Puhoi to Warkworth highway approved

July 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Board of Inquiry has granted consent for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway north of Auckland, known as the “holiday highway”.

The New Zealand Transport Agency acting highway manager Steve Mutton said the draft decision from the Board of Inquiry was welcomed by NZTA.

“The draft decision is great news and an exciting and important step towards improving transport connections between Auckland and Northland and the rest of the upper North Island,” Mr Mutton said.

That’s great news for all those living in Northland who need better roading infrastructure in and to the region.

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Kelvin Davis backs the highway his party wants to scrap

July 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour MP Kelvin Davis said:

The Government needs to step up and help local councils fix infrastructure problems highlighted by the recent Northland storms, Labour MP Kelvin Davis says.

The Government needs to step up and help local councils fix infrastructure problems highlighted by the recent Northland storms, Labour MP Kelvin Davis says.

“The bad weather has amplified how susceptible the North really is at times like this.

“Our roading infrastructure is a major source of concern. This weather event has shown that when the main road in and out of the north fails, the side roads are just not able to cope as detour routes.

Kelvin then went on Radio Live and said three things of interest.

  • That both Labour and National had not invested enough on infrastructure in Northland
  • That he was unaware of the announcement by the Government two weeks ago to invest in improvements for two local roads in Northland
  • That he supports the Puhoi to Wellsford Highway, which Labour have vowed to scrap. He calls it a lifeline, and says everyone up here supports it

Gerry Brownlee points out:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Labour list MP Kelvin Davis’s call today for the Government to “step up” and invest in Northland roading following this week’s damaging storms shows what a conflict-ridden shambles Labour is just 68 days out from the general election.

“Up to $1.66 billion worth of Government funding is currently committed to Northland roading projects, and the vast majority of it would be cut by a Labour-led government,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Only two weeks ago the Government announced up to $33.5 million worth of extra investment in upgrading two roading projects Northland councils told us were urgent – one of them on the very stretch of State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa which has been washed out by this week’s storm.

“National identified years ago that Northland’s roading infrastructure was vulnerable through underinvestment and has committed over $1.38 billion as part of the Roads of National Significance programme, and $255 million in the most recent National Land Transport Plan.

“We know that if Labour is in a position to form a Government later this year it would axe the Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance and re-direct the funding to an immediate start on Auckland’s City Rail Loop, a project the Government has already committed to co-funding the construction of from 2020.

“You don’t have to convince the Government that Northland needs better roading, Mr Davis, convincing your caucus colleagues and the Green Party will be a much tougher task,” Mr Brownlee says.

There is a pattern emerging here of local provincial Labour MPs disagreeing with Labour on regional development. O’Connor and Tirikatene both voted against Labour on West Coast logging, and now Davis is saying his party is wrong on the Puhoi to Wellsford Highway. He even calls it a lifeline that everyone in Northland supports.

What this points to is a party totally out of touch with regional New Zealand. Urban liberals in Auckland who hate logging and roading, set the policy for the regions.

Incidentally who is the Regional Development Spokesperson for Labour? I’ll leave it to you to look it up.

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Funding for 14 local roads

June 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

National announced at its conference, $212 million of funding for regional and local roads. This is additional funding on top of funding from petrol tax, and road user charges, and comes out of the partial sales of the SOEs. So it is swapping an investment in one type of asset (dams) for an investment in anothe rtype of asset – roading infrastructure.

The 14 roads are:

  1. Kawarau Falls Bridge, in Otago
  2. Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment, in Canterbury
  3. Akerama Curves Realignment and Passing Lane, in Northland
  4. State Highway 35 Slow Vehicle Bays, in Gisborne
  5. Normanby Overbridge Realignment, in Taranaki.
  6. Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement, in Manawatu/Wanganui
  7. Motu Bridge replacement, in Gisborne
  8. Opawa and Wairau Bridge replacements, in Marlborough
  9. Taramakau Road/Rail Bridge, on the West Coast
  10. Loop road north to Smeatons Hill safety improvements, in Northland
  11. Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge Corridor, in Taranaki.
  12. Port of Napier access package, in Hawke’s Bay
  13. Nelson Southern Link, in Nelson
  14. Rotorua Eastern Arterial, in Bay of Plenty.

The first five are to begin construction this year and finish in 2016/17.

The next six to begin construction within three years.

The last three are to complete the design phase.

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About time

February 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A 16km expressway north of Wellington has had resource consent granted by a Board of Inquiry.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had proposed the expressway be built between Peka Peka and north Otaki.

The road was part of the Wellington Northern Corridor, a development considered to be of national significance, so was referred to the board by Environment Minister Amy Adams last April.

The decision followed the Board’s consideration of the application, submissions, evidence and a two week hearing.

Its decision could be appealed to the High Court on points of law only, and it could not be overturned by ministers.

NZTA’s state highway manager Rod James earlier said the road was expected to be open by mid- to late-2017.

I spent close to 90 minutes stuck in traffic at Otaki and Waikanae last Sunday. This expressway can not come quickly enough. Having SH1 go through the middle of shopping centres with intersections and traffic lights is madness.

My big hope is that all these developments get underway before the end of the year, as a change of Government could well see them scrapped.

