Brown Denies Backing Down


Auckland’s new Mayor hasn’t “rolled over” on the issue of wanting the government to help approve big rail projects for Auckland.

The Herald reports this morning that during a meeting with the prime minister last night, “Len Brown his support to the Government’s $1.6 billion “holiday highway” from Puhoi to Wellsford despite promising Aucklanders his first priority would be improving rail services.”

I asked the Mayor’s spokesman if he had backed down in the wake of pressure from transport minister Steven Joyce to get his pet Puhoi project happening. Len Brown also met the transport minister yesterday afternoon.

A spokesman for Mayor Brown told AKT: “Len Brown was stating that while he knows the government has placed a high priority on that project, he wants to discuss with government a range of other issues, like establishing the new Auckland Council and other elements of his transport plan. As he said, his primary priorities are outside the roading network and he wants some major go-forward in terms of investment in rail and public transport.”

John Key and Len Brown at Eden Park last Sunday

This week the transport minister has given no indication  that he would agree to any further rail projects at this stage beyond the agreed rail electrification, indicating the CBD loop had yet to be considered and any new projects would require considerable financial input from the council itself.

But too much is being read into yesterday’s events.

This is only week one - in fact the council doesn’t properly start until November 1 and yesterday’s meet and greet sessions were only the start of discussions on a wide range of issues.




  1. BD says:

    This is backing down but trying to twist it into making us believe that he is still going to deliver the bottom line is as long as National remain in power, no further improvements will be made to public transport, especially with the Minister of roads person still in power.

    Len Brown obviously doesn’t have as much power as National, who knows what went on between them, but my understanding is that he was forced to accept Steven Joyce’s pet project, against his own freewill and everyone elses.

    It is backing down pure and simple!!!!!!!

  2. Matt says:

    BD, apparently Brown said during campaigning that he supports the Puhoi-Wellsford project. If that’s true, then he clearly hasn’t backed down at all.

    And of course National has more power. Brown cannot do anything that central government disallows. Auckland Council can only do as much as is permitted by relevant legislation. If they so chose, Key and Joyce could make it thoroughly impossible for any of Brown’s transport platform to happen

  3. Doloras says:

    BD’s right - it’s backing down, caving, betraying the voters, pure and simple. It’s a straight choice - holiday highway means NO CBD tunnel because there’s not enough money for both.

    My personal theory is that Key/Joyce have blackmail material on Brown (like who was at that $810 dinner?) - which is probably why they allowed him to win, rather than campaigning full-tilt for Banksie.

  4. Matt says:

    I really am curious what you think Brown could do to stop the project. Either of you? Throw his toys? Have a tanty? Threaten to go to the media about how it’s a scandalous waste of money? And then what? Joyce and Key would lock the transport purse up tighter than Fort Knox, and Auckland would have to beg to keep the money it’s already getting. National have Brown over a barrel just by dint of having the cheque book. They don’t need any dirt on him, they just need to make Godfather-like comments about what a shame it would be if there were no money available at all for public transport development in Auckland.

    Doloras, apparently Brown said during the campaign that he supports the project. If so, he hasn’t backed down, or caved, he’s stayed on the path he set down. Why he said that I don’t know, but when you’re trying to be elected mayor for the entire region it’s a bit of a campaign killer to say that, actually, you don’t want to see money spent in part of your constituency.

  5. Doloras says:

    It’s not a matter of stopping the project. The only reason we have to choose between CBD tunnel and holiday highway is Bill English’s tight purse strings. The only way those could be loosened would be by massive public political pressure, on the streets, making it clear that National will lose Auckland in 2011 without the CBD tunnel.

    So: if Len Brown were actually serious, he would certainly have not expressed support for the holiday highway, because the meanest intelligence could tell you that this will be used by the Government: “even the Supermayor supports the highway, so we’re doing it, so we can’t afford rail, so screw you”. It’s rolling over, showing his belly.

    No - what Len would do, if he were serious, would be calling on Aucklanders to organise petitions, letters to their MPs, street demonstrations, even civil disobedience (remember how successful the Harbour Bridge thing was?) to demand CBD TUNNEL STARTED BY 2014. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the nads to do that so he’s going to get screwed over, like the “nice guy” he is.

