sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Brendon Harre thinks we have a problem with the poor quality and inadequate quantity of local infrastructure

Brendon Harre thinks we have a problem with the poor quality and inadequate quantity of local infrastructure

By Brendon Harre*

Does New Zealand have a problem with poor quality and inadequate quantity of local infrastructure? Are our cities blocked up?

An initial look at our transport figures show that Kiwis privately invest heavily in transportation, having one of the world's highest car ownership rates in the world and a high length of roading per capita. But a closer look at the figures shows we have a low amount of motorways per capita and very little passenger rail transport either.

If you compared New Zealand with a country of similar size and population like Finland or population density like the US being the 202nd, 203rd and 179th least populated places in the world. You would see the following.

Statistics on transport infrastructure comparisons are hard to come by, but anyone who has travelled or even use google maps will agree this is a reasonable picture of New Zealand compared to overseas.

A direct comparison of transportation spending by all levels of government per capita or per GDP for different countries would be very telling. I think it would show New Zealand has low levels of transportation spending. But this information does not seem to be available, perhaps because there are so many differing agencies responsible for providing transport. So I have used motorway length and rail passenger kilometres as a proxy for how much New Zealand has invested in transport infrastructure.

I think this shows a picture of kiwis after a binge of rural road construction last century becoming frugal on the second and third generation transportation systems like motorways, bus lanes, cycle lanes and passenger rail needed to keep modern cities running efficiently.

I believe that if we analyse the nature of transportation infrastructure as a public good and its provision in New Zealand we can see why we do it and the implications of putting little effort into unblocking our public utilities.

Public goods

All transport systems are public goods to a certain extent and require some collective payment for collective use.

The economics of public goods is very different to that of private goods.

If you want to consume a private good your best strategy is to offer slightly more than what the next person will pay. The highest bidder consumes it and the others miss out.

The system is simple and clear. For a public good, a new or extended transport sytem in this case, your optimal strategy if you want it, is to offer nothing and hope the next person agrees to pay for it. Then you can use it too for free. Note this includes benefiting from using a less congested existing road while others use a new different system. The free rider problem.

Private goods

One option for dealing with this problem is to turn the public good to a private good. So for instance turning public grazing land that was overgrazed into private land with fencing, legal title etc. This being the solution to the tradegy of the commons. But examples of private provision of roads are not promising. The US had turnpike companies that privatised the provision of roads in previous centuries but they all went bankrupt.

This article indicates that turnpikes might have been more successful than thought. That they were informal community service providers of free association, similar to say St John Ambulance, rather than pure profit driven companies. That small socially cohesive towns were able to get a lot of local buy in for these schemes despite the poor prospects for generating profits.

But given the size of infrastructure projects nowadays and the fact we do not live in small homogenous 1820s American towns this is not a modern solution.

Another possibility is to turn public goods into clubs, to formalise the community service process.

Clubs manage expensive public infrastructure expendicture quite well, say a swimming pool. Annual membership pays for the capital costs and a smaller admission charge deals with congestion and running cost issues.

People are free to choose to join clubs and enjoy in a group setting the type of amentities that they want.

Local government can been seen as big clubs, with residents choosing where to live, rates being your share of capital costs, while things like bus fares, road user taxes, congestion charges being for ungoing expenses and congestion issues.

Weak, divided and powerless

The problem we have in New Zealand is that since Provinces were abolished in 1876 Local Government has been weak, divided and powerless.

Central government sees them as another agency under their control. Your local bowling club has more independence from an interfering Wellington than your Local council.

In Canterbury the Provincial Council put through the Lyttleton rail tunnel, the longest tunnel through volcanic rock at the time in the 1860s (long before the Cathedral, is there a lesson here?).

Whereas Local Government couldn't put through a road tunnel until the 1950s and only after central government funded it in response to industrial action from harbour and rail unions.

Councils in New Zealand can handle business as usual but they cannot handle big new projects.

That is why Central government is rebuilding Christchurch a city originally built by Provincial government.

