NZ Super views project as 'attractive prospect for investment' and has already lined up a partner; Government has yet to confirm it will accept the sovereign wealth fund’s bid

The Government is welcoming “strong interest” from the NZ Super Fund, which has proposed forming an international consortium to design, build and operate Auckland’s light rail network.

But Minister of Transport Phil Twyford says the Government has not accepted the offer as the light rail contract is open to a procurement process that will solicit interest from other potential bidders.

Twyford and Finance Minister Grant Robertson officially launched the procurement process for the project on Wednesday morning. Twyford estimates the project will cost about $6 billion, making it the biggest transport project in New Zealand history. He says the Government hopes land value capture will provide one of the revenue streams to fund the project.

In a statement, Twyford says the light rail project will be a “magnet for private investment.”

“The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will now set up a robust process to explore a range of possible procurement, financing and project delivery options,” Robertson says.

This process will invite and assess all potential proposals and report back to the Ministers of Finance and Transport.

Robertson says NZTA will work with the Treasury and the Ministry of Transport in this process.

The procurement process covers both the city to Mangere and the city to North West lines. The recently announced 10-year transport plan for Auckland earmarked $1.8 billion in seed funding with the option of securing private investment in the network.

Twyford says the Government received an unsolicited proposal from the NZ Super Fund last month.

“The Government will not be commenting further on the proposal other than to say that we welcome the strong interest in light rail and acknowledge that any investors will require a reasonable commercial return.

“The procurement process agreed by Cabinet will review all other proposals in the same way as the Super Fund’s proposal is assessed,” he says.

Speaking to media, Robertson says both he and Twyford are expecting some “significant interest” from other potential investors.

But the pair have no preferences as to whether or not a partner is New Zealand-based.

“We’re not going to express any preference about that today, we want to make sure we do a project here that delivers for Aucklanders what they need and provides value for money to New Zealanders.”

An “attractive prospect for investment”

In a statement, NZ Super Fund Acting CEO Matt Whineray says the wealth fund considers Auckland light rail to be a project of sufficient scale to be an “attractive prospect for investment.”

“We wish to explore whether a NZ Super Fund-led consortium leveraging our international relationships can fund and deliver the project, on a fully commercial basis.”

Whineray says the Fund has identified Canadian based CDPQ Infra – one of the country’s leading institutional fund managers with a US$238 billion war chest – as a potential partner for the project.

Currently, around 2% of the $38 billion NZ Super Fund is invested in infrastructure globally. It has around $5 billion invested in New Zealand.

Twyford has always said the Auckland light rail project would be funded partly through private investors.

A successful bid would mean the investor would likely secure a guaranteed source of income from the project, Twyford says.

He says details of this will be worked out through the procurement process but it is the Government hope that land value capture will be one of the revenue streams that will help to finance the project.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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61 Comments

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this is something that we will look back on in 20 years as a wasted opportunity.
they should run heavy rail up the bus way on the shore , and from onehunga to the airport and out to puhinui
instead we will put in a halfway system which will not accomplish what we require, quick mass transit

Heavy rail to the shore would be very expensive as the gradients of the busway don't support it. Light rail can do those gradiants, is almost as quick on a dedicated corridor, and would cost a fraction of the price (so may actually happen in our lifetime).
Light rail will be quick mass transit.

We always ended up with a piecemeal approach. Look at the light rail they did on the Gold Coast - all the way from North Gold Coast to the airport at a fraction of what Auckland's inner city rail loop total cost.

Talking does not get the job done. But no one has the guts to do.

This is good news (as long as there was no political pressure). It shows what I think most economists have said is that building infrastructure will lead to investment especially from pension funds as they are in it for the long haul.

This development lines up with and emanates from, one could well imagine, pre election statements from NZF that this fund should have a greater concentration on NZ based investment(s.) Is this then an insight into how much influence NZF is asserting within the coalition? Without going into whether or not this is a sound investment, it nevertheless might raise a question as to just how truly independent the management of the pension fund actually is.

https://www.nzsuperfund.co.nz/nz-super-fund-explained-governance/board

Board members are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance. The Minister’s recommendation follows nominations from a committee, independent of the Guardians, which is established by the Minister. On receiving those nominations, the Minister consults with representatives of other political parties in Parliament before recommending the Governor-General appoint a person to the Board.

I think unless their is evidence to the contrary we have to assume that the decision by the Super fund isn't political. Overall, I think the super fund is better at handling money than all our governments.

