Auckland Must Fight Loopy Decision


Auckland authorities and the public that believes in the CBD rail link must loudly continue the battle for it.
Today’s official rejection of the case was sadly predictable for reasons that have been canvassed here many times.

The simple truth is: The Transport Minister never wanted it so it will not happen. And it’s really petty politicking about Labour (Mayor) vs Government (National).

It’s their rejection of Len Brown more than a rejection of what is best for Auckland’s economy and population.

The Government likes roads, wants money for the Puhoi Holiday Highway, Len Brown is a Labour Mayor and not one of them and they don’t think poor people in outlying Auckland suburbs or young liberals who they naively believe are the users of rail in Auckland would vote for them anyway. The consistent three polls of last weekend confirm National has won the next election race.
I started dismantling the official rejection of the case but it is a waste of time getting involved in arguments about benefit cost ratios and how many cars would be taken off the road.

It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Only in March was John Key dampening down any speculation that the rail link would go ahead and referring to the big roading projects said:
“If you look at the benefit/ cost ratio and the process we go through in approving those roads, the bar is set quite high. I would argue very strongly with you that if you want Auckland to be an efficient city and one that’s likely to be the home of most internal and external migration, we actually need to continue to invest there, as we do around the rest of the country. So we can make those choices.”

Len Brown has argued for the CBD link but he is a Labour man

It’s extraordinary arrogance and sadly extraordinary short sightedness as Auckland’s overcrowded rail grinds to a halt outside the Britomart tunnel.
Outrageous as the Government created bodies like a super council and Auckland Transport to enable Auckland’s voice to be collectively heard by the Beehive.
But the Government got the wrong mayor and will do nothing to encourage Len Brown getting a further term. He can not go to the next elections saying he has delivered his big promise.

Further reaction:
Labour’s invisible transport spokesman Shane Jones finally woke up tonight and agreed it is more about the Labour Mayor than good economic sense for Auckland.

He said:” The Government’s rejection of Auckland’s proposed CBD loop underground rail link has more to do with National’s ideological dislike of Mayor Len Brown than it has to do with facts and figures,. The Government’s review will end up forcing Super City ratepayers to find extra money to build the link/ Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s review of the Auckland proposal always had the agenda of trying to leg-trip Len Brown.”

Describing Steven Joyce’s review as a “hatchet job”, Shane Jones and Labour List MP based in Auckland Central Jacinda Ardern said in a joint statement that the Government is “pigheadedly and arrogantly dismissing what Aucklanders overwhelmingly want. Aucklanders want a highly-modernised public transport system that includes the rail link.”

Ardern’s rival, sitting National Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye predictably smoothed over the decision saying it was the right decision.

“It is clear that unfortunately the Auckland Councils first business case had significantly overestimated the benefits and impact on traffic volumes of this project. However, while there is more work to be done, I personally believe this project will happen in the future and I am delighted that Government has supported the need for the Auckland Council to move to protect the route for the future.”

And right wing Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer chose the moment to blame the Mayor:
“Unfortunately there has been quite an arrogant view that Wellington should just fund this project because it’s what the Auckland Mayor promised during his election campaign. Putting overt pressure on the Government to deliver on a mayoral vision was a high-risk strategy which unfortunately hasn’t paid off.

“Like most Aucklanders I’m a supporter of the project, but unfortunately the council’s leadership hasn’t lined up its ducks by presenting a compelling and credible case. Sadly, they only have themselves to blame.

“We’re now in a battle of the business cases and subsequent reviews which is a terrible predicament for the project’s advocates to find themselves in. We’re arguably further away from any agreement around the project’s economic benefits than we’ve ever been. The council’s advocacy over the past seven months has failed to bring the two main parties closer.”

Full coverage:
Ministry of Transport and Treasury report

Full commissioned Auckland Council Auckland Transport report

Minister, Len Brown and Greens react

Ministry of Transport explain their decision

Mike Lee says decision major setback

The correspondence between the Govt agencies and the Minister




  1. Cam says:

    First things first, Nikki Kaye needs to be dumped on her arse. She’s a total waste of space and a message needs to be sent to this government from Auckland.

