiss too!

      1. And if all of that isnt done, people will complain that there was not enough investigation. Then people who were offered the chance to submit but decided to ignore it, will claim they were not consulted and ignored.

        This is why politics are so much harder than business and why business leaders almost always fail in politics. In politics, you have to bring everyone along with you or at least let them feel heard. In business, you just need the board.

  6. $32 million spent on consultants. Could have added that to the Kiwirail Stadler locomotive order and bought 5 or so extra units for Te Huia.

      1. I think the Labour government gets the blame for things that haven’t happened like light rail but not the credit for things that have/are happening like the third main, Pukekohe electrification, letting councils own and operate PT services after the 30 year ban etc.

        1. Most of those were planned or started under National. Labour built the airport to Puhinui, but have they started anything else new in Auckland that wasn’t already promised or started by National? I genuinely think National would have done better, and I say that as someone who voted for Labour.
          Also those are pretty boring projects, hardly going to transform Auckland.

        2. As someone who voted Labour becuase of their light rail promises… at least National was honest about their level of commitment to the project.

        3. Well Waterview was started by Labour but National claimed the credit. That’s what happens when governments change. Let’s see what Labour has started and National finishes when/if they are voted in.

  7. The ‘summary of their findings’ table is how pretty much every organsation I engage with functions and has been clear as an AT issue from the outside.

    Strategy in NZ just means ‘list of tactical activities’ or ‘corporate vision’ with no plan to deliver, because actual strategy is “too hard’ or you’re “overthinking it”.

    It’s a sickness of fear of complexity mixed with mental laziness and incompetence across broad swathe of NZ leadership.

    1. I agree. Leadership in NZ is a joke. Non-delivery has reached such pathetic levels it is basically corruption. As large sums of money is basically being paid for nothing.

      1. I ahve lived and worked in 6 countries. Bad leadership is everywhere. Which country have you worked in where leadership was always amazing and never an issue?

        Easy to bag NZ when it is actually just a human problem.

  8. Why does AT not care about Aucklanders?

    I listened to a mother on RNZ this morning, and Matt L, regarding the horrific plan to close pedestrian crossings over rail lines.

    We are all pedestrians first, stroller clients, bike riders, wheelchair operators etc. We the people deserve a safe environment in which to move. Trains are very safe as they are on tracks (except maybe Te Huia dieseling in from H Town); buses are heavily armoured vehicles so are relatively safe to travel within.

    But walking, cycling and swimming are excellent low impact activities. Some may be able to swim the Waitemata Channel, but seriously,


    so we can unite the city over more than Football; although the Beautiful, People’s Game is a wonderful excuse for our city to come together!

    1. Absolute incompetent arrogance on the crossing closures. Let’s hope the TIC members get as interested in that as Gt Nth Rd.

    2. Perhaps the plan to close crossings can be seen as “horrific” to some. What is horrific is when you have to attend a crossing after a person has been struck by a train… and that person has a mother, farther sons and daughters etc….. there is also the impact of such incidents on the driver and the train crew which can not simply be dismissed. So perhaps the real question is how do we ensure that users of both pedestrian and road vehicle levels crossing do so safely or where to find the funding to replace with an overbridge / underpass etc?

      1. HB your point is well made. We should not lose sight of the need for safety in this matter. It’s essential. The question to ask is why not install auromatic pedestrian gates that used to be installed and work well and are affordable? And yes some can just be closed but other methods should be considered case by case.

        1. Same reason we prefer ramps and stairs to elevators. Maintenance and outages from mechanical failure. Bridges and underpasses are durable, reliable and ensure better separation.

      2. Auto ped gates are being removed, too. Too many trains means that only grade separation can work, with signalling plans. The question for the current consultation is: should there be capital invested in bridges at some of these locations.

  9. Con Com was an absolute fiasco with a smoke and mirrors approach to reporting, feel-good governance and lack of accountability. Why were the project director and Executive General Manager not held to account? AT was an industry laughing stock. Can someone also look into the Current CE’s role in Con Com? Was he not PCG independent chair at the time?

