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Transport Minister announces 'establishment unit' to 'progress this important city-shaping project'; concedes previous failed attempts to get project running didn't involve Aucklanders enough; decisions at end of this year

Transport Minister announces 'establishment unit' to 'progress this important city-shaping project'; concedes previous failed attempts to get project running didn't involve Aucklanders enough; decisions at end of this year
An artist's impression of Auckland light rail.

The Government has reverted to square one with the troubled Auckland light rail project.

And it is saying that key decisions on the light rail - including fundamental issues such as its route - will not be made till the end of this year after a new group to be formed has spent six months looking at the options.

Remember, this is a project that was a key plank in Labour's election campaign in 2017. The first part of the line was meant to be up and running within four years.

But the process got horribly bogged down with no agreement able to be reached on who should build the line and how, before the whole thing was ultimately shelved till after the 2020 election.

Transport Minister Michael Wood has now announced formation of an 'establishment unit' to, in his words: "...progress this important city-shaping project and engage with Aucklanders".

Aucklanders felt 'shut out'

And Wood concedes that the previous aborted efforts to get the project started "didn't involve Aucklanders enough".

“There’s wide-ranging support for rapid transit but Aucklanders felt shut out of the project. Today I’m drawing a line under that and involving Aucklanders from the get-go," he said.

The Establishment Unit will be led by an "inclusive governance board", involving an independent chair, local government, key agencies and community and Māori representatives.

“Involving Auckland Council is critical, so the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Auckland will work with me and the Minister of Finance to oversee this work."

The statement from the minister didn't name any names in terms of membership of the board, which would suggest appointments are still being made.

“While the establishment unit will get started from today, in the coming weeks I intend to announce the appointment of the independent chair who will work with Aucklanders on this project,” Wood said

He said the Government had "tasked" the Establishment Unit with a six-month work programme including:

  • partnering with Māori,
  • engaging with stakeholders and communities,
  • developing a business case so evidence-based decisions can be made on mode and route, providing cost estimates, and funding and financing options which includes looking at value capture,
  • determining the best form for the delivery entity, which will be either City Rail Link Limited or a new joint venture with Auckland Council.

“Once the Government receives the advice from the establishment unit at the end of the year, we will make the key decisions on route, mode, and delivery entity. We will then be able to give the public certainty on issues like cost and timeframes."

Wood said he realised people would have liked him "to announce a shovel-ready project today".

"...But I also want to be absolutely certain that the plan we move forward with is the right one. That’s why this fresh start is involving Aucklanders and doing the work alongside them."

Without decisive investment 'Auckland will choke on its own growth'

Wood said light rail was "a critical investment to develop a modern, connected mass-transit system in New Zealand’s largest city, supporting jobs, growth, and housing".

“Without decisive investment in mass transit, Auckland will choke on its own growth. Light rail will support growth in Māngere, Onehunga, and Mount Roskill in particular, connecting these communities and giving people the option to leave the car at home, which will help reduce congestion and emissions.

“As the new Transport Minister, I’ve been tasked with getting the project moving and I acknowledge Aucklanders were shut out of the previous process. We’ve had calls for Government to involve communities and stakeholders – I’ve listened and this is what we’ll do.

    “Our vision for Auckland is to create a vibrant connected city that’s easier, cleaner and safer to get around – light rail will help make that happen. The city centre to Māngere line will be a backbone that eventually will link with the North and North-west, forming a rapid transit network that fully integrates with other forms of transport across the city.

    “Today’s announcement means that the community will be involved in helping us to develop the most significant city-shaping piece of infrastructure since the Auckland Harbour Bridge."

     

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    56 Comments

    17
    up

    Colour me surprised! Another failed promise. Another governance board/working group to drain the taxpayer coffers and achieve sweet f all.

    13
    up

    So cynical. You think an 'establishment unit' is the same as a 'working group'?

    There was probably a working group to come up with the new name.

    What's next? Advisor Assemble? Conceptualising Circle? Elder Council? All of the above but in Te Reo?
    There, I saved govt a few hundred thousand they'd have spent on coming up with new names.

    Good job, now let's spend more moolah on public consultation of these new names.

    Don't forget to engage experts who specialise in 'diversity and inclusion'. You know the ones who will charge big fees to assess whether any of these names offend 0.00001% of NZ's population.

    Advisor: Why to you have to mention a number, in this case 0.00001%. That's a racial slur. Get with it.......mathematics is racist.

    I went with an old school friend to visit my old highschool in a South Auckland suburb during the school holidays a year or so back. I noticed that the old Honours Board that used to hold pride of place on the back wall of the school assembly hall was no longer there. I found it had been taken down and relegated to a cluttered recess in a dusty corner of the hall and was no longer displayed. The school opened in 1960 and from the early 1970s onward there was a constant increase in those students who had obtained a degree. It looks like those students are no longer honoured.

