THE CASE FOR ROADS

Panel Discussion

So, there you are. You’ve heard from Dr Brindle, a very thought-provoking address. Unfortunately, we are running a little bit on Manukau time, now, so there won’t be time for any questions or comments at this point. So, let’s now turn to the topic ‘How Cities Manage Regional Road Network Development Overseas - Successes and Failures, and Reasons Why. And we’re going to ask Professor Randal O’Toole and Wendell Cox to make a contribution of five minutes each and Dr Ray Brindle also. So, who’s going to lead off?

Gentlemen.

Randal O’Toole

Well, since 1955, …………………….in its infinite wisdom, have…………………the inter-state highway system which was supposed to be highways that went around cities, literally, but the urban mayors realised that this was a great pork barrel and a great way to revitalise the inner cities so they lobbied to make sure that the highway went right through the inner cities. The p………….. had their own interests. They didn’t want to be slowed down by toll booths, so they got Congress to put a provision in law saying that no Federal funds could be spent on any highway that charged tolls unless that ……………..was already charging tolls before the inter-state highway system was created. There were only a few states, mainly in the northeast, that charged tolls. Most of the west, where Wendell and I are from, have almost no toll roads except for a few bridges. I was always proud of the fact that Oregon had no toll roads and ………………..realise that a system without tolls doesn’t work very well.

Oregon was the first state in the United States to create a federal tax and dedicate that tax exclusively to highway construction. And so, Oregon, had a pretty nice system of highways up until the 1970s and then people started getting upset about these highways that the big city mayors had said “Let’s build into downtown areas and revitalise those inner cities” because they were tearing through the neighbourhood. And they said “Oh, we can’t have this. This is ruining our inner cities.” Now the big city mayors are all blaming the destruction of the inner cities on the evil federal government that forced them to build highways into the inner cities. But the problem with toll, with the temporal tax, is that when you pay your tax at the pump and the agency that gives the money, even if it’s dedicated to highways, they have no idea whether you’re spending your fuel on the freeway, on the motorway or on city streets or country roads. So, they don’t really know where to build the roads. There’s no signal. You go to the supermarket to buy a gallon of milk, the grocer knows right away he’s got to re-stock a gallon of milk. But what you pay in petrol tax, they don’t know whether to build a motorway or country road or what.

So, I’ve now become an advocate of toll roads, and not just toll roads but toll roads with some sort of congestion pricing or value pricing. Meaning, we charge more during congestion periods of the day to spread out the use to less congested periods of the day. You can either do this, as they’re doing in California, by building new lanes on existing roads and charging for the new lanes and letting people stay stuck in traffic on the free lanes if they want to - give them a choice. You can pay to get home 20 minutes quicker or you can not pay and take a little longer.

Houston has an interesting combination of institutions. They have a toll road authority that collects tolls and builds new roads and then use those tolls exclusively for the roads. And that, to me, is the right combination. Because user pays and there’s an appropriate ………… back to the toll road authority. If they build a road that nobody uses, they don’t make any money, so they’re not going to build a road that doesn’t make sense. They’re not going to build light rail lines if it doesn’t make sense and nobody uses it because they don’t get any tax subsidies unlike the agencies that build light rail, 99% of subsidies. So, Houston has begun to experiment with congestion tolls. Typically, they allow people to go for free if they have a car pool with three people or more in it, or pay a discounted rate, but if they have two or fewer people in it then you pay a higher toll and it’s becoming very successful in Houston and other parts of the country.

I’d just like to say one more thing. We no longer have the objective of toll booths which slow people down because we have electronic tolls. You’ve probably heard about them. You just get a little box, you put it in your windshield, you either stock it up with money, take it to the store and stock it up with money, or you can even have it debited or credited to your credit card, so that you can drive through and you can drive at a hundred miles an hour and they’ll be able to tell whether you’ve paid your toll or not.

Wendell Cox

Thank you Randal. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to sound in a sense like I’m sort of copying Randal, which isn’t surprising since we grew up 15 miles apart …

Randal That’s why I wanted to go first.

Wendell

Yeah, that’s right. But my age should have required me to go first, except I suggested that I wouldn’t know what to say if I didn’t feed off him.

I want to make slightly broader comments that are along the same lines. I think the discussion and vision is absolutely crucial here and I want to talk to broader, more national policy with respect to roading and so on. I was particularly impressed by Howard’s definition that the purpose in planning, which is sort of as I understood it, is to facilitate the activities of enterprising people because if you want to advance in this global economy, you’re going to have to facilitate the activities of enterprising people of whom there are plenty in this country. Now, I am not going to be sitting here, suggesting to you that we have any great model in the United States. I am one of the most critical people of US policy and government, etc. that exists and Randal and I might arm wrestle about that but I think that I would win. How we do highways in the United States is an absolute sham and we ought to be ashamed of it. I won’t spend much time on it except to suggest to you that highway building in the United States, except the situation where we’re moving towards more tolls and that kind of thing, or at least trying to, is largely politically defined. Fortunately, there was a vision in the 1950s - actually it goes back to the 1930s - of a motorway system that would go all over the world, all over the country. It does, and I say that in full knowledge of the fact that I’m in the only major western nation that ten years from now will not have a motorway from its largest city to its ……………. Australia will soon have that.

