Welcome to Friday. Here’s a few of the articles that caught our attention this week.

This Week in Greater Auckland

$10 million better from safer speeds

Stuff reports:

Auckland could be $10 million a year better off after speed limits were lowered on many roads, according to an economic analysis commissioned by a council agency.

The study by economic researchers BERL for Auckland Transport (AT) found the benefits outweighed the costs by a ratio of 2.5 to one, in the three-year-old Safe Speeds programme.

The benefits of lower speeds weighed in at nearly $17m, made up of reduced congestion, lower social costs from crashes, more reliable journey times and health benefits from people being more active.

Most of $6.7m of “disbenefits” came from vehicles running less efficiently, and longer journey times.

The 15 Minute City Conspiracies

Recently both Radio NZ and Stuff have covered how the idea of making cities easier for people to live in without always having to drive has launched conspiracy theories.

Radio NZ ran this piece last Thursday based on this interview.

It started as a transformational idea about how our cities should look and feel.

Now it’s become a fast-growing world-wide conspiracy.

How did the ’15-minute city’ concept get so out of hand?

Today, The Detail talks to Auckland University senior lecturer in architecture and planning Bill McKay about the concept, and extremism researcher and author Byron C Clark about the conspiracy.

“It stems from a movement that goes back decades called ‘new urbanism’, which was basically saying ‘we’ve spent 100 years commuting from suburbs, mainly in cars, we need to get back to a much more sustainable way of doing things,” McKay says.


“In New Zealand we take it for granted that we live in suburbs and that we commute to where we need to go, whether it’s the supermarket, or dropping kids at school, or going to work,” he says.

“It’s a highly artificial way of living. So the idea of a 15-minute city is taking us back to how cities used to be hundreds of years ago, where you could actually live not too far from where you worked or where you do your shopping.”

He says the car is largely responsible for that change and altering people’s perceptions is hard.

“In a way, New Zealanders see their cars a bit like Americans see guns – ‘don’t you dare try and take that off me’.

“Another way of thinking about cars is they’re like pets. They’re actually bad for the environment and they spend 95 percent of their time lying around doing nothing, they’re way more expensive to keep than you really think, but we love them.

“There’s a mix of a love of cars, suspicion about congestion charges, trying to keep cars out of cities, that is being conflated with the 15-minute city notion.”

And on Monday Stuff covered it.

The explosion of conspiracy theories around the ‘15-minute city’ brings into focus the question, what is it?

The 15-minute city isn’t a novel idea – it’s how many older parts of older cities already operate – but its growing use as a model for redesigning neighbourhoods has been met with extreme speculation that some proponents of the idea have veiled malevolent intentions.

And while some people with a more conspiratorial outlook see sinister motives, much of the conflict about events as they are happening on the ground seems to be a good old scrap over territory – who gets to use the road.

In essence, the 15-minute city is the idea that a person is able to undertake most of their daily life in a 15-minute radius around where they live, and the conspiracy aspect is about forcing this lifestyle on people.

Among the most alarming conspiracy theories to have emerged are suggestions that a 15-minute city is just a stalking horse to pave the way for climate lockdowns – similar to Covid lockdowns – with residents forcibly confined to their neighbourhoods to control emissions.

Mayor Threatens Eastern Busway

Radio NZ reports that Mayor Wayne Brown is saying he’ll cancel the rest of the Eastern Busway if the incoming National government follows through on it’s plans to cancel the Regional Fuel Tax.

An artist impression of the one part of Edgewater station

Speaking of Wayne

These are some good comments

“What I like about this is that these areas don’t need a whole lot of infrastructure; it’s already built. And the more people living in the city, the better, rather than developing suburbs way out on good vegetable-growing land. It’s about what’s appropriate. And I like living in the city; it’s good!”

“It’s part of revitalising the city and getting more people living here. I like to have a couple beers around here; it’s well linked with shops, bars, walkways, and cycleways, and I’d like to see more of that. It’s a nice place to spend the weekend. Developments like this add vibrancy to our city, and that makes it safer too.”

