CBD Rail: Govt MPs Run For Cover


The political battle lines are drawn.

National MPs are running for cover instead of making a commitment on whether Auckland rail commuters can get a CBD rail link, as promoted by Auckland’s new Mayor Len Brown.

After the independent business case on the link strongly promoted the huge economic benefits for Auckland as a whole, and the Mayor urged the loop be completed in the next seven years, transport minister Steven Joyce poured cold water on the analysis even though he had earlier talked of it being possibly “the first cab of the rank” for the next round of Auckland infrastructure projects after those already agreed, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford Rd.

So last week, AKT emailed every Auckland MP asking them to email back with a commitment to support a CBD link, as advocated in the business case, released publicly last week and sent to the government.

The invitation did not go to the Greens as they had already advocated it -with Greens’ transport spokesman Gareth Hughes creating an actual CBD link campaign.

Nor was there any point at this stage expecting a formal response from either the prime minister or the transport minister.

But not one National MP chose to commit - a noticeable absence being National’s Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye who, despite being a cycling advocate, continues her silence on this issue (she was emailed twice to make sure). Remember, she replaced Labour’s minister for Auckland Judith Tizard at the last election after Tizard was unceremoniously dumped by voters, unimpressed with her supposed advocacy for Auckland. Nikki is a brave woman.

Labour, slow to comment on the issue, has now, judging by the response, post the Len Brown win, come out clearly supportive of the loop.

Mt Albert MP David Shearer, who was involved in fighting the Waterview motorway project during the by-election at which he was elected to parliament, was the first to reply.

His reply: “Fully support Joint govt (bulk) and AC (Auckland Council) - improve SH1 to Warkworth and shift balance fo funding to CBD loop.”

Labour’s transport spokesman Darren Hughes’ response complained that the government was “so fixated on re-inventing and massaging cost-benefit cases for its so-called roads of national significance, like the $1.65 billion holiday route between Puhoi and Wellsford, that it has completely failed to get its head around the need for public transport systems that work in our major cities.”

Is the Government becoming distant from Auckland wishes?

As commented here in the last week, the minister has spelt out why he won’t approve it unless it becomes someone else’s financial problem but gives the impression he is digging his toes in hard now and he has stopped listening and is indeed fixated on getting the Puhoi road across the line.

Economic commentator Rod Oram who first revealed that the pet Puhoi highway got a low 0.4 BCR will no doubt be replying to the minister in this weekend’s Star-Times.

Watch out for a growing combined Auckland public and local body revolt to question the government’s road prejudices less than one year out from a general election.
National’s ratings remain high, especially bouncing off a national tragedy when Key’s response was as expected from a prime minister who sensed the mood of the nation and the community most affected. National’s recent near win of the Labour stronghold of Mana will have made it believe it’s invincible.
As Australian politics has shown in the last year both nationally and this monthin Victoria, the winds can change suddenly making politicians more vulnerable they they imagined.

And closer to home, the strong Len Brown mandate over a long time C&R conservative-led Auckland showed , Aucklanders can never be underestimated to stamp their feet and demand what they consider the country’s major economic hub is entitled to have. Brown made it clear his election was about more rail for Auckland - a point of difference to Banks - and the public gave him the green light, only to find it obstructed now by the government which had moved legislative heaven and earth to change Auckland’s entire local government structure so Auckland sent one clear signal to the national government about its wants. That signal is rail.

The rest of the country often portrays Aucklanders are spoilt kids who want it all. We know how petulant spoilt brats can get when their parents say NO! And the email survey has told us that is what our masters have decreed.




  1. Matt L says:

    That is shocking for them to not even reply at all. I think often these people forget that they are working for us so even a reply saying they hadn’t made their mind up would have been better than nothing at all.

  2. John Dalley says:

    Matt. Did you really expect anything else?

  3. Kurt says:

    Labour need to pull their fingers out and have a decent crack at National over this.

    National who are arrogantly riding high in the polls (for no good reason apart from a weak opposition) are wrong to ignore what Aucklanders really want which is not the Holiday Highway!

  4. Cam says:

    The pressure has to keep mounting this can not be allowed to drift to the backburner. I honestly think Stephen Joyce is baffled by the critisisim, jusdging by his article in the SST he can’t understand why anyone would question what he’s doing.

