Posted on September 7, 2015
The Mayor is undertaking a round of transport meetings across the region. He describes them as a new take on his now faded Mayor in the Chair public consultation sessions. He’s doing this, he says, because he has found that people don’t understand Auckland’s transport priorities.
Aucklanders may be surprised to hear this. Didn’t we go through an “18 month” 10-year budget consultation round with 40 meetings across Auckland to discuss these issues? Weren’t two of the seven “ticks” in the budget feedback document on transport? Wasn’t there a separate poll undertaken on transport charging? And prior to this, didn’t the Mayor personally commission his 15 month “Consensus Building” Group to identify future transport funding options?
So after all this transport consultation, are Aucklanders really confused about transport priorities and the funding decisions made?
What escapes the Mayor is that Aucklanders are not actually confused at all. They are angry. They actually have a good idea of the transport problems they face. They know this because they experience them most days. I know this because at the 11 Long Term Plan “Have Your Say” meetings I went to in Devonport, Henderson, the Town Hall, the eastern suburbs, Howick and Manurewa I heard them talk about these problems.
They included: when the North Auckland Penlink project will be progressed, how congestion on Lake Road in the North Shore can be fixed, worry about funding for the next harbour crossing, Lincoln Road congestion/development worries, concern over the future of rail to the significant growth happening in the West/North-West, the lack of support for better rail connections in the Purewa Valley, slow progress with the East-West link from Penrose to Onehunga, the underfunding of the second top priority in the Mayor’s Auckland Plan: AMETI to improve transport from Botany to Panmure, the timing and funding of the Mill Road extension etc etc.
And how many of these (often significant) local transport issues made it fully into the 10-year budget. Not many. If any.
If there’s any confusion, it’s only around why the Mayor isn’t doing something about the problems he asked people to tell him about.
I attended one of his transport meetings in Balmoral the previous week (in the Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward). Here they were understandably annoyed, and not really confused at all, about the fact the agreed and funded Dominion Road redevelopment plan (which took years to complete) was now being put on hold because Auckland Transport came out (of nowhere) with their idea for trams in January.
This $1billion+ “bombshell” idea was released on Friday 23 January, the same day as the Mayor released the draft 10-year budget. Although many years have been spent consulting with Dominion Road locals about their much needed upgrade plans, there had been no consultation at all about Auckland Transport’s plans. And no idea how to fund it.
In Pukekohe last week the meeting sounded even less confused and more annoyed. Why, when the demand existed and would only grow, was there no clear plan to extend electrification 18 kilometres from the Papakura to Pukekohe train station?
The Mayor is likely to have a frustrating time as he travels around the region. It will be a re-play of many of the comments made during the 7 week consultation on the 10-year budget in February and March of this year (and at countless council consultations before that).
The trouble with the Mayor’s transport plans is not that people find them confusing, but that they do not address the transport problems they care most about.
Auckland’s next Mayor doesn’t need to start from scratch, but they will need a new transport budget – built from the road, rail and shared path up – which actually addresses these transport issues.