The Limit of EVs

An interesting piece from Vox on how Norway’s big push for electric cars has had drawbacks.

With motor vehicles generating nearly a 10th of global CO2 emissions, governments and environmentalists around the world are scrambling to mitigate the damage. In wealthy countries, strategies often revolve around electrifying cars — and for good reason, many are looking to Norway for inspiration.

Over the last decade, Norway has emerged as the world’s undisputed leader in electric vehicle adoption. With generous government incentives available, 87 percent of the country’s new car sales are now fully electric, a share that dwarfs that of the European Union (13 percent) and the United States (7 percent). Norway’s muscular EV push has garnered headlines in outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian while drawing praise from the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Economic Forum, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “I’d like to thank the people of Norway again for their incredible support of electric vehicles,” he tweeted last December. “Norway rocks!!”

I’ve been writing about transportation for the better part of a decade, so all that fawning international attention piqued my curiosity. Does Norway offer a climate strategy that other countries could copy chapter and verse? Or has the hype outpaced the reality?


Worse, the EV boom has hobbled Norwegian cities’ efforts to untether themselves from the automobile and enable residents to instead travel by transit or bicycle, decisions that do more to reduce emissions, enhance road safety, and enliven urban life than swapping a gas-powered car for an electric one.


Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians responded to the government’s invitation to buy an EV, seemingly saving money and the planet in one fell swoop. But not every EV purchase replaced a gas guzzler; Grimsrud noted that the Norwegians owned 10 percent more cars per capita at the end of the 2010s than they did at the decade’s outset, in large part due to the EV incentives. “The families who could afford a second or third car ran off to the shop and bought one,” he said.

Norway’s incentives have unquestionably reshaped the country’s car market and reduced carbon emissions. EVs’ share of new vehicle sales surged from 1 percent in 2014 to 83 percent today. Around one in four cars on Norwegian roads is now electric, and the country’s surface transportation emissions fell 8.3 percent between 2014 and 2023.

The Planning Reform spreads

Another place follows NZ’s lead on planning reform around public transport.

Speaking of development, this is a neat transformation of a city


Was there anything that stood out to you?

Have a great weekend.

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  1. Comrade Brown is really winning me over and I’m stunned! Hopefully his simply explanation of problems like the one around brownfields can help those who for some reason aren’t onboard.

    Something that stuck out for me this week was Ockham’s annoucement over their development in Avondale which looks beyond anything we’ve ever seen for them. I’m stoked they’ve gone hard in Avondale, we’ve a few more additions in the hospo and retail sector and a bit more walkability and it could be the premier urban suburb.

    1. What Avondale announcement by Ockham was this? I had a look at news stories and their website but not sure what you meant? Thank you

    2. Thing is, he can’t win this fight. Pakuranga and Botany are as blue as blue can be. The seat of Great Leader himself and the seat of Simeon Brown, probably the worst person in the National Party caucus.

      Wayne: “if you cancel the RFT we cancel the busway”
      Luxo and Simeon: “A plan with no drawbacks! lololololol”
      Eastern suburbs residents: “That’s right! Piss off Woke Wayne, who wants your loser cruisers”

      1. It remains to be seen who wins this showdown. Wayne Brown threatening to cancel a huge project in Luxons electorate is certainly well directed. If the fuel tax is cancelled the government may still provide equivalent funding. There is a larger scope the incoming government may tackle regarding council activities around the country and their decision making on how they manage and prioritise their finances, particularly 3 waters, PT, core activities. e.g. Wellington council fiasco spending over $300M on earthquake strengthening the old town hall which was replaced by the Michael Fowler centre and not used since 2013, while water pipes burst everywhere.

      2. The Eastern Busway build is very popular in the Botany and Pakuranga area. People would like it done faster, but it’s not an unpopular project at all. Its completion was a key manifesto pledge for National.

        Not a fight Wayne wants to get into.

        1. I think this is a good position to take, in order to eventually find the compromise that wins for all: continuation of the project as a road reallocation rather than a road widening project. This would create much better outcomes for locals, reducing local vkt and creating much more modeshift. It would also free up lots of money for other projects.

