There are now only a few days left to give feedback on the Draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport 2024-34. See our earlier posts on GPS submission guides, and on the disparity between funding rail and funding RoNS.

As we’ve reported, the GPS is a disaster for Local Government, so we’ve been particularly interested to hear Auckland Council’s take. This is also a pivotal moment for Mayor Wayne Brown to demonstrate leadership on reducing emissions, improving transport safety and advocating cost-efficient delivery of a multi-modal transport system.

Staff prepared a comprehensive and constructive submission on the GPS, which was the sole item on the agenda for Wednesday’s extraordinary meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee.

Chair John Watson, supported by the Mayor, accomplished a very efficient meeting. Questions were gracefully handled by staff from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, who had put in a great deal of time including after hours and on weekends. It was also clear from the discussion and debate who around the table had actually read the draft GPS and done their homework on the submission.

(Video of the meeting here: Part 1 and Part 2)

In the end, Council’s submission was approved with 16 votes in favour. Councillors Williamson, Stewart and Turner voted against, and Cr Lee abstained. There were no amendments that might have toughened up the feedback; but likewise, no watering down either.

Three contributions to the meeting stood out as powerfully stating the facts and the opportunities. A public presentation from All Aboard Aotearoa’s Magalie Ménard and Paul Winton with Jessica Palairet, Executive Director of Lawyers for Climate Action New Zealand; and comments by Councillors Shane Henderson and Richard Hills.

Below, we share highlights of the public input, and Cr Hills and Henderson’s speeches in full. It’s hard to think of clearer statements of Auckland’s urgent transport needs – and why the government must support the city to be a thriving economic powerhouse and a place where people want to live (and even children can safely cross the road).

1. Presentation by All Aboard Aotearoa and Lawyers for Climate Action New Zealand

This was a corker given the very short notice, with Council’s feedback only available late the previous evening. The clear message: the draft GPS should be rewritten to reflect the needs of Aucklanders and New Zealanders, and to avoid major reputational and legal risk. It’s worth watching the 15-minute segment, but here’s Paul Winton’s summary:

The draft GPS, as it stands, is a great document… if the objective is to strangle a city with cost, congestion and carbon.

On costs and congestion: p180 in [Council’s] submission nails the absurdity of the draft GPS which “permits investment only when demonstrated volumes of pedestrians and cyclists already exist.”

My 11 year old daughter caught an AT bus today and my 9 year old walked 2 km to school today. That took one car off the road at peak time, gave me back the better part of an hour to come and talk to you, and gave my girls a sense of independence and the health benefits of a stroll.

Had that not been in place, had there not been a relatively safe walking path and a cost effective timely bus service, I’d be losing a day a week to being a taxi. These productivity issues are real.

Living in central Auckland, I’m one of the lucky ones who can actually do that. We need to make this available to everybody in this city.

On carbon: the draft GPS says that the ETS will do all of the work. To achieve Auckland’s goals would require a carbon cost that would add about a dollar a liter to petrol. That would smash travel very quickly by car, but without alternative modes – as the draft GPS sets us up for – we simply strangle the freedom to move around Auckland, and cost Aucklanders almost a billion dollars more every year [in terms of light traffic alone, leaving aside impacts on freight].

Lastly: the draft GPS reaches into local government decision-making, and will make innovation using existing infrastructure (which we need to be doing more of) much harder; and it is entirely incompatible with the wishes of Aucklanders.

All Aboard and LCANZ offered three suggestions to Councillors:

  • More strongly reject the proposed restriction on walking, cycling and PT investment. Auckland cannot deliver its plan with these shackles.

  • Call for health to be more explicitly prioritised. We know that upwards of 3000 people are already dying every year because of transport pollution, and that comes at massive social and economic cost.

  • Lastly, the GPS should explicitly prioritise for carbon emissions reduction. Fixing this fixes everything at the lowest cost to council’s capex/opex, and the lowest cost to pockets of the citizens of NZ and Auckland. That can be done by delivering on the TERP [Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway] that has already been committed to by people in this room.

