The two stories we covered at the start of the week continue to be in the headlines so it’s worth looking at the latest for each of them.

Regional Fuel Tax

Mayor Wayne Brown promised some ‘argy-bargy’ over the government’s decision to cancel the Regional Fuel Tax and he’s followed that up by requesting that AT stop work on all projects funded in part by the RFT, including those Minister Simeon Brown has listed as his priorities – though it also includes some good projects like Gt North Rd and his comments around cycleways and safety programmes leave a lot to be desired.

As a result of this uncertainty, Mayor Brown has requested that Auckland Transport take the following immediate steps to avoid incurring unfunded costs:

Pause work on programmes and projects that are earmarked to be partially RFT funded where construction contracts have not been executed, including consultant or contractor spend. This includes, for instance, the Great North Road cycleway, other projects in the safety and cycleway programme, as well as Glenvar and Lake Road improvements. In some cases, programmes or projects may be able to be scaled back to avoid unfunded costs, and this may be the appropriate response.

Review all RFT-funded projects where construction contracts have been executed to assess options for, and costs of, deferring, cancelling, or rescoping these projects. This includes, for instance, the Eastern Busway Stages 2 and 3 (including the Reeves Road Flyover).

“Auckland Transport should use this opportunity to reconsider how it can do things better, faster, and cheaper,” Mayor Brown says.

While the RFT was being used to fund public transport and much-needed road upgrades, Mayor Brown has acknowledged concerns that some of the money had been earmarked for low-value cycleways and raised pedestrian crossings. These projects were made a priority under funding requirements set by the previous government, and many of these projects had already been defunded in the Mayor’s budget proposal.

“I agree that we need to stop wasting money on things that Aucklanders don’t want or need. But the government is also turning the tap off to fund the many things we do need,” he says.

“All of this again highlights one of my core messages: Aucklanders need to have a greater say over the region’s transport programme. We are the only council in the country that cannot set its own transport plan, and that is just ridiculous. I am hopeful the Government will fix this.”

I can’t help but feel there are a few very happy people in AT about this news. Some of them fought very hard to stop good projects like Gt North Rd from happening and it seems like they may have been able to delay things just enough to succeed.

In responding, the Minister proved the Mayor’s point about Auckland not having enough say by saying he’ll just legislate to override the council.

“In repealing the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax, we’ll be legislating to ensure that any remaining funds are spent on these priorities.”

Rail Network Issues

More days and more rail network issues. We’re now at 16 working days since the end of the summer shutdown and there have been delays and cancellations on 14 of them.

As noted earlier in the week, the Mayor was calling in Auckland Transport, One Rail and Kiwirail to give a “bloody good bollocking” over the ongoing issues. A press release last night gives a summary of that meeting, including that most of the heat related issues will be resolved over the next week.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has hosted a productive and focused meeting today about recent rail issues in Auckland. The meeting was attended by Auckland Transport, KiwiRail, Auckland One Rail (train operator), and the Office of the Minister of Transport.

A range of issues were discussed that have been affecting passenger rail services, which include heat restrictions, temporary speed restrictions, delays caused by a transition to a new signalling system at Britomart for the City Rail Link, multiple point failures, staff shortages, and poor communication to customers.

None of these individual issues are the single cause of disruptions, but they have compounded to cause an unacceptable situation.

The meeting was focused on the actions required to fix these problems. The following actions were noted by the Mayor:

  • Over the next week, KiwiRail will be carrying out an aggressive plan to fix the 4.4km sections of rail that were subject to heat restrictions this week. This will reduce the amount of rail subject to such restrictions to less than 1 km of rail and, in doing so, drastically reduce disruption to Auckland commuters.
  • Auckland One Rail will resolve crew shortages by 11 March, 2024.
  • All agencies are to work over the next week to identify ways to mitigate delays caused by the new signalling system at Britomart and report back.
  • All agencies are to consider whether temporary adjustments to train timetables are required to ensure reliable and predictable services so Aucklanders can have confidence in transport timetables.
  • A joint Auckland Rail Operation Centre will be opened on 14 March with all parties involved in running the Auckland rail network located there, to ensure everyone can work better together.
  • All parties have agreed that they will adopt joined-up communication to customers.
  • All agencies noted the importance of completing the Rail Network Rebuild by the go-live date for City Rail Link, so we receive the benefit of its significant investment.
  • Auckland Transport is to develop better customer-centric metrics for the rail system to understand the performance of the network and the impact of delays on customers.
  • All parties committed to putting the customer first and to continuous improvement and making changes as necessary.

The Mayor has also noted the recent review into KiwiRail’s Handling of Recent Disruptions to Passenger Services, which found that governance arrangements for metropolitan rail lines are insufficiently integrated across rail participants. The report found that there was a need for a collaborative, aligned governance group focused on delivering excellent services.