We have two further problems. Auckland is now much bigger than the other centres. In the US if you don't like the costs and amentities of one city, say LA, you can move to a similiar sized city which can probably cope with your employment/business needs, say Houston. So in the US there is a lot competition between places regarding amentities, costs and new residents.

In New Zealand the size of Auckland makes it harder for other centres to compete. Although I think Canterbury could surprise Auckland given a chance.

The second big problem is is our Local Governments have little taxation powers, they are reliant on rates.

Rates are paid by property owners, many of whom are no longer economic active, they are retired. There is a limit on how high rates can go because you have this large group who are property rich but income poor.

So even if a city or region is economically active, the infrastructure spend of local government will depend on how much rates the property owning but no longer economically active group can tolerate. The taxes from the economically active, these being income tax, petrol tax, company tax, GST etc goes to Central government and they are reluctant to share it. The incentive structure of our local government is all wrong.

New Zealand has a new Super Council in Auckland but it is not super because its revenue base can only fund business as usual, not new projects. It is Central government that provides the significant new funding for Auckland's evolving transport needs, a rail loop and harbour crossing for example.

Three options

Local Councils in New Zealand have three options for dealing with their inability to fund new projects.

They can allow urban growth to occur by keeping costs to a minimum. This allows new housing to respond quickly to increased demand, supply is elastic. Local government could use new methods to fund infrastructure within the new housing areas like MUDs. (See this thread to get a good discussion of MUDs and how it would effect debt levels for individual households and nationally). But this option means no new city wide infrastructure projects to connect the new residential areas with the rest of the city. This option risks voter rejection due to concerns about congestion and bland urban growth - which is why I assume our local governments do not choose to do this.

Or Local Government can try to save money by encouraging no urban growth or only upward growth and therefore limit the infrastructure spend that way.

Unfortunately this causes the supply of housing to become inelastic and any new demand for housing leads to price rises rather than new housing.

It transfers costs from the city wide public who save on infrastructure expenditure to those who do not own property coping with rapidly rising housing costs. This creates arguments with Central government because it faces the economic and political fallout of unaffordable housing.

This option also risks bureaucratic capture as the planning restrictions create an expanding workforce of empire builders within Local government. 

A downward spiral of rising Local Government costs leading to an increasingly dysfunctional planning and consent process can result. Unfortunately this is Christchurch's problem and the national building consent auditor -IANZ has recently removed CCC power to issue building consents.

Finally this option can result in special interest capture from the likes of land bankers with consentable land, as the urban growth limits provides gains for some and costs to others.

Or Local Councils can go begging to Wellington. The councils with the most leverage do the best. Auckland for instance is a master at using its size to present its demands for better local services as being in the national interest.

A dynamic is created of begging Local Government and bribing Central Government as the method of providing local infrastructure, with both parties being more interested in the political rather than the economic payoff.

The timing and nature of recent big ticket infrastructure announcements seem to be motivated more by political rather than economic factors. The government announcements seem to be about preventing Labour getting any traction from its recent policy announcements regarding affordable housing and reforming the electricity market.

Not that our main opposition party Labour has a good tract record in these matters.

When in power the above dynamics were all occurring. Housing became highly unaffordable and all they did was make a few Central government initiatives like Working for Families rather than reform Local Government where the problem really lies.

And Labour's recent policy initiatives continues with this trend of centralised rather than localised solutions, Kiwibuild for kiwi housing and Kiwipower.

Long term requirements

What isn't happening is a long term guarantee that infrastructure to new urban growth areas will be provided on an 'as needed' basis to prevent the blockage of transport and other infrastructure.

Given the lack of this, Local Councils will not get the voter support that allows them to supply new residential areas elastic enough to provide affordable housing.

Overall the signal to all concerned is preserving the status quo is the name of the game - political stability for those in power in Wellington - Auckland's dominance over other centres to be unchallenged - and the interests of existing property owners to be preferred over the interests of the newly economically active.