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Wellington Northern Corridor gets more beneficial

October 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s road of national significance is expected to create more jobs, reduce travel times and save more lives than previously thought.

The NZ Transport Agency also predicts its major roading project between Wellington Airport and Levin will return $3 billion in benefits for a $2.5b spend.

The agency last crunched the numbers on the Wellington road of national significance, known as the Wellington Northern Corridor, in 2009 when the project was announced.

Since then, it has come up with more detailed designs for many of the project sections. It has also obtained resource consent for the Transmission Gully highway and the McKays to Peka Peka expressway.

The agency now believes the Wellington Northern Corridor will deliver 865 additional permanent jobs to the Wellington region, whereas it previously estimated 650.

It is predicted construction will have generated 8000 jobs by the time all of the sections are complete in 2022.

This is expected to peak in 2018 when 1000 people will be busy putting the road together.

It is also now believed the road will shave 40 minutes off the trip between Wellington Airport and Levin during the morning peak by 2031, compared with earlier forecasts of 35 minutes.

40 minutes faster is a huge time saving.

The number of fatal and serious crashes is also expected to drop from 140 to 100 in the five years after construction is complete. The predicted cost of the project is now $2.5b, in 2012 dollars, which is down slightly from the $2.6b projection made four years ago.

The benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of the project has also been bumped up from 1.1 to 1.6, meaning that for every $1 spent the project will return $1.60 in benefits.

Fewer crashes and deaths. Cheaper construction costs and greater benefits. All sounds good.

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Auckland Council supports Northern Motorway extension

June 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

A $760 million Northern Motorway extension to Warkworth has won Auckland Council support as a nationally important project rather than a “holiday highway” for Prime Minister John Key.

“This is not about Auckland and it is not about the holiday highway,” former Rodney district mayor Penny Webster told fellow members of the council’s regional development and operations committee yesterday.

The committee voted 16-4 to refer the project to a Government-appointed board of inquiry rather than deal with it locally under a process open to court appeals.

Excellent news for those living and working north of Auckland.

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Finally a road Labour supports

April 7th, 2013 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Labour MP is calling for Government action over the poor condition of State Highway 3, between Taranaki and Waikato.

Andrew Little says the Government is allowing a road to block for exporters trying to transport goods efficiently.

We should celebrate this day. A Labour MP has called for spending on a road. This is a good thing.

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Greens and roads

March 20th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Improvements to the merging of SH1 and SH2 traffic at the Ngauranga Interchange north of Wellington, completed in August 2011, had shaved an average of two minutes off people’s journeys, he said.

The opening of a third lane through the Victoria Park Tunnel in Auckland last year had reduced travel times by between 5 and 17 minutes, while upgrades to the Te Rapa section of the Waikato Expressway were saving motorists an average of 3.5 minutes.

“These travel time savings are just the beginning, with much of the roads of national significance programme still to come, but already these roads are delivering huge benefits to productivity and the environment,” Mr Brownlee said.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said her party never opposed sensible, cost-effective roading projects like the Ngauranga upgrade.

Really?

Can anyone name a roading project the Greens have supported?

For Ngauranga, their 2005 policy was:

Wellington: Inner-city ‘bypass’ and the Western Corridor from Ngauranga to Otaki

The Western Corridor is a narrow stretch of land ideally suited to public transport. Major roading projects are extremely expensive and send the wrong signals in terms of climate change, peak oil and urban sprawl. The Green Party will Work to ensure a comprehensive upgrade of public transport occurs before further consideration is given to significant roading upgrades.

Doesn’t sound like support to me.

They also opposed for over a decade the inner city bypass which has made a massive difference to traffic flows onto and off the motorway.

But I’m serious with my challenge. If you can find a press release from the Green Party unequivocally supporting a specific roading project then post the link in the comments.

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Time savings from Roads of National Significance

October 1st, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour and the Greens regularly slate the seven Roads of National Significance that National has identified and funded as priorities.

Now my view is that generally all transport decisions should be based on a there being a positive benefit to cost ratio, and in fact petrol tax levels should adjust to fund all transport projects that have a significant benefit to cost ratio.

The Greens recently asked some PQs to the Minister of Transport of some of the RONS. Not surprisingly they have not highlighted the answers. They are:

  • Waikato Expressway will save 35 minutes off peak time travel between the Bombay Hills and some four kilometres south of Cambridge township – that is around a 33% improvement in time.
  • The Wellington Northern Corridor will save 45 minutes northwards in the afternoon peak and 35 minutes southwards in the morning peak, between North Levin and Wellington Airport. That is a 45% reduction in travel time northwards!
  • The Puhoi to Wellsford RONS will save 26 minutes southbound and 15 minutes northbound during peak times, between Johnson Hill Tunnels and south of Te Hana. That is around a 70% reduction in travel time southbound and a 45% reduction northbound.

Worth remembering that when people rail against them.

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Shearer on the provinces

August 9th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer started off his heartland tour of the provinces with this speech:

Another example is the priority that Government gives to roads.

Over the next ten years it’s planning to spend over $12 billion on building new motorways.

