Government should work more constructively with Auckland, says NZCID

Press Release – NZCID
“The Government’s apparent dismissal of findings from the Auckland City Centre Future Access Study places the ball firmly in the court of the Government to lead the development of an alternative central city transport solution in partnership with the Auckland Council. Failure to do so risks undermining the economic and social progress of one-third of New Zealand,” says Stephen Selwood, CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.

“The report paints a bleak picture of transport access as early as 2021, based on projections of strong growth in the city centre. General traffic speeds will halve; Britomart will not have capacity to offload train passengers; and available road space will be insufficient to accommodate the hundreds of buses bringing commuters into the city each morning.

“The report recommends that the Mayor’s preferred $2.4 billion city rail link and a $1.13 billion bus service upgrade be delivered to avoid very large reductions in transport accessibility for the CBD by 2041.

“In his response yesterday, Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee restated the Government’s position that with a maximum demonstrated return on investment of 90 cents for each dollar spent, including wider economic benefits, the CRL case still was not convincing. The Minister also identified high growth figures for the central city, which in his view distort likely demand, as a reason to remain sceptical of the validity of the report’s conclusions.

“It is a major disappointment that Auckland remains paralysed in exactly the same bind as it did a week, a month and two years ago. While we are better informed as to the transport challenges that we face, the lack of Government endorsement means no real progress has been made and no alternative transport solution to support and enable growth has been identified, let alone agreed. This cannot be acceptable to Auckland’s businesses, commuters or the wider nation.

“The Government has demonstrated strategic leadership in investment in New Zealand’s transport network by progressing the Roads of National Significance. It should now step forward and work constructively with Auckland Council to agree the levels of growth it expects for the central city and jointly develop a plan for how those levels of growth will be supported by transport investment. Dismissing the Council’s view without providing an alternative is not going to grow the Auckland economy, lift productivity and reduce unemployment.

“The Government must now engage with the Council at a senior level and work through this impasse. Perhaps an Associate Minister working with the Mayor should appoint a joint officials group to develop the package of transport solutions for the Auckland CBD? Positive engagement with the private sector to identify complimentary transport and property development opportunities should be a component of any such investigation.

“To address Central Government’s concerns, Auckland Council should further consider how the CRL and existing and future land use in the CBD can be optimised. If the CRL and other projects are worthy of investment, it should be possible to identify funding solutions which target beneficiaries of the investment, thus reducing the need for national funding. Failure to link funding with key project benefits undermines the Council’s argument that projects such as the CRL are in fact economically viable.

“One option is to leverage the huge value of land held by the Council on the waterfront in Wynyard Quarter through better transport connectivity. Another is to fully utilise the potential of the CRL to serve existing transport demand centres like the universities and the hospital. If the Council could find a way to link existing and future land use with the CRL and allocate value uplift in that land to the project, the full economic benefit of CRL might be able to be truly realised.

“Having turned down the Council’s current proposal, the onus is now on Central Government to lead the way forward,” Selwood says.

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