There were three questions, from Cr Hills about the cost impacts, from Cr Henderson about legal risk, and from Cr Turner about the gap between “what we say we want to achieve” in reducing carbon, and what we see around us. “So what should we do to unlock that hypocrisy?”, asked Cr Turner.

Paul Winton’s response:

You walked straight into that one! We should deliver on the TERP. In Auckland, we have an excellent and world-leading plan that will deliver the lowest cost best outcomes for the city. It serves as a poster child, not only for other cities in New Zealand, but also around the world. The mayor has signed up for C40 Cities again – and that has been noticed.

People want to live in cities where they can move around easily; people are making decisions about where they live on their ability to move comfortably around the city. Auckland, under this GPS, would be going in the wrong direction. If we can just deliver on the TERP… then we will get there.

2. Councillor Shane Henderson, Waitākere Ranges Ward 

(Link to video of speech)

I’m stoked about our direction here.  I want to thank the staff for their hard work on this, it is tough no doubt to give feedback on something so politically charged, but you stuck to our policies, our past votes, what we have told you are our priorities as a Council and I thank you for that.

The Local Board submissions here are fantastic, I would suggest they be appended to our submission directly if we don’t already do that.

I would suggest that we put the politics aside on our transport system.  This GPS puts politics over evidence.

I want to zero in on a couple of aspects to that, and hopefully my colleagues will jump in I’m sure on some of the other issues.

Too often, we make decisions at all levels of Government without thinking about its impact on disabled Aucklanders.  I want to recommend a study, called Transport Experiences of Disabled People in Aotearoa New Zealand, commissioned by Waka Kotahi in 2022.

It sets out the biggest challenges for our disabled residents, that being followed by problems with accessibility of footpaths and public transport. I’m quoting here: “A lack of available bus services was the most common challenge mentioned by respondents. Buses were either not provided, not close enough to walk to, or too inconvenient to catch. Disabled people fear they are being ‘left behind’ in planning for sustainable city centres.” They’re being told in this GPS, economic factors override their basic needs to live in our city.

People tend to extrapolate that to “vulnerable users” and include groups like children going to school and getting around the city.  This GPS and the general transport policies around it makes the trek to school more dangerous, more inconvenient, and more expensive.

Speed tables and slow speed zones don’t just get built for no reason.  There isn’t some Snidely Whiplash figure, going around Auckland looking for random places to slow cars down.  Those speed tables are usually there because schools ask for them. They ask me for them. For those that want to make politics out of that, when the next primary school principal emails me asking for help, I’ll be sending them straight to you for an explanation.  And in a city where our death and serious injury statistics are shameful and immoral, I’m a father myself, I just want my kids to walk to school safely.

Definitively not the architect of safer raised crossings in Auckland: the cartoon villain Snidely Whiplash (image: Wikipedia)

We in this country love the per capita tables.  It turns us from a middling country in the Olympics into world-beaters.  Just last month, we topped yet another per capita table, yet this time it was no cause for celebration. As of February 2024, Aotearoa New Zealand has the highest rate of car ownership on the planet.

What’s more, we actually grew in rates of ownership by one of the fastest in the world, fastest for a Western country.  It’s little wonder we have a productivity problem in this country, because we’re stuck in traffic all the time.  And to build mega highways to carve through communities will not help, the evidence of over a hundred years of transport planning proves that.

This GPS barely even mentions climate change at all.  Imagine that: an existential threat, a situation that will result in the first generation to have a worse quality of life than their parents, and barely even mentioned.  The fact is, this GPS locks in huge carbon emissions both in terms of the sunk carbon of mega roads, and an increasing commitment to vehicle transport and a hack and slash at any alternative modes of transport to get around our city.  It is nothing more than climate vandalism.

Up to a 136% rise in public transport fares. Is this action on the cost of living? Hacking and slashing at our services to deny access to hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders, is this action on the cost of living?  If this gets passed as is, it’ll either take money out of the pockets of Aucklanders in a crisis, or will rip away your opportunity for transport choice, or probably some combination of both.

Of course we know the people it’ll affect the most, too. It’ll affect suburban Aucklanders the most. A lot of us represent those communities. It’ll affect Maori and Pacific communities the most. It’ll affect people living close to the line the most.