The real problem, I think, as a nation - look at what’s going on around the world. You know, who has the second most kilometres of motorway in the world at this point. China. And China will have a whole lot more in another fifteen years. Now, they’re doing it right there. They’re doing it with toll roads and they’re also doing it right with respect to the establishment of toll road authorities which happen to be public and hopefully in the long run, they’ll be private. Europe also has a pretty good system. Non-toll roads for the most part except for France, but still a good system. You can get virtually anywhere you want in Europe. The United States with its motorways and you are going to be able to get all the way from St John to the Atlantic or the Pacific Coast - the Atlantic Coast is rather difficult to ……….. But in any event, China’s moving in the right direction. Mexico, of all places. Poor, third-world Mexico. You have not fallen behind Mexico yet. Mexico now has more road miles of motorways than Canada and Canada needs to be ashamed of itself. Canada started out with a strong roadway programme in the 1950s and let it all fall apart. And the point is that Mexico is already, because of our free trade agreement, making greater economic progress and I think they're going to do very well.

Other models to look at. Think of places where public transport is effective. We’ve heard Paris is very good. One of the reasons Paris works as regards to public transport is that for 40 square miles of Paris, there’s no point in those 40 square miles where you’re more than, I think it may be ¼ mile is the distance, I can’t remember whether it’s 400 metres, 300 metres, from a Metro station. That means you can walk anywhere, get anywhere in town, relatively quick. But what you don’t understand, or what a lot of people don’t understand about Paris, is that Paris is a metropolitan area of 10 million people. Central Paris only has 2 million people, a million almost of whom have moved out since 1950. The fact is, you can’t get around suburban Paris without a car. But interestingly, the French officials are recognising the fact that you can’t get through Paris without a car either and so what they’re now doing is getting ready to build about 60 miles of tunnels under Paris for roadways.

I won’t go into US examples, but Randal’s absolutely right. You need to get to a situation where users are paying directly for the cost of their road. More importantly, and the reason I’ve come to the view of road prices which I was not on board with 18 months ago, is because I’ve come to the view that Government is incapable of doing the job with respect to the provision of roads. It has to do with the political nature of roadway provision and in the United States the awful, awful ……………….situation which we see all around the world. Think about this. It’s Southern California. There’s an area of Southern California that looks every bit as desolate, though not as pretty, as this Desert Road between here and Wellington. North of Palm Springs, Interstate 10, an interstate highway, a motorway, once had 8 lanes and there’s no way that anybody would ever take 8 lanes of motorway 150 miles east of Los Angeles on the way to Phoenix where only rarely are human beings seen between those two cities. But the fact is, the reason that we have 8 lanes of freeway on Interstate 10 is that desert area, that’s every bit as desolate as Taupo to Ruapehu, we have 8 lanes because of a party formula that said that those monies had got to be spent in those places. And so the idea of doing roads around the country with petrol tax doesn’t work because politicians have to, as it were, bring home the bacon and that makes sure that places like Auckland and Wellington and Christchurch always get short shrift.

Now there are some things we’ve actually done well in the United States. Our interstate highway system is an effective system and by spending a whole lot more money than we needed to get it done, we got it done. There is a large national road in the United States, through the states and can I read one of the things that you might want to be looking at - I don’t have the answer, but I think one of the things you might want to be looking at is the possibility that maybe the national Government should take over more of the roading in the Auckland area, the Wellington area and around the country. By that I mean at least the motorway core. For the most part in the United States, with a few exceptions, the motorways are all somehow involved with the federal government. Now, that’s an over-simplification, but there is a national interest in the completion of the eastern roadway and there is a national interest in the finishing of the southern crossing of the isthmus.

But you are faced with a very difficult future. Traffic congestion is going to get worse, as everybody knows, and if that happens it is going to get worse with respect to air pollution. I’m absolutely convinced, as Randal is, that home ownership rates are going to drop and housing affordability is going to drop. In the long run this community is going to have more poverty if you proceed with the intensification plans. And the reality is, think about this, if ARC were tomorrow to close, and I realise this is really radical thinking, to close its public transport division and never think a bit about public transport, what difference would it make? Actually, not a bit. But what would happen if it were not to deal with roading? Well, you’re seeing that sort of happen, almost. It is clear the emphasis is way wrong. It’s clear to me that action is necessary.