    As for Nikki Kaye, she’s gone at the next election I’d say. Not all her fault, as a young MP it must be pretty hard to go against the party line even if you disagree.

  5. Matt L says:

    John Dally - As I said they could have at least replyed saying haven’t got an opinion yet which leaves them plenty of room to say no.

  6. Chris says:

    Good on you for taking the initiative and asking MPs directly.

    The new game in town (1 Mayor for the region) is proving interesting to watch.

  7. karl says:

    Yeah, Nikki lost my vote for the next election. I mean I voted for her BECAUSE of her “support” for public transport. Fat support I’ve seen from her since.

    Looks like I’ll be giving Jacinda Ardern from Labour a try next - Nikki’s electorate is left-leaning anyway, so there’s a great chance she’ll end up a single-term MP.

    Shame, as i’ve met Nikki and she’s a nice woman. But she’s not “brave” if she abandons a core election promise and a core need of her electorate if she’s afraid of Steven Joyce. Yes, bucking your own party can be dangerous (but for a directly-elected MP like her, in a left-leaning area, it could also pay dividends). But she could have at least provided qualified support. Instead she’s been dodging the whole issue.

  8. Decanker says:

    The difficulty for opposition parties will be getting any truth to stick to Joyce. He’s a seasoned political spinner and his veneer of self-assured authority seems to work on the passing punter.

    The opposition message from Labour, Greens, Auckland et al needs to be consistent and articulate. Show him to be hypocritical and untrustworthy — two things voters hate.

  9. Jon Reeves says:

    The National Party has now officially declared its hand being anti rail and the AKL rail loop after Steven Joyce’s ill thought out comments on the tunnel business case.

    There can be no more denying it. If you want rail for Auckland and to save lines the Govt wants closed you’re going to need to vote against the National Party.

    Normally I would be open to working with any political party or Govt to see better transport for Auckland, Waikato and the rest of New Zealand. However, now it is so obvious that the Minister of Transport is in fact not competent with transport decisions and is firmly in the 1950′s roading camp.

    New Zealand needs better transport, and to get that it needs a better Government. The National Party Government is clearly not supportive of public transport nor rail.

    I have no faith in a Minister who is not open minded to what is best for NZ. He does not have Auckland’s interests at heart (or the Waikato’s). It would seem that the trucking lobby has bought Steven Joyce lock stock and barrel.

    Very disappointed in the Minister.

  10. Jacinda Ardern says:

    Apologies if an email was sent to me and I missed it- but more than happy to openly state here my support for the CBD rail link.

    I’ve watched the Minister continuously bounce questions in the House over this issue- usually blaming ‘road user demand’ (a self fulfilling prophecy when public transport infrastructure is so poor) to prioritise roading projects, or by disputing almost any cost benefit analysis that points favorably toward rail.

    This one’s going to take partnership and a shared vision for transport in Auckland- not seeing much of that at the moment from a central govt perspective.

    Appreciate the chance to share my two cents worth- and sorry again it was delayed!

  11. Matt says:

    Jon, it’s worse than just this Minister, I suspect. Rumour is that Joyce is in line for Minister of Finance at the next re-shuffle (where Bill’s going, I have no idea!), and even if I had faith that the next Minister of Transport (note: Transport, not Trucking) would have an open mind I have no such faith in Joyce loosening the purse strings to allow for investment outside roads. Ultimately it’s the Minister of Finance who allows other Ministers to expand the scope of their portfolios, and Joyce is demonstrably toxic to any non-road transport projects.

  12. chris r says:

    Jon, your piece wasn’t clear as to whether the MPs replied, or that they replied “No”.

    Did you actually get any replies?

  13. AKT says:

    @Chris R Acknowledgements of emails being received and passed on but not one Nat MP came back to say yes, they would agree to the loop.

  14. Anon says:

    I think it’s weird really.

    They can give us 35 km (whatever it is) of a uneconomic highway but they can’t give us 3.5 of a rail tunnel which would be so much more economic than the highway and is also 5x shorter than P2W.

    What the hell?.

