Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill – First Reading

The Green Party, of course, will be supporting this bill and was very involved in its formulation, working closely and successfully with the Government on bringing it to its present state and to this House. It shows how well the Greens can work with the Government on issues of common concern, particularly progressive issues relating to transport and its social, environmental, and economic dimensions. The United Future party is also supporting the bill, which is very good, as well.

This legislation, as previous speakers have said, is turning the clock back to a better situation in the past, and trying to regain some of the ground lost under the National Government when the Auckland Regional Authority was broken up and assets sold off. When the Auckland Regional Services Trust, then Infrastructure Auckland were set up, there was the intention that all the assets would disappear and that Ports of Auckland Ltd would be privatised, etc. But as a result of a public campaign, Ports of Auckland remains largely in public ownership, which is very good. In this bill, it is protected from sale to the extent that Auckland Regional Holdings, to which the assets of Infrastructure Auckland will be transferred, is forbidden on its own initiative to sell it off.

Now there will be greater coordination of transport planning, its operational side, and, to an extent, the ownership of transport assets within one framework – with the Auckland Regional Council at the top of the structure, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority under that, and Auckland Regional Holdings under that. Under this legislation, the Auckland Regional Council will have to rework the regional land transport strategy, in the light of the new situation, which is very good. It will have to take into account the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy and also what has been developed nationally in terms of the National Land Transport Strategy.

Again, that is the result of collaboration between the Greens and the Government, in respect of rebalancing transport expenditure away from just road building to a more balanced approach, with particular emphasis on other things such as public transport, cycling, walking, and ferries. That makes it, in the words of the Minister in his speech, more sustainable. Now, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, under the Auckland Regional Council, has to develop a land transport programme with priorities. This is where the legislation is very good, as it has to take into account the New Zealand Transport Strategy and the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.

Again, it would tend to favour public transport – more efficient transport; less energy-consuming transport – rather than road building and things that just accommodate private cars, which often run around Auckland roads with just one person in them and add to the congestion. The Auckland Regional Transport Authority in developing its programme will also have to take into account the 10-year programme of expenditure and the priorities in that of Transfund New Zealand. Transit, of course, will have to relate more to Transfund in its priorities for developing its projects, so it cannot just go along the road-building track exclusively or predominantly.

Under the National Land Transport Strategy the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and Transfund will be taking more things into account – not just the economic dimension – that is one of the five criteria in the land transport strategy – but also about such things as the safety of travellers, mobility of people who do not own cars and have to use public transport, and health and environmental sustainability factors, which include such things as pollution, noise, and other .downsides that accompany motorways.

That is another reason to put the balance of programmes and expenditure on alternatives to motorways or roads wherever possible, and into such things as railways, buses, walkways, cycleways, and ferries.

A previous speaker said that nothing has really happened in Auckland. In fact, public transport has gone ahead marvelously in Auckland over the past 4 years. For the first 3 years it was going up about 7 percent a year in patronage, and then in the last year it went up even more than that. There has been a tremendous advance in the use of public transport, and with money being put in by the Government in collaboration with the Greens, and the $1.6 billion being spent over the next 10 years on Auckland transport, there will be tremendous advances there, particularly in the area of rail infrastructure and rail transport.

Of course, there has been a problem in that too many people are wanting to hop on the trains, and there are not enough trains. The infrastructure is not there at the present time, but with the buying of new rolling stock and the double tracking of the western line, etc., that will really move ahead so that the rail backbone of Auckland will be developed. We already have Britomart, and we can increase bus services and ferry services off :the rail backbone.

The development of new cycleways is particularly important. Auckland is quite backward in that respect at the moment, too. So we are looking forward to quite an important development there. The other dimension of the bill is demand management – that is, the reduction of the demand in particular for people to use motorways and the encouragement of people to use alternative forms of transport from the private car. That is particularly important because we can anticipate that in not too long a time, oil prices will go up when there is depletion of the world’s oil reserves.

Under this whole new structure guided by the land transport strategy nationally, as a sort of umbrella, we will definitely find that the eastern highway, so promoted by a couple of mayors in Auckland, Barry Curtis and John Banks, but opposed by the other mayors and most of the people in Auckland, will not go ahead. That $4 billion project will not meet the criteria in the National Land Transport Strategy, and it is now being applied down into the Auckland region through this legislation, so that will not be a starter. It is very bad that Barry Curtis and John Banks have been scaring homeowners and people in Auckland saying that they will lose their homes along this new motorway, and so on, when that motorway will certainly not go ahead.

Even State Highway 20, the southwestern motorway, is finding it difficult to justify itself under this legislation and has not been finally approved.

I would like to make one other point in relation to one of the assets that will go under Auckland Regional Holdings – that is, the Auckland Regional Holdings will have 80 percent of the Ports of Auckland. It will have that asset by 1 July. I have asked the Minister of Local Government to intervene and use his influence, even if he does not have the full legal powers, to say to the Ports of Auckland to halt the sale of Westhaven. The people of Auckland do not want it sold. It should wait until Auckland Regional Holdings takes over on 1 July and it might want to purchase it itself because it would just mean transferring an asset from an 80 percent owned subsidiary of Auckland Regional Holdings to full ownership by Auckland Regional Holdings. That would very much please all the people in Auckland.

It is good that Auckland Regional Holdings has a much broader mandate than Infrastructure Auckland had in that it is to own and manage assets “in the long term interests of the Auckland region”. It is certainly in the long-term interests of the Auckland region for Westhaven to be in public ownership and for all the boaties there to be able to use that in perpetuity, and for the surrounding area of Westhaven to be developed in the public interest with the green space to be developed properly and not just being overbuilt with dense apartment complexes, but to be used for the people of Auckland.


First Reading – Parliament