Election ready or shovel ready?

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 10, 2020

Politicians have promised many projects to fix Auckland‘s transport system when they win elections, but Aucklanders realise those promises are meaningless without action, says Michael Barnett, CEO of Auckland Business Chamber and chair of the Auckland Business Forum.

“What Auckland needs to see are results, bringing meaningful progress on previous commitments to key projects and transport corridors. Most importantly, it means delivering outcomes that demonstrate significant progress on the region‘s transport network to an increasingly frustrated Auckland public. That‘s faster and safer travel for all modes, better access to employment and education, quality travel choices and fewer emissions,” says Barnett.

Promises to progress solving Auckland‘s transport congestion problems remain completely unmet, he adds.

“Ten years ago, freight services could manage three to four deliveries a day around Auckland, now it‘s two or three or fewer. In northern Auckland suburbs deliveries are refused, especially on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, after 2.30pm despite the 7km Penlink Project being planned more than 10 years ago to ease congestion. Traffic has steadily increased as more houses are built, yet construction on the road hasn‘t started.

“In south Auckland, the East West Link was consented four years ago. A key freight road serving the Southdown Rail and nearby businesses, construction hasn‘t started, despite an $800 million allocation.

“Five years ago, a rapid public transport system to Auckland Airport was proposed. It is still under debate, when what is needed is a single view on access.”

Barnett says that Auckland‘s traffic congestion cost the economy around $1.5 billion in 2017. Pre-Covid-19 this was projected to increase and Barnett says it certainly will when we recover. A scheme to improve traffic flows through congestion charging is sitting in the drawer of officials – now is the time to give it a trial, says Barnett.

“We urge politicians to stop making transport promises, and give more responsibility for developing and implementing solutions to the NZ Infrastructure Commission, an independent body chaired by former Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard. This will help strip the politics out of decision-making.

“The commission is currently working on its 30-year infrastructure strategy but that won‘t be delivered to Parliament before 2022 – is still almost two years away despite the commission having been in place for almost two years.”

Barnett says with 2021 shaping as a year for Covid-19 impacts to increase, it is an ideal time for getting Auckland‘s critical transport projects underway. Projects such as the Penlink and East West Link roads and mass transport projects to the Airport and North West are critical. 

“Meanwhile, a well-funded campaign to address our failing road maintenance is simple to scale up and will provide much-needed employment opportunities and reduce maintenance costs for our residential and commercial vehicle fleets. All that‘s missing is action.

“If Auckland is to get an improved transport system, it needs the next government to make quick progress by ensuring the bureaucrats and the system delivers results.

“There are billions of unallocated infrastructure funds available but what is needed post-election is a rapid timeline for delivery – no more time wasted on chopping and changing plans and politicking.

“Government gets more than 50% of the revenue from petrol. Transport system users are not getting back a suitable return,” Barnett concludes.