Commuter rail is heavily subsidised in almost every 1st world country. Why would the NZ superfund want to invest in a white elephant that requires ongoing subsidisation (assumes ongoing political will to do so), when transport technology is in early stages of a revolution with Autonomous cars/taxis/buses and Air taxis likely to arrive on our roads and skies in next 5 years - ie before any train line can be built.

Please, please do not flush all our money down the toilet on an ideologically motivated bad investment.

" with Autonomous cars/taxis/buses and Air taxis likely to arrive on our roads and skies in next 5 years"

You're either hallucinating or so damn optimistic that it makes no difference. Autonomous cars and air taxis within 5 years on NZ roads?

Given they don't yet exist, and the legal framework that would govern their operation in NZ hasn't even really started to be drawn up. And NZ vehicle fleet is on average 14years old last I heard I would expect we are at least 20 years from widespread autonomous cars on our roads.

AND autonomous cars take up just as much room on the road as a self driven car. You will get less accidents and resulting snarl ups, but they still need to negotiate intersections and avoid pedestrians, and until their are no human driven cars on the road we need to allow for following distance and erratic behaviour. A fleet of computer driven cars may raise the capacity of a road maybe 20% or 30%, but thats about on par with the population growth Auckland will experience in that 20 years.. so net result may just mean congestion is on about the same level.

Kitty Hawk's air taxi Cora, currently testing in Christchurch: https://youtu.be/LeFxjRMv5U8?t=54

Google's Waymo autonomous cars are entering service in Arizona later this year:
https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/08/waymos-self-driving-car-service-is-la...

The future is closer than you think. And commuter trains are soon going to be obsolete due to their lack of granularity, and last-mile problems.

Still leaves 15 years minimum to get half of NZs fleet to that standard.. if the Waymo trial succeeds. And thats without going into the cost issue. as for the Cora thing.. Price? Air traffic control? Seems hugely energy in-efficient, nice toys for the wealthy maybe, but can't see that becoming widespread anytime soon. High capital cost, high cost to run.

There certainly seem to be a number of people "gambling" uber and in turn driverless EVs will be a game changer and highly profitable. If EVs are running around highly utilised and cheap for users then indeed I think we'll could see a shakeout of NZ's car fleet.

Quite how we'd manage with millions of air cars all driverless and descending on a city centre in basically 1 hour is quite a mind boggling idea but not impossible technically. The problem though will be energy. In-efficient, yes I think so, hence I dont see mass micro air transport succeeding myself either.

No doubt there are still technological and legal hurdles to overcome, this reality could be with us sooner than people think. The mining scene in Western Australia have been moving to autonomous trucks for haulage. They can now work around the clock with little down time where previously they had to pay hundreds of thousands per driver for a limited number of hours per day.

In a city like Auckland with Urban sprawl, Autonomous cars/taxis can easily reach every corner door to door. Trains are bound to their tracks, buses are bound to their predefined routes - i think this is quite a big disadvantage.

How i see it is that when the technology is ready, it could potentially push through very quickly as the core infrastrucrure is already there ie. roads.

I believe there will be less vehicles serving the same number of people compared to privately owned cars as of now, discounts can be given as an incentive to share ride.

Autonomous cars would still be traffic jammed.

Most analyses suggest jams will be massively reduced as they're largely caused by human stupidity.

Thats not a very nice thing to say about traffic/roading engineers..

But seriously, everytime I see roadworks on surface roads around here I wonder which new way they have decided to screw traffic. Lets install a wide pedestrian refuge at this crossing and force two lanes of traffic down to one, 20m before 40% of the traffic turns down a sidestreet, instead of moving the crossing to 20m the other side of the intersection where the traffic volume drops anyway.

It would be easy to make me believe that traffic engineers sit in rooms without windows and play with dinky toys all day long.How else could some of the idiotic intersection layouts and street laning be devised.

Heh. But yeah, it's more the muppets chopping and changing lanes to get one or two spaces ahead, jamming on their brakes and sending a jamming wave back through the traffic behind them. I would imagine AI controlled cars are going to be a little more efficient than that. Just a tad.

Yep, but it'll be 15 to 20 years before we get rid of enough human drivers to eliminate that problem.

And that is only really an issue on the motorways.. what about all the traffic on the surface roads, that is also a huge problem.

Almost all our roads are on the surface, except perhaps those in tunnels. But on what basis would you assume AI-driven cars will not also reduce congestion (or at least time lost to it) on residential roads as well as on motorways?

Surface as in not major arterials or motorways, but i suspect you knew that.

