English Dismisses Rail Plans


Finance Minister Bill English today poured cold water on Auckland’s planned rail projects such as the CBD link, airport rail and North Shore rail.
He labelled the plans so far “airy fairy” and declared: “We have much higher priorities than potentially uneconomic public transport projects in Auckland.”
Speaking on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme, he told Kathryn Ryan he could not rule them out but had not seen “any propositions anything like clear enough to be able to cost them.”
Asked if that meant no government money for Len Brown’s promised three rail projects, Bill English replied:
“We are not in a position to be able to rule anything in or out just because the propositions are still pretty airy fairy.
“I mean there’s a few people in Auckland who want extensive rail throughout the city.
“Rail, at our experience as owners of KiwiRail, is horrendously expensive,
“There is a very little return. Unless you have millions of people stacked up in high rise apartments such as they have in Hong Kong or Singapore, then its almost certainly wont be economic.
“So Auckland has to think through very carefully where to put their dollar. Then after that, I presume they will come and talk to government.

Key, plus Joyce & English giving disturbing signals

He said the government spent around 5b on infrastructure around Auckland - $3b on roads about $1.5b on rail.
“So that’s spreading our investment across both private and public transport, though many of those projects were 20 or 30 years in the making, some of them just recent. So the idea was to finish the highway network, to get the current configuration of rail working well.
“Any further development from there will have to involve willingness on the part of Auckland users and ratepayers to pay for it.”




  1. DanC says:

    But lets build a holiday highway instead with tax payers dollars as the world is facing oil supply issues. Is anyone else getting this?

  2. Draco T Bastard says:

    Yeah, I’m seeing it. Blinglish, and the rest of the NACTs are proving themselves delusional again.

  3. Matt L says:

    So what will he say when a business case comes out for the rail tunnel that is higher than roads like Puhoi to Wellsford?

    I think part of the problem is that many national MPs are from rural areas and they just don’t understand Auckland and why PT is important.

  4. Willuknight says:

    how uneconomical is the bloody holiday highway? I’m taking my vote to Labour/Greens next election and telling everyone else I can to do the same. Key can eat his roads of national significance.

  5. James B says:

    @Matt L: That is definately a huge problem. A lot of the senior leadership of the Nats are so provincial in thinking that they treat Auckland, which is New Zealand’s only real city, as just another town. Auckland has different needs than the rest of the country.

  6. DanC says:

    Do I not get something? Am I missing something? We can either have a rebuilt widened road with average use, or a completely new railway carrying 1000′s of people environmentally friendly to & from different parts of the CBD boosting growth and saving time? What am I missing?

  7. BD says:

    What ever Bill English says is irrelevant, I’m not at all surprised by the National Party’s reaction towards this. As long as Len Brown sticks to his guns and presses for his rail projects this is all good.

    The meeting he had with Key doesn’t indicate that he has backed down in my opinion more to the point that he realizes the heat of the National party and their resentment towards public transport spending.

    I’m pretty sure Brown’s vision is genuine and he will continue to press for his rail projects. On the bright side when the new Auckland council comes into action he will have more support behind his back, hopefully the people he appoints will be pro rail people, and this will enable him to turn the heat up on Key even more.

    We live in a democracy if there is enough support for his rail plans they will happen. Brown also needs to convince Key and his crew that rail transport will generate a good return on their investment. At the moment the government don’t seem convinced and he realizes that he will need push even harder to secure central government funding for the projects as this is the only way that they will happen.

    I bet if businesses started throwing their support for his projects National would put forward their funding in no time, this is what Brown needs to do. National won’t do something unless they think it will make them money.

  8. John Dalley says:

    Let’s see how fast smile and wave and the mayor of double Dipton back off when they start to feel the wrath of Auckland voters.

  9. Louis says:

    Seriously what are the chances of National being ousted at the next elections if Labour are not willing to back Public Transport as a high priority at the next general elections?

    The AIAL have thrown their support for PT to be in place before 2020, and have noted that PT to the Airport is comparatively weak compared to other destinations. Will Labour/Greens pick up on this? Probably not, that was quoted in Dec 2009.

    Really the only safe Auckland block of voters for Labour are in the South, could Labour cause a swing in their own or National marginal seats in Auckland? Possibly, though we can only speculate that they will pick up on Public Transport, which could be a maker/breaker in the next elections?

    Until then it’s going to be a slow and hard road for Len and his PT vision in Auckland.

  10. Andy says:

    Sometimes I just really feel like leaving an obscene comment on topics like this but I shall refrain…….

    “There is a very little return.”
    How about roads? I guess it’s the gas tax they want!