Brendon Harre is a reader and commenter on "I studied some university economics but my career was in psychiatric nursing, I have lived in Finland until recently where I retrained as a cook. Currently I am at home in Christchurch looking after two preschool boys."

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Has anyone found this article? I would love to hear what you guys think!

Put "council" in the title and you know I will be there. Big day today so it looks like Sunday is lost.

Kumbel when you have a chance can you put in a link about how Perth has grown with a northern motorway and rail route.

It would be nice to get some historical context on why we had boundarys in the first place.

The urban boundary restrictions got a lot tighter in Christchurch after the local government amalgamations of 1989. The promise of the Green belt and later the Greater Christchurch urban development plan was that the increase in density would make public transport more affordable and the shorter travel distances would enable alternative transport options of walking and biking.
Local government politicians have being promising that Christchurch will become a Copenhagen or Amsterdam type city.
But in the 25 years these policies have being in place the outcomes have not being attained. We are still a car dominated society. We are nothing like a Copenhagen. And if anything travel distances are getting worse as half the rebuild occurs in the Canterbury towns and countryside outside of Christchurch.
You can argue why.
Maybe it is the lack of public investment.
Maybe it is this sort of metropolitan urban limits cause leap frog sprawling to satellite towns and life style blocks.
Maybe politicians have been lying to the voters, promising one thing when really the harsh reality of the local government fiscal position those promises are an impossible dream.  
Auckland has had a shorter history of MULs and a different relationship with Wellington regarding transport funding but I think they are heading in the same direction. There will be a lot of frustration regarding unfulfilled promises from the Super city Unitary plan.

car dominated, yes, thats got 5 at most 10 years though.
I odnt know if pollies lie or are conomical with the truth....shall we say.

Thanks for your comments Steven.
Cars as we know it may have its days numbered. Not so sure about roads. Romans were building them thousands of years ago and we still use them today.
As my article said, early Canterbrians invested majorly in transport infrastructure because they knew their new settlement depended on it. That was in pre oil times.
A friend of mind told me an engineer in his office commutes 40 km on an electric bike in under an hour a couple of times a week just for the fun of it.
When necessity dicates, how many of us will see the fun of it? And how grateful will we be for good quality roads?
I see the possibility of major changes coming in my or my children's lifetimes regarding oil and transport. But I see a longer adaptation period than you.
It will require a major reconfiguration of our systems. But unlike PDK I do not think it will lead to a Mad Max like collaspe, necessitating a retreat to the hills. I think a Christchurch or a Auckland will remain if it has the power to adapt. At the moment they do not.
I do not trust Wellington to do the right thing.

"frugal on the second and third generation transportation systems like motorways, bus lanes, cycle lanes and passenger rail needed to keep modern cities running efficiently."
I guess we need to look at the historical context here as well.  Just why with 4 million ppl do we need motorways? even today?  Many rail lines were put in in the UK in Victorian times (and I think more than a few lines went bankrupt) Look at low cost energy and lack of population density, ie no drivers for rail lines...
Its a complex picture.
PS how bad is the conjestion compared to say London? I wonder....

I do not think London is a valid comparison, being one of the few and first megacities in the world and being the capital of population dense country, neither conditions are found in NZ.
I think Helsinki is a better comparison to Auckland.
My wife used to have to drive a lot for work, 50: 50 country and city driving. Her car averaged 59kmhr and I am told in Christchurch by a person doing a similiar mix of driving it is 39km/hr. And Christchurch is a 1/4 the size of Greater Helsinki.
What would the average speed be in Auckland?
I used to travel by train to a school on the opposite side of the city 40 to 50 km away, it took about an hour door to door despite having to change trains.

I didnt say London, but actually the entire UK was hvy crossed with tracks, excessively. The point is that the tracks were put in so the right of way was reserved, hence cheaper.