They will improve it, but until you have removed almost all of the human driven cars from the equation you are confined to having intersections that are operated in ways that human drivers can cope with. You can't rip out the traffic lights, stop signs and have autonomous cars negotiate gaps with each other and interleave at speed missing each other by inches while you still have dopey Joe Human randomly failing to indicate then turning across the stream of traffic.

Yeah, agree. Need a full fleet to get the full benefit. Although the AI might also be quite good at coping with muppets. Perhaps we should start with putting an AI in charge of auto-ticketing red light runners in central Auckland. Ship's gettin crazy there.

Don't you think its 30+ years before human drivers are off the road? I'd guess 20+ years before 50% of cars are autonomous.

Need to get that parcel across town, forget the courier, chuck it into the back of an uber. Congestion will be madness unless they either price it high or ban such practices.

And when a single train derail like yesterday. Your entire network could potentially could be out of action for a number of days

The mining industry has several advantages.. its a closed environment, complete control of all vehicles entering the working areas, and as you say you are replacing 2-3 drivers that are a $200k+pa opex with a one off capex on equipment that has a 15year life, so adding $200k of control hardware to a $3-4million mining dump truck whose payload is not capable of driving the truck, its quite a different proposal to add even $5k of hardware to a $25,000 corolla equivalent, to replace the driver who isn't costing you anything because they are the payload.

Yes, cars can reach everywhere, and that is why we all love them, get in, go when you want to where you want. The point is that replacing a human driver with a computer doesn't solve the intrinsic problem of a 2m wide, 4 metre long car moving (mostly) one person at a time on our roading network, and the fact that majority of us need to arrive at work/school in the 8-9am slot, and leave again in the same time in the evening. There are going to be benefits (platooning, negotiated give way rules and others) but these are all marginal improvements.

You mention carpooling... so solve that problem, integrate billing etc, and add it onto Waze or google maps.. That is the problem that needs to be solved. Effectively we need every driver commuting into work to become an opportunistic uber driver that will divert a street or two off their route to pick up someone going in the same direction in exchange for a payment thats small enough for the passenger to want to pay rather than drive their own car, and big enough for the driver to want to put up with a random stranger, and enough participants that you can rely on the service to get you where you are going, everyday.

I suspect you will find this price balance isn't possible with out regulatory actions eg: congestion charging or dedicated T2 or T3 lanes on the motorway

Mining industry example used to show the uptake of new technology when its available and makes commercial sense, not to play down the complexity of the issue. The rate of technological change is no longer linear but exponential. I somehow relate this to the early days of modern cloud computing, there was a lot of resistance towards it not that long ago but now the same people are kind of forced to embrace it whether they like it or not or get left behind. Sure there may be some gaps initially and not all the answers but the advancement is really at an eye watering pace.

Also I'm not running down rail or light rail, i am 5 minutes walk from a train station and the propose light rail route is also 5 minutes from me in another direction. The big issue i see with it is that the rail network has to be comprehensive enough to serve the needs of most people for it to make sense. There is a very large gap to fill there, big population in north shore has 0 rail currently. Auckland has like what, 1.3 million people but the sprawl is so great i'm not sure it will make financial sense.

Singapore is 2/3 the size of Auckland, has close to 6 million people but still needs to subsidise rail substantially.

The scenario of carpooling i envision it quite differently. I see it more like a commodity. Maybe the government or a few large fleet business might own a bunch of cars. People order a ride, vehicle turns up maybe with someone else already in it as you destination was on the way. You wont need to be an unwilling driver to subsidise your journey. Dont like seeing a stranger? No problem, have partitions in the vehicle or order a dedicated one.

Large fleet rideshare operators will be looking for a return on investment, which by default puts a minimum cost on a ride sharing service. A privately owned vehicle that is already going in basically the same direction for whatever reason all you need to do is add marginal benefit that outweighs the inconvenience of the detour and passenger, its not competing on a commercial return basis.

The main point was that you are conflating two different issues, autonomous vehicles and ridesharing. They are not mutually dependant. Solving the ridesharing problem and you solve Aucklands (and every other major city) congestion problem NOW, not in the 20+ years it'll take to get rid of the non-autonomous car fleet.

Not mutually dependent but it can be complementary to the business model for efficiency. You could well be right it take 20+ years but so will building a comprehensive rail network similar to sydney or melbourne, touching all directions of auckland.

Guess its about putting your bets on the right horse. I wont dismiss either solutions but i think more effort should go into investigating future technologies

About as close as Martin Jet Pack getting widespread acceptance.

