It’s Friday and we’re halfway through March Madness. Here’s some of the things that caught our attention this week.

This Week in Greater Auckland

New Chair

On Monday the government announced the new Chair of Waka Kotahi.

Former Transport Minister and CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber Hon Simon Bridges has been appointed as the new Board Chair of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for a three-year term, Transport Minister Simeon Brown announced today.

David Seymour is so close to getting it

David Seymour rides an e-bike to get around the city, which is great but sadly had a crash this week, which he blames himself for.

Act Party leader David Seymour came a cropper on his electric bike in Parnell on Sunday, and says he got a lot of help from passersby – but one onlooker was not quite so supportive.

Seymour was cycling on Parnell Road after leaving the Holy Trinity Cathedral’s Commonwealth service in the early evening.

“I just didn’t see a car. It wasn’t their fault, they had right of way. So I slammed on the brakes and realised I was going to cartwheel over, but I also realised I was still going to hit the car so I slammed on the brakes harder and over I went.”

Seymour says he did not hit the car, and the people in it stopped and came back to check on him. “They were mortified, but it wasn’t their fault.”

And he was so close to getting it.

Seymour has used an e-bike to get around Auckland since at least 2016, describing it at that point as “a great way to get around so long as it doesn’t rain and motorists keep being kind”.

In a Facebook post after a day of getting to meetings on his bike, he said “I thought I might become a convert to cycleways, but found that most of the time I was going somewhere where there wasn’t one. Unless practically every street had a cycle way, I’m not sure they would make a lot of difference for most trips. Buses are very annoying.”

Yes a cycleway on practically every street is the point, to make it safe everywhere. Because if we do, this example from Hamilton will happen elsewhere.

He’s also so close to getting that Vision Zero is about making our roads safe because sometimes, people just make mistakes.

Taking it slower on long distance travel

The government are focused on building four-lane highways all over the country, well mostly the North Island. There were a bunch of articles and videos this week about the joys of not using them.

The Spinoff kicked things off with a story about State Highway 1.

The evil masterminds behind the changes to our roading network have left us with a really long road that gets people driving on it to places faster. If they knew anything about long distance drivers, they would know we are not all out to get places as fast as possible. We’re here with our numb bums, sunburnt forearms and squinty eyes searching for adventure and excellent op-shop finds. Instead, over long stretches of bypassing the journey that could have been, we’re being bludgeoned with the tyranny of efficiency.

This particular demonic ideology says that things should be done as quickly and effectively as possible. If you’re going for a walk, you definitely shouldn’t stop to smell the flowers. In fact, what you really should do is stay inside and shake your phone to increase the step count. This is quicker and expends far less effort than actually going for a walk.

I know the tyranny of efficiency is alive and well in 2024, but I did also think that we were in an era where we knew forcing people down straight and narrow paths is bad. On a drive from Wainuiomata to Tāmaki Makaurau last week, which only took nine hours including multiple op-shop, coffee and snack stops, there were stretches where I couldn’t tell you where I was because there were no familiar monuments, like Huntly’s Deka sign. The road has been made so efficient that it bypasses some of our most loved unofficial national monuments. Staring blankly at the white lines laid out in front of me, I may as well have been a German tourist. Perhaps it was faster, but life’s a journey – and this journey was boring.

The Press also ran an op-ed with a similar theme but based on travelling around Europe.

On our recent European sojourn, we clocked up 5000 kilometres driving around central and eastern Europe. Our preference was to stick to secondary roads which, while slower, gave us an awesome insight into the various small towns and villages in the European heartland. Sometimes, however, time constraints meant we had to use highways and the difference between what we saw in these two contexts got me thinking.

The biggest difference in the roading network through Europe between my OE experience of cycle-touring in the 90s and our experience recently was the massive network of multi-lane highways that have been blasted across the landscape. Even former Soviet bloc countries now sport six or eight-lane highways that cross countries with no sympathy for the landscape, the topography or the residents.

We saw historical villages sliced in half by monstrous roading projects, huge viaducts that destroyed the former picturesque views enjoyed by rural communities, and a transport network that has, in one fell swoop, destroyed the viability of a plethora of rural communities.

