Confirmed: Ministry thinks Auck. rail development “risky”


The truth is DSCN2456finally out and it’s ugly. Papers obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act show the transport ministry had “deep concerns” about the plans for developing the rail network in Auckland, saying it remained an “ongoing technical and fiscal risk to the Government.”

The ministry complained to the new minister that it had not been involved in advising on recent rail investments under the previous Labour Government so that has now changed with the Minister putting the ministry as the ones making the recommendations instead of Treasury.

Not only was the government having concerns about Auckland’s rail development but the ministry opposed the proposed Auckland regional fuel tax to help pay for it even though Treasury was OK with it.

So what actually is going on with Auckland’s rail development now?
Minister Steven Joyce, speaking this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report, said: “We’re working on governance of MetroRail - the principles around that. There’s a bit of work going on in terms of who’s best to own the trains. In principle, we’ve made the decision it’s KiwiRail. We need to decide whether to confirm that decision in the next month or two. We’re just working our way through it and we’ll have it all tided up in the next couple of months.”

OK, governance aside - what hope is there for Auckland rail if the transport ministry, now in the driving seat, thinks there is technical and fiscal risk to Auckland getting a modern rail service and what exactly are its justifications for such nonsense?

As Labour Party transport spokesperson Darren Hughes described Joyce’s attitude this week: “National cannot see beyond tarseal.”

We now have a Minister of Tarseal

We now have a Minister of Tarseal

He says the minister has made it clear as recently as a few days ago in parliament that he sees no future investment planned for KiwiRail.

Labour’s spokesman went on: “Labour has always acknowledged that rail does not necessarily conform to a short-term commercial model. If that is how National is going to treat it, then rail is being set up to fail.Labour believes that investing in rail can be justified on a long-term basis. That is not a romantic notion, as Mr Joyce scoffs. It is a commitment to New Zealand’s future transport options.”

He says the spat between Treasury and the Transport Ministry has undermined Auckland’s plans to upgrade its transport system, particularly the train network and the losers are Aucklanders.

We sure are. We were conned into thinking National would continue with Labour’s plans for rail development and thousands of commuters have opted for trains in the hope things will soon get better.

It’s time for the mindless Wellington inter- governmental department battles to stop and for the Minister to come out now once and for all and tell us exactly what the Government will do about Auckland’s rail plans, whether they will continue, how they will be funded and whether National can think beyond tarseal. Right now, it’s hard to see it.

(Thanks Anthony Blomfield for the tip)




  1. Andy says:

    Risky? Like how? It confirms our worst fears. From now on, it’s cars, trucks, road freight and to hell with rail. The transport ministry must be full of petrolhead morons.

  2. Sarah from Meadowbank says:

    I am shocked. We need Labour and the Greens back in there. I hope they start making lots of noise. We can’t afford to have any slowdown in the electrification development plans. Your posts this week have already shown how the system is creaking.

  3. Cambennett says:

    Not surprising at all. The current administration will not fund anything not already planned, committed to and/or started by the last government. They will then claim these projects as evidence of their investment in public transport and use that as justification to not spend anymore.

    The RTF dictates transport policy in this country. The best we can hope for is that they get turfed out after one term. Although that does not look likely.

  4. William M says:

    Broken record player. I mean, really, we come to this point every decade or so. We tell the government we need electrification and improvements to the infrastructure (of which has an average age of 25-30 years!), they’re a bunch of yes (wo)men around election time and then they turn their backs at the last minute (fuel tax, funding road projects).

    I expect I will repeat this on a forum in 10-20 years time, and we will still have the same failing, decrepit rail network. See you then!

  5. Trent says:

    Give the government a go guys. They are supporting public transport - there is a lot of rail development still going on. But unlike the one-eyed Greens they see it as part of the big picture and for the economy we need to encourage road freight as well as rail and motorways need to enable goods and people to move around a geographiclaly-challenged country.

  6. AR says:

    We are governed by IDIOTS! Petrol-heads who cant think beyond roads. Gaah

  7. Cambennett says:

    Trent, they are not supporting public transport at all. They are just not cancelling projects already started by the last government. They have not announced any new rail/public transport initiatives. They have however promised to spend billions on roads including projects like four laning puhoi to Wellsford.

    It would be fine if as you say they were encouraging both rail and road freight but they are not. Do you not think it would make sense in an economy facing a decade of defecits that our transport policy should be geared to trying to minimise the amount of oil we have to import? That would be looking at the big picture in my opinion.

    Geographically challenged?? What exact geographic challenges does NZ have that are not found anywhere else in the world.

  8. Sam F says:

    Y’know, I would have thought that better public transport, and thus less unnecessary car trips clogging our current road system, would actually make driving faster and more pleasant for those who need to or want to keep driving anyway.

    But no, in the eyes of the great Deciders, to be pro-public transport is always to be anti-road and anti-car, whatever mere Earth logic might suggest.

  9. rytc says:

    The government has made it clear that they don’t support PT and this was clear throughout the election. People who claim they were fooled by National obviously didn’t bother to listen to what they were saying.

    Also, all current projects are carryovers from ones initiated as part of Project DART under Labour. National has not only refused to spend further money but has cut close to 500 million from the PT budget for the year and plans to make further cuts going forward. This is excluding money from the fuel-taxes that would have also gone into PT. It should also be noted that the government will not be paying for electric trains, they will instead be guaranteeing the loan that KiwiRail will need to take out to pay for the trains. This means that KiwiRail will have to recoup the costs of maintaining this multi-billion dollar debt through increased service charges, and delayed maintenance and upgrades. In effect we will end up with a TranzRail who’s main interest was to maintain a positive balance sheet.


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