Tuesday 19 February 2019

Clear choices needed in local government elections

Later this year there will be local government elections held throughout New Zealand. Whilst there are only a few areas in which good transport options are being compromised by local politicians, it is important to address these, and the areas concerned are as follows:
  • Northland - the Regional Council is too pro-road (being dominated by National Party members) and needs to shift back to supporting rail as they did ten years ago when they did a lot of good work in the early stages of developing the proposal for the Marsden Point branch.
  • Gisborne - has a unitary council which itself was a bad idea back in 1989, but that's another story. The region has suffered from neglect with the National government slashing land transport corridor funding all round.
    • Gisborne local government's transport plan is focused on using their port for log traffic and moving everything else by road hundreds of kilometres to another port (Napier and Tauranga are both about 200 kilometres by road from Gisborne). 
    • Apparently about 900,000 tonnes of freight is moved by road in and out of Gisborne every year.
    • This is very self seeking as all they are interested in is the money they can make out of moving logs through the port. The reason for this is they have a monopoly and can therefore jack up the price. No one is going to move the logs to another port by road.
    • Logs are a type of freight that has low margins meaning they have to shift very large volumes of them to make a reasonable amount of money.
    • Apart from the extra cost of shifting freight by road, the two highways north-west and south go through difficult country (as does the railway) and all three have been majorly affected by the unstable geology of the area resulting in substantial cost to keep them operating.
    • The options for Gisborne therefore are spending money on land transport options whereby if there is the choice of putting large amounts of money into a transport corridor then the railway would be a better choice than the highways but none of these options are cheap and will have ongoing maintenance expenses. They will be difficult to keep open as reliably as the transport corridors south of Wairoa.
    • The other option is coastal shipping which fits well with another part of Labour's transport strategy. It doesn't require large ongoing expenditure like the land transport corridors do. However the idiots in power in Gisborne are focused on going it alone rather than working with another port (either Tauranga or Napier) to move containers by sea. 
  • Wellington
    • Wellington City Council has welshed on its commitment to a Rapid Transport system. Although this may be addressed by new proposals for light rail.
  • Marlborough - another example of poor governance under a unitary authority structure.
    • MDC is responsible for air pollution from the ferry fleet but has been shirking its responsibilities in this area. This is becoming a concern for people living in the Sounds. Low sulphur fuel should be mandatory for the Cook Strait ferries.
  • Christchurch
    • The Christchurch City Council is not committed to spending any significant funding on transport infrastructure and has created obstacles to route changes within the city.
    • The Regional Council is returning to a fully elected structure this year and there needs to be the right kind of people elected and especially pro public transport people as there has been poor priority to PT under years of appointed National Party commissioners.
  • Dunedin
    • As in Christchurch, Dunedin City Council is focused on political objectives over who controls the operation of the bus network rather than providing better services to its residents such as improving roads to enable more stops and better routes.
The Government also needs to look at some policy settings.
  • We look set to keep regional council control of public transport services in most regions of NZ which is a good policy. 
  • However the government has so far failed to address farebox recovery target funding by NZTA
  • The problems caused by central government interference in public transport tendering under the PTOM have yet to be addressed in any form, so there are still problems seen in areas like Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin where the regional council is still having to work with the challenges of being dictated to by NZTA
  • In Wellington the Regional Council (GWRC) is able to own and build rail related infrastructure so the question of why regional councils in other regions such as Canterbury are not funded to build infrastructure is a question as this is usually left to a territorial council to provide and most don't spend more than a token amount.