These technologies are NEVER going to get regulatory approval - here or in the US

Autonomous cars will get regulatory approval, there is no doubt about that, its a question of when it happens, and the cost of the hardware/software required. In 50 years there is no doubt it will be done and if we are still making cars they will all be capable of self driving, and it will be the default option.

Well said Pragmatist,people are dreaming if they think that is coming in the next 5 years and like you say,they take up the same amount of space on the road.Not to mention that to cover peak periods there would be a huge number of autonomous vehicles sitting where exactly during off peak.Where will these vehicles be stored and maintained,then there is insurance and litigation issues which are far from sorted,once a few rogue cars take out a pedestrian or 2.Then there is the fact that kiwis want the freedom to hit the road,what,ya gonna order up a vehicle to take ya family to the beach for the weekend with all ya gear,tow the boat and trailer?So people will stillhave their own vehicles.They will be a valuable additional transport option in condensed,heavily populated cities,but merely a cottage industry in AKL. As for flying cars,seriously...commercial air travel is highly regulated,modern aircraft in theory could fly unmanned...but peoples fears,regulators etc feel this is a bridge too far,so people think we are gonna have automated ubers flying round the skys above...wait till one of those drops in your back yard lol.We have enough problems with a drone ot two up in the sky,you think Shaneels Flying Taxi service based in Mt Roskill is really going to happen 5 years???
People have been watching too many episodes of the Jetsons...

I would think autonomous cars would enhance rail - most people wont bother owning a car and will use public transport when possible or automated uber otherwise. Automated uber will be expensive at peak times hence the need for rail.

If Automated uber is expensive and Rail station more than a kilometer from home/work, then come the first wet windy cold day i'll be ... back in my car.

Rail is fantastic if there is a station close to your source, and your destination. Once you add a kilometer or two of walking at either end it gets time consuming and inconvenient. Having co-ordinated buses helps a bit.

How will autonomous taxis solve congestion ? How will autonomous buses and vans be of better help in solving it than manned buses and vans ?

Stick in more dedicated bus lanes and buses like the Bogata BRT. That way if it mass public transport doesn't work out as expected you can convert the road to cars and sell the buses - at a fraction of the capex/risk.

Lets's face for a tin pot city like Auckland rail is never going to work. Rail is too much of a risk just to preen some politicians ego. Just ask Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook.

"Bogota tried unsuccessfully several times in the 20th century to construct a heavy rail transit system (like Metrorail), but the costs for building the system were too high.

Peñalosa’s Administration envisioned that for the same cost of building a small Metrorail-like system, they could build a comprehensive bus network. Improvements on the Curitiba model allowed TransMilenio to increase its capacity to a level similar to a metro-like system.

Today, the greater TransMilenio system provides transportation for 69% of the population of Bogota, demonstrating its success. This amounts to 2.4 million riders daily, dwarfing most American rail transit systems. Unlike transit systems in the United States, TransMilenio is so successful that it actually makes money on its operations."
https://ggwash.org/view/62869/bogota-has-a-world-renowned-brt-what-would...

Exactly.

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Please no

Why on Earth would the super fund want a bar of this - when its currently delivering double digit returns for all New Zealanders - unless they have been politically directed to by the current government - it makes no sense at all for an independent fund, whose owners have a mandate to deliver the best returns for the funnd owners - US - to want to be involved in something that will not make any money never mind sense

Auckland city Councils public transport system is currently subsidised to the tune of $250,000,000 per annum by ratepayers according to my latest rates information of where my money is spent - - so why would anyone invest in something that not only is losing that amount of money each year - but whose losses year on year have increased massively - and are predicted to continue increasing ?

Sheer madness

They'll do it for the same reason that PPP exists everywhere, because ratepayers are guaranteed to pay for it. If a miracle happens and it is wildly popular they will make lots of money. And if as expected people prefer not to take this meandering wasted journey from city to airport, the ratepayers will bail them out.

if the govt would give an assurance towards a guaranteed return, which i read they are willing to do, every man and his dog will want to invest in this lucrative investment. how silly can we get with tax payers tax dollars?

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Let's run some rough numbers on a $ 3 B light rail investment to the airport.

Depreciation over 50 years straight line $ 60 m / annum
Debt 60 % @ 5% $ 90 m / anum
Equity 40 % @ 7 % $ 84 m / anum
Operating say $ 50 m / annum
Total Costs = $ 284 m / annum - let's say $ 800,000 / day

Indifference cost for 2 in a taxi say eastern suburbs door to door $ 40 / head

Max ticket cost to airport < $ 40 so need minimum 20,000 passengers day to break even.