Let me suggest, closing on the issue vision. Dream and visions and I think Professor Brindle has done a good job talking about that. We need to be in the vision. I would suggest to you that it is not a vision that aims toward a darker future. It is a nightmare.

Ray Brindle

Some years ago I wrote a paper called ‘Toronto and Other Dreams’. You’ve heard about Toronto. I’ve actually been there, I’m quite an expert, and I found that not all of what you hear about Toronto is true and that it actually some .………………some special characteristics that go with it. I want to say a couple of words about Toronto and then move on to Melbourne just very quickly.

My good friend, Ken Ogden, he’s actually lived there for a while. He said the thing about Toronto is that both its road and subway system can be described as high capacity, as fast and sufficiently connected networks. Now I thought about that. It’s actually pretty correct. The freeway system around Toronto is pretty well spaced, but by golly, when you get on it, it’s pretty big. And I’ve sat in a bus in a traffic jam on the freeway - I couldn’t quite work out why when we got on to the surface arterials why they were reasonably empty, but it seems to be the Toronto habit. If you’re going longish distances you’ve got to use the freeway. So we go and stuff up our local road system. But the connectivity of the network is, I think, the key attribute. The Toronto subway system, which actually doesn’t go far, it doesn’t extend out into the real suburbs of Toronto, not very much anyway, is in effect a single line with a cross piece. And it means they don’t have to run … well I suppose they run on schedules, but you don’t have to worry about timetables. So that the transit system for that inner part of Toronto actually works pretty well and I was told by Toronto people “Look, if we can use the subway we will, especially to go to work. We actually love our cars and we’ll use that for other things.”

So, when you look at Toronto, you think “Well, how’s this place working because the big thing we’re told about Toronto is they haven’t built any freeways since …………..was stopped back in 1979? Twenty or thirty years. Okay, we know they haven’t built any more but they already had a connective network. What they’ve done since then, and I’ve worked it out using Department of Transportation plans, is they’ve discovered that in the period when Toronto has done no freeway building, they’ve in fact increased their freeway lane kilometres by more than Melbourne or Sydney have built in terms of new route. So, there’s been a bit of sneaky, I think, construction going on in Toronto. They’d actually been enhancing the system they already had by the time they didn’t want freeways. And what they’ve ended up with is, I think, a reasonably good outcome. And that’s why when travellers go there they see the place actually working reasonably well. It’s got a very user friendly subway system. It’s not as good as the continental ones, but everyone speaks English.

I found that Toronto in the 1980s anyway, certainly by the time Newman Kenworthy’s big black book was put together, ‘Divide by Nine’, …………….about that period, that Toronto actually had more freeway per capita than Melbourne or Sydney. It certainly had more freeway than Sydney in its 10 or 12 kilometre ring.

And the other thing about Toronto is that its local characteristic is that it’s fortunate to have a good system of surface arterials, grid system, and that’s an enormous attribute because it not only helps their buses, it helps their traffic distribution.

A quick word about Melbourne, it’s been referred to already, and I was going to say something about it in my presentation but I saved it, fortunately, because others have mentioned it. The Citylink project was built by a dictated … you know, it’s our version of Mussolini’s, what did he build? Railways. And Hitler’s autobahn. I mean, we’ve got Citylink and they call it Kenneth’s Revenge because we’ve actually signed up as a people to a contract that we can’t get out of until 2030 or something. I think it had a 40 year life, or something like that. And part of that contract, by the way, says that the Government, we the people, can’t do anything to make other roads attractive because it’s seen as unfair competition defined by the contract that Kenneth signed.

But enough of that. The system actually works pretty well. It works on electronic tolls. We pay through the nose for it, it’s really expensive.

And I was very interested to hear John Hynds say that his company now is increasing productivity by 50% which sounds good. Goes from two trips to three, that’s 50%. And I wonder, if they were able to pay the $10 or $12 per trip or a day, whatever it is, for their trucks. I would’ve thought that was expensive. But when you hear that they can actually get people 50% more work for a third fewer vehicles, you know now why the commercial sector is happy to pay for a toll facility. Jokers like me aren’t. I actually get up a lot earlier and I now work my way through the surface arterials, but I haven’t been on them for the last fifteen years. But for a commercial operator, it’s worthwhile.

Another thing, I think, what you’re actually getting out of the three of us by coincidence is this message that we’re not asking for anything for free. That this is a product, a commodity, that should be offered to be purchased and what I was saying earlier, the Melbourne example, I think, has already shown us that a connected, good, high capacity road system is actually there for your commerce and not for the individuals. It’s a bit like a rural railway system. You’d never build it if it was for passengers. Any rail systems that are there for passengers, they’re just benefiting from the fact that it’s operating, successfully or not, for freight.