I totally get that if you want to move products from Budapest to Brussels, or from Paris to Poprad, it’s a lot faster to do so on a road network that allows continuous driving at speed. While it’s really fun to go from village to village, all that dropping down to village speed makes a huge impact on total travel time. But all of that slowing down means that people passing through those villages visit their bakeries, restaurants and accommodation offerings.

Sticking in Europe and long distance travel, this video combining dinosaurs and trains is great.

Airport to Botany Moves Ahead

Waka Kotahi announced that the Airport to Botany project is one small step closer.

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) and Auckland Transport have now lodged decisions on the Notices of Requirement with Auckland Council for the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project.

This long term project is part of the Southwest Gateway programme which will deliver a fast, frequent, high capacity public transport route between Auckland Airport and the city’s southern suburbs of Manukau and Botany.

The decisions on the NoRs follows NZTA and Auckland Transport receiving Council’s recommendation from their independent hearings panel. The hearing was held in August 2023 and Council’s recommendation was issued last December.

Auckland Council will now inform submitters and other interested parties of the decisions and the 15-day appeal period. It is anticipated that the designations should be finalised by the end of 2024, subject to resolution of any appeals that are filed.


Project planning, funding and construction timeframes will be confirmed with the release of the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) later this year.

Aligning Infrastructure and Housing

A great op-ed from Thomas Nash, a Greater Wellington Regional Councillor on how the governments transport plans need to align with its rhetoric around housing.

There was a lot to like in the ambitious approach to cities, housing and urban development laid out by new Housing and Infrastructure Minister, Chris Bishop.

Here are three questions that will shape whether his plan succeeds or fails. First, are your government’s housing objectives supported by its transport spending? Second, do the whole of life costs of infrastructure consider all the real costs of development? Third, do you have your economic settings right to influence the right kind of housing getting built?

Bishop was bang on when he said that young people in New Zealand are being attracted by other cities like Sydney, London and New York. Housing is not exactly cheap or easy to come by in those cities, but two things they do have that NZ cities do not are extremely high quality public transport networks and more housing being built within their existing urban areas. Their transport spending has aligned with their housing objectives, much more than is the case in New Zealand’s cities.


Greenfields development also don’t help us reduce emissions. If the answer is simply to rely on private transport and the Emissions Trading Scheme, as signalled in the draft Government Policy Statement, then we need to be honest about how this will increase the everyday costs of transport. That’s the opposite of the government’s promise to help with the cost of living crisis and rising transport costs will have a bigger impact on those on fixed and lower incomes. Well-planned, higher density neighbourhoods connected by public transport are far more cost effective, they make it easier to live lower emissions lifestyles and they allow people to live without being forced to pay higher and higher transport costs.

Wellington’s District Plan

Sticking in Wellington, yesterday Wellington Councillors voted to wind back many of the bizarre and anti-housing recommendations made by the Independent Hearings Panel. The panel and their decisions have rightly received a lot of criticism in recent weeks.

The Spinoff highlighted all of the proposed amendments. And yesterday the council agreed to them. And then ran live updates of the meeting.

Wellington City Council has voted to accept all of today’s amendments, and officially passed a new District Plan.

The new District Plan enables tens of thousands of new homes. It allows apartments and townhouses across the city in suburbs where they were previously banned. It’s a pathway to a far denser, more affordable city.

Councillor Nīkau Wi Neera called it “a fantastic day for housing in Wellington.”

“We have ensured a generation of working people, students, families, retirees, anyone who is in desperate need of housing in the city will be able to achieve,” he said.

The meeting also contained this


A good example of just how much the city centre skyline has changed in just six years.

A quick intersection design lesson

Have a great weekend.

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    1. Not really, it’s a case of the more they look, the more they find. Decades of neglect and cheap fixes which only become apparent when the whole lot is dug up. And let’s get the extra spending required in perspective, it’s about the same as a few days of the superannuation cost. For a one off badly needed asset repair and upgrade.

