History repeats – National screws Auckland rail for the third time

The Minister of Transport’s announcement yesterday which sought to demolish the business case for Auckland’s long planned Central City Link (aka CBD loop) is a major set back for Auckland.

While for diplomatic reasons the Mayor and government are trying to contain the political fall out -this is a major act of bad faith by the National-led government against Auckland,

This is especially unfair as Auckland was forced by the government to undergo the major costs and dislocation of creating the Super City – ostensibly so that ‘Auckland can speak with one voice’.

Well, Auckland has spoken with ‘one voice’.

Unlike the Holiday Highway, the City Rail Link has a sound business case compiled by reputable NZ and international experts.  Moreover it has a powerful mandate reflected by the overwhelming majority of Aucklanders who voted for Len Brown who campaigned strongly on this very issue.  In contrast the politician who has done most to block the project, Transport Minister Steven Joyce as a first term list MP who unlike the Mayor of Auckland has no personal political mandate from voters whatsoever.   Steven Joyce who features prominently in Nicky Hager’s ‘the Hollow Men’ has never been elected by the public to anything.  This is history repeating itself and the third time a National government has done this to Auckland since 1954. 

The history of Auckland’s planned underground rail link goes back almost 90 years.

Such a scheme was first proposed by Minister of Railways (later Prime Minister) Gordon Coates as early as 1923.  In the late 1940s the Ministry of Works refined the scheme which was accepted by all parties for nearly 10 years before being killed off by the National Government of the odious Syd Holland in 1954– with unfortunately the active compliance of the then Auckland City Council.  Again in the late 1960s the ARA and the NZ Railways worked up another plan, again with an underground loop known as ‘Robbies Rapid Rail’. This in turn was killed off in 1975 by the newly elected National government of Robert Muldoon.  (Sins of the Fathers – the fall and rise of rail transit in Auckland).

Now the National government of John Key and Steven Joyce have done it again.  So much for all the brave talk about making Auckland ‘ a ‘World Class City’. In fact what Key and Joyce want is the removal (deregulation) of the former ARC’s Metropolitan Urban Limits to open up the opportunities for urban sprawl for vested interests.  Aspirations for sprawling and coastal subdivisions I guess can be the only explanation for the otherwise irrational Puhoi to Wellsford highway. 

History repeats? This Herald cartoon published 2 Nov 1954 lampoons the scuttling by the National government of a previous plan to build an underground rail link through Auckland. The bound and gagged figure depicts Auckland Mayor J.H. Luxford. (from 'Decently and in Order' by Dr Graham Bush).

Note that Sir Wellington Treasury has an uncanny resemblance to Steven Joyce.  Note also the two casks of dynamite – ‘procrastination’ and ‘dissension’ are still being used to demolish Auckland’s aspirations

 See my earlier post on this issue.

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8 Responses

  1. Chris Randal says:

    Mike, this is adequate reason for Auckland to become a sovereign state and it needs to be done as part of the general election debate.

    My feeling is that National regrets allowing Hide to push through the Super City and they are retaliating by making sure that Auckland knows absolutely who is boss.

  2. Andrew says:

    I don’t think that’s quite right this time.

    This is the third time that a National-led government has intended to screw Auckland rail, but unlike the last two times, this one will not be entirely successful as part of this needed upgrade is already well underway, and even Joyce knows that to cancel everything would be politically harmful. The “best” they can do is to delay it.

    Also, while certainly not ideal, this time around we actually have the capability to build this ourselves, although personally I don’t know whether building the CBD tunnel, and the economic benefits it will bring, is worth giving up council ownership of the Ports or Airport. If we do go down that track, we must ensure that the tunnel and its economic benefits are protected from exploitation by both Wellington and the private sector – it, and indeed all of Auckland metro rail, needs to be protected from a potentially re-privatised KiwiRail.

  3. Chris Harris says:

    It certainly is adequate reason for restoring a measure of genuine provincial government and allowing Auckland more sovereignty over how it spends tax dollars that have been raised locally (roughly 1/3 of NZ’s total tax take). The mainstream media and the Govt are always making out that Auckland is going cap in hand to Wellington over this–Wellington having some mysterious pot of gold–when the reality is that Wellington (that is, the NZ Govt) takes our money and spends it as they like, even on local issues. This is close to the old rallying cry, “No taxation without representation.” Given that rail is a local issue, it should be up to the Aucklanders. End of story.

  4. Feijoa says:

    I don’t know about becoming an independent state, but Aucklanders have the power with their vote to get rid of the short-term/rear vision National Party. Even the AA has to admit it is rail projects people want, not more motorways in every direction. Steven Joyce, John Key, etc. show no ability to respond to this changed landscape.

    The only hope I have is knowing their are people like you and Len in charge in Auckland, Mike. Keep up the good work!

  5. donna says:

    This must become an election issue. The Minister is prepared to squander billions on unnecessary road projects, including the ridiculous holiday highway. At the same time he has reorganised land transport funding so that the land transport fund no longer funds metro rail. This is a bone to the road freight industry, and Auckland’s ratepayers are being ripped off.
    Squeezing out the region’s public transport, cycling and walking funding will not make Auckland more productive, more efficient, or liveable, or world class. It will make it a place people want to leave. If Mr Joyce needs some inspiration for what a liveable city might actually look like, he should check this out:

  6. John Ryall says:

    Despite being a Wellingtonian I wholeheartedly agree with your view that this narrow-minded National Government view is a repeat of the disastrous decisions of the past that Aucklanders and the rest of us, who rely on the health of our biggest city, will have to live with for years to come.

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