Well thank you very much Ray, Randal and Wendell. Now we need to turn, ladies and gentlemen, to the topic ‘How Auckland manage to avoid road network development to the extent that it is recovering only half of road taxes due to it on a pro rata basis’. And we have Graham Dickson, John Foster and Graeme Tuohey. Graham, are you going to lead off?

Graham Dickson

I guess one of the things that puzzles me is that, at first, I think that over the day we’ve identified that there is a fad against roads. I think fad and fashion are important ………….. here at a bureaucratic level. But what first puzzled me was why do the political leaders go along with them? I think it’s pretty clear, it’s a bit like rubbish dumps. They’re long term projects, the benefits are a long way out, and all the costs come pretty quickly. So, like in the rural sector, you talk about improving roads, it means that rates go up. And so it’s very easy for a politician, to try to keep rates down, to be persuaded that you don’t need growth. Or, you’re told “Well, we should really upset this whole group of very affluent, powerful people who, in order to build something which will only deliver a benefit in about 5 years. And I think that we have help those political decision makers to make sensible decisions. Now I do really believe that we are terribly meagre with compensation. The Public Works Act really only allows designated public works to compensate for confiscation as opposed to loss of amenity. And given that because of the population stagnation and the fact there’s no inflation, residential property values in Auckland are essentially stable now, I think you’re buying people off very easily. If we had a lot of people who were saying “I’m going to be upset to have a motorway, I’d really hate it.” You’d say “Here’s $50,000” and they’d move. Or they’ll just stay. And it seems to me that the cost that one person lodging an appeal in the Environment Court can hold up a motorway project for over two years is an enormous cost. It’s only cost him $50. I mean his file was perverse. I’d file for $50 just for the sheer delight of watching everybody squirm for a few years.

I really think we have to look at compensation provisions in the Public Works Act and even the litigation provisions which is Part A of the RMA. Most lawyers will tell you that the RMA does not provide compensation. That is nonsense. Part A is very clear on that. But why does it have to be so mean on compensating individual citizens when the cost to the country is so huge.

Thank you Graham.

John Hynds

Well, I’d like to talk about a few distortions I think, caused by the way we fund and classify our roads. Back in the good old days there used to be a National Roads Board which distributed money taken from the road users to pay for the highways. They, that Board, gave variable support for various types of road. 100% support for state highways, 80% for arterials and ranging down to 50% for local cul-de-sacs. This was re-formed and Transit was formed. Transit was given limited funding, which was controlled by the politicians, it was an annual divvy up how much the road users could be charged for roading. Transit made quite arbitrary decisions, at that time, which was many years ago, that state highways would be funded 100% from the road fund. All other roads, all other roads, would get less than 50%. This meant that for anything that wasn’t a state highway, territorial local authorities had to pick up more than 50% of the cost where their only source of income was their property tax. The result of that funding decision was that we’ve developed quite a bit of state highway network, both in the rural sector and urban areas, on those roads in urban areas which happen to be state highways and that’s an arbitrary classification. We’ve actually, in the major urban areas, seen not a lot of roads development on roads where the people are within walking distance of the central parts. …………….all around the part. They’ve got sewage, water supply, all those things. So that causes a major distortion.

The next thing is that the decision as to whether the road’s a state highway or not. There is a formula, certain criteria, of whether a road should be perceived to be a state highway or not. Partly it’s to do with bringing the country together. But it almost still retains concepts of linking the farms to the ports. And whether you get state highways depends on how much money comes into the reserve. On this basis, in Auckland, only 3% of the roading in Auckland is declared to be state highway. The average for the country is 16% for state highway. On the West Coast it’s up over 50%. So this means, in Auckland, you get roads, such as the road to Pakuranga which is a pretty important road even in the national scheme of things where the local authorities had to pay 50%. The road between Napier and Hastings is a state highway. No local input required. Locally, …………………….down towards Queenstown, ……………..urban area at the moment. The main road from Frankton to Queenstown is getting a $7.2 million upgrade, it’s a state highway. They’ve just spent a couple of million dollars fixing up a slip which occurred on that road, which occurred after the floods in 1999. They’ve got to spend $2.4 million on a new bridge to cross the Kawerau. $12 - $13 million for a town with a 10,000 population because it happens to be a state highway.

So, I think we need a change in the way the formula … this has caused great discordance in Auckland. The only motorways that have been developed are those that are state highways. Other parts of the motorway network, such as the Eastern Arterial, which is not state highway, has not had assistance. So, we’ve got a pretty good system in Auckland on the few routes that are state highways. The things that aren’t state highways, we do not have the money to begin them. So I think there’s maybe some distortion been caused by funding formulae which are quite arbitrary and the criteria by which you call roads state highways.

Thank you. Next speaker.