    2. Fixing buried stuff is notoriously difficult to cost.
      Simply because it is buried.
      Pre project surveys are expensive, and are really only just sampling.
      Until recently, “as built” drawings, in fact any drawings, of buried services and structures were rare, and generally of low accuracy.
      Remember the Great Central Auckland Power failure of 1998, when they did not know the location, even the which side of the street, critical power cables, were installed.
      It is not all surprising that track beds laid by hand well over a century ago, for infrequent slow light trains, and only subsequently patch repaired when failed, are proving to be totally inadequate.
      Inadequate for powerful heavy, multiple trains per hour, quickly accelerating or decelerating at the now multiple stops.
      Even 30 years ago, NZR was just concentrating on keeping going infrequent commuter services in Auckland, on it’s woefully neglected track, using geriatric rolling stock.

  1. I know I sound like a broken record, but does anybody know officially when the Pukekohe to Papakura Train Service will resume? AT have just recently retimed the local bus services in Pukekohe, so that they connect better with the rail replacement bus service 394 at the Pukekohe Bus Station. But you all ask, have you had the rail replacement bus service for nearly two years and only now the local bus services are being retimed. So with the retiming of the local bus services, I think that the restarting of the rail service will be delayed until at least 2026.

      1. Thanks Grant, I have my concerns, with having no great timed connections between the local buses and the rail replacement bus, that after nineteen months, remember line was to be shut for 24 months, the timings are changed. I have a feeling that Kiwirail is having the upper hand in the negotiations with AT and that the line will be shut longer, as if the line is to be reopened according to statements in the public space, then why go to all the trouble to retime the local bus services with changes to drivers breaks, start and finish times, etc. for not a longer, allegedly, wait for the return of the trains. It does not make sense.

        Matt L any chance that you can do some investigating on this issue?

    1. This is what I saw at the Beginning of the month and Hopefully it will be ready in June when KR initially said ;-

      1. Thanks David.

        Hopefully the transport agencies and more particularly KR don’t backtrack on the reopening of the line.

        Matt L – Please can you get some answers to the reopening date?

    1. What you need to keep an eye out for is the deliberate decision at some point in the process that stops it from being implemented in the future like the Eastern Busway.

      Frankly I’d welcome the chance for the North Western busway to be stuffed up by such a decision because it would mean we’d actually be getting one.

      1. I doubt the east needs LRT yet and a proper busway delivers most of the benefit. If on Day 1 the busway can’t handle patronage then that just means that for the next corridor, LRT is a much stronger chance of being the solution from the get-go.

        1. S. Brown may have mentioned trackless trams but he won’t have investigated them as he would have realised they are not the nirvana he thinks they are. He thinks that they can just run trackless trams down any road with minimal disruption and cars will still be able to use the same space.

    2. Imagine if they didn’t widen Te Irirangi Drive, saving heaps of money while lowering congestion throughout the network, and invested in light rail instead. Win win win.

      But no, the engineers’ and planners’ inappropriate reliance on the Macro-Strategic Model has misinformed the decision-makers, so we get lumped with this supersizing shit.

      Given AT has been instructed to shift to vision-led planning, and away from this dated modelling approach, the AT Board is neglecting is duties on this.

  2. The Wellington district plan hearings yesterday went beyond removing ihp down zoning. They included upzoning amendments which didn’t pass in the draft district plan, like upzoning on the johnsonville line.

    1. I think The Spinoff deserves a shout out here for the great series they’ve been running on the Wellington district planning process.

  3. The Designation for A2B is only about protecting the land required for the full Rapid Transit product. Meanwhile, an interim bus express solution needs to be funded for quick-win. And while that’s happening, govt should be using their fast track consents process for the NW Rapid Transit project. WX1 is not really given a chance with very limited shoulder running not removing all congestion effects on the service. It is only meant as a stop-gap until the proper job is done. Where is the money for that in the GPS? There is no point rushing on with the NW Motorway from Brigham Creek Road to Huapai – check the Future Development Strategy for when that road is actually needed. More use would be the NW RTN from Westgate to Huapai to give those single-occupant car drivers a way to avoid the congestion.
    Most of the expenditure on RONS will be setting up lucrative PPP procurement bids, preparing NoRs, carrying out multi-million pound designs, buying land at windfall prices before a spade hits the ground, let alone anything is open to traffic. Check out the delivery dates in the GPS.
    Meanwhile, no money for the relatively small, quick and cheap congestion-busting bus lanes, bike connections, safety projects.

