A few weeks ago, Auckland Council released the results of consultation on the Long Term Plan (LTP) that occurred in March. With almost 28,000 submissions, it received the most feedback of any Auckland LTP.

The consultation covered a wide range of topics soliciting feedback on different areas of council funded services and investment, as well as questions around the proposed Future Fund, the North Harbour Stadium and the Port of Auckland. Consultation was framed around several options: a central proposal (involving a rates rise, with choices and trade-offs), “pay less do less”, and “pay more do more”.

So what did Aucklanders say?

When looking at the overall direction for Auckland Council, responses from individuals show that while ‘do less’ (37%) was the highest single category, it was followed closely by the ‘central proposal’ option (34%) and ‘do more’ (20%). In other words, 54% either preferred to proceed with the proposed option or do more.

These results are further broken down by each area of Council services and investment.

Submitters leant towards the ‘do more’ option for “transport” and “water” and the ‘do less’ option for “city & local development” and “economic & cultural development”. While there is variation on each area, it’s important to note that the vast majority of submitters wanted at least the ‘central’ option and don’t want the reductions proposed by the ‘do less’ option. Simon Wilson has an excellent article on the LTP feedback that hits a lot of key points:

In the consultation, there was also strong support (74-89 per cent) for spending on council services, water, parks and other community facilities, and the environment.

How good is that? Despite a massive campaign by the grinches at the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance, we really are, in many respects, the city we like to think we are. Community minded and greatly caring of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Less popular, but still with clear majority support, was spending on “city and local development” (60 per cent) and “economic and cultural development” (59 per cent).

While this gives a good overview of results in each area, when we get into the details of the written feedback it starts to become a bit more murky.

There’s a sentiment against “wasteful spending” on council staff and the development of the city – what some would call the “nice to haves”. As Simon Wilson puts it:

And many submitters had a crack at “nice to have” spending. Let’s just say it: There’s no such thing as “nice to have”. The phrase is a euphemism for “I don’t want it”.

Take the debate about whether bus lanes should replace car parks on arterial roads. There’s no “nice to have”: for people on both sides, the other is not nice to have.

Wayne Brown likes to call spending on cycleways a “nice to have”. He’s even taken to suggesting that all we need is a rumble strip to mark the bike zone off from the rest of the road. This is classic. The reason we need bike lanes at all is for the safety of riders. Rumble strips, especially in Auckland traffic, are a laughably out-of-touch solution.

Brown has also called economic and cultural development a “nice to have”. Spending on this was slashed in the last annual budget and the rest is still at risk. But it has several purposes. One is to create a higher-wage economy. For example, the pathways created for young people in the poorer parts of the city so they can get into skilled jobs in IT, construction, transport, design and other fields.

Another is to attract high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs to live and work in the city. That’s about supporting the economic opportunities, but not just that. It’s also about making the city a stimulating, entertaining and safe place. You can’t do these things without heaps of cultural activity, good urban planning and a thriving economy.

With a lot of overall support for the central proposal, splits between “do less” and “do more”, and a slant in the feedback against spending on economic, cultural, city and local development in Auckland, the important question becomes: what will be prioritised? According to Simon:

Brown is proposing a 7.5 per cent rates rise for next year, followed by 3.5 per cent, then 8 per cent, and “no more than” 3.5 per cent thereafter. The lumpiness is largely because of spending commitments on the City Rail Link. And the targeted rates for water and the environment are to be reinstated, which is excellent. These rates numbers are low.


There’s room for a bit of upwards movement there. Perhaps that’s the tradeoff the mayor can do to make his budget stick. And here’s why. When it comes to community care and building a better city, Brown’s plans include a lot of talk about community services and facilities, disaster resilience and there’s even a nod to the quality of the built environment. That’s all good.

But they do not include enough money for these things.

If Council goes towards the “do less” side of the split for these areas, then – according to the LTP consultation document – we may see less urban regeneration work and fewer public realm/ placemaking improvements, as well as reduced economic investment and less support for cultural facilities and events. This, in my opinion, would be a great loss for the ‘soul’ of Auckland, as these things that are what give the city a feeling of life.

Regardless of the rest of the LTP, what was pretty clear is that transport isn’t just something that submitters wanted more investment in, but was a major focus of people’s feedback. When asked what specifically they wanted Council to spend more/less on, transport was consistently in the most common themes raised by people.

It’s interesting to see that regardless of which overall option people selected, “public transport service / infrastructure” was always one of the top themes. Support for other areas of transport (“walking and cycling improvements” and “roads and foot paths”) were split between some wanting more and some wanting less. While this split was noted by Simon Wilson, he also highlighted something seemingly contradictory in the feedback:

“Walking and cycling improvements”, for example, feature prominently on the list of what some people want less of, and also the list of what other people want more of.

It’s the same for “roads and footpaths”: strong views both ways. (And yes, there is a contradiction between wanting better footpaths but fewer walking improvements.)

At face value this contradiction doesn’t really make much sense – and after diving back into the LTP consultation document, as well as the final 2021 LTP, it seems like “walking and cycling improvements” would fall under “roads and foot paths”. We can look to the proposed Regional Land Transport Plan to see where specific investment will go, so I expect the exact details for what people actually support will come out through consultation on that.

All of this was before we even get to the specific transport question, where the feedback on the proposed transport plan shows submitters overwhelmingly supported either all or most of the proposal.

We can again look more closely into what drives either support or opposition to the plan through the written feedback:

Its very obvious that respondents want more investment in public transport. A lot of people even said their opposition to the proposed plan comes from a desire for more investment in public transport than what is proposed.