Graeme Tuohey

I think what you’ve got to face is an inevitable fact. 80% or more of the traffic movements occur on 20% of the roads. It’s all very well for the economists to talk about paying direct tolls. I don’t know the numbers now but when I was last administering the state highway system, less than 30% of the state highway system, that is the major roads in the country, derived sufficient revenues to pay for their maintenance. The Southern Motorway in Auckland, if you look at it as a revenue source, and we can calculate it and we used to. We know how much traffic is on a road and you know how much revenue you’re getting. The Southern Motorway runs most of the North Island in revenue. That is the problem that you’re facing. Now, if you want to make it economic, you shut down all branch lines. You return most of the rural system to metal. You can’t afford seal. In a lot of places you can’t afford roads. We shouldn’t be building roads up into the hills to create sheep ………..(mumble). Okay.

So the situation that Auckland faces is this. It gets less than 30% of its revenues back spent here. It will always be that way. If you have toll roads as has been advocated here, you will get even more money derived out of your pockets being spent elsewhere because it'll give a lot more revenues for a lot more mad schemes. I see the latest one is to build a bike track round the South Island. So what you’ve got to face is the political reality of convincing the people who derive these funds that the only reason they can spend money derived here, elsewhere, is that is you are economically efficient and you can afford some largesse, but the amount of largesse that you are prepared collectively to allow your political masters to spend elsewhere, for instance in Queenstown - you might go on holiday once or twice there - is up to you. Now the reason, to be cynical, why they’re getting away with it is that you can’t make up your mind what you want to do. You don’t have any commitment to any process, either planning or political, that will get you out of the bog you’ve got in. You’re sitting round, on your hands, debating it. Meanwhile, the funds are being creamed off and lots of people are pork barrelling them all over the country. Your destiny is in your own hands.

Comment - I’d probably just like to add my weight to what Graham Dickson had to say about the supply of funds and the inability of the local authorities to match the subsidies. I think that’s one of the major causes. Moving on from that, just to address a little bit more the allocation of funds, I think the ubiquitous cost benefit or benefit of cost is one of the other problems we’ve got, particularly with the main type of roading system we’re looking at, particularly glum. The benefit of cost is very much the short term minimums. It doesn’t pay for a strategic approach. Unfortunately with a road you either build a lane, or two lanes or three lanes. You can’t build a tenth of a lane. So you get a dis-benefit of ……………..which you’ve got to build this whole thing. So, there’s a problem there I believe in the allocation of funding. The second thing is I think there is a reluctance on the part of some of the decision makers and politicians to take the hard decisions. It’s very easy to do the soft thing that’s going to come up for election. There’s been lots of good work done on roads, designs that will improve the transport facilities, but when it comes to making decisions to designate it, no it’s too hard, we’ll leave it. And of course, the longer you leave it, the harder it becomes.

Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve now got the opportunity to conduct an open forum. We have the seven speakers on stage and this is an opportunity for you now to direct some questions to the seven speakers. Who would like to lead off. Please identify yourself and your organisation. Question - This is a question for Ray Brindle. A certain amount’s made of the fact that in Adelaide apparently they have no motorways at all. I notice that they have a very expensive grid system. Do you think that they’ll able to get away with not having any motorways ……………favour of this grid system? Or is there any other factor at all like maybe they’ve adapted to it somehow?

Answer - Well, they are South Australians for a start. The sun gets up a bit later there and it’s all very laid back. It’s actually a good point. They’re like Toronto. When you go to a place like Adelaide, or anywhere, anywhere, every place has it’s own inevitabilities and characteristics and the thing about Adelaide is that it’s a linear place. It’s squeezed in between those hills. They’re not very high, but it’s enough. And it’s pushed against the coast, so it tends to run up and down. Which, in a way, is an asset and a liability. It would be a liability if Adelaide was growing. But Adelaide is not. It’s been struggling for a long time. You know, we used to think of Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane as the three great sisters and they’re all growing to 500,000, 600,000. One day they’ll all be a million and the three sisters will be one and a half, chasing Melbourne and Sydney. Well, poor old Adelaide, she’s tripped over her skirts and that’s what makes it such a great place to be in. Adelaide is my pick of Australian cities. But your question is about the … I think the road network in a lot of Australian cities, and you’ve got a few, not big ones in New Zealand. I suppose Christchurch’s got a grid.

Same planner.

Oh, Mr Wright. He’s like that statue pointing down ………….Cathedral, saying “You’re out.” I think that grid pattern actually is an attribute for a lot of Australian, a lot of new world cities. We’ve got by with grid street systems. Melbourne did very, very well for a long time. I mean, you’ve mentioned Adelaide but Melbourne didn’t have much in the way of freeways for a long time. It was well into the 1980s before we built anything substantial. So, I think those are attributes that we should exploit. And it is possible for a city that’s got a good basic grid system, that’s prepared to bite the bullet and say we’re eliminating - I must say the word hierarchy here - we’re eliminating the level out of the road hierarchy. We don’t want to contemplate freeways. For some reason they’re not on. Which means we’ve got to get the best we can out of the next level. My Bible back in the 1960s/1970s was NCHRB121, The Protection of Highway Utility. It had nothing to do with pipes or wires, it was actually about the protection of highway ……………… I think Adelaide, with a good bit of Aussie ingenuity about signal efficiencies and so on and a pretty good local traffic engineering crew, they’ve done pretty well out of the system. But it’s in a no-growth system.