The money for those new motorways comes from the same budget as all other new roads and upgrades are paid for. There isn’t some magical new pot of gold at the bottom of the garden that pays for motorways.

Almost no regional roads will be built or upgraded in the next ten years because the money is going into new motorways like the one from Puhoi to Wellsford.

It’s a nice to have, but when you spend on new regional roads, you get back more economic benefit than the cost of building them.

I can’t think of a worse example for David Shearer to use, in trying to make his case that National is spending too much in the cities at the expense of the provinces.

  1. The Puhoi to Wellsford road is in the provinces, and its main rationale is to support economic development in Northland. I can’t wait for him to head up north and condemn the road improvement as being anti-provinces. They’re keen as hell for it up in Northland.
  2. Labour proposes taking the money from a road to improve links to Northland and spend it on the Auckland CBD rail loop. That seems to me a great case of taking money from the provinces to spend in the cities.
  3. In the Mt Albert by-election David Shearer demanded the Goverment spend an extra $1 billion on changing the Waterview motorway, to help him win the seat. That would be $1 billion less for all other roading projects in NZ, if the Government had done what Shearer called for.

So really complaining about the spend on regional roads, when you want to spend around $3b more in Auckland on transport is ludicrous. Does no one in Labour bother to even think about whether what they say is defensible?

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Guest Post: Fiscal prudence and transport priorities

April 23rd, 2012 at 1:53 pm by David Farrar

This is a guest post by Green MP Julie-Anne Genter, initiated after some questions in Parliament last session on this issue:

Let me just start with what this post is NOT saying:

  1. I am not saying that people should not, or will not, continue to use cars for many trips.
  2. I am not saying that all existing roads should be turned into dirt tracks for carts and horses.
  3. I am not saying we should ban anything, or eliminate all car parking.
  4. I am not saying that you should give up your car, if it doesn’t suit you.

 When we get past the straw man arguments, there is something you and I (and all New Zealanders) can be very concerned about: The Government is planning to spend $14 billion over this next decade — which is more than this year’s deficit and 75% of all new transport infrastructure spending — on a few new state highways with very poor business cases.

Most of that is on 6 projects it calls the ‘Roads of National Significance’. (The 7th, Victoria Park Tunnel, the project with the highest benefit cost ratio, has already been completed.)

It is truly extraordinary that the Government considers the RoNS to be a key plank in their economic strategy, because there is actually no evidence to suggest the additional motorways will have a positive impact on the economy.

A compilation of the benefit-cost ratios carried out by the Parliamentary Library show that, in total, they are projected to return just $1.40 for every $1 invested (if you excluded Vic Park, it would be less). Several of the individual projects will cost more than their benefits, most notably Puhoi to Wellsford and Transmission Gully, which cost nearly a billion dollars more than the benefits they would create.

Moreover, the Government’s numbers are too optimistic. The traditional traffic engineering approach tends to overstate the benefits and understate the costs (PDF) of motorway projects. One of the basic assumptions in the modelling is that traffic volumes will always rise — irrespective of fuel prices and the economy. The RoNS business cases are no exception: Puhoi to Wellsford assumed 4% annual traffic growth from 2006-2026, though NZTA data now shows that didn’t eventuate from 2006-2011. Traffic and freight volumes on state highways aren’t growing because of the impacts of high oil prices and low economic growth—in fact, they’re back to 2004 levels.

We all know petrol prices are at record levels — up 50% in the past five years — and are likely to go much higher this decade. This is a very strong case for deferring the RoNS in favour of more cost-effective projects that also reduce the oil-dependence of the transport sector.

Road users, ratepayers, and the economy will benefit from projects that will move the most people and goods for the lowest cost in the coming decades. And we need to be realistic about the increasing cost of fuel to cars and trucks.

There are better alternatives: Making it easier and safer for kids to cycle and walk to school is one of the cheapest ways to reduce peak hour congestion. By adding capacity to train and bus routes that are already experiencing huge (10-15%) annual patronage growth in Auckland, we can ease congestion on the roads, reduce household petrol bills, and improve the cost effectiveness of public transport. Freight priority (think truck lanes) can be cheaply implemented on key routes at extremely low cost.

Even if you drive everywhere, you benefit when we make it easier for others to leave the car at home, because it’s a cheaper way to reduce congestion (plus it’ll be easier for you to find parking…).

Resources are limited, so we must make choices. Expanding the existing state highway programme is expensive for little gain – but it also means that every other transport category will be squeezed for the next decade: including road policing, local road maintenance, walking, cycling and public transport. So it will be harder for people to get where they need to go. That’s going to mean more congestion, or more lost money in high petrol bills.

If we choose to invest in modern, smart transport solutions, we can spend less on petrol, reduce our international debt, and have a transport system that is better for our economy and better for our people. But, first, we need the Government to honestly re-evaluate its transport priorities.

I think scrutiny of an annual $1.4b spend is a good thing, and JAG makes some reasonable points around the fact some of the RONS do not have a positive benefit to cost ratio. There can be reasons to look at factors beyond the benefit to cost ratio, but Government should generally be careful not to cherry pick “winners”.

