Should We Wait At End Of Line?


Estimates for the re-building of Christchurch are being put at $16 billion - but it’s expected in some quarters that even that figure could be conservative.
The reality is that the focus at the moment - quite rightly- is on recovery and finding people or locating bodies and helping those citizens alive but in need of even basics.
There there is the crucial matter of re-connecting essential services.

98 bodies have been recovered at 4pm today including a 5-month old. There are 236 missing and no more sign of life under buildings searched, and the prime minister is warning the final figure will be higher than may have been projected earlier. It’s a very grim sad situation in a small country where many of us may or do know someone among those killed or missing. Sadly we still don’t know the official name of those missings.

People rush to queue for petrol! |@elpie

It will be some time before anyone can be sure about the real extent and cost of the damage beyond the CBD landmarks and outlying areas like Lyttelton and even a guesstimate of the cost of rebuilding crucial infrastructure.

Chch roads will require huge work |} @@sunriseon7

We know the city will look completely difficult when it is re-built. Transport minister Steven Joyce, when visiting Christchurch, told Stuff the city faced a much larger and longer-term problem with its infrastructure than it had after the September quake.
“There is no doubt that it will be challenging and it will be tough socially and economically here for a much longer period of time. There were many roading problems, particularly with widespread liquefaction, and wastewater pipes and sewers bursting through the roads.”

There'll be massive infrastructure bill | @BambooshootOZ

Insurers will meet much of the $16b. The Earthquake Commission coffers will be raided. But it’s still going to have a big dent on the already recession-hit economy especially with Christchurch business largely out of action.

Of course this is not just about the latest quake. The re-building was still going on from the September quake so that cost will add to the cost of this quake as other areas of the city and structures previously unaffected were affected this time around.
Where am I going with this? We need to accept the sensitively of the situation and have to be prepared to re-think the way we make our request for the CBD rail link.
It’s likely an argument will be put forward by the government when the rail link business case evaluation is finished by the Government panel for us to delay getting the loop by quite some years or decades because of the emphasis on re-building the southern city, a task so massive in scale and cost it will be hard to know where to start.

After these initial dreadful weeks, it may be that Aucklanders conclude that this is not the time to consider our own demand and that we should delay the rail link without debate.

A sign of the ruin | @@AlJazSydANDREW

If not, we already know the government will not meet the billion-plus cost of the link so now is the time to be prepared to accept that more private funding has to be found.

Thankfully an Auckland Council report from its transport planners confirms that Auckland Council is already “identifying options for funding in relation to the city centre rail link.”

It says: “Discussions with central government will be needed to identify any funding allocation in the GPS towards aspects of that project, whether capital or operational.”

Auckland Council also says it wishes to explore alternative funding sources for Auckland’s transport programme and work collaboratively with central government.

“The Regional Land Transport Strategy has identified a funding shortfall in order to deliver on the goals and targets in the RLTS and a need to explore alternative transport funding arrangements. If additional projects are brought forward into the first ten years, then this will be critical in terms of enabling those projects to proceed.

“There is an opportunity to achieve a greater transport programme and better outcomes through expanding transport funding arrangements. There are likely to be some funding alternatives which require input from central government, such as a review of financial assistance rates, which Auckland Council wishes to work closely with central government on. It is accepted that investigations into alternative funding sources may not be done in time to affect the next GPS, but would be needed to affect subsequent GPS’s. ”
(The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding (GPS) sets out the government’s priorities for spending from the National Land Transport Fund over the next 10 years.)
Constructing the city centre rail link by 2021 and further increasing rail frequency and capacity is part of the Regional Strategy.
The council also notes that the next GPS needs to provide for new funding arrangements in relation to rail which are expected to be agreed over the coming months. “If the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) is to contribute to rail operational costs in Auckland, then the next GPS needs to ensure the allocation of funding to passenger transport is increased to take into account an agreed rail funding arrangement for Auckland.”

So many cars came to grief |@ @SebCostello3AW

Right now this is about Christchurch and the dreadful tragedy which gets worse by the hour, as more grim death toll statistics are released.
But soon, the debate about paying the cost of infrastructure repairs and its impact on future projects like the CBD link - and what is fair and manageable - will begin.

And while not taking away the genuine worrying concern about the situation in Christchurch, it’s a debate we should start thinking about.




  1. Cam says:

    Of course rebuilding of Christchurch’s infrastructure is first priority. No nobody would argue about that, and that’s what will happen.

    With regards to Auckland’s rail link, it’s a non issue - this government was never going to put money towards that anyway it was always going to have to wait for seven to ten years, so it’s not like that choice was ever going to come into the equation.

    More likely this could effect Puford as money earmarked for that could (and should) be put towards repair of Christchurch’s roads.

  2. Donald Neal says:

    Speaking of better transport outcomes, would it not make at least as much sense to be asking whether Christchurch should be rebuilt as a city of 400 000 without suburban rail service or whether the need for a lot of rebuilding isn’t also an opportunity?

    And yes, opportunities like that may well need some changes to priorities.