    Also for Brewer to describe the council as arrogant, is ridiculous. Still never miss a chance to put the boot in eh? Even if it’s not in the best interests of the city.

  2. Andu says:

    Oh dear.
    Well can’t say this is the least bit surprising. Auckland Council must push on regardless.

    I wonder how Aucklanders in general will feel about this decision? Even though there have been huge gains for PT in Auckland, I suspect there is still a huge number of people who just don’t really know anything about it and don’t really care? Maybe I’m wrong.

    Labour are so dead in the water for the next general election at this point. I think I’m voting Green for the first time ever.

  3. Jeff H says:

    The rebuild of Christchurch and the Auckland CBD tunnel are not going to happen overnight, but Len Brown like Bob Parker must not give up. They are visionary New Zealanders who really do care about improving all lives in the communities they were elected to lead. I thought I might have got a bit of that spirit in the National Government I voted for nearly three years ago. Electrification is happening thanks to a Government no longer in power. The dry told you so cynicism of the Minister of Transport does little to inspire this voter.

  4. Simon says:

    Even if National gets back in, everyone in Akl Central can give them a clear message about today`s decision by getting rid of Nikki Kaye.

    And Cameron Brewer should do Auckland and it`s people a service by leaving. I think it`s disgraceful behaviour for a councillor to criticise his colleagues when the best interests of the city are what matters most. He obviously cares more about his connections with National than Auckland. We haven`t seen Christine Fletcher come out with the same tripe even though she is from the blue side of the political spectrum.

  5. [...] Auckland Must Fight Loopy Decision [...]

  6. Jeremy says:

    I actually didn’t think of the political side of things because I didn’t think Len Brown was that involved with Labour. But Shane Jones is right, looking back Joyce did try and trip Brown up during the local election and yeah it starts to make sense now, designate the line but we are not going to promise any funding before the next local election. This is also consistent with Niki Kaye’s comments saying it will be built in the future. Man I really thought the PM would put such political games behind him.

  7. Toby says:

    I can’t wait to read the John Roughan editorial on the decision in the paper tomorrow morning. I must remember to have a sick bucket handy.

  8. Robincole says:

    I wonder what John Banks’s position on the rail loop is now.He was all for it when he was mayor but ACT are not keen on PT.Brash has long been opposed to spending on urban rail.

  9. George D says:

    I don’t think a National victory is inevitable. Only 1 in 10 voters have to switch their vote between now and then. Things like this move things along…

  10. Geoff says:

    Designating the line just puts it in the same basket as the 1963 designation of the Southdown-Avondale line, which was required to have it built by 1970. 48 years later and we are still waiting!

  11. Patrick R says:

    Brewer is clearly planning to run against Brown for mayor….. on a government/National ticket

  12. George D says:

    It’s okay. We can double capacity into the Britomart tunnel with these:

    And, why are we worried? There is still plenty of capacity left even if we don’t get fancy German trains:

  13. Sam says:

    I’m sure Len has a plan- he has committed to having it open within 6 and a half years, and I’m sure I have heard him state that Auckland will make that happen, with or without government funding. I also believe he said once that funding would be arranged and announced by november.

    A freind was talking to an Auckland Transport official last week at Newmarket station, who apparently stated that the council is currently re-allocating funding to pay for the loop.

  14. Ingolfson says:

    “Designating the line just puts it in the same basket as the 1963 designation of the Southdown-Avondale line, which was required to have it built by 1970. 48 years later and we are still waiting!”

    48 years later, at least there still IS the option of building the Southdown line, and not a row of apartment buildings, subdivisions and factories in the way.

    Don’t knock the designation process. It would have to happen anyway, so right now, it can’t even be counted as a delay. The minister is now on record that he will not obstruct the designation - work with that, and press on. Damn the torpedos from National - one doesn’t win by getting disheartened!