It’s good there will be some improvement over the next week but it seems like there’s still a decent amount of disruption ahead.

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  1. 2023 convinced me that Auckland is broken beyond fixing, strangely it feels by a combo of Labour and Phil Goff. The start of 2024 has cemented this feeling that we are a City (and country) now going backwards. I don’t know of many of Cities that have this problem but it’s not one I’m keen to stay in. For the first time in the 13 years since I moved from the UK i’m solely in Auckland now because I have to be and as soon as possible we will be leaving either overseas or Christchurch.

    Why can’t we have nice things?

  2. I attended the AT meeting where they agreed* (pending funding) to improve Great North Road. It was an amazing victory, and clearly too good to be true.

    Our mayor is fiscal conservative, and although everyone knows that everything becomes more expensive over time, he has not ascertained this from his seventy-something annualities upon this earth.

    I am a little over half his age, and have no intention to be ageist, but the Minister for Auckland is not a quarter of his age and he is clearly much worse in terms of Neo Liberal cult brainwashedness.

    But there is nothing we can do, the backwards people in the Wellington halls of power can change the laws to unprogress us back to the 1950s. A time when we ripped out our tramways, built our Spaghetti Junctions, and generally concreted our paradise away.

    The politicians ramble on about democracy, but what is happening is not what people want. From three pm to seven pm it seems impossible to move anywhere on the motorway at anything close to train speed.

    We have known for decades that gridlock costs our economy gazillions, but all Nazional is concerned about is your Toyota, be it an urban ute or anti tall person hatchback.

    I want food on my table, not oil poisoning my children’s breaths.


  3. For F%$k’s sake, Great North Road IS something that Aucklander’s want.
    Endless and endless rounds of consultation were done.

    Ridiculous that this could happen after all that has gone on with that project, on the whim of a politician who shouldn’t be dictating what happens on a 2km section of road in Auckland. You’re a minister, focus on the big issues.

  4. I understand that Labour had to go given how unpopular many of their policies were. But it feels like in a rush to get rid of them we have given the green light to unpopular policies on the other side. This is the only way I can rationalise opinion polls that consistently show that Aucklanders want investment in public transport and active modes prioritised and a new government doing the opposite.

  5. the verb “To Br0wn” or Br0wned means to cancel for ideological reasons.

    The kids were driven to school because the safe road crossing was Br0wned out.
    The Br0wning of Auckland, as the cars parked up on the southern motorway.

  6. I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow cancel the cycle way along Meola despite all the work well underway at this point just out of ideological purity. Ah well, get stuck behind me and enjoy a look at my sweaty back.

  7. As of September 2023, around $780 million in Regional Fuel Tax (RFT) revenue had been raised, with approximately $341 million remaining unspent (the equivalent of more than two years’ worth of revenue).
    “I have discussed the unspent funds with Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown and signalled our intention that they are to be spent on projects which are of mutual priority to the Government and Auckland Council. These projects include the Eastern Busway, City Rail Link electric trains and stabling, road corridor improvements, and some growth-related transport infrastructure.
    “We are a government that is open to road pricing – both tolling and time of use
    charging. We are committed to working with Auckland Council to deliver a time of
    use charging framework that will improve travel times and network efficiency in our
    “This Government’s significant transport plan for Auckland builds on the success of
    the Northern Busway, with rapid transit busways planned for the North West, East,
    and a connection between the Airport and Botany, linking in with the existing rail
    network at Puhinui.”

  8. May I just remind those of you berating “Wellington” ministers in this weird government, that:
    Simeon Brown is MP for Pakuranga, and is also the Minister for Auckland, and for Transport, and for Local Government.
    Chris Luxon is MP for Botany, and also owns 6 properties in Auckland and 1 in Wellington. He is also the Prime Minister.
    David Seymour is MP for Epsom, an Auckland suburb.
    Winston Peters is MP for nowhere, but possibly for the right to fish and race horses.

    Barring Winston from this discussion (always a good idea), the Wellington Ministers you complain against are in fact completely Auckland Ministers. YOU guys elected them. Don’t complain about Wellington – complain about the idiots in Auckland that voted this lot in. And you all also voted in Wayne Brown. It’s all your fault. Deal with it.

    1. Auckland also voted in these National MPs who won their seat from a Labour MP:
      Dan Bidois, who spent most of his 2018-2020 term unsuccessfully lobbying against a T3 lane on one of the busiest bus corridors on the North Shore
      Cameron Brewer, a former anti-everything councilor whose electorate is one of the worst served by public transport
      Greg Fleming, whose electorate encompasses the entire East-West link corridor .. one of the most hideously expensive road projects that was put on hold by the previous government
      Carlos Cheung, whose electorate would have had the most benefit of all from Light Rail, now canceled
      Rima Nakhle, whose electorate falls in the Mill Road corridor, one of the worst areas of urban sprawl in the super city
      Paulo Garcia, I honestly don’ t know what this guy does

      Aucklanders who thought they would be getting change for the better are now getting severe buyers remorse because of the government’s transport minister to override the city’s ability to make decisions that best suits its voters.