  15. Eric says:

    Why do people always compare the puhoi-welsford and the cbd loop? Why doesn’t somebody ask the northlanders what they think of the loop? Just because the two projects are in the same region the puhoi-welsford is really a inter-regional project since it will benefit both regions. Wheras the cbd loop just gets people to work faster.

  16. Patrick R says:

    Eric the reason is because the Minister says there is no money for the loop. So we say, that’s because you’re spending it on much lower value projects. Like the Waikato Expressway [0.5] Puhoi-Wellsford [0.4] or transmission Gully [0.9]. P-W is the one in the AK region and there is a much better alternative that could be done much quicker- build a bypass at Warkworth and rebuild the most dangerous parts of the existing road and then that frees up money to capture the great economic value in the CBDRL. That’s why. It is important to understand that building this road does not bring Northland much, a bunch of Aucklanders getting to their Omaha baches 5 mins quicker is not economic transformation. Also with the [tolled] bypass the old dangerous road will still be there and used. This is a badly thought through project.

  17. Patrick R says:

    Hi Jacinda, great to see an MP following this blog! Especially one who clearly get’s it.

  18. ElGus says:

    I personally compare the 2 projects (puhoi-welsford and cbd loop) because they are huge investments but one actually will benefit … the other one is in fact equivalent to burn more than $600MILLION.
    Don’t minimise the impact of “getting people to work faster” because the link is:
    jobs are more accessible ->more jobs->more people working->more economic activity … and that’s only looking at the AM and PM peaks … on top of that there is the extra economic activity because all sorts of destinations are now quicker/easier to reach !! (the train doesn’t differentiate between people going to work or shopping, or whatever else)

  19. Eric says:

    So Wellington should miss out on its new motorway, even though the majority of people have wanted it for years. And we should still wait around in Hamilton rush hour traffic to get through the city? Which, you have to admit for state highway one the road is very poor. Or we bypass it by going along state highway 2 which is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. Steven Joyce is just sceptical to invest in a mode of transport that has been losing money for so long and in these hard times you can hardly blame him. I do support this route though but I’m just saying we shouldn’t be saying that other regions be denied links just so we can fund the loop.

  20. Simon says:

    Eric, if anyone`s been “denied” it`s Auckland. Auckland generates by far the largest amount of tax revenue for central government but has in the last 50 years consistently received far less percentage wise than what it gives in return!

    Aucklanders get angry when we are expected to pay for most PT projects while Wellington had 90% of theirs paid by the taxpayer and not the local ratepayer. So there`s just a tad of a feeling of injustice there so don`t complain about what Wellington or Hamilton aren`t getting.

    @ Jacinda, thanks for coming out in support of the CBD tunnel. However, if you read a number of comments concerning the CBD tunnel, you`ll see from people on here a wide degree of dissatisfaction with how Labour is treating this issue. Infact while you and David Shearer might personally support it, it seems like the leaders of your party are well and truly on the fence. It is so disappointing that Labour, as a party, and Phil Goff, transport spokesperson Darren (can`t remember his last name - shows he hardly been seen in the media!) and finance spokesperson David Cunliffe have yet to publicly endorse the CBD tunnel.

    This is an area, which you personally (see above remarks regarding Nikki Kaye and the fight for Auckland Central next year) and Labour as a party could make inroads into National`s position but your leader and party needs to grow some balls and start attacking national over this. Otherwise questions have to be really asked about Labour`s committment to Auckland and sorting this city out!

    Personally, i used to vote for Labour but I have voted Greens the last two elections as Labour was so wishy-washy on their policy for PT. I would like to vote Labour again but their silence on the CBD tunnel so far has not engendered any confidence that they will be any better than National.

  21. Simon says:

    @ Jacinda, BTW if Labour was serious about the CBD tunnel, David Cunliffe wouldn`t have come out earlier this week and proposed a PPP for it. Everyone knows experience overseas of those are pretty disastrous so I was quite baffled that Cunliffe should even propose that method funding for the CBD tunnel. Again it`s just the kind of mickey mouse, throw away type of comment that shows Labour are no more well disposed to the tunnel than National. Labour 2010 = Fence sitters

    You and David might support it but I won`t believe anything till I see Phil Goff publicly come out for it.