Yet, while there is huge support for the proposed transport plan, it’s not something that exists in a vacuum. As Simon comments:

The one big thing Brown does have public support on, and likely council support, is his focus on public transport. Almost three-quarters of submitters backed the mayor’s public transport plan, which features a $50 weekly fare cap for all bus rail and inner-harbour ferry services, along with dynamic lanes and other measures to make bus travel faster and more reliable.

His intentions here are good, although his policies are not radical.


But despite his good intentions, the moderate nature of the fare cap highlights an enormous transport problem for the council.

As the mayor himself says: “Funding for transport in the Auckland region was cut by around $600 million, when the coalition Government scrapped the Regional Fuel Tax in its 100-day plan. And we are yet to strike a deal with central government on transport, which leaves us with a lot of unknowns and a significant shortfall for the time being.”

Decoded: Auckland Transport (AT) has to cut public transport services anyway.

It’s been previously discussed how catastrophically bad the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport from central government is, with its big focus on roads, as well as how it’s a disaster for local government. What’s clear is that the results of LTP consultation show that investment in public transport is overwhelmingly supported by submitters.

Yet if the Mayor is already setting up the possibility of cuts to public transport due to central government’s decisions, where does that leave Auckland? If consultation on the GPS, including Auckland Council’s own submission, shows strong support for public transport, will central government budge? What if Auckland’s RLTP consultation also reinforces the desire of Auckland for public transport? Or will government completely overrule the desires of Auckland Council and Aucklanders?

Whatever the answers, I think there’s going to be some contentious months ahead on transport in Auckland.

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  1. Seeing the article on stuff today about the bus lane camera making $100k a week makes me wonder: Perhaps instead of waiting for the argument with central govt over funding to be resolved, maybe installing more cameras and letting people who want to wilfully break the rules fund the transport system for everyone else is the answer. There must be hundreds of locations around Auckland where people run red lights or drive in bus lanes. Proper parking enforcement could help too. Government and councils in NZ need to stop apologising for enforcing the rules in the face of accusations of “revenue raising” and instead say they are happy to enforce the law if when can help lead to lower rates and taxes for law-abiding citizens.

    Admittedly, the camera featured in the Stuff article probably isn’t the best example as it appears that this particular camera site may have some genuine issues that need addressing. A lesson to take into consideration when planning other sites in the future.

    1. And then wait for the backlash. It is better if the money is sent directly to the central government consolidated fund so people can see cameras are to change behaviour not line the pockets of the agency installing them.

      1. Send money to central government and then ask for it back??

        This is unlikely to be popular with anyone, except Treasury.

        1. Why ask for it back? Unless you view it as a source of cash rather than a fine.

      2. Better is to keep the fines to be ring-fenced to the agency and Court costs of enforcement and collection, and any surplus to be spent on road safety – especially more enforcement. People can understand that it is then not ‘revenue raising’ and the enforcement can be seen to pay for itself.

    2. Fine them $120 (or whatever) – but then put half onto their hop card.
      This is a wonderful tool for delivering mode shift.
      Fines based on the value of the vehicle transgressing could even mode shift our landlord class into shared transport modes. Great for social cohesion.

    3. You can use them 50 m before a turn so into Howe St surely. Maybe it’s calibrated wrong or people are just driving all the way through it. I find it hard to believe after all the trial / test / waning period it’s that wrong. Some people need to sit their licences again ro shouldn’t be driving as they can’t read clear signage and such like the Queen St special lane. In general though, It probably makes up for the parking fines that are still set way too low 😉

      1. This would be between “December 11 and January 28 when only warnings were sent out and the lane went live for enforcement on February 7.”
        I can see how enforcement could be a surprise to some.
        A truck/bus/T2 lane that ends in an awkward spot is Great South Rd approaching Church St Penrose. Moving from the right lane into the left (which immediately splits off a left turn only) when there is a free turn into it from the side road at the lights can be interesting.

    4. That’s actually good idea. I can’t count all the muppets doing weird stuff on the roads. Definitely support more cameras and bigger fines. It can help with both safety and PT.

    5. Fining bus drivers who randomly pull out into traffic could probably generate at least that amount. Then you’d only need cameras on the bus fleet an it’d be truly be funded by public transport. /s

  2. Really great summary post, thank you. Anyone know what the timeline is for the RLTP consultation? That sounds very important to have our say on.

  3. One thing I was told by a long time resident of NZ when I first moved here was that Kiwis in general are very bad at long-term planning. This tends to come out a lot in feedback to plans like this.

    Being self-interested and wanting to save a couple bucks a year on lower rates instead of investing in your city is how you end up with a not-so-great place to call home. Take it from someone who’s coming from a city that just came out of 8+ years of austerity leadership, lower investment in cultural development is how you end up with a place that just looks and feels shabby, and makes you depressed when returning from a city where they’re really putting money into improving residents’ day-to-day lives in small ways.

    Hopefully Auckland and New Zealand as a whole decides to progress in the right direction instead of pulling the ladder up behind them to “save” a couple bucks.

  4. To unpick some of the results:
    Roads and Footpaths is more about maintenance and renewal, Walking and Cycling Improvements is about new works. So “Do/Don’t like cycle paths” and “Look after assets/ Let them fail to save me money” are what to look for in the figures.

  5. I read the results as 71% either preferred to proceed with the proposed option or do LESS. It seems the grinches have won.

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