    Although a fine idea, the delivery was incompetent and the benefits well over stated. After Gt Nth Rd is built I hope the funders look at the touted PT benefits. They are a lie and it is hard to believe someone hasn’t called them out.

      1. Hello Heidi. I invite you to read the business case and have a look at the existing timed bus lanes already in existance then tell me where the gains are going to be. The post construction difference for busses will not be there. The story will tell itself if you do that. There is a short section by Bunnings that will be added but it will make next to no difference as there are no existing queueing problems at peak.
        There will be some significant safety benefits at crossings and a better riding environment though.

  10. It says there were 2 sponsors, I’m assuming they were ELT, do we know what groups they represented? Given AT is currently restructuring would seem like an opportune time to look at some governance changes

  11. Ok – looking at the positives.
    They have stopped the pretend and spend of the program. Its cancelled, not just “approved but unfunded” and undelivered which seems the other way things die.

    Im reading the draft AT regional public transport plan. Its written as if AT is aware it is unable to do the middle and end parts of any projects (doing and delivery), so new plans come acknowledging, almost apologising, that they wont deliver.

    “…Estimated impacts from our programme are expected to be modest in reducing emissions in comparison to the scale of the TERP goals…”

    AT – great outcomes, if you sell cars and oil products.

    1. and on the project health check. I’ve no insights into AT – just sad at the lack of outcomes, but i am familiar with project, and program management.

      The following caught my eye (its only an Amber not a Red in the report)
      4. There is no clear sponsor or champion for ConCom
      Current sponsorship is spread across two people but
      there is no clear owner or ‘lead sponsor’.
      Whilst we appreciate they are both members of the PCG. The
      programme could benefit from more direction and
      leadership. ”

      This is where programs and projects go to die. If the program reviewers couldnt identify an owner – then the project died a long time before.

      Heads up any other projects in flight that have the same people at the top. You are doomed.

      1. Exactly this. AT is full of talented and committed people, it lacks leadership and proper governance. For a start they have no Strategy Team, how can you run an organisation that size without a team overseeing strategy?

    1. nope. Any outcomes of this program have been proven to be unsuccessful.
      Unless success is delaying walking and cycling infrastructure.
      Potentially useful : Do the opposite of this program and you have a chance.

      1. Any such designs / projects will always essentially be useless unless implemented directly. I have never yet seen a bureaucracy / designer that was happy to take a previous plan. They always have to be checked / redesigned / updated – until essentially it makes more sense to just start afresh.

        Which is why such “we will go away for a few years and create a template for the future!” approach was always deeply flawed from Day 1. I was pretty sure this would be the outcome when they announced it.

        1. All plans go out of date, some more quickly than others. CRL and ALR haven’t gone out of date in half a century. Plenty of other projects are out of date before they have ever gotten funding approval. The trick is to plan adaptation into the project, so it can change as it goes and still deliver relevant outcomes in the economic climate in which it comes to be built. Transport projects risk running the same way as Tall Building Syndrome – mandated during boom economy, consented in time for the economy to slump and be unaffordable.

        2. yeah – with your thinking.
          to get successful outcomes – move fast. Deliver the outcomes before the complainers notice the roadcones.

          some call it tactical urbanism.

          we’re getting a footpath on the harbour bridge soon i hear.

  12. Accountable Governance is like clean water; a public good that all deserve to enjoy.
    We see no accountability in the lack of governance this debacle displays. In its stead we’ve seen the profligate waste of public money for zero gain. But who is to hold whom to account?
    The pigs at the trough have closed ranks and exonerated each other while they fine tune their pitches for a share in the next round of achieve nothing strategies.
    And still a little girl waits for a child safe cycleway on a regional route.

  13. “Design – completed for Ponsonby Road Infrastructure trials for pedestrian and safety improvements”

    JFC – they can’t even paint zebra crossings on the existing raised tables. The implementation of any improvements along Ponsonby Rd are a joke!