Wendell Cox

You’re looking at a couple of things. First of all, Adelaide may not have had motorways till very recently, but it is soon to have the motorway in from Murray Bridge which will go down the hill and get you almost to the CBD. Ray’s absolutely right. But there’s another thing that Adelaide has in addition to its grid system, that I think helps out a lot, and it gets back to the issue that if you don’t want traffic congestion you need to disperse things, not centralise them. Look at a map of Adelaide or go to Adelaide and what do you find? Around CBD and around North Adelaide you have a 2-3 block, I would call it a green belt, that exists that disperses traffic. You have a nice wide street system. I think Adelaide is probably the best planned city in the world. I mean, it doesn’t have the impersonality of a Canberra and it’s really a beautiful city. One of the things that makes it so good is that green belt around the downtown area that disperses traffic. So I think they’ve got some great advantages. I mean, motorways aren’t the end of the earth, but when you are wearing more … in Auckland at this point you certainly need more.

It has a magnificent cricket oval. Alright. Further questions please, ladies and gentlemen.

Question - Sir Barry Curtis, ……………Ellis from the Eastern Post Community Board. It seems to me today that there are a few things which we should be very worried about and I would think it may be difficult for us to change. I don’t know whether you agree with me, Sir Barry, but it might be difficult to change how Transit operates. It might be difficult to change the amount that’s taken into the consolidated fund from road user charges from petrol taxes and vehicle registration, licensing of vehicles because central government seems to depend on that. And then they tell us what are they going to replace it with and we don’t have the answers to that. I think we can do a lot better, though, with the funding that is available to us. We have ……………. things in place. Also the problem that we seem to have with these planning fundamentalists, the ones who want to plan by ‘No, you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that’ and the whole list was given to us by Ray Brindle. So, my question to you, or to the panel, is how do we get rid of these planners. They’re not elected officials. They don’t work for us, other than those where somebody appoints them and they draw salaries that are paid by our rates system. Should we look for an outcome from this meeting to those who …………..and if so, should we be seeking a political solution. If we can’t make a political solution from Wellington, surely we can do this in this region in the upcoming local authority election. Should we be looking for candidates in each ward of each of the cities where the candidates are prepared to subscribe to the completion of the roading system and should we ask them to state that in their manifesto before we support them?

Sir Barry Curtis

It seems to me to be a very good idea, thank you for the question, because I don’t think we should judge the performance of some part or some sectors of Auckland and say that that performance applies throughout metropolitan Auckland. I would strongly defend the achievements of the Manukau City Council with the completion of the roading network. In fact, both Transit and Transfund have complimented the Manukau City Council for the fact that we have virtually completed the vision that we outlined many years ago in the provision of the arterial roading system. I think you need to look elsewhere - I’m not going to say where, it would ill-behove me to say that - but nevertheless, my own local authority has a very strong commitment to the completion of the roading network. I heard somebody make mention of taking the hard decisions. We’re taking the hard decisions in the provision of the extension of Warirua (?) Road through the new major business centre to create some 15,000 jobs over the next 15 years. 500 acres of extent. The new motorway, interchange on the southern motorway. We’ve served the requirements, we’re going through the Resource Management process very shortly, and I hope that that road’s going to be complete so we can provide the direct east-west connector. We built the $45 million Te Irihangi Drive, 7.5 kilometres of extent, the largest local government roading work yet completed in New Zealand. We were grateful for the contribution from Transfund and we’re grateful for the relationship we enjoy with both Transit and Transfund. We’re now moving towards the completion of the south-west motorway from the intersection of Roscommon Road, Papatoetoe motorway and the eastern access to the airport. Coupled with that, incidentally, will be provision for an extension of the rail link. But my local authority is totally committed to the completion of the roading network and we want to see the eastern highway connecting Panmure to the port and the central business district not being considered to be a local authority road, because it is ……………….for Auckland City Council. We want to see it assume the status of a regional road because, not only does it have regional significance, but it has national significance. And I’m going to do my best in the run-up to the local government elections, let me assure you all, to ensure that we get some progress on the introduction of the eastern highway. Let’s start and make some of the tough decisions. So that’s my vision.