    1. You make some good points. If fast-tracking is appropriate anywhere, it’s to cut through the resistance to a change in paradigm. That is, to get active mode and public transport projects happening fast.

      On A2B, however, I disagree that there is any “land required for the full Rapid Transit product”. There is no land required here. It’s a superwide corridor already. This is a highly appropriate project for traffic lane reallocation, as there will be a significant increase in transport options. (The reason they don’t want to do this is due to their estimates for freight times, but these are wrong because they are based on dated modelling.)

      Fast-tracking the busway aspect of the corridor improvements would mean space reallocation to cycle lanes doesn’t happen! Why do that? It would mean:
      – actual traffic evaporation won’t happen at the same time as the uptick in sustainable modes.
      – designing the project for cycle lanes later will therefore be happening on the basis of unnecessarily high vkt, making the design for that project much, much harder.
      – they will still try to widen the corridor just to fit bikes in, later. So all the cost would have to come out of the cycling budget. This is unfair.

      Frankly, we can’t do that, and a call for fast-tracking the busway aspect is not helpful. What we need is for a shift in paradigm so we can do the affordable, sustainable, people-focused thing right at the start.

    2. I am getting increasingly concerned about the various loops our buses have to make to connect various stops and stations impacting journey times. Anyway in connection with Airport to Botany busway I think it was KLK who suggested that Manukau bus station should just be left off the route. This would just speed up a journey from Botany to the Airport and although it might not be much in terms of minutes it might be significant in attracting car centric people who are just not used to the vagaries of our public transport network. And this wouldn’t have to affect passengers to and from the Manukau Bus Station as the airport link could still operate and there could still be buses from Botany to the Manukau bus station. So before this busways becomes a wandering monstrosity set in stone like the failed light rail project lets revisit it with the goal of making it more direct. So Airport, Puhinui Road, Boundary road then Te Irirangi drive to Botany.

  4. “On Monday the government announced the new Chair of Waka Kotahi.”

    I was hoping that it would be Bert and Ernie, at least we would have two muppets.

  5. I like the kea included as a prototypical “bird” in the dino/train video at 7.37.

    And in the Auckland 2018/2024 comparison, there are a lot of new buildings, yes, but there’s also a car carrier in both photos so no change there.

    1. And during the week this started to Happen
      RIP To The Hard working Girls For the great service that you did for Auckland ;-

  6. It’s autumn now and winter is around the corner I have noticed Puhinui Station is very exposed to westerly winds compared to Papatoetoe. Papatoetoe has trees Puhinui doesn’t I think it’s that simple. Anyway a cold welcome to Auckland for tourists using the bus and train or for regulars making the switch there. I don’t know who owns the land on the western side of the station but a few trees could make a difference.

    1. Try waiting for a train at Ngauranga station in a winter southerly storm and you will never again complain about the temperature at Puhinui.

      1. I agree Puhunui is a cold place a times. You should go upstairs to the
        ‘waiting area’. Shelter from the wind, but not one seat to do your
        waiting on. At times I have been up there when one of the many
        stoppages occurs. Dozens of people but no where to sit – a nice
        way to treat the elderly like me. Maybe that’s the plan ?

        1. AT could be afraid somebody will load them onto one of their Cancelled Trains and take them home .

        2. There were some there on the 24th July hidden by a barrier as seen here at the 4.13 mark

        3. Well I am sure there are worse stations and yes there are some trees there so maybe the wind is coming along the tracks but its just so noticeable one minute your standing there in the chill as the train approaches two minutes later you get out at Papatoetoe and you think this is so much nicer. Chalk and cheese. But is a pity after all that was spent to set up the Airport link. Not much of a welcome to Auckland.

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