Waka Kotahi Transport Agency just released the National Land Transport Programme for 2021-24. This lays out what they’ll be spending money on over the next 3 years. Greater Auckland did a brief summary here.
This blog highlights a few observations that stood out to me.
Waka Kotahi is still coming to grips with the transition from a road-building organisation to a more holistic public agency that influences all sorts of other wider societal areas. In some areas they are making good progress. The CEO and Board Chair both seem to get it, saying that this programme is:
an ambitious programme of transformational change… that will support the transition to reduced emissions, keep people safe and ensure our communities are better places to live.
To make our cities better places to live and reduce carbon emissions, we need to give people better options than travelling by car. The GPS prioritised funding to support people using shared transport options such as buses, trains and ferries, and walking and cycling.
They specifically say this programme can help with housing affordability:
The 2021–24 NLTP contributes to addressing pressures on housing availability and affordability by enabling us and our partners to:
– increase housing supply and improve housing affordability and choice through sustainable development with central government, local government and mana whenua in our main urban areas
Government have invested a lot in Auckland and Wellington over the last few years to comprehensively plan out their investments for the next few decades (ATAP and LGWM, which even get their own sections of the website), with the result that those cities get the lion’s share of the funding.
Christchurch hasn’t had this investment in planning in recent years, and as a result has largely missed out in this programme. Greater Auckland did this graph up showing just how disproportionate the current funding system is.
I wonder how much Canterbury’s missing out is due to the local leadership in Waka Kotahi. The press release for the Canterbury region is here. It’s got a very different tone to the introduction from the CEO and Board Chair. There’s no mention of enabling housing supply, no mention of impacts on urban liveability, and only a brief mention of climate change. Instead, local Waka Kotahi leader James Caygill starts the article with this summary:
This investment in our transport system will help support the Canterbury economy, make it easier to get around and save lives on our roads. It will deliver the best results for our transport dollar,”
It seems that in Canterbury it’s all about making it easier to get around, road safety, and bang-for-buck. This is very much a business-as-usual attitude rather than the “ambitious programme of transformational change” that the CEO and Board Chair are wanting.
This is reflected in the spending:
Over half the expenditure is just business-as-usual maintenance and operations. The $246m for public transport looks big until you realise that’s mostly just running the bus services same as we do now. $221m is for operations, currently we spend around $200m, so an increase of about 10%. The remaining $25m is for bus lanes on Lincoln Road and Colombo St south, buying land next to the bus exchange to future-proof for later expansion, park and ride site in Waimakariri, and a host of smaller miscellaneous items like bus shelters, real-time displays, and a new ticketing system.
Road to Zero is the next biggest item, which is mostly investment in rural state highways.
Then comes NZUP, which comprises the Rolleston flyover, Brougham Street improvements (most likely adding a third lane in each direction exclusively for freight), Halswell Road bus lanes, and more rural state highway safety improvements.
$14 million for walking and cycling makes up 1.2% of the budget, which largely comprises the cycleways.
Overall this is a business-as-usual programme for Canterbury. We’re getting basically the bare minimum – enough to keep the existing systems going, a reasonable chunk to make our rural highways safer, and very little else.
This is very different to what Auckland and Wellington are getting. To me the most obvious difference is that they have ATAP and LGWM respectively. Central government has helped those cities come up with comprehensive plans for how they want to develop, and how transport systems will enable that development. Central government has never helped Christchurch do this, not even after the earthquakes. As a result Greater Christchurch has no spatial plan, nor any long-term transport plan.
Three years ago, then Minister of Transport and Housing Phil Twyford told us that central government would not invest in Christchurch until we had:
A joined-up and credible housing and transport and urban growth plan.
It’s got to be supported by all of your elected leaders and it’s got to be prioritised through your regional land transport plan, but I would like nothing better than to talk to you about what this plan would look like for Canterbury and how central government can work with your local government leadership to achieve it.
If central government refuse to invest in Canterbury due to the lack of a joined-up-plan, then they need to help Canterbury develop that plan, as they have already in Auckland and Wellington. That’s the only way Christchurch is going to grow into a 21st century city.