    The case for the tunnel gets stronger every morning, as we wake up with more Aucklanders around. The case gets stronger every year, as fuel prices continue their rise. The case gets stronger as electric rail is built. This is just National trying to stop the eventual landslide. They will be able to do so for a few more years, but that’s all.

  15. Ingolfson says:

    “A freind was talking to an Auckland Transport official last week at Newmarket station, who apparently stated that the council is currently re-allocating funding to pay for the loop.”

    There is no such money available. Even if one totally rejigged the transport plans 5-10 years out, it would stop so many other projects in Auckland that the outrage would probably be too big to consider Auckland going on it’s own with a 2 Billion project. So some money will have to come from national (but not necessarily National) government.

    I suspect what your friend was talking about was funding for designation and planning work, which will be dozens of millions on their own.

  16. Mark says:

    I’m not sure about CBD growth figures. CBD businesses tend to be financial/service/legal - and need the “prestige” of a CBD office tower.

    My take is that these won’t grow that much. eg if your running a trading floor, and volumes increase you don’t need more staff - so as economy grows, yes there will be more forex trades etc - but that’s not a job increase.

    A lot of CBD is actually education in b and c grade buildings - again probably won’t grow much more, as very very cost dependent - ie if a language school building is converted to apartments, the language school won’t re-locate to CBD A grade office - they’ll head to suburbs….

    I support the CBD rail loop - but the real case for me, is the entire network. ie to travel to other outlying industrial/commercial areas. That is where we need our future economic growth (in real businesses actually making something!).

    So that is mass transit via rail, with feeder local bus infrastructure. We can’t run inefficient bus routes across the whole region - and we can’t clog up CBD as some huge bus depot!

    So I think AC have made a bit of a mistake, making this so CBD focused, they need to look at benefits out in New Market /Mt Albert / New Lynn /penrose/manakau etc.

    I think their growth estimates were over stated in CBD. There is a CBD drift to waterfront, and hard to see mid town and Symonds street having that much growth.

    The real arguement is the removal of the Britomart cap, and potential growth elsewhere in the region for jobs.

    While theys eem to say 12 years capacity, the real issue, which this government should understand is giving business and investors certainity.

    Would you invest in a new office block in Mt Albert or a new factory in Morningside, if the key location choice is built around rail, and you see no 20 year plan for future capacity? remebering that you know your own investment decision is based around using rail…

    The city needs investment, and the thing businesses need most is certainity.

    there’s nothing wrong with different figures and robust analysis - but it needs to be constructive.

  17. Tony says:

    Maybe a bit naive, but National have clearly drawn a line in the sand. Auckland Council (including Auckland Transport) needs to make a decision as to how it is going to proceed.

    Why can the Council raise the $2.4bn themselves through a rates increase spread over a 10 - 15 year time frame. Increase CBD parking rates. Cream off some transport components of the Development Contributions paid by developers to Council when they build a new development.

    If we can raise our own funds do we technically need central government sign off on this project? I think not. Any rates increase is of course going to be contentious, but if Aucklanders get what they want and what central government isn’t willing to give - then surely that is a strong basis for a political argument for an increase in rates.

    Has anyone done a costing analysis purely based on council only funding? How much of a rate increase would it take to fund the project?

  18. Kurt says:

    National has the electorate well and truly sewn up.

    Make stupid ideology driven decisions like this one, defer making any decisions altogether, run a 3 year recession and have no idea how to improve things and get more popular.

    This is an idiotic decision by brain dead ideologues in government.

  19. Ingolfson says:

    “National has the electorate well and truly sewn up.”

    National has no real opposition, beyond the Greens. The rest are, at least seen as a group, about as exiting and fired up as a bucket of sand.

    So lots of things that National should be queried on is getting an easy pass, because there’s no coherent forceful voice for alternatives, or at least for calling attention to the downsides of National’s policies.