          This is a critical fight to have, because it’s the fight about updating how AT and WK model road expansion and road contraction, which is currently so bad it’s reversing the benefits of each in the business cases.

          I say good on him.

        2. The mayor resorting to public threats tells us the private negotiations with the incoming govt have not been going his way, unfortunately.

      3. “Simeon Brown, probably the worst person in the National Party caucus.”
        Not sure that I agree with you, Daphne. He IS the worst person.
        On the other hand, Wayno; I am developing a grudging respect for him.

  2. Kiwi Rail media reported 9 Oct that Stage 2 Eastern line to be complete in Jan 24
    Also previously the Western line was to be shut for all of 2024 but they now they have a new plan and write that work on Stage 3A, the section from Newmarket to New Lyn, that the line will be kept open with some restrictions.
    They will do the work in the evenings and weekends. They will need to work weekdays on the line for 9 weeks while keeping one line open and some trains can keep running. The level of disruption will be much less than previously advised.

  3. As a comparison to Norway, only 1.5% of light vehicles in NZ are BEV. https://evdb.nz/growth-evs-nz
    However 24.9% of new car sales in September, and 20.3% in October were BEV, so we are catching up largely thanks to government subsidy. https://evdb.nz/ev-stats
    It is concerning that our capacity to generate electricity for the evening peak is not keeping up with the growth in demand. We were only 7MW away from blackouts on 2 August 2023, and have had several other close calls this year. https://www.interest.co.nz/economy/124862/after-winters-close-shaves-transpower-warns-more-concerns-ahead-due-unreliability

  4. After a trip on a GVR special last Saturday this video shows the work on the Pukekohe to Papakura line with the electrification works ;-

  5. And travelling through Pukekohe they have now move the track over next to the New Platform 3 while they redo the tracks around the old old platforms 1+2 and here is what I saw ;-

  6. I do like Wynyard, a bit luxurious and elitist but with the location probably hard to avoid. Only thing is there does seem to be a lot of traffic for what should be a very low car mode area – and given it is on one side of the main route in and out of the city north we really don’t want lots of turning cars from Fanshawe (already holds up the buses).

    Seems like a missed opportunity to build a walking bridge north particularly with the proposed park at the end of the point too.

  7. Very correctly pointed out, that in Aotearoa, the CARTEL of the automobile is defended like the right to bear arms in the USA.

    Guess what, both are deadly weapons!!!
    Often of mass destruction, a vehicle can kill multiple people, as can a gun. So we defend our right to destroy?

    Walking, biking and the other mixed modes of the less regressive population clearly prove the physical, psychological and emotional health that can be gained from not squishing adults and suffocating children in private metal boxes with wheels.

    It is fantastic that our mayor is a city dweller, a walker, so he understands at street level, as he is often observed, and the scariest things on Queen Street are cars.

    There is an extensive educational journey required to convert our suburban population back to the 1940s, when trams moved us about the central suburbs.

    The motorways won, but Lightpath shows that we can reclaim those hideously monstrous constructions for a higher, lighter purpose.

    It is on us, the enlightened, awakened, insightful people; to teach the world to sing in harmony again: on the buses, on the trains, on the ferries, and no more in the sad loneliness of the driver’s seat in an otherwise empty vehicle 🙁

  8. The Vox article on EVs in Norway covers a lot of ground and paints a rather confusing picture. Norway’s increase in car use long predated their push into EVs. Yes, their EV subsidies were enormous, but they were always intended to be unwound in time, and they did boost the EV industry globally by showing the way.

    In Norway, light vehicles per capita went from 0.445 in 1990 to 0.604 in 2020.
    NZ went from 0.538 to 0.695 in the same period.

    Meanwhile, Norway’s transport emissions went from 2.36tCO2/person in 1990, to 3.03t in 2007, then down to 2.38t in 2019, now falling by 0.2t per year.

    NZ’s transport emissions were 2.55t/person in 1990 and rose to 3.26t in 2019.