New Zealand population 4.4 million. Finland's population 5.4 million.
New Zealand is growing much faster and given current growth rates will overtake Finland population in the next 20 to 30 years.
Yet if you look at the transport infrastructure bar graph above New Zealand is not prepared for this growth.
Note I compared NZ to Finland in my article because they are so similiar in size and population density.
But you could choose pretty much any developed country and find it has better transport infrstructure than New Zealand. They either have much, much more motorways like the US. Or more motorways and much, much more alternative means of transport like rail, bus lanes and bike lanes, like Finland.
And motorways are not as energy inefficient as the Greens make out. Add a bus lane and suddenly public transport is going faster than private car use. Motorways do not have stop start driving so less wasted energy for the same distance travelled. And by getting cars off the smaller local roads, it makes biking and walking safer and nicer.
So Steven to answer your question yes I think we do need this investment.

I am pretty sure all the comparative information you are looking for here can be found on

Ok by 2040 New Zealand is projected to overtake Finlands population.

And Auckland is planning for 125% of the national increase to be living in Auckland (to be fair Auckland are planning for the high growth scenario rather than than the average one, in order to be conservative).

Looking at the demographics, it looks like Finlands major population growth was pre World War II, NZ's was in the car age.
I also get the impression Finland's economy is much more orientated on collective benefit, which the private motor car certainly is not.

To add to that DH, Finland urbanised late. Up to the second world war 50% of the population lived in rural areas. The typical Finn is only one or two generations from the farm. That is why so many of them have summer cottages in the country.
So Finlands towns and cities except for a tiny centre are much newer than NZs.
A little known fact is that NZ has always been at least 50% urbanised, even pre oil.

NZ has been a road transport country for less than 30 years. It's no wonder we are always playing catch-up with roading infrastructure.
Brendon it is a pleasure to read a thoughtful piece looking at the structural issues in local government rather than the usual "apply more cattle prods" variety. I have a couple of points to add:
Firstly,  local government does not build or own motorways, the government does. It is my view that the shapes of our cities are completely determined by the government: more motorways means physically bigger cities.
Secondly we have only had intensive use of roads for less than thirty years. If you look back to 1983 it was a time when Prime Minister Muldoon had legislated wage and price freezes in a vain attempt to finally deliver on his promise of an economic miracle. Carless days were still a recent memory and the open road speed limit was 80km/h. All long-haul freighting was either by rail or coastal shipping. It was against the law to carry freight further than 100km by road. The marshalling yards and warehouses in our cities were massive, and pretty much every coastal city had an operating port.
So think about it. If you saw a freight truck out on the open road it was either doing local cartage or was carrying stock. Otherwise it was private motoring and sales reps. And we were driving veeeeeeery slowly. Our highways didn't have to meet very high standards of capacity or design to meet the demands of the time. Pdk will remember SH1 over the Kilmog north of Dunedin was little better than a goat track 40 years ago. Even so, technically, we were probably slightly over-provisioned with motorways (I'm thinking specifically of Christchurch's Northern Motorway and Dunedin's.Southern Motorway). It is a different story today.
When Douglas et al deregulated transport, sold rail, corporatised the ports I don't think they had any idea what the consequences would be. Successive governments have really just been fire-fighting as they felt funds allowed.
Thirdly we only have one infrastructure 'crisis' in New Zealand and that is Auckland. Wellington still has to address the Wellington/Kapiti Coast linkage and Christchurch has to complete its Northern Corridor (quickly, please!) but council roading in the rest of the country is largely up to the job. And when we talk about infrastructure don't forget that councils spend more on the three waters than they do on roads. Something like 90% of your rates funds the core and social infrastructure (as defined by the Productivity Commission) i.e. it's expensive. And, no matter how much is collected by way of development contributions, current ratepayers always end up picking up some of the tab for growth. It actually works out OK in smaller places and low-medium growth areas - it's just high-growth that it a problem. MUL's, as  I see them, mainly exist to try to aggregate developments and minimise their rates impact.
Fourth, it is true that expanding the capital base is a difficult process for councils but they have adequate mechanisms for collecting capital to undertake renewal, replacement and    upgrade on existing assets. We could help as a nation by not perpetually criticising councils for their debt-funding. By law debt cannot be used to fund operating expenses so any debt that councils carry has been used to fund infrastructure. We could start treating councils carrying high amounts of debt as heroes because they have actually gone out and built some useful stuff.
And while on that topic you can probably thank the Ministry of Health for councils now being constrained in their ability to fund growth. The story of the last ten years or so has been a series of expensive upgrades to water, sewer and stormwater systems to satisfy the requirements of the MoH and regional councils. Many  councils have gone from money in the bank to high debt to fund those projects. Now that the credit cards are maxed out there's not a lot they can do extra until they have paid some of the debt down.
It's probably no more complicated than the fact that the governments of the 80's and 90's took their hands off transport and watched to see how things worked out. The answer is that even as we are decommissioning rail and shipping infrastructure we need way more roading. Changes in how we use roads, the Internet, globalisation, climate change, rising inequality have deeply impacted NZ's geography and successive governments have been very slow to recognise this and respond.