I am glad to tell Aucklanders that your Council, through this submission, is trying to stitch together a transport system befitting a modern world city, that cuts your congestion and gets you around as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Cost, congestion and carbon. The three C’s, to borrow a phrase from “All Aboard”, that’s a very wise direction.

3. Councillor Richard Hills, North Shore Ward

(Link to video of speech)

If this GPS stays in its current form, it represents a dramatic step backwards for Auckland and New Zealand.

I’m hoping the Minister and the Government can see what a disaster this is for our city.

Evidence shows, the proposed GPS means more congestion, more deaths, more serious injuries, more kids hit by speeding vehicles, more carbon emissions, less access for people of all ages to walk around their communities easily and safely, the GPS along with the $1.2b Regional Fuel Tax cut means we will not even be able to fund our current planned infrastructure let alone fund the aspirations of Aucklanders.

This GPS makes no mention of the important partnership we have with mana whenua and our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and it removes all and any focus we had on climate change. The TERP and Te Tāruke ā Tāwhiri – Auckland’s climate plan are based on well supported scientific evidence to ensure we reduce our fair share of emissions. The targets are based on the Paris agreement which was signed by the last National government. Aucklanders expect that we work towards the targets our political leaders have already signed up to.

Not only are children and young people losing their newly found independence next month, when free kids travel and half price fares for under 25’s is removed, the Govt’s potential half a billion dollar cuts to public transport services will have a crippling effect on the back pockets of all Aucklanders.

You can bet most of the 90 people that were on the double decker with me this morning, won’t be able to afford $10 each way to get to the city, many think $4.45 is already too expensive and that’s already far cheaper than fares to get to the city from areas like Franklin and Rodney. There are many communities who cannot afford to travel around our city now, many are locked in our suburbs due to distance, income or lack of access.

Over 50% of those travelling across the harbour into the city in the morning are on a bus, can you imagine if half those bus users switched to their cars, having that replicated across the city will see congestion rise dramatically having a massive negative effect on emissions, congestion and economic activity in our city. That’s what will happen if we have to increase fares or cut services to fit the budget cuts proposed.

If we cannot fund adequate services for the Eastern busway and the CRL what was the point in investing billions in those infrastructure projects first place?

I cannot comprehend why walking and cycling has become a political football in this city. People from all walks of life, cycle and walk around our community. Most of those I see in my local community are kids, especially around school times, risking their lives just to get to school. Imagine if we made it safer, how many more kids there would be choosing these free modes of transport and freeing up the road for tradies, freight and those who have no choice but to  drive.

Why does this GPS make kids the victims of the culture war that we are seeing right now? Future generations are begging us to make our streets safer, make the air cleaner and play our part in action on climate change.

Former Transport Minister Simon Bridges, who now the chairs Waka Kotahi, put record funding intocycle infrastructure in Auckland; we have not seen that since. He said at the time they were investing in cycling to give New Zealanders more opportunities to choose cycling – whether you commute to and from work and school, to run errands, or get some exercise.

He said, when announcing record funding for cycling:

“We recognise the contribution cycling makes to healthier communities, and that safe and attractive cycling infrastructure can encourage people in urban areas to change their travel patterns.

That’s why we’re funding an integrated education programme to help people better understand the benefits of a bike-friendly country, and the positive impacts of more people riding bikes”

Where is that leadership now? It should not be controversial to let people have the choice to safely use the cheapest forms of transport around our communities. Kids should be able to walk and cycle to school safely.

Aucklanders get up every day and make choices about how they travel around our city, most still jump in their cars, most days they’re stuck for hours in traffic, the more people who do that, means the harder it gets for all of them to move around.

But Aucklanders tell us time and time again, if it’s safe they’ll walk and cycle on some of their daily trips, and if it’s affordable, easy and frequent they’ll catch the bus, jump on the train, or get on a ferry.

Underinvesting in public transport infrastructure and the services is doing the exact opposite of what Aucklanders want. It’s the opposite of what every major city in the world is doing. We are losing talented New Zealanders to cities in Australia and all over the world where the public transport is far better than it is here.