  22. Del Boy says:

    If the benefit for TG is lower than for City Loop, then yes they should ‘miss out’. It’s NZTA’s criteria after all. I agree with you that SH1 is poor, especially the bit between Redoubt Rd and Takanini. Since the ministry for roads completed their 20 to 1 masterstroke my journey home’s been increased by 40 minutes. Cheers guys, ace planning there.
    Back to topic, if it takes you more than 15 minutes to get through Hamilton then you’re lost, surely?

  23. DanC says:

    What if the National government got behind the CBD rail loop. People would be happy. Auckland could progress. But they aren’t, doesn’t the government work for us? We pay taxes to them to provide a better working ever evolving country. We don’t work for them, they work for us. To ignore the BCR rates is political suicide in the information age.

  24. AKT says:

    @Simon Darren Hughes has. See the post.
    He sent this statement through -
    The Auckland Council’s business case showing the viability of the city’s CBD rail loop undermines once and for all the Government’s reluctance to support the proposal, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Darren Hughes.

    “To say the Government is lukewarm on the proposal is doing National a kindness,” Darren Hughes said.

    “It is so fixated on re-inventing and massaging cost-benefit cases for its so-called roads of national significance, like the $1.65 billion holiday route between Puhoi and Wellsford, that it has completely failed to get its head around the need for public transport systems that work in our major cities.

    “You would have thought that with the Rugby World Cup now less than a year away, that public transport would be as much a priority for the Government as it is for the new Auckland Council, and as it is certainly is for Labour,” Darren Hughes said. “Sadly, that’s not the case.

    “A major city like Auckland needs a proper rail network. It needs to be able to move people around quickly and efficiently.

    “That is a basic pre-requisite to Auckland’s future economic progress and success, not roads that don’t serve the greater needs of the region,” Darren Hughes said.

  25. Matt L says:

    Thats all very well for Darren to say that but unless he actually follows that up with action then it doesn’t mean much.

  26. Simon says:

    Ok Jon sp he sent something to you. Great. But I haven`t seen a whisper in the Herald or other mainstream media. And while he says we support greater spending on PT, he doesn`t specifically say “We want to the CBD tunnel built” - it`s all still couched in ambiguous language - You wanna shake the guy and tell him “Just say it man, just spit it out! You can do it!” It`s like the words “CBD tunnel” are a taboo langauge!

    How about just saying “If we become the government we will be committed on the back of a very positive BCR to building the CBD tunnel and working with Len brown and the Auckland Council, Kiwirail and other parties concerned.” There you go. Direct and straight to the point with no mucking about!

  27. dave s says:

    Well said Simon, in my opinion we need to put the acid on Phil Goff and Labour to stop trying to have a bet each way and start showing strong support for Auckland’s cbd link and rail development. They know the numbers stack up so how about they show some statesmanship and stop cowtowing to the faceless lobby groups. I have supported Labour but they are rapidly losing my confidence. That unofficial government rag the nzh is not going to fight for Auckland’s p t unless the Opposition starts to make strong impact statements for the city’s rapid transit future.

  28. Commuter says:

    Simon, sadly, if you think the house journal of the National party - also known as the New Zealand Herald - is going to run Darren Hughes’ press release indicating Labour’s support for the CBD rail link then I rather suspect you will be waiting a long time although it has managed to ‘find’ (thanks Steven) an Australian ‘expert’ who suggests that investing in rail is a waste of money and we should stick with buses. With regard to Cunliffe and his ill-advised discussion of PPP financing of big-scale projects I think you’ll find that his take on it was somewhat more nuanced than he’s given credit for. I don’t agree with them at all but what he was saying is that if there are significant benefits to be gained, ie the public sector can provide something that state funding can’t then they might be considered. He’s provided an explanation of his stance on Red Alert. Again, it’s a matter of communication and Labour, either in government (‘Democracy under attack!!’) or in opposition is poorly served by the media in New Zealand generally, and the Herald specifically.

  29. karl says:

    “Simon, sadly, if you think the house journal of the National party – also known as the New Zealand Herald”

    They run enough government critical articles* that I would not denigrate them like that. Yes, they lean to the right, and they have incorporated a couple of government tenets into their underlying thinking, but they are not so bad that they need to be compared with rabidly partisan newspapers like Murdock’s SUN in the UK.

