Hard News by Russell Brown

Going local

It seems that this blog has crept - or possibly stomped - into the consciousness of a number of candidates for the local body elections. The mayoral commentaries are still getting hits, and several candidates have seen fit to email me with comments.

This is good: blogging and municipal elections are a good fit - and there's actually something very appealing about the fact that, if he so chooses, some guy in Khazakstan can read Damian's commentary on the mayoral hopefuls and feel that he knows a little about us.

And apart from anything else, we're not taking cash for comments. The same perhaps can't be said for Whangarei's North Advocate, which, I am told, has sent an email to candidates offering free editorial space to candidates who purchase advertising. Good grief.

Also, excommunicated CitRat Troy Churton - who committed the mortal sin of publicly saying that the Eastern Corridor plan doesn't make sense - sent me a lengthy email explaining in some detail why it doesn't make sense.

Churton is the present chair of the Hobson Community Board, and sat on the Eastern Corridor Steering Group. He says his views draw on "many years of professional experience from my quasi-judicial roles and legal training, applying objectivity and a rational approach to the kilograms of evidence and consultancy that has been presented to me … and I have formed very rational conclusions about that beyond mere policy or emotion."

Amongst his criticisms are that claims that the road won't greatly worsen CBD traffic congestion because only 8% of cars using the highway will travel to the CBD are "misleading", because the figure only refers to cars that use the motorway for its entire length, from deepest Manukau.

The truth is that over 40% of cars projected to use the highway will look to egress at the CBD as a destination, and a further 40% want to connect to the Northwestern or North Shore, thus through the CBD again.

The latest plan, remember, includes no direct linkage to either the Northwestern motorway or the Shore.

The evidence shows that cars and road traffic will therefore be forced not only into a reduced lane system across Purewa and Hobson Bays, but be faced with numerous signals towards Mechanics Bay and no clear linkages into Stanley Street, and certainly none to the North Shore. On the balance of probabilities test alone, it is very foreseeable that a road across Hobson will be mainly slow moving duplication of congestion already experienced elsewhere.

I think this is a very good point. Auckland's most severe congestion is in the CBD and on its fringe - hence the work in Grafton Gully and on widening at "Spaghetti Junction". Hands up who wants to make that worse?

Churton also believes, on the basis of the Opus Consultancy report projection that the road would hit capacity (about 40,000 cars a day) in 2021, even a 10-year return on investment of a billion dollars (assuming it's completed in 2010) would still fail to meet Transit NZ's cost-benefit benchmark. The money would be better spent elsewhere.


The costings advanced by the consultants are based on 2003 figures for resources in order to draw comparisons with the first proposals put to the public. The figures, as far as I can determine, include no provision for the hardware of public transport.

Throughout the entire length of the roading element proposed for the corridor there are inconsistent widths and inconsistent bus lane options. Opus has confirmed there will be many "squeeze" points and mergers. They also confirm this will impact on traffic flows and efficiency. Merger systems and squeeze points clearly impact on increasing congestion, frustration and delay in roading systems that are under heavy usage. This does not appear to be a proposal that meets the intended objective of the regional transport strategy.

There is nothing in the proposal that genuinely encourages changed transport behaviour in the Manukau City area, an area where around 90% plus do not use public transport. There are few bus lanes and little to show how rail connectivity will be spread through Manukau. In fact the opposite seems to be the case. All the major development in Manukau appears to be proceeding on the basis of car/road linkages. There is for example nothing to show how alternative frieght movements in and out of the large new industrial park in Manukau can be served other than by trucks and cars.

However, he says, possible alternatives do emerge from the evidence, including "increasing rail connectivity across Hobson towards the Manukau region but not roading" and concentrating on a broadened Allens Road route to link Manukau to existing networks.

Finally, he says, there is considerable evidence of "the environmental significance of Purewa and Hobson Bays to the 'well-being' and recreational and lifestyle/welfare of Auckland City" - a significance that was not apparent 40 years ago when the route was blueprinted for a motorway.

For such heresy, Churton finds himself standing as an independent. The pettiness of intra-CitRat relations might be indicated by Aaron Bhatnagar's email objecting to my description of Churton's Centre Right Independent platform as a "ticket".

Meanwhile, anti-Banks CitRat Jane Arnott has emailed to politely object to my description of her as "standing in Western Bays and therefore in little danger of being elected":

Before you write me off (!) come and meet me. I'll show you the sorts of things around Western Bays Ward that are upsetting residents. I should know, I've been doorknocking for days plus my file on issues and complaints I have attended to in Grey Lynn is substantial and dates back years. By the way, do you know anything at all about me?? Or only what you read in the papers!

Righto, then: Bhatnagar's blog exults in this morning's Herald poll (actually the same poll that the Herald has been successfully extracting stories from all week; including the bad news for Banks about the street race and his electoral support) that appears to show 60% support amongst Aucklanders for the Eastern route. But it also shows the same level of support for paying for the road with a toll. And I'm still waiting for someone to show me the numbers that actually show that's possible. Remember, Banks has already acknowledged as much, and blathered about imposing a toll barrier around the entire CBD - which wouldn't work either.

When in doubt, folks, do the math …

PS: Meanwhile, Northern local body candidate Bruce Thorpe has a blog (he needs to put a bio on it) and I'm interested to hear of any other contenders anywhere who've ventured into the blogosphere.