I hope the Government will change this direction. I really hope the Minister will change some of the proposals in the GPS. I do understand a change of government means a change of direction, but right now we still need them to help us fund a modern, affordable, connected, safe transport system that all Aucklanders deserve.

I think our submission hits most of those points. Kia ora.

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  1. Something I noted from this article was “with patronage recovering to near pre-pandemic levels, the proportion of operating costs covered by fares has risen to around 30%”
    I assume we’re needing to get back to the arbitary but reasonably established target of 50% recovery we had prior to the pandemic, in order for budget expectations to balance. Clearly we’ve had very high inflation over the last few years, and it continues to run well above the target band. Fares have not been increased to match, whereas rates have and also tax take is well up due to wage growth and bracket creep.
    I’d see an increase in fares as inevitable, moderated only by cancellation of services where patronage is poor.
    A person I spoke to yesterday is planning to cycle once the bus subsidy ends. It was going to cost $1000 per year on the bus, so cycling is a very viable alternate.

    1. Cycling is a great option financially esp if you can take a car out of your family budget. We did it in 2017 and the cumulative savings over this time are huge. When you factor in I’d probably have needed a new car during this period, with cost of petrol etc over 7 years, we’re easily $50,000 to the good. I’m also 20kgs lighter than 7 years ago which I don’t think is a coincidence.

      Not sure the numbers stack up as well when it’s about saving $1,000 in PT fares annually as cycling does have running costs but it’ll certainly be more fun.

  2. Richard Hills’ contribution misses the mark like so much centre-Left discourse because it doesn’t understand the culture war is the point of the whole thing. The Government doesn’t *care* about actual outcomes with congestion or emissions. The *only* point is “making the wokesters scream”. The more Hills and those like him scream, the more Simeon Brown laughs in celebration, the more their approval ratings with their base goes up. It’s pure spite. You can’t defeat this with facts, logic or shame. This is a speech of impotence and appealing to a monster to play nice.

    1. I agree on the gps being spiteful. Language like “blanket speed limits” seems not fit for a policy document.

      No science here. Just hate.

    2. This is absolutely spot on. And it applies to all the other retrograde actions of this govt. Needs to be called out for what it is.

    1. Because he always faces leeward. I’ve seen the effects of him going windward and you don’t want to be there when it happens.

  3. Kudos to council excluding Councillors Williamson, Stewart, Turner and Cr Lee.

    Re if this goes through unchanged.

    The GPS doesn’t prevent councils from building walking/cycleways right? So can we just ensure developer charges cover the cost of new footpaths/cycleways for new roads/upgrades for developments and not use NZTA funds?

    For the RoNS, can we offer to pay for those paths ourselves as part of the project? As NZTA RoNS teams will still prefer to have those paths as it keeps their projects safer. And if possible designate the RoNS corridors for footpaths so they have to provide a mitigation measure. The whole reason RoNS build these local walking routes is to get the community onside, and to call the project multimodal so the project doesn’t get cancelled by the next gov if unpopular.

    Re PT, I think it needs to be mostly a mix of rate increases and fare increases rather than dropping services. Our pop is going up, and in most cases congestion is going to go up until it makes sense to take PT rather than drive again. Especially the NEX, the Northern Busway is the better alternative regardless of whether it’s $5 or $10 a trip to the CBD if you’re travelling anywhere near peak time. Similar for most routes with bus lanes. Individuals will stop taking it, and it might be significant in the short run, but in the medium term people will just pay more as they won’t have a better option. No one will like it, but AT/council should be explicit why it has occured, blaming gov rather than have the public take it out on them. They need to be a broken record on this for their own sakes, as otherwise people will blame them. Similar with traffic.

    The GPS isn’t great, but just means the gov is stepping back from sorting our issues in favour of building motorways, so council will have to step up instead. It doesn’t mean we’ve got to miss out, just we’ve got to pay more to keep what we’ve got. Compared to the rest of the country our rates/rate rises won’t be as much, so we’re in a great spot compared to other places.

    1. Nope. It’s not just stepping back, it’s actively forbidding funding. Nanny state vs road calming, and kids on bikes staying safe.

      1. Isn’t that actively forbidding NZTA funding, not AT funding? Like, not arguing that it’s a good decision (it’s not), but just trying to figure next steps without us just accepting a lower quality of life.