Kumbel thanks for your reply. I agree that Central government has a lot more influence of how our cities grow than they admit. It has become too easy for them to blame local government when the reality is they share some of the blame too.
Congestion may be a big problem in Auckland and parts of Christchurch and Wellington but I think the whole country suffers from poor roading.
Our rural roads even on major state highways are not very straight and have bottlenecks like one lane bridges. Driving in New Zealand on the open road requires constant changing of speed, this is energy inefficient, dangerous and slow.
Other places in the world with just as challenging terrain do not have these problems because they have invested more.

80% of the population of Singapore and 400x the land area. The math is pretty simple. Our roads may not be flash but they aren't that bad that we should make investment in them a priority over say hospitals and schools.
my main point stands: we have only been building real roads for 25 years because it was government policy before then to not need roads. It's catch-up footy for the foreseeable future.

80% of Finland's land area and 80% of Finland's population.  Yet Finland has 3 times the amount of motorways and 10 times the passenger rail use. And I could pick any number of other countries to give the same result. Why and why did NZ not develop its roading other than goat track rural roads until the 1980s.
The reason New Zealand had the sort of roads you desccribe is that was the most efficient way of getting the food produced in New Zealand to London. It required little public investment and New Zealand centres were economically connected to London rather than to each other. Our towns and cities in the main did not try to compete with imports from London. It was all about the economic model. And it worked well until Britain joined the EEC. Then the model failed, Muldoon tried to put it back together but failed and then Douglas smashed it up.
So the thing about infrastructure is you start talking about motorways or rail systems and end up talking about your economic model or even your dreams. See PDKs comments and Sarah Whitcombe over on This is very different to discussing whether to have a new hospital or not.
And if you think dreams are neither here nor there. Think how our British and Maori ancestors came to New Zealand. What did they base that decision on? They came from the other side of the ocean or the world in a time with such limited communication they had no real idea of what they would find here. It must have been a dream of a new maybe better life.

I'll let you know when my son finishes his thesis on Utopianism in NZ literature. Personally I don't understand a word he says when he tries to explain it to me.
the last 40 years of nz economic history in ten well-chosen words - brilliant

Could you not get your son to study something a litlle more practical? I think we are heading for period where the doers are going to be very important.


Hey sorry Kumbel I was trying to be gently cheeky but if I have been insulting please accept my apologises. I am sure your son is an intelligent chappy and will get along fine doing things his way. And what did you mean about your above sentence regarding New Zealand's economic history, brilliant....

I genuinely meant that it is the funniest and pithiest description of the last 50-odd years of NZ's economic history that I have ever read.

Look on the bright side, we'll need lots of carrot pullers...looks like we'll get lots.

Oh and you don't know my son or anything about his life. You have no idea about what skills he has acquired along the way. Given how much you don't know it would be wise to keep your judgements to yourself.

Well many left th potato famine etc, so yes the opportunity not to certainly starve to death in squalor must have been a no brainer.
Of course this time around we have no where to expand to...