If it's part way say $ 10 / head then 80,000 customers / day or proportional.

Current train total passengers are ~ 70,000 day for comparison.

Say 830 average - 1600 peak - near zero off peak

Yet today the airporter bus - which will continue to run - takes literally maybe 100 / hour at peak ?

Some pretty heroic and totally unachievable growth assumptions to make this stack up.

Looks like the ratepayers will be picking up the tab.

Sydney failed - Brisbane failed and 3/3 coming up !

You forgot to mention the 20 other stops on the line, its not all about the airport by any means.
Do you really think Auckland can keep on growing with a roads only mantra?

that is exactly the problem. Do the CoL want rapid localised rapid transit, or a fast train to the airport? There needs to be very few stops to airport otherwise people will just drive

JB, you should know better than to try to apply Assumed-but-plausible Data to a motherhood-and-apple-pie project.

It's for the Children, so numbers don't matter....

Now, whether there will be long-haul tourism to an Airport in half a century's time, is another confounding factor which we can only whisper about. As that doomster JHK was fond of saying, at $USD 75/barrel, long-haul air falls off the perch.

“The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will now set up a robust process to explore a range of possible procurement, financing and project delivery options,” Robertson says.

Fyffe House office, maybe not.

If the superfund owns the infrastructure it is unlikely the rail company will be able to afford the ‘rent”, based on overseas models. AKL council will no doubt end up subsidising the shortfall, and once again dip into ratepayers pockets.

If they are going to dip into ratepayer pockets then I hope it follows the incremental value model as there is no value add to the Eastern Sububs with the CRL or light rail. Let the West pay for Twatfords Twain’s.

You've said before you've received over a million dollars worth of betterment from events of recent years. They could simply tax some of that :p Everyone contributes based on the benefit they've received.

Based on an article I read this morning it appears that pass through value added rates could be part of the mix. So who here is on the planned route and how much are You willing to pay every year for this?

And were you asked if you want to pay this extra money?
I'm glad that I live nowhere near this project.
However, given the way that the Ak council targets its rates, ie it doesn't target them to the particular area at all: its targeted in namesake only, (eg Ak central sewerage problem), I have huge fears that cost over-runs of all its projects and the resulting financial meltdown will add to the general rates on the north shore again. All for no benefit at all to north shore ratepayers.

The whole thing just looks and smells like a dog's breakfast !

We are living through a very sad period in NZ history ! Please stop this nonsense

I put the blame squarely on the man some call 'political pus'. It's like someone put their CV forward for a job, just as a laugh, unexpectedly got the job and is now floundering. Very unfair on the job holder but how can they get out of it? They can't. Given a few years to get their act together without withering criticism on a daily basis and they might have been good for it in a few years.

I actually agree, but all of them have learned nothing in the past 9 years and like that hopeless applicant just enjoyed jaw boning and spending taxpayers' money when on the back benches as if it was never ending benefit.

Governing a country or becoming an minister is not a joke and cannot be subject to trial and error ! this is one job that you should come prepared and No room for learning as you go ...

Most of the cocus are just opportunity ministers.

You would have thought it should have been more like buying a business. the prospective new owners have thought of some new plans and new decorations and how to deal with customers when they take over - but No, they started advertising and promoting the business without even having a clue , let alone a plan - hence all this daily BS we have to put up with after 7 months in the " business " !

Contradictions galor, chase investors out of the market and beg new ones to build kiwibuild with Gov underwriting - I just see a lot of business partners each with a seperate dream and idea ...

Is there a feasibility analysis or Cost/ Benefit study of this light rail project ??? are there any other alternative options ?

Where were you guys these last years? Developing a set of double-standards to live by?

I am . I would pay them not to do it.

I am close enough that we'd be in any rating catchment.. But that's the landlords problem :)

Surely, if transport access is improved to your rental, then the rental demand would increase and you would have to compete and pay a higher rent or move i.e. it is your problem.

If access if improved.. it wont be, it'll be over a km to walk to the nearest station, which i'm sure is close enough for the council to want to whack the rates up, but from a practical point of view it doesn't help at all. And you are assuming the landlord is silly enough to raise rent on good tenants and risk them moving out, ask me in December if he's that silly.

Wait...there's something missing here...where is the shrieking hysteria from Boatman about the Coalition of Losers or creeping communism, or socialism, environmentalism or some other 'ism?

Gave himself an anuer "ism"?