    1. A zebra isn’t just paint – it’s street lights, signs and markings, with tests for compliance. Amazing how much engineering is described as “just” this or that.

  14. “These weren’t going to come cheaply, with AT budgeting to spend about $100 million per corridor. In 2021 the programme was downgraded to just six corridors.”

    So to put this in context, the $531million that Labour wasted on unused RAT kits could have built near all six corridors.

    1. Your National politics are showing while commenting on an article about a *Council* organisation that was created by National and Act (Rodney Hide).

      Maybe tuck that back out of sight, you are being too obvious.

      1. its good to note that Nat/Act folks are attracted to urban renewal conversations – even if its just to attack and complain.

  15. 32 Mil.

    One of those tim tams is roughly 267NZD (from here:

    Let’s round to $300. Each one is 2.4m long. I’m going to randomly say a 1m gap between each one. So, ((32000000/300) * (2.4+1)) / 1000 = 362km. Ok, but there is also construction costs & labor or whatever. I’m just going to say half of the 32mil is for those other costs. That’s still 181km of safe cycleways.

    Yet this money is spent on what exactly? Renders? Surveying locals on whether they’d rather a cycle lane or on street parking?

  16. It’s ok, in the mean time they have also fired the rest of the walking and cycling delivery team that had been hanging on since the last hunger games. These were the only people delivering tangible mode shift activation in the org.

    I suppose that the funding deficit from tipping millions into the incapability hole has been made up by chopping the heads of the people least responsible and most likely to have done any kind of mitigation.

    Ain’t that just the way.

  17. Presumably the Connected Communities Program was signed off at Board level, thus becoming a direction from the Board to the staff to action.

    But then like too many other AT projects it fell foul of vested internal staff interests, effectively sabotaging actual implimentation.

    Report after report, are intended to give an illusion of progress, but are in reality, just extremely expensive intentional procrastination, covering up for even actual sabotage of planned and consulted upon schemes.

    The KPMG report is actually a shocker.
    It points to a severly dysfunctional organisation at a strategic level.

    AT needs to move away from an organisation where too many of it’s key staff still see prime measures in terms of motor vehicle journey times, and motor vehicle parking provision. With far too little emphasis on mitigating the very real harm that our now overdependance on car transportation causes. Harm caused by the emissions, and the too often fatal interactions between heavy fast motor vehicles and our other methods of transport. But also our loss of community connectivity as heavily trafficked roads impede simple journeys across them.

    Nothing will change until there is a considerable change in these key personnel and in accountability. From the top down starting at Board level, but including existing section heads.

    The current structure has proved time and time again, that it is incapable of producing the required progress in implementing Board directions.

  18. I’ve long been critical of ConCom as it just rams more investment into the Isthmus when huge parts of the city are crying out for bus priority and cycling lanes (west and south notably).

    While all this BS has gone down the West is still waiting for investment. Now we’re even further behind.

    1. There are plenty of reasons to be critical of ConCom and of AT’s planning approach. But it’s best not to get divided by geographical area in our campaigning. That’s divide and conquer rubbish. Different parts of the city are all affected by this AT incompetence. We need to work together.

      The isthmus arterials do need to get fixed – for everyone, whether they live locally, visit, or travel through the area. And the NW needs serious focus, with a straightforward LR put along the motorway asap, and a whole lot of cycling and local bus feeders to it, with quality stop facilities.

      We can have it all. But AT need to drop their predict and provide planning, and stop wasting so much money on corridor protection and road widening and on renewals that aren’t entirely focused on mode shift.

    2. Support tends to be greatest on the isthmus due to relatively high numbers of bus passengers and cyclists. If the bus and cycle lanes cannot be implemented in inner city isthmus suburbs they will not be implemented anywhere. One they are working effectively in the inner city, more outlying places will start seeing they work and want them also. Similarly, I suspect NZ will only make changes after such policies are seen to be working well in other English-speaking countries.

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