Kumbel: the implications of what you are saying is we have nation-wide "gold plated" sewerage and "gold plated" storm water and "gold plated" water supply systems .. somehow I don't quite believe you .. convince me

I don't know what you mean by "gold-plated" but I'll try to explain.
First potable water. MoH published revised Drinking Water Standards in 2000. Water supply schemes are graded A-D for water source quality and a-d for reticulation quality. The minimum standard a public scheme should be is Bb. Lots of councils fell below one or other level and have put in some serious upgrades over the last ten years. SImple example is Rangiora. Previously it sourced water from shallow wells near the Ashley River. Once in a blue moon you would get turbidity from flooding in the river and it could have been vulnerable to other groundwater contamination so 'Boil Water' notices got issued occasionally. Waimakariri District has spent many millions drilling new wells in Kaiapoi to get to a secure bounded aquifer and laid mains pipes the 10km back to new reservoirs in Rangiora. WDC were already fairly tapped out after lots of other infrastructure building so the cost of this just added to the debt mountain.
Sewer and stormwater are similar. Councils have to get consent to discharge waste and storm water. Over the last decade or so the regional councils have been tightening up standards. Where we used to dispose treated effluent and untreated stormwater directly into waterways that is no longer allowed. Councils have been steadily retrofitiing improved treatment and disposal mechanisms to their sewer and stormwater schemes. That's why we have seen ocean outfalls constructed for Wellington, Christchurch, Waimakariri, somewhere in Taranaki. Councils are buying large plots of land to build wetlands to treat stormwater before it is discharged. Our most notorious example in Kaipara District. They didn't build Mangawhai sewer because they wanted to; Northland Regional Council ordered them to get contaminants out of the Kaipara Harbour. We all know that they didn't do a good job but not so many people realise that doing nothing was not an option.
This is not an argument about whether these have been good investments or not. My point was that at a time when, as Brendon is arguing, we needed to spend a lot on upgrading roading, successive Labour and National governments have sat back and let their ministries and departments impose huge capital works programmes simultaneously on councils. I suspect very few have managed to get through these programmes without running up significant debt. With a tiny bit of thought in Cabinet we could have staggered these programmes and got better outcomes.

Kumbel: Gold Plating is a term I have purloined from Michael West who first used it when describing the rorts used by Power Transmission Companies to increase revenue

Gold plating is the excessive expenditure by electricity networks on poles and wires to increase their revenue (under the National Electricity Market regulatory framework, the more the power companies spend, the more they get paid - and this spending is the single biggest component of the rise in our power bills).

Just a small sidelight on some real history.
Roads were an early and essential item for many small local authorities:  Brendon's article referred to the Provincial days, but actually there was a positive patchwork of locally run 'Boards' - Roads and Drainage Boards being the most prevalent.
Long ago, in another century, I recall coming across Roads Board Bonds (paid out in full, and filed) from Southland - Wallace County archives.  They paid.....8%.
The other major, major transport infrastructure which was well pre-Vogel rail, was local transport and timber tramways.  Generally small, local, private companies.  The Foxton-Sanson Tramway was one such, and there was something similar out of Greymouth.  Tramways were brilliant for swamp land as a base of fascines could support a horse tram and allow a surprisingly good payload per carriage.  And of course the timber trams are legendary - there are still great remnants west of Papatotara..  (Google Map it..)
Most of this infrastructure pre-dated (or was the local implementation of) Provincial Governments, and the abolition of the Provinces actually did not affect its success.   The Drainage and River Boards slowly morphed into the Regional Councils, the Roads Boards were the beginnings of Counties, and special-purpose Boards (such as Rabbit - later Pest Destruction, Nassella Tussock etc) survived well into the 80's.  I was secretary to one such and can attest to its loacl significance and effectiveness.
All had the following hallmarks:

  • locally run - elected Boards, light admin, local employees who lived right in the community.
  • Rated themselves for needed work - and 'needed' was fiercely debated.  Few empires.
  • Little or no central oversight - annual accounts, the occasional Statistics report (made up figures on many items to save admin....)
  • Effective according to their own small catchments - elections and local knowledge saw to that.  Employees who just drove around all day without shooting, building, fixing or doing something tended to get first noticed then fired.