    Bergen’s new light rail (started 2010) now carries 15 million passengers per year, not bad for a city of 300,000.

    1. Approximately 65% of NZ is between 15-64 years of age, so that 0.695 light vehicles per capita is pretty much one car for everyone that can drive!

  9. Not sure if you were taking the Mickey with your final comments in the post today :
    “The Planning Reform spreads – Another place [Vancouver] follows NZ’s lead on planning reform around public transport.”

    Ummm, Vancouver has been doing TOD for years – decades even. I was there just a couple of years ago, and while there are several hundred apartment towers in/near the CBD, it was already very apparent in the burbs that 20+ storey condo towers clustered around the Skytrain stations were the way that Vancouver was going.

    What is more interesting though is their adventurous appetite for Tall Timber buildings. Spearheaded by Michael Green Architects, and exemplified in the Brock Commons Tallwood House project (18 floors of CLT slabs on PLT columns) for student housing. They are also on the Pacific Earthquake Rim of Fire, so the EQ potential there is probably similar to ours – but they are much more keen to trial timber than us. There is a lot that we can learn from them – I doubt that there is any element of them learning from us…

    1. Good question. Probably it comes down to the details. Tatjana mentions growing up happily in such an apartment building in this post: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/06/03/learning-from-europes-new-urban-politics/

      She notes the parklike environment around the towers, and says:

      “Brutalist architects and radical city politicians came together to create new neighbourhoods that met every need of a city dweller. The city grew to include dense but well-constructed state-owned apartment blocks in park-like settings. Neighbourhoods were equipped with schools, day-cares, shops, cafes, libraries and doctors’ offices and well served by public transport. I grew up in such neighbourhoods, in small apartments high up in the 1970s buildings. New Zealanders find my stories of a happy childhood with lots of independent play under the watchful eyes of older residents somehow unbelievable, or not applicable to Aotearoa.”

      Family members who grew up in a high-rise apartment in Hong Kong were very happy in it; I doubt their apartment would have had the park-like setting, but the amenities would’ve been there.

      I think one of the things we need to be thinking about, Peter, is the ability to repair and maintain buildings. Plumbing with a 50-year-design life trapped inside the concrete slabs of our houses is just nuts, even if they’re only one or two storeys high. Getting those details right, along with the other environmental design factors (eg sponge city design) might be the bigger factor in whether places are liveable in a few decades’ time.

        1. Yeah, interesting. The closing of the amenities is what you fear, eh?

          For NZ, I think we need to get better at the 4 – 6 storeys perimeter block housing. I think that’s what will work best in most situations.

        2. “For NZ, I think we need to get better at the 4 – 6 storeys perimeter block housing. I think that’s what will work best in most situations.”

          Yeah, you don’t want the missing apartments to be stuck into 20+ story scyscrapers in the city centre JUST because people don’t want medium density in the suburbs. We aren’t Hong Kong. We can easily cover our shortfall by simply not insisting that 90% of Auckland needs to be 1-2 stories high in perpetuity!

  10. The North Western Rapid Transit is a noticeable project that needs to be constructed immediately. The long underlying issue we currently have is which form of rail should be do after the busway. The form of rail we should is the Heavy Rail, it is capable to replace a busway if constructed.

    The long underlying issue has been is gradient getting up from Massey to Westgate, if you have the right gradient you can construct and have a line going through Massey to Westgate. Wellington for example, once had this issue with gradient and getting a line through Tawa Flats. How the solved the issue was making a linear cut and cover through tunnel through Tawa Flats so it would save time for commuters travelling in and out of Wellington, deviated though Tawa and now calls it the ’Tawa Flats Deviation’. What we should do for NorthWestern Rapid Transit for Heavy Rail between Massey to Westgate is cut and cover for the station. From Triangle RD NorthWestern Cycleway entry/exit to SHI6 Massey Exit do trenched/lower staircase climb, SH16 Massey Exit to Kuaha RD do tunnelled.