Owen McShane

I think we’ve seen one of the disadvantages of the federalism of the local body that one of the strengths that the Auckland region has, you’ve got five competing cities and any talk of the solution is to have one big city. It means we don’t get these competitive viewpoints and indeed that’s part of the problem that Canterbury and Christchurch have. So I really believe in federalism at city levels because you get competing views. One other thing, you did ask how something could be done. This won’t take long. Early in the … when the hour/owl remains …………….. there’s a massive shift in culture. It really turned the whole planning mood - professions, attitudes and so on - on its head. And the judges, of course, are doing the same because of course you can’t fire judges. That resulted … some of the earlier decisions of the Environment Court were disastrous. It’s now been recognised and some of them are being overturned. But one of the early, most disastrous ones, was the one which decided it was legitimate to put a big solid urban fence around Auckland because that was the keystone for all of this new urban style. So you see you’re not allowed to grow out of it and anybody who tried to do a subdivision outside their fence just automatically gets the whole weight of regional council and all business on their back.

Now, I won’t mention names here, because some of the judges have now retired, but I said to them “Well, was there any Section 32 ……………………………………..”. So you see, I believe if we went back to the court, led by one of our cities, with the Chamber of Commerce, and said we want to ……………. for certain things because any Section 32 will show a massive mis-allocation of resources. Not only the work I did with the Reserve Bank, but work that’s been done ……………….in Christchurch just shows you drive up the price of land. You end up with ………………….. and all those terrible things. I believe our case has been won very easily today. I can bring three economists who would devastate that …………………. And I think that the first thing you need to do is to stop all this nonsense of intensification, congestion and pollution.

Wendell Cox

Just speaking on the issue, Owen brought up the issue of regional consolidation by reducing the number of local governments, I was horrified to catch up on the Internet on the ARC site recently to see that the Mayor’s Council is looking at governance options. I would recommend if you don’t like five cities, 70 would make more sense. The worst thing you can do, with all respect you might want to keep Manukau together, with all due respect the worst thing you can do is to combine municipal governments and the basic problem is that local people know who their councillors are. Local people have some control over local government and when you combine governments you get a situation where there isn’t as much accountability and you can expect costs to go up. The experience in the United States and Canada is clear on that. The only regional consolidation with one exception that occurred in Canada and the United States in the last 40 years, 30 years we’ll say, have been imposed by parliamentary provincial governments in Canada. They’re not popular with the people and I always like to go back to what one of our politicians, Abraham Lincoln, said and he said … he talked about government for the people by the people for the people and of the people - got a little bit mixed up there - but I would suggest that government by the people and for the people is government that is closer to the people and anything that you do to make five cities less than that is going to come back and bite you real bad.

Sir Barry Curtis

Thank you, Wendell, I’d like to quote you widely. The fact of the matter is many of us are very happy with the number of local government units in the Auckland region. It’s essentially broken up on a sectoral basis - the north, the west, the central and the southern part - and I think, really, as Ray was talking about earlier on, you know, you need to be a pragmatic dreamer. You need to have a vision and I think what you need to achieve your vision is a lot of leadership within the individual cities and I don’t want to comment on leadership in other parts of the Auckland region either, but suffice to say I think the achievements of certain local governments within the Auckland region and elsewhere have had an enormous amount to do with driving the vision, providing the leadership and working in partnership with funders and other agencies to achieve that vision. I believe in that anyway.

Randal O’Toole

Well, we’ve been talking about institutional arrangements and Graeme made the point that if you don’t have the right institutional arrangements it doesn’t matter how much leadership and vision you’ve got, you’re not going to get anywhere. And with all due respect, one problem of the five cities system is that if one city acts as a hold out, they can screw up the motorway system for the other four because there’s no good communication on the rest ……………. And so, I have a marvellous proposal for a new institutional arrangement. I don’t think this has been tried anywhere for motorways, but I think it could work. In the States, we have a system called Trusts. The trust is a very common-law concept, I’m sure you have it here, and State trusts are obligated to follow trust principles and those principles include the principle of undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries and the principle or responsibility to do, the accountability. The trustees are perfectly accountable for what they do. In other words, the burden of proof isn’t on you to show they’re doing a bad job. The burden of proof is on them to prove to you that they’re doing a good job. So, what I would propose is to create an Auckland Regional Motorway Trust and then give them one of the motorways or some of the motorways, the southern motorway and the northern motorway or whatever. Let them start charging tolls. Or, just give them the right of way that’s, I understand, already available for the eastern motorway but it’s not yet built. And then let them build it and start charging tolls on it. But, the key is that since it’s a trust, the tolls can only be used to benefit the people who were the beneficiaries, which are motorists, people who were paying into the trust. It cannot be used to build bike paths on the southern island, it cannot be used, cannot be taken by the State for any other purpose and this has been proven in the courts in the United States. When a State Legislature says ‘Well, we’re going to take money away from the trust’ or ‘We’re going to tell the trust what to do that isn’t in their trust obligations’, they lose. The State Legislatures cannot do that. So, Motorway Trust, with the funds being generated by the users and the funds going to users, would be away to complete the motorway system and it would be a way to maintain and improve the motorway system over the years and overcome the objections raised by John about funds being spent elsewhere.