I’ve actually advocated that rather than vary the level of benefit to cost ratio which determines a transport project gets funded, we should instead set a constant ratio (maybe 1.5:1) and adjust the level of petrol tax automatically to fund projects which qualify.

On the issue of future traffic volumes, the link provided by JAG is worth reading, showing the recent change in both NZ and global traffic volumes. However I would be cautious about jumping to conclusions over future volumes as I think the three factors are petrol prices, economic growth and population growth. Petrol prices may continue to increase but population growth will remain, and eventually economic growth will be higher (but perhaps not as high as when fuelled by debt).

Thanks to Julie Anne for the post. With $14 billion being spent over a decade, it’s an important debate.

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The truth behind the slogan

November 14th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour and the Greens refer to the the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford SH1 upgrade as the Holiday Highway. They would have people think it is a little used road, that only gets a bit crowded on Friday nights. In fact it is far more than that.

The road between Puhoi and Wellsford is part of SH1. As a two lane road, motorists will know that traffic flows at the speed of the slowest vehicle on it. We must be one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have at least two lanes each way on our major highway.

That road actually has more people use it every day, than use the entire train network in Auckland. Around 28,000 people a day use that highway, and 27,000 use Auckland trains (UPDATE: In recent months this has increased to 33,000). Is Labour really claiming 28,000 people a day are off on holiday? Also, let us look at where the road is.

Now I am not sure about you, but I don’t think many people go to Wellsford for their holidays. Those driving north to holiday have generally left SH1 well before Wellsford. So why is the Govt looking to make it two lanes each way, instead of single lane? Three reasons.

  1. Better connectivity between the main producing activities in Northland, particularly dairying, forestry and mining, and the major markets for these activities in areas lying to the south of the region and overseas accessed by the ports at Auckland and Tauranga.
  2. Reducing the costs of commodities transported to Northland from the south for consumption or for input to the manufacturing industries in the area, so making Northland a more attractive place to live and to develop employment activities.
  3. Making tourist destinations in Northland more accessible to the large market and population in the Auckland region.

This is all about economic growth for Northland. Northland is one of the poorest areas of New Zealand, despite having significant resources. One of the reasons for that is the woeful transport links.

The projected economic benefits from the road are:

  • Journey Time Reliability $8m
  • Time travel benefits $352m
  • Vehicle operating costs $35m
  • Accident cost savings $133m
  • Wider economic benefits $159m

That’s $688m in net present value. The business case said:

“Taking these two components tourism and forestry into account, an indicative estimate of the value of increased economic activity that might result from the improvement of SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford would be of the order of $30-35 million per annum and possibly doubling by 2031.”

Scrapping the highway upgrade to fund the Auckland CBD rail loop will be robbing (poorer) Paul to benefit (richer) Peter. Auckland (including their metro rail funding) already gets 45.7% of the National Land Transport fund and metro rail funding.  If Aucklanders want a CBD rail loop, then they should fund it from Aucklanders through rates and user charges, not from the rest of the country that already subsidises their rail system.

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Land Transport GFS 2012

July 28th, 2011 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding is well worth a read. Only 32 pages.

It sets out long-term funding for both road and rail. Predictably the Greens (and sadly Labour also) have criticised it because they hate roads. The Greens do not accept that one needs both roads and public transport. They think it is a choice, rather than being complementary. I guess in their ideal world roads would be so congested and unsafe that no one would use them, and hence save the planet.

Their reaction to the policy statement would have you think Steven Joyce is scrapping all public transport funding. Instead the true situation is:

  • increasing the funding available for new and improved State highways by $125 million for the first 3 years
  • increasing the funding available for public transport services by $140 million for the first 3 years

So of the new funding, 47% goes into state highways and 53% into public transport. Truly the Greens won’t be happy until it is $0 for highways.

Just out of the National Land Transport Fund (petrol tax, road user charges, vehicle registration and licensing fees), public transport will receive between $750m and $1.1b in the next three years. Also up to $90m for dedicated walking and cycling programmes.

But that just the public transport funding from the NLTF. The Government has directly invested $2b into Auckland and Wellington rail.

So it is amusing to hear Labour and Greens call Steven anti-public transport. I think he has provided more funding for it than any other Minister. The Greens just seem to hate the fact that any money goes on highways, as that are by definition evil.

 

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Editorials 4 May 2010

May 4th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald talks social media:

If anyone doubts how technology is changing the way people communicate with each other they should consult the latest research by the Privacy Commissioner.

Published this week, the survey of Individual Privacy and Personal Information shows that 43 per cent of us now use a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter.

This is an enormous increase from the 14 per cent recorded three years ago. Clearly these sites provide a welcome service to large numbers of happy customers.

But there is a big difference which Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff highlighted with the release of the survey results. She pointed out that more than half of those who used social networking sites assumed them to be private spaces.

However, this was really an illusion of privacy; personal details or pictures could be easily obtained by third parties, creating the real possibility of unintended, unacceptable and even dangerous consequences.

They are public places, but the sheer amount of info there, makes them semi-private. Unless someone is looking for your info for a reason, then people’s info generally stays with friends and families. But if you apply for a job, come to public notice in some way, it is all there to be seen.