    *Case in point: Do you think the government is happy about today’s article highlighting the ciritcism over $500 million being spent on Hollywood movies?

  30. Matt says:

    Eric, transport projects need to stack up on their own merits and the benefit the provide to the economy. It’s not good enough to say “Auckland got theirs, where’s ours?” when talking about spending billions of dollars.

    Auckland’s saying “Everyone else got theirs, ours has a stellar business case, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Mister Minister?!”

    Sorry, but transport spending in a world where money is a finite resource must be on the basis of return on investment. Puford doesn’t stack up. Transmission Gully doesn’t stack up (and the region is also somewhat divided about support for it). The CBD rail tunnel absolutely stacks up.

  31. Matt says:

    Anyone else wondering where Key expects these financial services companies to base themselves if his Hub (and I think it’s a good idea) gets off the ground? Auckland CBD would be my pick.
    So, about that growth in CBD occupancy of which Brewer was so dismissive…?

  32. Simon says:

    Commuter, I think if Phil Goff and Darren Hughes were to actually come out and say that were committed to making the CBD tunnel happen, it would be big enough news that even the NZH couldn`t ignore.

  33. Jennifer says:

    But Labour hasn’t come out and clearly articulated support for the tunnel even though it’s such a prominent issue. Shows where they stand.

    Jon, you’ve said no National MPs returned support in your email survey, but I don’t see where you’ve summarised what the other parties came back with.
    The Greens could do rather well in the next election.

  34. Jacinda Ardern says:

    Commuter- appreciate your points. We have indeed expressed our support publicly for the CBD rail loop, but whether this is then conveyed via the mainstream media is of course a whole other question…..and post.

    And while I’m loathe to start the war of the quotation, back in April Phil Goff gave a speech on Auckland issues, which flagged our transport woes, and went on to say “We need a modern, electric rail network extending to the four corners of the city, including a second harbour crossing, a central city loop and a link to the airport”

    Having said that- I appreciate the points raised. Time to get a bit louder. And as one of the Labour MPs in Auckland, I need to take on some responsibility for that too.

  35. AKT says:

    @Jennifer You are already talking to Labour. If you re -read the post it says re Greens:
    The invitation did not go to the Greens as they had already advocated it -with Greens’ transport spokesman Gareth Hughes creating an actual CBD link campaign.

  36. AKT says:

    @Jacinda Thanks for your contributions.

  37. Simon says:

    @ Jacinda. Thanks for your reply. You hit it on the head. Exactly, you need to be louder and more direct. It`s easy to say I support public transport but stay ambiguous. Heck Nikki Kaye said that at the last election and I hope you`re going to bring that up when the election campaign gets underway in Akl Central.

    Ok so Maybe Phil Goff said something in April, but the pressure has to be kept up, week in, week out on Mr Joyce. I have to say I (and probably many others contributing and/or reading this blog) was so disappointed and frustrated at Labour`s silence when Steven Joyce belittled the CBD tunnel project and the BCR findings in the last couple of weeks. Instead it`s been left to Mike Lee to counterpunch. Phil and Darren have to be much more active in this campaign.

    The CBD tunnel, with it`s very positive BCR as compared to roading projects is a clear chance to take SJ on and damage National in Auckland at the next elections but you need to give swinging voters like myself the confidence that we have a serious option in Labour. I think there are many in Akl who don`t want to vote National but are frustrated with what they perceive as the quality of the other main option on the table.

    Jacinda, please understand that just because your party has been the main left party for decades doesn`t mean it automatically has the right to be so. As far as I`m concerned, your party has to work hard to earn that otherwise if other parties offer more PT friendly policies such as the Greens I am quite happy to give them my vote instead.

    I am not a loyal life-long voter of any party. I look at what each party offers before each election. I guess you could say I am a dissatisfied ex-Labour supporter and so far I have been underwhelmed by Labour in opposition. I suspect I`m not alone. It`s a testament to how active the Greens have been in pushing for this project and where they stand on it that Jon C didn`t have to email them to get their answer! Do you see what I mean Jacinda?

    See John Armstrong`s NZH article….



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