We might get an aspiring candidate out there to advance that proposition in the run up to the local Government elections. So there you are.

Okay, it’s 5 past 5. We’ll take one further question, because then I’m going to call upon David Wilmott just to say a few words, please.

John Gotliff from Montgomery Watson. You mentioned the need for planners to be both dreamers and pragmatists. I wonder if you could throw some light on some of the achievements in Kiritiba and how they sort of came about.

Yeah, well, Kiritiba is a community of about 2 million people in Southern Brazil. One of the more affluent communities in Brazil. GDP per capita about half what it is here, so you haven’t fallen behind them yet either. What’s happened there is you have a very strong mayor who came in with a vision, and what this shows is that even a bad process and a bad model can sometimes accidentally produce a good result. And what happened, the usual light rail baloney was going on in the early 1970s, you know, they had to have light rail, they had to have a rail system, but they didn’t have the money. So, what they did was they created a surface busway system, very inexpensively, I mean, incredibly inexpensively. And at this point they’ve got about four busways - surface busway system mind you, they don’t have motorways - surface busway systems that go into the central city, and they are carrying, believe it or not, at times 20,000 people peak direction toward the downtown area. Now, first of all, you can’t find 20,000 people going peak direction anywhere in New Zealand and not very many places in Australia. Maybe Sydney and downtown Melbourne, but they would be the only places. So, this is an incredible system. There have been attempts through the years to try to convert everything to light rail. Fortunately, neither the State nor the City Government has been able to afford it, and fortunately beyond that, the increasingly third world metropolis of Los Angeles has now begun to copy the Kiritiba model and within the last year has started rapid bus lines on surface streets that are carrying larger loads of people at speeds equal to metro speeds at a fraction of the cost. So, the point is what you think you can do with transit, you need to go to Kiritiba and see how to do it because what Kiritiba has proven is that with bus technology, you can achieve anything you think you can possibly achieve with light rail or metro in a community like this and do so at a fraction of the cost. I’m certainly not here to suggest to you that transit is no answer at all. I’m just suggesting that when one has an alternative that is representing 3% of the travel in the Auckland region, it deserves 3% of the attention.

Alright. Thank you very much. We’re looking forward to the introduction of the North Shore busway. When, I’m not sure.

Alright, now can you please join with me, ladies and gentlemen, in thanking our seven speakers. It’s been a very interesting session and I want to thank each and every one of them for a very significant contribution. Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I just ask David Wilmott, a former student from Mt Albert Grammar, a reasonably good hockey player back in the 1950s to come forward. David, thank you very much indeed for what you’ve done today in organising this symposium, this seminar, this forum. I’m very, very grateful to you. I’m only sorry that more of my local government colleagues have not been able to attend. I saw it as an opportunity not only for elected representative, but also planners and other officials employed by the local government to attend and to obtain another point of view to that which has been circulated widely within the Auckland region in the recent past. I do thank you, David, and I’m now going to ask you to come forward and make a few remarks.

Well, thank you so much Sir Barry, for helping us out at this last session and lending it the authority it deserved. It’s my privilege and indeed indebtedness to the sponsors, those people who dipped in their pockets, and the guarantors amongst them who will remain nameless. They were listed among those who have helped us out on the whiteboard earlier on. They’ve also dipped again to shout you all, if you’d like to stay on and beyond, afterwards, for a drink and to meet and discuss with the speakers some of your concerns or questions. The speakers themselves. They have been thanked just now, but I’d like to make it public that all of the local speakers did so without fee. They did so to keep the price down to enable you to attend at a price you could afford. The overseas speakers have charged an absolute rock-bottom fee which, without which they cannot continue their commercial operations, of course. And without their quite stimulating intellectual contributions, this day wouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as it has been. So, I, too, would like to ask you to thank first of all the sponsors and show your appreciation for the refreshments you will enjoy as well as the day that they have provided for us.

And our speakers, I think you’ll agree with me that it’s been a most stimulating day and I do indeed thank you all, fellows, for having come to the party. I think we’ll enjoy ourselves tonight. You’re all invited, as you know, and if you wouldn’t mind spreading yourselves around a bit during the drinks session and we’ll save our own chats for later on. So thank you very much.

And finally to Debbie, Andrea, Leonie and Jan who’ve made today flow smoothly and have taken all the load over the past few days. Thank you so much indeed. And thank you all for coming and sharing this day with us. We just hope that we’ve had some contribution to make that will go beyond these four walls. Thank you.

[ Top of page | Contents ]