A much better approach was suggested by Ms Shroff this week when she urged people to use internet safety resources available through Hector’s World, Netsafe and the Privacy Commissioner’s website.

As the survey has shown, most people join social networking sites with their eyes wide open and they understand the risks and issues and how to protect themselves.

Rather than bringing in more laws, the challenge should be to open the eyes of the few who fail to see the consequences of what they are doing.

I agree.

The Press wants better  roading infrastructure:

New Zealand has had a habit of under-investing in road infrastructure.

The most obvious example of this has been in Auckland, where decades of myopia has required multi-billion dollar catch-up projects, while in Wellington, the Transmission Gully route was until recently an exercise in dithering.

And in Canterbury it should not have taken a triple fatality crash on Saturday morning to highlight the driving risks on parts of State Highway 1 which require action. …

Steven Joyce has shown commendable speed in identifying roading priorities and pledging the money to them (the harder part).

This roading situation might have been adequate or acceptable a generation ago, when traffic volumes were far lower, but not today. Waimakariri and Selwyn, through which SH1 goes, are two of the fastest growing districts in New Zealand. Increasing numbers of commuters travel from small towns, including new ones such as Pegasus, into Christchurch, sharing the road with significant tourist traffic and with trucks.

The US do it quite well. Motorway and highways do not go through towns but around them.

The Dom Post looks at democracy in Tonga, or the lack of it:

The only good thing that could have come from the tragic sinking of the Princess Ashika off Tonga would have been a new openness and accountability in the Tongan political system.

The resignation of Attorney-General John Cauchi suggests that is a forlorn prospect.

The inquiry gave Tongans a rare glimpse of the inner workings of the elite who run their country – an elite who gain power based on hereditary links and personal contacts rather than talent. But having promised, and delivered, a fully transparent inquiry, it appears Tonga’s rulers are getting cold feet.

The Australian-born Mr Cauchi quit last week over government plans to abolish the judicial services commission which appoints judges. He believes the move is an attempt to interfere with the inquiry. Others say the cabinet is trying to discredit the royal commission.

The Tongan Government says Mr Cauchi was unable to properly exercise the powers he was granted and outsiders should butt out. Political reform is a matter for Tongans alone.

But as Tongans do not have the vote in a meaningful way, that is not true. They do not have the ability to get change internally.

And the ODT looks at ACC:

Unless it is a statistical blip, evidence points to procedures within ACC’s Sensitive Claims Unit having radically altered.

Figures show 32 sexual-abuse claims for counselling were approved in the first two months this year, compared with 472 in January and February 2009.

That is not far off a tenfold decrease.

And, on Monday last week, ACC Minister Nick Smith announced the way the corporation managed the claims of sexual-abuse victims was to be reconsidered.

To this end, he named a panel to undertake a “clinical review to ensure best possible practice in this sensitive area”. …

The conclusion must be that changes to the way in which ACC handles such claims, introduced in October last year by Dr Smith, have been responsible for the drop.

On the one hand, this will undoubtedly be helping to meet the savings of which the minister has made something of a mantra; on the other, it could mean that the changes have been “overcooked”, laying the minister open to charges of callousness and injustice.

Personally I don’t think sexual abuse victims should receive ACC. I do think they should get assistance for counselling etc from the state, but through Vote Health or Vote Justice. One of the problems of ACC is it has expanded too far from its original mandate.

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Transmission Gully is go

December 15th, 2009 at 12:31 pm by David Farrar

Finally after 60 years of dithering, we have a final decision to proceed with Transmission Gully. Steven Joyce says:

Once complete, the upgraded route from Wellington Airport to Levin is expected to deliver travel time savings of between 23 and 33 minutes during peak times and between 17 and 23 minutes during the day.

Following the 2008 election the Minister said he was not prepared to support funding for the proposal until he had seen a thorough assessment of Transmission Gully alongside the alternative Coastal Route.

Mr Joyce says Transmission Gully has been debated for decades but this is the first time a decision has come with the plan and the funding track to see it through.

If only this decision could have been made a couple of decades ago, when it would have been much cheaper. But better late than never and most Wellingtonians will be very pleased that Steven Joyce and the NZTA has made this decision.

Joyce also announced that his is part of a four lane expressway planned from Wellington Airport to Levin. Yay.  Thi will include duplication of the Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels.

Finally, the route through Kapiti has also been announced, and it is basically along the existing Western Link designation – but four lanes instead of two. The current SH1 will become a local road.

There is finally a long-term co-ordinated plan for greater Wellington region. Again, this will be very popular with everyone but Sue Kedgley.

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Save the Basin misnamed

September 18th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A good editorial from the Wellingtonian:

We have good news for the principals of the Save the Basin trust.

The Basin Reserve, one of Wellington’s premier sports venues, does not need saving. It is as safe as houses.

So why is there a save the basin campaign?

Therefore, it raises the question of the real agenda of the Save the Basin trustees.

The news section of their website deals only marginally with the Basin Reserve.

However, there are mentions of “a huge concrete flyover”, “the roar of trucks and the howl of boy racers from the flyover”, “clouds of pollution and car exhaust”.