      1. Buyer’s remorse? A city that makes decisions that best suits its voters? Thank god we have someone calling BS on the open cheque book spending for half million dollar pedestrian crossings, military grade cycle ways that nobody uses and the gold plating of vital transportation ways such as Mill Road such that they became non viable.
        It is high time that pragmatism took over from ideology. The new government should defund and disestablish AT.
        A return to the concept of an efficient, highly competent Ministry of Works, would be a way to get this country moving again.

        1. If you think cycleways are not used I suggest you do some research. You will find that the automatic bike counters show they are well used.

        2. “It is high time that pragmatism took over from ideology.”

          Yay! Instead of spending hundreds of thousands to save lives, lets spend hundreds of millions – heck, a few billions! – to make trucks get to the next traffic jam 60s faster. Lets build East West Link! Lets build a new harbour crossing but without active modes or PT. Lets finance it with a PPP, and call it pragmatic!

          Oh, and lets spent a couple hundred millions on Mill road, but redesign it first make sure all the bridges and so on have no cycleways on them, forever, to save a few bucks. Its so 1950s pragmatic! And it really fucks off the “woke” crowd, so bonus!

          That’s what you are cheering on. Short-sighted tail-pipe-sniffing waste of billions, because you don’t like that someone might actually spend 2% of the transport budget on a few bikeways, or try and rectify half a century of our children being intimidated off our streets by speeding drivers in big SUVs.

        3. What is a military grade cycleway. Been watching the Ukraine and Gaza on the news and yet to see anyone on seperated cyclelanes?

          The guy calling everyone leftists and marxists wanting to centralise all planning and works..unless it run by a Governent they do not like of course.

      2. > Aucklanders who thought they would be getting change for the better are now getting severe buyers remorse because of the government’s transport minister to override the city’s ability to make decisions that best suits its voters.

        Wait… you mean like Twyford overruling Auckland on light rail, completely sinking the concept for (at least) a generation?

        1. The transport minister is actually an Auckland elected, not list MP
          Efficient movement of freight through the region has to be a priority. How much of your food is delivered by cycle way or footpath? Perhaps you should refuse to eat anything that has been on a truck?
          Don’t want to starve? You are not a good foot soldier of Marx then

        2. Electric cargo bikes for last mile delivery in our city centres is becoming a reality & quite efficient when combined with shared or car free spaces as you can get right up close to the business premises.

  9. Who’d have thought 12 months ago we’d be in the situation where Mayor Wayne is the voice of reason in these conversations?

    1. The only time a right-of-centre politician looks reasonable is when he’s arguing with a far-right politician.

      Canning the Great North Rd work to save a few bucks on rates is a very conservative move, not a reasonable one.

  10. I’m confused about GNR. Already fully funded from both AT and Waka Kotahi (remember the discussion about the application for funds had to be by 30 Jun). With all the work along the length of it right now – do they plan to just patch up and leave it? What happened to the “do it once” idea? Surely all this is just kicking the can down the road and it will cost so much more in the future.

  11. I don’t mind this “ideological ” debate,surely this will motivate “Aucklanders” to join the conversation, and shape the city,the way they would like it to be. Most consultations seem to come out on the side of increased PT,and better active modes,but we’ll see.
    Methinks Simeon is on a steep learning curve here, his current bubble,focus group ,doesn’t reflect what Auckland wants.

    1. the debate is fine except that we’ve already had it in Auckland. I don’t see why we need to debate or join a conversation that has already been had. Simeon has decided he didn’t like the original answer and is debating it again which seems petulant at best and unbelievably arrogant at worst. I guess he isn’t exactly debating it either… he has decided that he knows best.

      1. “I guess he isn’t exactly debating it either… he has decided that he knows best.”

        That’s the only hope in there – Auckland will get fucked off at being told we can’t decide our own transport network. That can backfire at the next election. But that is a while away, and other factors tend to override it anyway.

        And meanwhile local Brown is actually kind of making a name for himself as a “stand up guy” for Auckland, improving his chances at re-election – but in between the lines, he’s still horribly backwards in many ways on transport policy, so it isn’t that promising either.

        I guess I won’t see an Auckland where riding a bike is normal in my lifetime. Not when every design has to get approved and then survive being cancelled or delayed five to six times before its built.

  12. The two projects that Simeon has been specific that will go ahead are the new busway (in his electorate) and Mill Road (in Judith’s electorate).