Ah, nostalgia.....but the One City - Many Communities notion harks back to this simpler, and vastly more effective, time.

Would any of your road boards or other weak divided structures be able to put up a world class transport system?
Be it a Amsterdam type cycle lane system, a passenger rail system, or a motorway with bus lanes.
When we had Provinces we were able to construct world class tunnels. Cities like Perth that still have some control over their public resources have been able to grow with decent transport infrastructure.
This has not happened in NZ and you have to ask why?

Brendon says "you have to ask why"
a very simple explanation for that - New Zealand has a propensity to plan for yesterday - or to say it another way - plan for today with a 10 year build time - by which time it is inadequate

 If you want elastic supply of housing then you also need elastic supply of infrastructure.
The supply siders in the housing debate want housing to be responsive to demand. For housing supply to be elastic in economic parlance.
But no one seems to be that concerned that the infrastructure to support that housing is responsive too.
You cannot have new housing areas being built from the planning to completion stage in a few years while you wait decades for the transport infrastructure to catch up, if it ever does.
Iconoclast your examples illustrate the point perfectly.

Here is an example
The Auckland Harbour Bridge
Initial planning began in 1860, but would not come to fruition until 1957 nearly 100 years later. The structure that was built was inadequate within 4 years (repeat 4 years) The planners then embarked on extending it by adding clip-ons which expanded its carrying capacity by 100% which is inadequate today. The surrounding infrastructure on either side of the bridge has never been up to the task and in sync with the bridge itself. Read some of the history here
Compare that to the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was opened in 1932 after taking 6 years to build and has yet to reach absolute capacity which is not expected until 2030. It was developed with two levels, including trams and trains and vehicle transport.

Would you believe, one of the main reasons for planning difficulties and delays on the type of harbour bridge was because it had to be high enough (coathanger style) to allow cargo ships to get under the bridge and up to the Chelsea Sugar Works at Birkenhead. That's the only reason, otherwise it could and would have been lower. Just had a dekko and sure enough the Chelsea Sugar Works, first established in 1884, are still going, and they still to this day have handysize ships importing raw sugar from Queensland once every four to five weeks - yep - one boat every 4 to 5 weeks -

Your kidding me, Auckland has a useless bridge because no one had the balls to stand up to a sugar factory and tell it to move....

Another example is the Auckland Southern Motorway which has been an abortion from the day it began - brilliant in concept - a disaster in the execution

Another example is the Auckland Rapid Rail System and underground loop - politics get in the way - needed 40 years ago - will happen one day - will be "think small" - the southern and western feed lines will be incompatible and choke it - there is no northern feed line because the harbour bridge doesn't carry rail - will the proposed cross-harbour tunnel? - doubt it - and in the meantime? situation normal

Another example - unbeknown to many Aucklanders - the original commuter rail plan for auckland included a connecting rail line linking New Lynn on the North Western Line straight down to Onehunga on the South Western Line. The land was dedicated. The steel railway lines were stacked up at strategic points along the corridor. Ready to build. Then it got abandoned about the time the Southern Motorway began and Auckland was designated Auto-City. The stored and stacked rail materials were slowly removed. Interesting enough can't find anything in the archives about it. The decision to abandon would be in the historical archives of the New Zealand Railways Department somewhere - long gone now. That one single additional line would have completed a loop from New Lynn to Newmarket to Onehunga back to New Lynn. That's Auckland short term planning for you. But hey, it was NZ Railways decision ie central government conflicting with local govt. That land that was dedicated for the rail-line is the location of the yet to be completed western-ring road from Mangere Airport through Onehunga through Hillsborough through Mt Roskill through Mt Albert to link up with the about to begin Waterview tunnel. 60 years later people