It seems possible that the reason for the formation of the Save the Basin trust has more to do with preventing the building of the flyover than protecting “New Zealand’s oldest dedicated cricket pitch”, as the website describes the Basin.

So it is the usual “we like congestion” campaigners.

A Save the Basin protest gathering last week drew about a dozen protesters.

Their banners were focused almost exclusively on preventing the flyover being built. It was hard to find a mention of the Basin.

If Kent Duston, Iona Pannett and company don’t want the proposed flyover, it’s their right to try to stop it being built. If they want to ban cars, get rid of roads and return us to the horse-and-carriage age, it’s their prerogative to so campaign.

Pannett is of course a Green Party City Councillor. Duston was (he was a list candidate for the Green Party last election.

But the way things stand now, some people might feel they are being dishonest about their intentions, tugging at the emotions with their Save the Basin title, while actually running a separate campaign far removed from either the Basin or cricket.

Perhaps Ban the Flyover would not have quite the appeal of Save the Basin.

But at least it might more accurately reflect the trustees’ ambitions.

Indeed. I remember the decade plus campaign of protests against the motorway extension. And now it has happened, you would never go back. I find traffic down that end of town much faster moving now

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Transport Spending

August 27th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has announced:

An $8.7 billion programme of investment in New Zealand’s transport system has been detailed today with the launch of the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP).

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says this is the largest ever investment in the system and represents a 17 percent increase from the previous three-year period.

That’s close to $3 billion a year which is not bad.

The $8.7 billion includes investment of:

  • $4.6 billion in the state highway network (up 19%)
  • $1.9 billion in local roads (up 14%)
  • $900 million in key urban public transport networks (up 21%).

As anyone sane knows, it is not a choice between public transport only or roads only. You need to invest in both.

The $900 million in public transport investment is in addition to the $1.85 billion in capital investment currently being made into the Auckland and Wellington commuter rail networks.

Ouch. Thanks Michael.

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Liberty Scott on Waterview

May 15th, 2009 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

Liberty Scott has some useful fisking on Waterview:

2. Idiot Savant says the announcement by the NZTA on the preferred route for the Waterview connection is “an affront to democracy”. Complete bollocks. When did people vote for the route of ANY road? It never happened for any other section of the Western Ring Route, nor the Northern Gateway, nor the Waikato Expressway, nor the Christchurch Southern Motorway.

One piece of hysteria dealt with.

3. He also talks nonsense in claiming “the plan centres on using an existing rail designation for a motorway. So, Auckland won’t be getting a proper rail-based public transport network because National will have already built a stinking great road there.” Funnily enough there remains room for the motorway there (the map he links to shows this) and even ARTA has no plans to built the Avondale-Southdown railway till 2030. The project isn’t worth it, so to claim Auckland “wont be getting a proper rail-based public transport network” because one line that would be barely used isn’t to be built, is extreme hyperbole.

And another.

4. Bomber at Tumeke thinks it is a conspiracy with National favouring its big business mates at Macquaries and hating public transport. For starters, Labour’s plans would have benefited Macquaries far more as it would have been a bigger scheme and a PPP. On top of that, the Waterview connection wont be tolled, nor will it be a PPP, Macquaries provides finance for PPP toll roads, it isn’t in the road construction business in New Zealand. The company can’t benefit from this decision at all. So that makes this conspiracy theory totally fatuous.

Now that is just embarrassing.

5. The Standard tries to spin that the government is misleading on costs, something that NZTA clears up quite quickly. It also makes some of the same mistakes as others do.

All options require work at SH16 worth $242 million.

Labour wanted a four lane bored tunnel. $1.974 billion. National is now proposing a four lane mix of surface, bored tunnel and cut and cover tunnel at $1.165 billion, with provision for six laning built in (Labour’s option did not allow for that). That’s over $800 million difference. To put that in context, Transit’s total budget last year for ALL state highways activities was $1.2 billion. So National’s proposal saves a lot of money, AND allows for future growth.

So even before we look at finance costs, Labour wants to spend $800 million on its tunnel – which is 2/3rds of the total annual state highway budget.

And almost all the predictions are that one will need six lanes within a few years – that will put Labour’s pet tunnel cost up by a further $361 million.

Labour had proposed a PPP for the motorway, so financing costs (interest) of $554 million had been included for its option. However, Labour had NO budgetary provision for the motorway at all. Financing costs are the costs of paying a PPP operator to borrow, build and operate the road. The money to pay the PPP operator would still need to come from somewhere

It is Labour that proposed its tunnel be financed from a PPP, which adds on the financing cost. This is an actual cost – the money will be borrowed and paid.

National will pay for its proposal through the Land Transport Fund – no borrowing. But even if it did have to borrow to fund it, the financing costs would be around $250 million less than the $554 million.

So even if one assigns a financing cost to National’s proposal, it is $1.08 billion cheaper than Labour’s tunnel. With no financing cost (as it won’t incur borrowing) it is $1.36 billion cheaper than Labour’s tunnel and if you compare it to what would have become necessary – a three lane tunnel each way, it is $1.75 billion cheaper.

So Labour is insisting on a tunnel that is at a minimum going to cost $1.08 billion more.