  20. Michael Wood says:

    The decision is an ideological one. The fact that it sticks it to Len probably gives National some pleasure, but it’s more about their deep and fundamental hostility to public transport. It’s why they’ve tried to scupper this project time and again over the past 60 years -

    Len is doing the right thing by ploughing on with all of the other pre-build work. In the meantime it’s up to the rest of us to apply the political pressure and change the government if we want it to happen.

  21. [...] to post about Steven Joyce’s report into the economics of the Auckland Central Rail Loop.  Auckland Trains cover it very well.  The NZTA report would seem as car-biased and government-influenced as most [...]

  22. [...] to post about Steven Joyce’s report into the economics of the Auckland Central Rail Loop.  Auckland Trains cover it very well.  The NZTA report would seem as car-biased and government-influenced as most [...]

  23. Matt says:

    Finally, someone has admitted that it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s statistics people, you can bend them to say whatever you want and support whichever stance you feel like at the time. The fact is, the government don’t want to pay for it so they won’t. If we want a CBD tunnel in Auckland, we’re going to have to pay for it with our rates or by other means. When we have to put our money where our mouths are, we’ll see just how many people really want a CBD tunnel. Speaking as someone who almost never goes into the city anymore, partly due to the crappy public transport and partly because it might as well be another country with the sheer amount of non-english signs that are there now (shouldn’t there be a law that says that you can have a sign in whatever language you like but you also have to have a sign in the language of the country you’re in so that it’s an amalgamation of cultures, not an invasion????). But i digress, I’d rather have a quicker and more frequent ferry service that goes to more places. I’d love to be able to hop on a ferry in half moon bay on a saturday and get into town for a night out and then get a ferry home again. Nope, can’t do that, the last ferry to half moon bay from town on a saturday night is 4:30pm. 4:30pm at the weekend, are you kidding me? Ridiculous.

    My personal opinion, make Britomart a through station because that really does have a demonstrable and obvious benefit, get rid of the rail loop and encourage people to either get off their fat lazy arses and walk the ten minutes it’ll take to get from one side to the other - you can walk across the whole of the CBD in about 30 minutes FFS or extend the trams for a really nice, really scenic way to travel. Good for tourism, a nice way to get to work, etc etc. We don’t “need” a CBD rail loop, Len Brown wants to leave his legacy just like Barry Curits did with the Barry Curtis White Elephant Bridge and park in Manukau.

    Sorry, rant over but I just can’t stand the short-sightedness of the transport people in this country, it drives me insane. If you can’t make it twice as fast, twice as easy and half the price to take public transport into the city, it isn’t going to work. End of story. You can build as many train stations as you like, put on as many trains as you like, have ferries coming out of your ears but unless it’s worth while taking them, they’re just going to be empty.

  24. James B says:

    @Matt and just how would you make it a through station without looping it round to meet the Western line?

    “If you can’t make it twice as fast, twice as easy and half the price to take public transport into the city, it isn’t going to work. ”

    Britomart didn’t do any of that yet it has still been a roaring success.

    “can walk across the whole of the CBD in about 30 minutes FFS”

    True: But that’s still 30 minutes you could have spent doing something productive.

    “i digress, I’d rather have a quicker and more frequent ferry service that goes to more places. I’d love to be able to hop on a ferry in half moon bay on a saturday and get into town for a night out and then get a ferry home again. Nope, can’t do that, the last ferry to half moon bay from town on a saturday night is 4:30pm. 4:30pm at the weekend, are you kidding me?”

    Sounds like a good idea, however try getting a ferry to Eden Park or Newmarket or the Airport (would be an interesting ferry route though. Auckland to the Airport via Cape Rienga).

  25. Ingolfson says:

    Make Britomart a trough station with what? A toy train set to Westfield Downtown? Your rant is indeed a rant, because the only other option to make it a through station is to build rail to the Shore, and that’s another project this minister will shoot down, as soon as it is raised seriously.

    Also, if Len Brown said “okay, lets forget the tunnel and do something else”, he’s screwed, and for good reason. Showing some persistance is nothing to do with legacy, it’s how you get projects DONE that are otherwise put into the “too hard” basket.

