Hard News by Russell Brown

More on the mayor's fantasies ...

Former Auckland transport planner Daniel Newcombe, who now works for Transport for London ("across the hall from the Congestion Charging gnomes"), has been following the Hard News commentary on John Banks' Eastern Corridor adventure, he says, "with interest". And he has some interesting comments of his own.

I understand a former TfL head is currently doing the rounds in Auckland singing the praises of CC, but I wanted to point out the real differences between the London experience and what Auckland could achieve.

The implementation of the Congestion Charging (CC) zone here was predicated on a massive funding boost to the already impressive public transport system within and around the zone. Although it has increased public transport use and slightly reduced traffic congestion, it certainly hasn't been a money-making exercise (as the Auckland plan seems to be), making tens of millions of pounds less than expected and costing huge amounts to install and maintain.

There is currently a proposal to extend the CC zone westwards, which may or may not happen, but the key point is that such a CC zone only works where a viable comprehensive public transport network exists. You couldn't extend the zone to cover, say, all of Greater London, as the buses, rail and tube are only up to the job in inner London (roughly where the current CC zone is. maybe a bit further out).

Sadly, Auckland's PT system is worse than that in even most outer London boroughs, so you could never implement CC in Auckland seeking to imitate London, because they are two very different places.

A more viable comparison could be the tolls on French motorways, which are supplemented by free parallel roads, but even this isn't a good example, as they tend to focus on travel between cities, rather than within them, like Auckland is looking at. In short, don't be fooled by praise of the London CC scheme, as it is irrelevant to Auckland until the city gets similar population densities, PT systems and traffic congestion levels - none of which currently come close.

Which is pretty much what I figured the case to be. But don't expect our mayor to acknowledge anything of the kind. Until, that is, it all falls over, whereupon he will noisily declare that he never thought it would work and demand to know what the government is going to do about it all. I can never decide whether he can't remember what he's said or he simply has no shame. So: situation unchanged: nobody knows who's going to pay for the Great Road to Howick.

Speaking of things local, the city's masses of People Without Proper Jobs Who Do Things In The Inner Western Suburbs can save the bother of looking out the window by checking Rick Huntington's greylynnweather.net. Gotta love that live weather display.

Looks like the Auckland CBD Low-Power FM spat - nine stations chasing eight viable spots on the dial - has been relatively amicably resolved. Compared to the way most other countries regulate freelance radio, our LPFM regulations are really admirable. But it's been the Wild West in the central city recently.

I interviewed Andrew Dubber about this for Mediawatch this week, but we won't be able to use it until next Sunday, by which time we'll have done a little more work on a story about the Auckland radio market. Dubber has been chronicling the whole shootin' match on his very nice blog The Wireless. Read part I, II and III.

And American news service has picked up on the strange coincidence about the murdered American Nick Berg that I noted yesterday - and developed a full-blown conspiracy theory around it. I'm not going there myself, although I'm a tad disappointed not to have had a whole bunch of international conspiracy hits yesterday …

The government would have been better to let Don Brash make a hash of nuclear ship visits policy all on his own - which he was doing quite effectively - rather than breaching the confidence of his meeting with the American congressmen by plucking a now hotly-disputed phrase out of the notes of a Foreign Affairs official present - and then refusing to release the notes themselves. The Herald administered a well-deserved editorial spanking yesterday, and now has US senator Don Nickles disputing that the "by lunchtime" promise was ever made by Brash (Brash, um, can't remember what he said). For goodness sake, if you're going to do spin, try and do it a bit better than this …

Meanwhile Aej Humm points out that "strong supporter of a New Zealand trade deal" is a rather bland characterisation of Mr Nickles himself. His voting on most bills to do with race has been kinda scary over the years …

New Zealand Musician's new website is up.

And that's it - apart from a North Shore question. I haven't seen The Checks play for a while and we're planning to drop in and see them at The Masonic in Devonport tomorrow night. But we figured we'd take a drink or two at some other nice little bar on the Shore before we get there. Trouble is, we don't know of any nice little bars on the Shore. Feel free to offer me the hip tip for north of the bridge, y'all …