    I say again: Mike Lee could have done it.

  6. Matt says:

    Have you actually read what Brown said? The closest the Herald could come to him voicing support was

    “Clearly the Government have got the bit between their teeth in terms of Puhoi to Wellsford,” Mr Brown said. “It’s a road of national significance. I’m not going to get myself overly involved in that debate.”

    That’s pretty lame support.

  7. Chris R says:

    I can’t see how people see Brown’s comment as support?

  8. BD says:

    yes you are right guys, Brown didn’t say that he was going to oppose the construction of the highway. It sounds like to me Brown’s visit to Mr Key was a waste of time, simply pure ignorance on the National party front.

    I strongly believe Brown wanted to talk public transport issues but this kept falling to death ears by Mr Key and his crew saying they don’t want anything to do with it. Without central government support it would be extremely impossible to deliver Brown’s rail vision. At the end of the day the main purpose of the dinner was to tell Mr Brown to accept the Roads of National Significance and get on with your job which I don’t think is speaking in the national interest.

    National claim that they have to sort the motorway’s out first, when they can clearly see that railway transport is growing as well and Britomart is struggle with the increase in train services.

    They should in my opinion balance transport spending so that it’s fair to everyone, rather than put all their eggs in one basket which is what the Roads of National Significance is all about.

    Holiday Highway is not only as waste of money it’s a bad idea in the first place, it will have limited access points, take a long time to plan and build, and it won’t solve the safety problem on the existing road. It’s obviously a pet project.

  9. Chris R says:

    BD - if you are right, then Aucklanders need to send a very strong message to Key and Joyce that they are “gone by November 2011″

  10. Matt says:

    Chris R: Key, B’linglish and Joyce have made it perfectly clear to anyone who’s listening that any new rail project at all in the next five years, and any new rail project in the next 20 years that’s not the CBD tunnel, won’t be happening while they’ve got their grubby paws on the cheque book. The gauntlet has been thrown.

    What’s unfortunate for Brown is that he has to work with these monkeys for at least the next 10-12 months. Making too much noise about the transport thing will compromise his ability to get through anything else he might want. It’s easy for us here to get lost in the public transport bubble and lose sight of the much, much wider job that Brown has on his plate.

  11. Ian says:

    Politics has always been about strategic concessions in order to gain an advantage elsewhere.

  12. Matt says:

    As a Wellingtonian (or near enough) I’ll offer the money that is going on the Transmission Gully Motorway for the Auckland CBD Rail loop. It doesn’t matter that the money would be going to Auckland. Better that than being wasted.

  13. Steve says:

    The cynic in me thinks Key is playing this for all it is worth so he can see how the first 6 months of AC plays out and then magically find some $$ for the CBD loop just before the election once it becomes clear (clearer?) that enough Auckland voters give a toss about it to the point where it could cost them votes.

    I think what we are seeeing are the opening positions of both sides, Key especially won’t want to continue to stall the ambitions of the region if it means losing the election..

  14. joust says:

    :-) lol, cheers @Matt, I can see our new slogan now: “Auckland - better than being wasted.”

  15. karl says:

    Yes, I was disappointed by Brwon’s comment - but I don’t feel betrayed or anything. It’s not like he promised to stop Puhoi-Wellsford., or that he has a big lever to use in stopping the project anyway.

    Brown’s business is not to STOP the holiday highway, it is to GET rail for Auckland. We did not elect him on the first matter, and it isn’t “either the one or the other” either. In fact, with Nats keeping to push Puhoi, one has a good argument for doing the CBD tunnel “because”, so they can show how “balanced” they are.

    Getting something done is always harder than getting something stopped. Let Brown work on the getting stuff, that’s what we should decide his qualities on.

    All that said, more bad perception than bad policy for Brwon to not make Puhoi opposition his centerpiece. Leave that to others, like Mike Lee, or the CBT. That way, the project can still be shown up for how horrible it is, but Brown isn’t yet compromising his deals with the Nats which he might be able to make.

  16. karl says:

    “and then magically find some $$ for the CBD loop just before the election once it becomes clear (clearer?) that enough Auckland voters give a toss about it to the point where it could cost them votes.”

    I have no problem with that. Bribing voters with something that is actually useful is… well, actually useful.


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