    Legacy is Steven Joyce wanting to be known as the “doer” who built all these great new motorways. The funny thing is that he could have a GREAT legacy as being the first National minister who actually saw the benefits, and made the CBD loop work. But he’s too closed.

    Also, if you believe that people are too lazy to walk 30mins, and hectoring them about that is going to change anything, maybe you should stand at the CBD edge and lecture car drivers ;- ) PT will always stand or fall with being as close and convenient as possible. It’s not the PT users who are fat and lazy, it’s the car drivers who can’t stand the idea of walking 5, let alone 30 minutes!

  26. Bryan says:

    imho calling the tunnel a “loop” is diversionary.

    We need to keep referring to it as the CBD tunnel. It’s primary function is to turn Birtomart into a through station, connecting the western and eastern/southern lines.

    Allowing loop services via Newmarket is just a useful bonus, not the raison d’etre.

  27. Jeremy R says:

    Len campaigned on the inner city loop but did not explain how it would be paid for. Not the first time a politician has done this but we need a serious discussion on funding options. The govt will not sign off on a project of this scale, in the current environment, without a closer look.

    Councils CBA was based on a number of assumptions around intensification and this only come to light now that their numbers have rightly been questioned. Intensification is something “Auckland Unleashed” is pushing and it would appear council assumes will happen regardless of the submission process this year.

    This is an opportunity to explain why this project should be advanced now and, importantly, how it will be paid for. If there are costs for Auckland ratepayers and NZ taxpayers we should be honest about this.

    I take the train into the city on the western line and there are frequent delays getting in and out of Britomart (but not nearly as bad as the delays at Newmarket station, which was for some reason built in the wrong location). Accepted the loop will make the network run far more effectively in the CBD area and be a great service for CBD bound passengers. But what about the suburbs where more people continue to choose to work and live. Council needs to demonstrate how the loop will benefit the rate paying suburbs that right now need investment in improving suburban train stations and bus shelters, roads and cycle lanes.

  28. Johans says:

    Auckland should consider renting the failed “Wellywood” site so we can post a message to those nuts in parliament.

  29. Luke says:

    @Jeremy R
    the success of the CBDRL relies on buses from the outer suburbs feeding to train stations.
    Having a strong rail system serving the CBD ensures critical mass for public transport in the suburbs.
    Note than rail feeder buses are also buses that connect people to their local shops and businesses.
    Rail stations will also be places where people can transfer to buses to take them all parts of the city.

  30. Anne says:

    Having a rail loop that connects with bus and tram servces and trains to outer suburbs works well in Toronto Canada. Fully intergrated too which makes getting around easy for commuters and tourists.

    Mayor Robbie years ago when putting his case for rapid rail said this was needed to cope with future congestion, no one listened to him.
    Before the harbour bridge was built, Robbie said the bridge was too narrow and would need extra lanes for an increase in traffic he said we would have in years to come again no one listened. The reason given - Auckland did not have the traffic to warrant extra lanes on the bridge and a few years after opening the bridge was at capacity and the clip ons were added. Years later the safety of the clip ons are being debated.
    Will the powers that be ever learn to listen to forward thinkers with vision.?

  31. joust says:

    Drawing the nats vs brown concept to an extreme sees the party getting their own candidate into the mayoralty and suddenly releasing the funds. More of the bad old cronyism that’s never been far below the surface of that party.

  32. Bryan says:

    Joust, were you meaning Labour’s bad old croyism or National’s bad old cronyism? Your post didn’t make it clear which, and imho both would fit. :-(

  33. KarlHansen says:

    Why is this post back up at the top of the list, even reading 17 June?

    It starts out with sentences like “Today’s official rejection”… which obviously isn’t correct, as this post is from May.

    I noticed a couple times that the order of the posts keeps shuffling around sometimes. Is that a technical problem?

  34. Matt L says:

    Karl - I believe that Jon reposted it to help raise awareness of the issue with all the increased traffic a certain other post is generating


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