The Herald editorial:
A “business case” for a central Auckland rail loop has been endorsed from left and right of the new Auckland Council. Mayor Len Brown found it “compelling”, Christine Fletcher, co-leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers minority, said there was a consensus for it.
It is not known how many members of the council are accustomed to assessing business cases for big investments. Transport Minister Steven Joyce seems to know what to look for: figures based on guesswork for wider economic benefits (webs). This report, said Mr Joyce, has “webs on steroids”.
A smart man, Mr Joyce. And often these assessments are little more than guesswork.
It is an exciting project. The loop could be the revival of the CBD, bringing all corners of it within a 500m walk to a station. The ridges around the inner city would be more easily accessible. The line from the western suburbs could come straight into the city, rather than joining the southern line at Newmarket. Most important, many more trains could run once Britomart became a through-station.
I think it is the most sensible of the proposed rail projects for Auckland. Of course I do not live there, so my view is one of a frequent visitor.
As it stands, it seems unlikely to persuade the new Auckland Transport agency where city and national representatives need to agree on projects to be jointly financed. If the council and its representatives on the agency are confident of their project, they must first convince Aucklanders to pay the lion’s share of it.
History has shown that when Aucklanders really want a transport link, when they know they will use it, they are prepared to pay for it. Before Mr Brown, Mrs Fletcher and the rest try to convince Mr Joyce of the merits of this proposal, they should put it to Auckland – with an honest price on it.
Then, if ratepayers are as excited as they are by the case for an inner city rail circuit, they could have a proposition the Government would find hard to refuse.
Let’s assume ratepayers will pay 3/4. Work out how much that is, and consult Aucklanders on whether they are happy with that investment. Then you can talk to the Government about its contribution.
As it is, it sounds like business as usual – Auckland’s voice whining like a demanding child expecting a treat from the taxpayers.
There may be other options. I don’t have a problem with the Auckland Council being given the power to have its own regional petrol tax. I do have a problem with people from Oamaru, Napier and Dunedin being the major funders of an Auckland CBD rail loop.Tags: editorials, NZ Herald, rail