  13. The status quo warriors are experts at predatory delay, feigned incompetence, relitigation and foot dragging and are wealthy enough or have the bankroll from the industry groups they’re shilling for to litigate. Those doing real work for positive change are (mostly) too principled to engage in such shenanigans.

  14. The country wanted change and got “seven worse devils”.
    People complained about AT ‘marxist behaviour’ and now we’ve got two Brown Dictators who don’t ask the piublic for consultation on anything they decide.

  15. Good the bullet points going forward with the rail issues.

    To be quite honest most of those would’ve been happening anyway the local control centre, crew shortages etc

    But for political reasons the mayor has to be seen by the public as to be fixing stuff. In saying that have to keep all the agencies on their toes.

  16. If Wayne Brown doesn’t want to spend the fuel tax money then perhaps the Government should take it off him and give it back to us as Auckland fuel subsidies for a few years.

  17. I can’t cry to much about cycleways cause I find cycling exhausting and I don’t like the idea of leaving a valuable electric bike chained up to a lamppost. But I can see there potential for escooter and shared paths for pedestrians. I love the one along the Eastern line and it would be great if it gets extended to Panmure and eventually to Botany as part of the busway project. Hopefully that vision will remain and get picked up at some point. I wonder if the Takanini Papakura one will be extended to Dury as part of the motorway widening it would be a pity not to now the project is well underway. I hope the east west project won’t happen as it will wipe another shared path I would still like to see that one extended over the railway to great South Road. I see they are tidying up the path from the bridge to the Mangere bridge shops. Looks most professional.
    Other than that bus and transit lanes seem to be where the money should be spent. I find a mixture of walking and public transport the best way to get around. And please can we continue the rapid conversion of the bus fleet from diesel to electric. I am not to fussed on buying an electric car but it’s so nice to ride in the new electric buses.

    1. It can be tiring but not with e-bikes:) used to trudge along under my own steam and then started noticing lots of older and chubbier folk than me whizzing by. Soon changed to an electric bike:) Definitely having a secure garage at work to lock it up helped. Cycleways only truly become effective when they are separated from traffic or are wide enough to have walkers and riders in the same area. The north western cycle way is outstanding for the most part and is super busy all the time. Occasionally it is a little jam packed even. Coming in from Te Atatu to the city on an electric bike is pretty easily achieved in around 30 minutes. “gold plated” actually works… anything is better than nothing but I had to stop using the painted on road cycleways … I lost my nerve. It really isn’t safe or enjoyable enough to promote cycling as a commute. Shit cycleways are like driving on basically any side street in Auckland these days… way too narrow with all the cars parked on both sides forcing everyone to drive much slower with the occasional person driving at full tilt missing you by millimetres. Shared paths are shit on main commuting paths as well unless they are really wide… let people cycle safely and at pace as part of their commute. If nothing else it stuffs up your strava results:)

    2. @ Royce “I wonder if the Takanini Papakura one will be extended to Drury as part of the motorway widening it would be a pity not to now the project is well underway. ”
      Yes all new or upgraded state highway projects Waka Kotahi / NZTA include shared paths/cycleways thank goodness.

      @Steve & @Royce – The more you cycle the easier it gets especially if on flatter areas but yes electric is nice. New shared paths that are expected to be well used by walkers are normally 4m or more which seems fine for shared use.

      1. the Supporting Growth team is having a community day on Saturday

        The Active Mode Corridor seems to have dropped off the program of work. It was to run along to the newly electrified train corridor. Cheap instant infrastructure – how awesome !

        Seems making a business case, (save lives, mode shift) and delivering a project (we can save some costs, its not car related) is a dont confuse “sales” with “delivery” kind of thing.

  18. As an American visiting Auckland for the first time for a couple days last year, I’d advise more spending on public transport and protected bike lanes (cycleways, if you prefer). The bus+train from airport to CBD was OK (better than many American cities) but it would be nice if it were a lot faster. I was in Auckland for a couple days on arrival in NZ both to see the city and to recover from jet lag. Because I was next flying to the South Island, I didn’t hire a car while in Auckland, but instead used bicycle rental and e-scooters. I would have felt more comfortable on my trip from Queen St to Karangahape Rd and Mt Eden if there had been a good cycleway all the way.

    Auckland is a beautiful city and it could be made even nicer with more public transport & cycleways. Look at Paris, Oslo, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen for examples of how to do transport better. If you want to make Americans REALLY jealous, convert a car lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge into a cycleway!

    1. Thats the thing. Its striking how beautiful Auckland is, and how accessible it could be from all corners. And you get to see that walking, cycling, scootering or out the window on a bus, train or ferry.

      Crawling behind your steering wheel on the motorway (pick any one)? Not so much…

      1. Thanks. Will do next time I’m in Auckland…
        But on my trip I wanted the exercise to help me get over the jet lag.

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