Thanks Iconoclast excellent examples of the problem I have been trying to highlight. : )

There were less than a million people, too, back when - and communication was too slow. So you did it locally.
It will go back to that, but not with the cushion of virgin resource-base they enjoyed. There's always someone who sees further ahead, though;
In his introduction to the 2000 edition, Roger Robinson listed some of Vogel's other predictions:

  • Australian politicians move to secede from United Britain to establish a wholly independent republic
  • There is reverse migration to a prosperous Ireland
  • Europe becomes fully federated
  • British royalty is strengthened by marriage between the 'Emperor' and a commoner woman of great charisma
  • The news media and their inveterate interest in celebrity gossip exert considerable political influence
  • A social welfare system provides living comforts even for the poor, including subsidised accommodation in 'splendid edifices of many storeys, with constant self-activating elevators.'
  • In all homes, heavy manual work has been replaced by 'remarkable contrivances for affording power and saving labour.'
  • Electricity is the prime source of domestic light and heat and most houses in hot climates have air conditioning.
  • Hydroelectricity is a major power source and large dams are constructed on the outflow from Lake Wakatipu
  • Tourism, fishing and horticulture are important sources of foreign exchange for New Zealand and we become a world-class wine producer
  • By changing soil chemistry, central North Island land is brought into productive use.
  • Industrial technology is making significant impact on the environment.
  • New Zealand is a leader in Antarctic research
  • Air travel is universal, in lightweight aluminium 'air-cruisers' powered by 'quickly revolving fans'. (This was 16 years before the Wright Brothers' flight).
  • There is instant communication technology in the form of 'hand telegraph' or 'noiseless telegraph', which politicians have fitted to their desks and journalists use to transmit copy directly to their newspapers.

Robinson concluded that, although not always on the mark, 'Overall, Vogel emerges as a utopian prophet of rare percipience'.

Vogel is my least favourite NZ leader. He used his early days in Otago to learn how to demolish it, to further his national ambitions in Wellington. And he wasn't even loyal to New Zealand as a whole, ending his days back in England with the global elite.
I believe the collaspe of the Provinces instigated by Vogel in 1876 made the 1880s depression longer and deeper than needed. This is hard to prove, because it was a period of great change. Extractive industries of sealing, whaling, kauri tree felling etc were dying, while refrigeration and food exports were in its infancy.
But the end result was New Zealand became the most loyal part of the Commonwealth because we were the most dependent on the British market. We didn't have to quite so loyal, dependent and economically tied to Britain.
Canada and Australia had a stronger local identities because they formalise their local communities into their political systems, they form Federations. New Zealand could have joined an Australasia Federation or Federated within itself. Instead we 'chose' loyalty to Britain to be the organising priniple of our political/ economic model.
This dependency had to be paid in blood starting in the Boer War and ending in the WW2. And we never willingly ended this dependency. It was Britain who decided to play with new friends in Europe.
Now we have a another leader who is very clever but also has dubious loyalty to New Zealand. I wonder if there will be a cost down the line because of that...

Please read a bit about The Commons before writing anything like this again.
One option for dealing with this problem is to turn the public good to a private good. So for instance turning public grazing land that was overgrazed into private land with fencing, legal title etc. This being the solution to the tradegy of the commons.
Someone one a Nobel prize  (equivalent) for explaining what really happened. The simple explaination is that the enclosure of the commons was simple legalised theft from the poor to the rich. Common land had worked well for a very long time.

ok, I can see there were definitely winners and losers in that particular privatisation.

Be not hasty to praise the USA motorway system of their normal (not LA) cities.  Having returned from there recently, for example Philadelphia and Portland, OR are in 24/7 near gridlock, even on weekends.  Horrible and much worse than 10 years ago.

"In 1875, the top five nations in terms of rail miles per capita were the United States (with 1,922 miles of rail per million people), New Zealand (1,350), Canada (1,159), Australia (998) and Britain (527)." Replenishing the Earth P.108 by James Belich.