    The concept, strategy and beauty of using a consultant. Foremost the consultant has a disclaimer that removes any liability for results of their advice that are unfortunate, unworkable or financially disastrous. That means when that result comes to roost the local council or whatever government concern, can blame them. It’s a sweet sweet story of mutual back rubbing, with nobody accountable and all highly rewarded by other people’s money.
    In a similar vein, by way of a recent example, we have just witnessed our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance absolving himself of any responsibility for the explosion in property values over the last 12 months simply because “ all the economists told him those values were set to fall.” There it is on every scale you could imagine.

    Labour does form committee like tax committee earlier, Only to ignore their recommendation, so why have one in the first place.

    Delaying tactics now stand exposed.

    There are a ton of options and no one really knows exactly what the project should be at this stage. It would be pretty stupid not to go though this process wouldn't it? Pity they didn't do it 3.5 years ago.

    AT had a plan for street-level, three-branch light rail that was taken from them and given to Central Government, who delivered precisely 0m of track laid in four years.

    These idiots can't even decide if it's a metro system to the airport or a Gold Coast style urban corridor light rail system for the whole region. The AT system could have been half-built by now, we would have just needed to extend it.

    Its still worth holding back for 6 months and deciding whether the AT proposal is the best option or something else such as light metro. Spending billions without considering the options just to save 6 months would be a bit daft.

    They could have done that three years ago. Sorry but there'e no possible way you can chalk further delays up to prudent decision making after years of doing.... what exactly have they been doing?

    They put it our for tender and that is when the NZ super fund came back with their superdooper underground light metro proposal which seemed to wow treasury / twyford / etc. Then they forgot about the original AT proposal and decided to spend an arm and two legs on underground. Now Wood has inherited a project where there are so many groups pushing so many variants, I think he has done the sensible thing.

    It might be the sensible thing, but to the many Aucklanders who are waiting for the government to actually deliver the thing they said they would, more time to flesh out the basics is not acceptable after years of dithering. They didn't need this much time to bring in the regional fuel tax.

    Need to Aquire land near the city and on the tram line. And build 30 storey appartments. 3 beddies at at average price. Would be a great place to live. Work our way down dominion road until we have built 50k apartments

    I understand the cynicism about working groups, but in this case the approach is justified.
    The previous idiot of a minister had no clue, and set ridiculous expectations. He wanted a planning process that involved minimal public input.
    We need to get this right, so I welcome the announcement - but reserve the right to lambast them if things aren't progressed meaningfully by this time next year.

    10
    up

    why are we not surprised ....... are there any promises left to break ..... 100,000 homes, Pike River, no new taxes,

    Pffft, these promises were made BEFORE her landslide victory in 2020. They don’t count. No body really expects any of them any more.

    You can't fool all of the people all of the time, but 50% of people don't care about anything but Kindness, Kovid, and that the housing market bubble keeps inflating.

    10
    up

    Today did announcement that will do another announcement after 6 to 9 months.......

    Is it Labour party or Announcement party

    Another working group (with the fancy name "establishment unit"), rather than finally making some real decision about this long-standing project ? What a sick joke. This is yet another job opportunity for useless pen pushers and bureaucrats who will spend months and taxpayers money to prepare yet another useless report (couched in properly tailored politically correct language, of course).

    Farcical. Four years of lost time, no urgency when it comes to the North West, no concrete plan and no improvement on where we were before the election in 2017. Did anyone in Wellington do any work on this at all?

    From what I can gleen from FYI requests, nothing happened with regards to North West Auckland and Light rail at all.

    Meanwhile the government gets another do-over, as morning commutes blow out to two hours+.

    I am as pro Light Rail as you can get and this is patently absurd - I don't blame people for thinking this is getting ridiculous, because it is

    Either the country has a climate emergency or it doesn't. Pick one.

    I believe they are working on some fairly big bus improvements for the NW. I guess at this stage they think there will be more growth around Mangere and Mt Roskill so need to start on that LR route first.

    The 'bus improvements' have already been announced, it's mostly painted shoulder lanes and bus stops that throw people out at the top of offramps. It's pretty awful for something we're supposed to live with instead of actual, rapid transit.

    The feet-dragging by NZTA on the NW Busway is a scandal... if only we had a functioning third estate.

    It's not a bus way - it's some bus lanes. We're not getting anything close to what the North Shore has already had for more than a decade.

    Another announcement that they will make an announcement. This lot are ridiculous, Covid safed them

    How about spending some money in wgtn we will take anything to get this city moving Airport to CBD been talked about for 30 odd years

    You mean the 60% funding commitment for LGWM without a regional fuel tax like Auckland already has?

    It’s all talk no do

    Hope they raise petrol taxes to fund this. We need to cut down the number of cars on the road and lower greenhouse emissions.

    Heck even I'm going green- dumping my gas burner for a Model S.

    Just have to be patient to wait till 2022- which is killing me.

    Why the S instead of the 3?

    For the tri-motor and range.

    Maybe go test drive an M3P while you're waiting. Range and power differences aren't much considering the price difference, plus you could have one this year. I guess if you really want plaid though...

    Could have just handed out ebikes and escooters for all a few years ago. The roads were already there.
    Etravel by your own timetable.

    It would have been great if you could have a cheap, one person transporter at an E-scooter speed that had a cabin or something that would have protected you from falls, bumps etc to a reasonable degree.