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Melissa’s mistake

May 14th, 2009 at 8:28 am by David Farrar

Just been on TV3′s Sunrise this morning and we talked about the reported comments of Melissa Lee that the motorway would be good, because it would stop criminals from South Auckland coming into the suburb to commit crimes.

I actually first saw the comments on Not PC and sort of hoped he had it wrong.

The comments are of course a mistake. A politician should know not to repeat something they have been told (even if it was from the Police) if it is going to stereotype entire communities. The same thing applied for Lockwood’s comment pre-election. Like Melissa, he was repeating something that may (or may not) be true, but that doesn’t make it sensible to repeat.

And in this case, it is bizarre to say that a motorway will somehow affect crime numbers. I think criminals know how to use a bypass. I was tempted to joke on air that if it was that easy to prevent crime, we’d just build a motorway around the Hutt Valley :-)

So a pretty bad blunder by Melissa, who should apologise to put the controversy behind her. It’s a real lesson about the difference between being a general election candidate and a by-election candidate.

There is also the issue of the video produced by her before the election, placed on You Tube. I haven’t covered that in detail yet because so far I can’t see anywhere what Melissa has done wrong – my stance will change if such details emerge. However mud sticks, and the timing of the video story and her comments last night mean that what was always an uphill battle, has just got quite a bit steeper.

However there is still a month to go.

UPDATE: Melissa has put out a statement of apology:

Melissa Lee today reiterated her apology for comments made at a public meeting on Wednesday night.

“I apologise unreservedly for the comments I made regarding South Auckland and the linkage that I drew between the planned Waterview extension and crime.”

“I was wrong to have implied that crime is solely a South Auckland problem, or that the new motorway would reduce crime.”

I sincerely regret my remarks.

Kudos to her for doing this, which allows the by-election focus to move back onto the real issues.

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Western Ring Route

May 14th, 2009 at 5:28 am by David Farrar

The main Herald story has details:

  • $1.4 billion cost
  • 48 km long
  • Only 200 extra homes affected on top of 160 affected by twin tunnels
  • twin tunnels would have needed a boring machine to be imported costing $50 million
  • Estimated benefits of completing ring route is $840 million a year
  • Oakley Creek, a beauty spot, not to be largely unaffected
  • New motorway will have room for an extra lane if needed, and room for trains

The Herald editorial though calls for the Waterview route to be abandoned for a Rosebank route.

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Quote of the Day

May 13th, 2009 at 9:17 am by David Farrar

Steven Joyce:

“We wouldn’t be prepared to spend $1.5 billion to buy a by-election – it would be completely irresponsible.”

While Labour seems to regard that as a bargain.

The number of houses affected appears to be less than thought:

An alternative route for the 4.5km motorway, to be announced today, will probably require the demolition of at least 300 homes, against the 160 that would have to be cleared around tunnel portals.

So the difference may be only 140 homes.

Mr McDonald said that would make the motorway a wider issue for Aucklanders in the 2011 election campaign.

Please do make it an issue.

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Labour falls for the trap

May 12th, 2009 at 3:36 pm by David Farrar

Yes, oh yes. Darren Hughes has fallen into Steven Joyce’s trap. Look at this wonderful press release:

“The people of Mt Albert are very clear. They want a deep tunnel. Labour supports that view,” Darren Hughes said.

And Labour will force all taxpayers to for up an exra $1,000 or so to keep a few hundred voters happy.

Labour will spend $3 billion on a tunnel, so long as they retain the Mt Albert seat. Darren shoudl be the Senator for Alaska!

“It is disappointing that from what Transport Minister Steven Joyce has said today, it is clear the Government is not prepared to fund the option of a deep tunnel that the people of Auckland overwhelmingly support.

Bzzt. Not the people of Auckland. The people of Mt Albert may support the $3 billion tunnel, but I know which option Auckland motorists and taxpayers will support.

“Instead it will go with a compromise that provides second-best solutions for the people of Mt Albert and the future needs of Auckland.

Actually the reoad will be more future proofed, as it can easily be expanded to six lanes – unlike the tunnel.

“Melissa Lee’s candidacy has now been thoroughly undermined by Prime Minister John Key who is effectively dismissing her views as irrelevant,” Darren Hughes said.

“Mr Key knows the people of Mt Albert are overwhelmingly opposed to the surface option, and that Melissa Lee is completely out of step with local opinion.

And here Darren falls for it again. His only focus is the by-election. Yes it is quite possible this will make it easier for Labour to retain the seat. But they will now be painted as the worst sort of pork barrel politicians who even in a global recession are prepared to fritter away between $1 billion and $1.7 billion on buying a few hundred votes.

Labour are so focused on the by-election they have forgotten the real game is about the 2011 election.

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Govt saves taxpayers $1.7 billion

May 12th, 2009 at 12:01 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has just announced a new preferred route for the Waterview connection – one that is $1.4 billion cheaper than Labour’s tunnel. Labour are campaigning now to spend $1.4 billion just so they can win a by-election, or as ACT calls it a buy-election.

The tunnel will cost:

The $2.77 billion figure was made up of $1.98 billion  for construction of the tunnels, $240 million for associated work on State Highway 16 and $550 million for finance costs during the project construction period.