  11. Joshua says:

    the thing with National they have the step up on Labour with everything apart from Transport, assuming Labour grab on to the opportunity. It would steel a lot of votes, but the question is will it be enough for them.

  12. come get some says:

    I’m guessing their higher priorities are potentially uneconomic trucking routes

    Roading, in my experience as a car owner, is horrendously expensive…

    “the idea was to finish the highway network, to get the current configuration of rail working well.”

    I was under the impression that The Holiday Highway was never on the cards and was never included in the scope of “completing the motorway network’ (whatever that means) and it has only just recently become a project of (national party) significance.

    This government is disgusting, it is only trumped by our do nothing opposition who fail to pick up on this shit. As a Labour party member I’m personally appalled and will probably shift my vote to the Greens, atleast Gareth and Russel are trying, albeit weakly

  13. Cam says:

    If Lord double dipton can’t say anything intelligent he really should keep his mouth closed. The level of ignorance here is embarressing. Do we really need a farm boy from Southland telling us about urban transport? After all what he knows about the subject could fit on a pin head and he dosn’t live here.

    Mr 22% should stick to what he does best, whatever that is.

  14. Kurt says:

    We are just filthy Jafa’s arent will Bill. Should try coming to Auckland some time.

    Remember we more than any other city bailed out South Canterbury Finance as well for your farmer mates.

  15. Nats love Rail - Yeah Right! says:

    Perhaps a few Nat MP’s in Auckland need to be railroaded out at the next election.

    Useless MP’s like Nikki Kaye, who do nothing, should be on the target list. Joyce and Blinglish are provencial idiots

  16. Anthony Blomfield says:

    Bill English

    can you give the ministry to Roger Douglas,

  17. Kel says:

    Well maybe Auckland can start stacking people up in apartments around the train stations then to curb that awful urban sprawl then…

  18. Cam says:

    @Kel, nope can’t do that now. Central government is taking control of our planning process and they want sprawl. It’s great to have people from Dipton, Nelson and other small provincial centres planning the future of Auckland i’m sure their poorly informed more of the same approach will lead to better outcomes than in the past.

    @Nats love rail - agree Nikki Kaye is next to uselss as an MP for central Auckland she needs to be turfed out at the next election and someone who will actually advocate for what’s best for their electorate should be brought in.

  19. greg says:

    > A lot of the senior leadership of the Nats are so provincial in thinking that they treat Auckland, which is New Zealand’s only real city, as just another town.

    This is the kind of ignorant attitude that makes the rest of the country laugh at jafas.

    How is Auckland a city in ways that Wellington is not? Get real.

  20. anthony says:

    I agree with you Greg. Aucklanders shouldn’t be so focused on themselves. Otherwise it would get as bad as America not knowing where Mexico is or Wether Canada has Universities.

  21. Cam says:

    Who cares if the rest of the country has a problem with Auckland. That’s for them to worry about it. This is about Auckland getting the infrastructure it needs as NZ’s largest (by far) and fastest growing (by far) city. Petty provincialisim shouldn’t come into it.

    @Greg how is Auckland different from Wellington?? Well a population difference of about 1.1 million people for a start. You are kind of proving the point whether you like it or not Auckland it a different proposition to anywhere else in NZ and has different needs.

  22. Suwooop says:

    Not only do we need new rail but new politicians as well - politicians who want the best for Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.

  23. Matt says:

    Greg, how is Auckland different?

    Try a population of tertiary students that’s bigger than every city and town that’s smaller than Palmy - which is pretty much all of them, including Nelson. And Dipton.
    Or a population larger than Greater Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin combined.

    We dwarf every other population centre in the country, by any conceivable metric, but the pollies who’re deciding what Auckland’s priorities should be are mostly from, and representing the mindsets of, towns - places that, in much of the world, would be considered to be quaint but glorified villages. Your attitude sums up the parochial approach to Auckland that these politicians are taking absolutely perfectly.

  24. Anthony says:

    Keen to start the Auckland Party.

    I’ll be a starter. Conservative Libertarian.

    But some some clever Social systems.

  25. Matt says:

    Anthony, that sounds rather like the worst of Act and National all rolled into one.

  26. greg says:

    So far I have heard not one reason why Auckland is -and I quote- New Zealand’s only real city.

    I suggest you suburban JAFAs broaden your minds by visiting yes real cities such as Edinburgh or Zurich and yes Wellington let them know why Auckland is “a real city” and their under 500,000 pop is not.


  27. J says:

    I’ve been to cities much smaller than Auckland that have invested in rail. The government’s comments always seem to have a short to medium rather than long term focus (which I suppose reflects the term of their tenure). The problem is that no one ever seems to have a long term view of Auckland’s PT development, so we always get piecemeal imperfect number 8 wire development. I had seen electrification and extension of the rail network as hugely significant. The CBD loop and airport/North Shore extensions are part of our long term PT solutions and must not come off the table.

