Confirmed: Ministry thinks Auck. rail development “risky”
The truth is finally out and it’s ugly. Papers obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act show the transport ministry had “deep concerns” about the plans for developing the rail network in Auckland, saying it remained an “ongoing technical and fiscal risk to the Government.”
The ministry complained to the new minister that it had not been involved in advising on recent rail investments under the previous Labour Government so that has now changed with the Minister putting the ministry as the ones making the recommendations instead of Treasury.
Not only was the government having concerns about Auckland’s rail development but the ministry opposed the proposed Auckland regional fuel tax to help pay for it even though Treasury was OK with it.
So what actually is going on with Auckland’s rail development now?
Minister Steven Joyce, speaking this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report, said: “We’re working on governance of MetroRail – the principles around that. There’s a bit of work going on in terms of who’s best to own the trains. In principle, we’ve made the decision it’s KiwiRail. We need to decide whether to confirm that decision in the next month or two. We’re just working our way through it and we’ll have it all tided up in the next couple of months.”
OK, governance aside – what hope is there for Auckland rail if the transport ministry, now in the driving seat, thinks there is technical and fiscal risk to Auckland getting a modern rail service and what exactly are its justifications for such nonsense?
As Labour Party transport spokesperson Darren Hughes described Joyce’s attitude this week: “National cannot see beyond tarseal.”
He says the minister has made it clear as recently as a few days ago in parliament that he sees no future investment planned for KiwiRail.
Labour’s spokesman went on: “Labour has always acknowledged that rail does not necessarily conform to a short-term commercial model. If that is how National is going to treat it, then rail is being set up to fail.Labour believes that investing in rail can be justified on a long-term basis. That is not a romantic notion, as Mr Joyce scoffs. It is a commitment to New Zealand’s future transport options.”
He says the spat between Treasury and the Transport Ministry has undermined Auckland’s plans to upgrade its transport system, particularly the train network and the losers are Aucklanders.
We sure are. We were conned into thinking National would continue with Labour’s plans for rail development and thousands of commuters have opted for trains in the hope things will soon get better.
It’s time for the mindless Wellington inter- governmental department battles to stop and for the Minister to come out now once and for all and tell us exactly what the Government will do about Auckland’s rail plans, whether they will continue, how they will be funded and whether National can think beyond tarseal. Right now, it’s hard to see it.
(Thanks Anthony Blomfield for the tip)