And the new preferred route:

“The NZ Transport Agency has reviewed all options and has found that the Waterview Connection, together with the same amount of associated work on State Highway 16, can be built for considerably less, at an expected cost of between $1 billion and $1.4 billion, depending which of the options is taken,” says Mr Joyce.

And the cost savings get better:

“In addition, all of the options being considered by the NZ Transport Agency would be built with wide enough shoulders to allow for easy widening to three lanes in each direction.

“An appropriate comparison, therefore, is between the top cost of $1.4 billion and the $3.16 billion price of the previous government’s twin three lane tunnel option.

People will quibble over the numbers, but there is such a huge gulf between them, it is clear Labour’s tunnel is a vote buying extravagance that would cost every household around $2,000.

Also from the Q&A:

This review identified several options that are cost effective, allow for future growth and balance the strategic need to complete the Western Ring Route with concerns about local impacts. As well as costing significantly less, they could also be built 12-18 months earlier than the twin tunnel option.

And the route:

“The NZ Transport Agency’s Board is meeting today to consider the three alternative options and will announce its preference tomorrow, once it has had the opportunity to make first contact with those directly affected.

“A thorough consultation process on the form of the selected option will then commence before a final decision is made.”

I’m looking forward for Labour to keep campaigning for their pet tunnel. They may win the by-election but it will make great campaign ads in 2011.

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Regional Fuel Tax looks to go

March 13th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A planned regional tax that threatened to add up to 10c to every litre of fuel will be scrapped. …

Transport Minister Steven Joyce will ditch the tax when he announces changes to transport funding next week. He said yesterday that a package of announcements would be made, including funding alternatives to the controversial 10c-a-litre tax introduced by Labour.

The Government was not convinced the regional tax made sense, Mr Joyce said. The tax and other increases to fuel levies planned for the next three years would mount up for motorists.

“In the Auckland region, by 2011 there’d be a 14c-a-litre extra tax and so we really wanted to have a close look at that.”

The fuel tax plan gave regional councils the power to charge up to 10c a litre on petrol and diesel to fund roading and public transport projects. Many councils around the country have already put a lot of work into the scheme and have all but spent the potential proceeds.

Keep cost increases down is laudable, but like the newspaper I am unsure where the funding will now come from.

I’m possibly one of the few advocates for a greater fuel tax. Why?

Well all proposed new roads get evaluated a cost:benefit formula. Now I have not checked recently but I think we only fund projects that say have a 3:1 or even 4:1 or grater benefit to cost ratio.

We also then have the Government hand pick certain roads as more important than others, because of limited funds.

So what I would do is to specify all roads over a certain benefit to cost ratio be automatically funded. 1:1 might be too low as there is some uncertainity over the calculations, but say fund everything over 1.5:1. And then have the fuel tax automatically adjust to be able to fund those projects. That way there is no cherry picking, we get better roads, but also motorists are paying the full costs of a roading network.

I would not fund public transport from the fuel tax. I support public transport but beleive it should be funded from general taxation as a competing priority like other public good expenditures.

Funding them both from petrol tax turn it into a battle of roads vs trains (for example) and it is not a choice. Unless we stop growing we are always going to need both more roads and more public transport. They complement each other – they are not substitutes.

Anyway I will be interested to see what the Government does.

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Tolls for new roads

August 25th, 2008 at 7:44 am by David Farrar

Maurice Williamson on Agenda yesterday confirmed that National would look to speed up construction of new roads with private-public partnerships and tolls.

The party’s transport spokesman, Maurice Williamson, said yesterday that commuters could face bills of up to $50 a week for tolls of $3 to $5 a trip on new motorways or similar “roads of national importance”.

But he believed that most people, if given a choice between tolls or queuing on free roads, would gladly pay.

Also free roads are not free. They are just funded through petrol tax. I think it is vitally important that users of roads pay for them, and tolls are better at doing that, plus will allow for some roads to happen, which would not have happened otherwise.

He believed an obstacle to public acceptance of tolls had been removed by a new law requiring all money raised from fuel taxes to be paid into the national land transport fund.

“I think New Zealanders will now say, ‘Well okay, if it is going to provide a solution to a problem I face and you are not stealing my petrol tax, well then I’ll go for it’.”

Another policy Labour stole from National!

Transport Minister Annette King accused Mr Williamson of not thinking his toll plans through properly.

She said that even if the $365 million Albany-to-Puhoi toll road, to open early next year, had “maximised” use, a $2 toll would still pay only half its cost.

So what? Half is better than none.

But she said the Labour-led Government believed strongly there was a place for PPPs.

But I thought they were evil privatisations in drag?

Mr Williamson listed these possible candidates for tolls:

  • Auckland’s next crossing of the Waitemata Harbour (expected to cost at least $4 billion).
  • Auckland’s motorway tunnels through Waterview on the western ring route ($1.9 billion).
  • A 19km motorway extension to Warkworth or beyond ($1 billion-plus).
  • Completion of the Waikato Expressway on State Highway 1 ($1 billion).
  • Kopu Bridge, on the way to Coromandel Peninsula ($32 million).

Don’t forget Transmission Gully!

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