  28. Cam says:

    Oh dear looks like we have an angry Wellingtonian with a chip on his shoulder here. Looking to grind you little axe here eh buddy? Feel free if it makes you feel better.

    Just to let you know Greg I don’t need to broaden my horizens, i’ve been to Zurich and Edinburgh (not sure why you think the latter an example of a great city but each to their own) I have visted Wellington (in fact I was born there) many times and Christchurch for that matter and I really like both places.

    I have also visted New York, LA, Hartford, London, Newcastle stle upon Tyne, Manchester, Brussels, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Venice, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra to name a few. So I have persepective, but thanks for the suggestion. I would suggest you visit Auckland, then you might understand how it differs from other places in NZ, might give you a better idea of what we are talking about here. Then you could actually contribute to this discussion in a more informed manner

  29. greg says:

    meh i am not even from Wellington. Yes, I’ve been there many times, the same to Christchurch and Auckland. ALL of them are real cities. It is offensive and provincial to suggest otherwise.

    Keep telling yourselves Auckland is the only real city in NZ

  30. karl says:

    The point here is not whether Wellington is different or not. Totally immaterial.

    Give Auckland its fair PER CAPITA share of transport funding (which is going to be several times more than Welly, that’s where 1.1million more people should make the main difference).

    Then, let AUCKLANDERS, not MPs, decide what Auckland needs.

    Creating an Auckland-Welly debate is nice and divisive, and gets everyone’s hackles up - some people, including politicians, like that. It makes it much easier to deny Auckland’s wishes.

  31. Matt L says:

    Greg – This isn’t a debate about what are real cities and what aren’t. The reality is that Auckland is about 3 times the size Christchurch and almost 4 times the size of Wellington. Roads may be the best solution for other towns and cities in the country but roads alone will not solve Auckland’s problems and the size of the city means that a different approach to type and scale of the infrastructure is needed.

    Add to this that compared to its population, there has been a historical under investment in infrastructure in Auckland and it still appears that this will continue to happen. Also if you take into account that the city is expected to take about 75% of the nations population growth over the next 40 years and it makes it even worse. Despite this, any suggestion that Auckland should get more or even its fair share of funding gets people outside the city jumping up and down saying why should my taxes pay for X in Auckland.

    At the end of the day, if Auckland doesn’t get the infrastructure that it needs then the cities performance will drop and put more pressure on the rest of the economy. Putting in the right infrastructure will enable it to keep growing which will benefit the rest of the country. Of course if Auckland has to pay for things like rail itself then I’m sure the government and the rest of the country will be happy to forgo the extra tax that the increased economic activity generates ….. yeah right.

  32. Matt says:

    Greg, if Auckland were to declare independence tomorrow and retain every cent of road and other tax revenue generated within the boundaries of Megatropolis, we’d be fine. Our infrastructure would be fine, our standard of living would be fine. Nothing would change. The provinces, however, would be thoroughly screwed. Even Wellington would struggle.
    But we don’t get back all the money that we generate, in roading or in anything else. And if we’re not allowed our share then we want to at least be allowed to say how it’s spent rather than being told how to spend it.

  33. Joyce took PT funding says:

    National Party is a bunch of farmers in suits - telling Auckland what to do. Get ride of the Nats out of Auckland - like Citizens and Ratepayers - their time has come.

    Auckland doesn’t need small town thinking farmers running our city.

  34. Matthew says:

    I hope Len follows through and really makes some noise on the issue. What better way to ‘unite’ Auckland than to be the mayor who stuck it to central government and instigated a comprehensive regional PT network connecting all the corners of this isthmus.

  35. Cam says:

    The other thing that’s noticable here is the silence from our limp and directionless opposition. They can’t see the oppurtunity here. They really are gormless and deserve the thumping they will get at the next election.

  36. Jon C says:

    @Cam Greens don’t miss a trick but it’s fascinating there hasn’t been a word from Labour about the Brown rail plans. Maybe they have been fixated on the Carter weirdness and party conference.

  37. Luke says:

    Goff said when introducing Len Brown on friday night that ‘Labour are right behind him’ with regards to his public transport plans.
    Havent heard anything from Darren Hughes unfortunately but David Shearer and other Labour members have talked about it favourably.

  38. Nick R says:

    I’m waiting for the headline:
    “Rail fans dismiss English”!

    Surely the main thing is to ‘pull a Brown’ at the election next year, a Labour-Green coalition would have to be the most likely to support the councils vision.


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