    A mobility scooter would do almost

    hopefully they will arse around and this dinosaur (light rail through mt roskill to the airport) will never get built.
    its taking a good plan city to mt roskill and making it stupid by trying to extend to the airport.
    they have just about finished puhinui station and it would have made more sense to run light rail from there to the airport

    Unfortunately they seem committed to the airport connection because it is "city shaping" - even though the whole route only serves 15% of the population or something.

    "Hopefully they will arse around" lol your wish will almost certainly be granted, set a low bar and live happy lol.

    No skilled workforce available, shortage of materials, it makes sense to delay it till the CRL is finished , then roll those resources into it . Need to plan now though .

    Yeah but their planning will take 2 years at least just to decide what to do, then another 3 years to get the designs out. At which point all the labour for CRL would have moved on... if they had actually started 4 years ago, it might have been possible.

    I am not from Auckland but understand that Winston Peters vetoed the concept proposed because it was ill conceived, impractical, simply not viable. Now he is being blamed, by innuendo, by the present government. But if he was wrong then why isn’t the government just picking up that original concept instead of immersing it all in another quagmire of committees, working groups, reporting groups and every groupy in sight with a snout in the public purse.

    So what really happened was a simple sub $10b network got turned into a $30b+ mega project because certain ministers were wooed by an unsolicited pitch and dumped the established AT concept for one that was massively divorced from the aims of the original project. Winston was the final bullet, but the fatal wounding was done long before the monstrosity it became ever got near cabinet.

    How many boards or committees does government need? Just build the damn stuff.

    Can some clever person here tell me what the benefits of light rail are for AKL? I've seen first hand the benefits of subway systems in big US and European cities. I don't get how these apply in a tiny city like AKL. I commute into the city from the north shore. The busway here is fantastic. Never an issue weekdays or weekends. My mum commutes from manurewa into the city via train. She has a system with a group of her fellow commuters where when the trains are running late or don't show up they take turns carpooling. This happens regularly on the southern network from what she tells me. Surely we don't have the housing density or the volumes of people to justify this in the next 100 years? Bugger the train tracks. Replicate the northern bus way and use electric busses not electric trains so 1 breakdown doesn't stuff the whole network. What am I missing here?

    They can’t terminate too many busways in the city before it would be crammed with buses. The original reason AT looked into light rail was to remove some buses from the city.
    Your mum’s issues will no doubt be resolved once the CRL is completed.

    This is a delay I can live with even if Labour have been dicking around for a few years. I'm not an Aucklander but would not want some grandiose scheme conjured up by Labour when in opposition or Nats doing what I don't know. People can throw lots of ideas around but in the end they need careful financial analysis. It sounds like AT came up with something that at first site appears OK but even their scheme is bound to be Akl politically motivated. AT's scheme may precede Goff's tenure but he's bound to have put his oar in at some stage. No doubt trying for the gold plated solution and getting central govt to pay as much as possible for it.

    Another example of not progressing anything despite all the big talk especially when it comes to election time. This threadbare tactic comes neither as a surprise nor even another sign of failure from this Government; it's just what they do. What I still struggle to get my head around is why more than 50% of the electorate at the last election endorsed them to keep going with this 'talk is cheap' tactic.

    Its good that the study is being restarted. A holistic approach is required:

    It cannot be just another "transport" study, otherwise we are going to waste NZD Xbn.

    The study needs to consider:

    a) Climate change - existing and future price of carbon should be in the transport modelling

    b) Congestion tolls - government needs to come to a decision on whether to implement and which cordon & then the Mass Rapid Transit modelling needs to take this into

    c) Land Use. The modelling also needs to include a land use package. Any rail proposal should go hand in hand with a rezoning plan change for Transit Oriented Development around the stations.

    d) Related services. If the modelling shows a true (mass) rapid transit solution is best (i.e. grade separated with longer station spacings) then it needs to be supplemented with all stops PT (say buses with bus lanes & possibly on-demand services ) between stations serving the local catchments

    e) The objective of the mass rapid transit proposal - is it part of the strategic rail network and thus should be MRT with long station spacings, grade separation and high speeds, or is it a local at-grade service servicing the local areas along the route.

    I blame it on the boomer landlords.

    And they blame it on the Silent Generation in general.

    Didn't really see any other option for Wood. Draw a line under the previous process, refine what's being delivered using a more inclusive process. Makes sense. Woods' challenge will be delivering to the 6 month timeframe.

    The PM said recently regarding the AK/Hamilton that the service will save 73000 road trips a year.
    That figure comes from where?
    Don't let this Govt anywhere near rail.

    Instead of trying to fix all the Auckland problems and compounding them further by jamming even more people in. Would it perhaps be less expensive and more rational to reduce or reverse the population increase in Auckland by developing from scratch alternative brand new cities that are far more affordable, energy efficient, offer a better lifestyle and lower living cost. Far easier and cheaper to do this on a clean sheet basis than untangling the bloody mess in Auckland?

    Will they take into account the impact that Covid globally and domestically will have for years to come, short and long term as well as the fragile global economies?