    From Triangle RD NorthWestern Cycleway entry/exit 19 M elevation
    SHI6 Massey Exit elevation 40 M/Massey Station minus -6, equals 34 M elevation
    Distance: 689 M
    Gradient: 2.15

    SHI6 Massey Exit elevation 40 M/Massey Station minus -6, equals 34 M elevation
    Kuaha RD 38 M elevation
    Distance: 1030 M
    Gradient: 0.38


    The first priority for the North Western Rapid Transit should be to to construct a busway first before we go deciding to build a Heavy Rail line through since there’s other parts of Auckland who need build a Heavy Rail first, along with it, there only space for one more line to accommodated in CBD link. We should be focusing on building a Dominion RD Heavy Rail line due to patronage capacity on the Double Decker buses on Dominion RD reaching maximum capacity, should be categorised as ‘Main Priority’ solving issue! Another problem, is that we need ‘Second City Rail Link’ in Auckland and upgrade the ‘Eastern Approach tunnel at Britomart’ to accommodate more Heavy Rail, even if you went for Light Rail, you’d would have to build second tunnelled line through the City too since Light Rail different form of rail compared to Heavy Rail, either way means rail second form of rail would need to be constructed.


    Another problem here in Auckland we have is the ‘Housing Crisis’. Not enough housing being built, not enough public transport infrastructure being built too. If we be successful at both of things, we achieve greater outcomes for all! We do need to follow similar way as British Columbia as shown on here, but differently. Instead what we should be doing is get placing zoning over 4 storeys high developments along public transport corridors, but have consultation & consent for the design/specifications. We need Auckland Council to revise its ‘Unitary Plan’ too, no need to create rule for distance between station and location of development building. What Auckland Council should do is revise its ‘Unitary Plan’, by placing zoning where locations of future over 4 storey development buildings can be placed, if residents want to challenge, they must once draft of zoning is made, then once shown final zoning and residents agree to final zoning, can’t apply any consultation & consent process for future over 4 storey development buildings placed, can’t have any consultation & consent process.

    1. Hilarious.

      The answer to a gradient problem for heavy rail is to spend billions on a cut and cover, rather than surface light rail at a fraction of the cost. Just because your personal preference is heavy rail.

      And still, billions on a tunnel for Dom Rd, ignoring the obvious alternative. I guess if money is no object and HR gets your rocks off, you can put HR everywhere you desire.

      You have HR tunnel vision.

      1. The ‘cut and cover’ is only for the entry/exit of Northbound Massey and bit of the station which should be around $30-50 Million. Cost isn’t the matter here, it’s more about versatility (change tracks, two or three lines on one track, commuting by one stop not transferring between to another) and how you utilise on the transport network. Heavy Rail would be more ideal for better connection for Aucklanders since it’s faster, it’s mobility use. A 1km tunnel up & down between Massey-Westgate should cost $2-3 Billion.

        As for Dominion RD tunnels Heavy Rail, going though Dominion RD to Onehunga would be $7-8 Billion, only $1 Billion for Southdown-Avondale due to Land Acquisition already own/paid-off by KiwiRail which state owned meaning central government owned also meaning getting a discount for fully-plated project. Be more cheaper to construct even if it was to go right through to Airport.

  11. Good on Wayne, lol.
    Well new North Western bus changes kick in tomorrow, oh this morning, it’s past midnight, with a watered down busway of sorts, but the best AT could do in the circumstances.
    Wow those “15 Minute City Conspiracies” crazy.
    Interesting the Norway situation with EV’s.

  12. The safer speeds finding is interesting and IMO important. It’s IMO one of the few decent accomplishments, of the 6 year Labour government. And one seemingly likely to be at least partially reversed by the incoming National one. We can only hope results like these combined with community pressure might be enough to at least reduce how hard they go in reversing in course.

    (In some cases maybe pushback from councils although I admit, I’m not holding out hope we’ll get much of that from Auckland. I get the impression it was one reason for the rightward shift last election.)

    I assume since they’ve promised it as part of their cost reduction measures, that they’re at least not going to be removing the speed barriers already installed, another small win for those places where it happened.

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