  4. Pretty fanciful to suggest that Kiwis are leaving for Australia because they have better public transport.
    They are leaving for better economic opportunities after 6 years of the Red Queen trying to turn us all in to serfs of Marx, through closing down mineral exploration, making farmers less productive, instituting ruinous shutdowns of the country and trying to make our transport routes come to a grinding halt.
    We have had 6 years of “culture wars” and we need to support people who have the common sense to put in place programmes that will enable commerce to prosper and provide opportunities for individuals who want to get off their backsides, instead of a “collective” that is beholden to the State. We need a strategic analysis of where we want to be at the turn of this century and start to implement long term plans for this. I can’t see how a focus for transport “with all roads going to Auckland” is going to provide anything but an ongoing mess.
    Interesting how the lefties on this site all denigrated the development around Drury, but if we were to incorporate this with Craig Turner’s of Sleepyhead Ltd thinking, we could develop some real centres of wealth and excellence. The concept of everyone being coerced into living in ever smaller dwellings and in cycling distance to an increasingly squalid CBD, appeals to the “command and control” leftist who sees the creation of wealth for individuals in regional centres as somehow abhorrent.

    1. “The concept of everyone being coerced into living in ever smaller dwellings and in cycling distance to an increasingly squalid CBD, appeals to the “command and control” leftists.”

      A bit like forcing people to live on the fringes and condemn them to a 2hr each way commute in their car and the crippling fuel bill that results.

      If you have a problem with command and control, then you have a problem with Simeon Brown, not “leftists” who don’t hold the levers of power at the moment.

      1. That is my point, why are we planning for people to continue to come into the Auckland CBD? It is unattractive, tourism is minimal, Auckland will never be an international centre for finance and there are no productive industries in the central area.
        Both sides of politics have been delinquent in developing strategic plans for NZ that would give our grandchildren opportunities to succeed, rather than having to become Australian citizens.

        1. Not been downtown lately? very attractive, What planet are you on? Street upgrades continue to be done so mid-town will be a lot more attractive with CRL opening.

        2. Man who lives behind keyboard with Reality Check Radio on in background who hasn’t been to the City Centre in 12 years decries its horrible and nobody goes there.

    2. It’s unfair to blame closures on the Red Queen, and calling her that indicates you may not be reachable with a considered argument. NZ’s are leaving because neither party has set up economic conditions that will allow NZ’s to prosper. We are a wealthy country that acts like some poor vassal state of Australia. This current government’s austerity plan will make the recession worse and drive more New Zealanders away. The last government’s plan to invest $30b over 30 years in Auckland was a more sensible plan although most of what was in the plan was off target.
      Auckland CBD is the engine of New Zealand’s Economy. Growth last year was 9.2% compared to the rest of the country at 2.9%. We need rules that allow development all over Auckland, but we need government investment in PT and in housing and industry that serve those PT areas, to ensure that we get home supply built in those areas and that PT will be a better choice.

      1. You’re not wrong there. Was about to sell up in the UK and bring my business home yet NZ had gone to the dogs since the National coalition was voted in killing any plans to do that.

        NZ is quickly looking like a very unappealing place to live and invest for those with skills and money, and it has nothing to do with Adhern who was seen as a positive influence internationally, whether you were on the left or right.

        The current government and PM are looked on very poorly.

    3. Local and regional centres have been part of the Unitary Plan for a while now.

      You are absolutely right, strong town centres across the city, region and nation will reduce the need for long commutes.

      They also invite rationalized road and PT connections in a ‘string of pearls’.

      People want diverse lifestyles even in one individual lifetime. What seems squalid from a prosperous middle age was probably intensely exciting and affordable in an adventurous youth.

  5. Thanks councilors, and your transport team. How do we keep our best and brightest once this brown GPS hits the fan.

    I don’t want to live in a gridlocked car only city.

  6. The argument about how quickly people can access light rail on the street versus underground fails to take into account the fact that, depending on how people actually begin their journeys to the station and the layout of the area, walking to a surface stop may actually be longer or more difficult than walking to an underground entrance and then descending to the geometry dash lite platform.

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