  3. Feijoa says:

    The bulk of the cost will fall on private insurers/reinsurers and the EQC, so although the government will be up for a big bill it shouldn’t put a halt to all other spending. The cost will be spread over many years, and a huge amount of money will be coming from overseas (we don’t really have local reinsurers) which the government will end up collecting tax on that it otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Spending on economy-building projects such as the CBD rail link will become even more of a priority than government spending on projects with negative economic benefits such as the Puhoi-Wellsford motorway. That’s even before you take into account the petrol price rises that will be coming with the situation in the Middle East and the falling kiwi dollar…

    It is still very early days though, and our leaders should be focused on the rescue and human cost above all else at the moment.

  4. Matt L says:

    I actually think a bit differently about cancelling or deferring projects. The cost to repair Christchurch is going to be huge and if we try to manage it by just cutting spending it is going to impact the economy for decades and mean that other areas are left without investment for substantial periods of time.

    I think we need to keep investing in infrastructure in places like Auckland to drive economic growth which will go some way to helping to pay for the repairs down there and the CBD tunnel with a BCR of 3.5 with WEBs is an ideal way to do that. Auckland is also the ideal place to be trying to drive growth as any improvement in economic performance is going to have much more impact nationally that it would from other regions.

  5. Matt says:

    It’s a terrible tragedy but in rebuilding, let’s hope that they (and that “they” includes my employers) have some say and the power to make some positive changes to Christchurch - a well thought out public transport system would go a long way to really improving the city. Much as Napier was rebuilt and made absolutely stunning with Art Deco architecture after the big one in 1931, let’s hope that Christchurch is treated as a whole when the rebuilding is considered, not a whole lot of little tenders and jobs to dole out to everyone. Someone needs to be the “big picture guy” for the city when the rebuilding starts.

    And to be fair, if the lazy ass commuters in Auckland could be bothered to walk up queen street etc from the Britomart, we wouldn’t even need a CBD rail link. It’s a colossal waste of a billion dollars if you ask me. Put trams in instead and revitalise the CBD for tourists. San Francisco has the right idea. Locals travel for free (or nominal rates) and the tourists pay the going rate. It would pay for itself in no time, not to mention being an awesome way to see the sights.

  6. Matt says:

    if the lazy ass commuters in Auckland could be bothered to walk up queen street etc from the Britomart, we wouldn’t even need a CBD rail link

    bzzzzzt, wrong answer. The link would be essential with or without intermediate stations, because it’ll open Britomart station to through traffic. Without it, Britomart will be at operating capacity within the next year.

    Plus, I don’t consider it “lazy ass” to not be thrilled about walking 1-2km in a suit, carrying a laptop and briefcase, in the middle of winter. (or summer) People everywhere treat an 800m trip as the outside edge of how far they’re prepared to walk to engage with public transport.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Insurance doesn’t cover infrastructure rebuild does it?
    I heard the Earthquake commission coffers is estimated to be reduced by $3b of around $6b which covers two earthquakes for only residential property.

  8. Matt says:

    Jeremy, hard to tell. The Crown doesn’t insure anything (raising all kinds of questions about freeloading on the Fire Service which is funded entirely from insurance levies, and some of which ends up going into the general Crown fund!), instead just funding reconstruction of damaged state assets from tax income.
    Local authorities can insure their infrastructure if they wish, but I don’t know if it’s terribly common.

    EQC is on the hook for a lot more than $3b. It has an outstanding liability of $1.5b from September, at which point its reinsurance kicked in and the upper limit of that reinsurance was not breached. With Tuesday’s quake, however, the $3.3b of reinsurance (from $1.5b to $4.8b) will absolutely be insufficient so EQC will have to go back to the bank. It has funds of $6.5b, and $3b of that is definitely accounted for. It’s how much the remaining $3.5b will be hit that’s uncertain.

  9. Martin says:

    Whilst what has happened in Christchurch is sad, the momentum being built up for this needed rail improvement in Auckland should not be lost, or else it will end up like the 1970s public transport plans for Auckland; a huge opportunity lost.

  10. James B says:

    First up, very sad for Christchurch.

    I actually think this could make Auckland and Wellington projects more important. Christchurch will be focusing on rebuilding what was lost for some years. This will no doubt make new building more expensive as contractors, councils etc will be focusing on other projects making new housing developments more expensive and also dragging out things like consents. This, I think, will cause people to either move out of Christchurch or if they were planning on moving there to change plans and move to another part of the country. Auckland and Wellington will no doubt bear the brunt of this immigration wave being the larger centres. Also a lot of people may choose to move to Auckland simply because they are scared of another earthquake (who can blame them really) and Wellington is not exactly an option for them either.

  11. Penfold says:

    The first question to be asked in looking to rebuild Christchurch should be how many people will stay and how many people will move there in the foreseeable future? I think this quake may put a significant halt on growth and could easily lead to say 50,000 people leaving the city (if anyone has case histories of other cities devastated by natural disasters and the population changes I’d be interested). Whilst sounding mercenary the first question should be are we rebuilding for a city that will grow to 500,000 by 2030 or shrink to less than 300,000 by 2030? This would then have a large impact on priorities for rebuilding.


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