Lightweight vs Heavyweight Contest


Labour’s supposed transport spokesman Shane Jones has finally got around to asking the transport minister a question in Parliament.

But he pretty much got chewed up in the process without making much headway.

It does feel like an amateur against an old pro.

In the process Transport Minister Steven Joyce went as far as to concede it is possible that the central business district rail link is the next project in Auckland, but, once again added that “rather than bolting towards it without any consideration of the costs, as the Labour Party is doing, I think we have to ask some tough questions.”

Labour really does need to do its homework if it is going to take on such issues. Especially when it comes to comparing the CBD Rail Link of National Significance with the Puhoi Holiday Highway!

These guys are old pros when it comes to answering questions

MP Jones asked: By how many percentage points has public transport patronage in Auckland increased over the past three years, and how does this compare to the percentage increase in state highway volumes over the same period?

This is how the Q&A went:

STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) : Good news! The Government has made excellent progress. Public transport trips have increased 20 percent in Auckland over the last 3 years, mostly due to an 18 percent increase in bus patronage. That means that about 6 percent of all journeys to work in Auckland now use public transport. This compares with State highway volumes, which increased just under 1 percent in the last 3 years. However, they still, of course, make up around 90 percent of all journeys to work. Finally, I congratulate the member on asking his second oral question since he took over—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no—order! Supplementary question, the Hon. Shane Jones. [Interruption] I want to hear the Hon Shane Jones’ supplementary question.

Hon Shane Jones: It is good to see that the Minister knows how to count to two, rather than one, which always looks like “I”. Why does the draft—

Mr SPEAKER: The House will come to order. The Minister can see what happens when the Standing Orders are not complied with. The Standing Orders are written for good reason: if they are complied with, they keep order in this House. The Minister should not have added the last part to his answer. I realise it was done in reasonably good humour, but then the member’s start to his question was in reasonably good humour. But let us call it, again, one all at this stage, but not continue the match.

Hon Shane Jones: Why does the draft 2012 Government policy statement propose to slash funding for public transport infrastructure from $100 million in the 2010 financial year to a range between $20 million and $60 million for the next 3 years; and, given the significant increase in public transport patronage in Auckland, why is he gutting the funding?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is incorrect. It actually points out in the Government policy statement that the reason that has changed is that we have shifted most of the public transport infrastructure funding outside the Government policy statement, with the help of my Cabinet colleagues investing more in it by investing more directly in the rail system. In Auckland, as the member may or may not be aware, we are currently investing around $1.6 billion in improving the Auckland commuter rail infrastructure without using a regional fuel tax, and we are also investing several hundred million dollars in the Wellington commuter rail infrastructure, none of which is included in the National Land Transport Fund. It is actually the biggest investment in public transport in this country since the Hungarian trains were bought by the Rt Hon Sir Robert Muldoon back in the late 1970s.

Jacinda Ardern: Does he acknowledge the significant distance between him and the Auckland Council’s transport priorities through his moves to reduce the funding assistance rates for rail operators, disregarding the regional land transport strategy through his Land Transport Management Act reforms, and continuing to prefer the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway” over the council’s number one priority, which is the city rail link?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am a great believer in testing every project to ensure that it provides the best value for money. The member needs to be aware that measured on the same basis currently, between the Pūhoi to Wellsford road and the Auckland central city rail loop, the Pūhoi to Wellsford road has a benefit-cost ratio in excess of 1 and the central city rail loop is between 0.3 and 0.4, which was, of course, significantly less than 1 the last time I looked. Yes, we do need to make significant investment in public transport in our biggest city, and we are doing so. We are just being very careful to make sure that all the investments are actually worthwhile.

David Shearer: Is he aware that the Ministry of Transport’s review of the city rail link and the benefit-cost ratio relies on 200 to 300 buses per hour through the streets of Auckland’s central business district, which is a premise that the Auckland Council deems nonsensical; if so, does he agree with the council, or his ministry?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the difficulty we are in with the central business district rail loop is that quite obviously the council has gone to that solution without looking at all the other options that are possible to improve public transport access in Auckland. I point out to the member that all the independent analysis by the Ministry of Transport and Treasury on the central business district rail loop says it will do very little to improve congestion. I am prepared to say that it is possible that the central business district rail link is the next project in Auckland, but, rather than bolting towards it without any consideration of the costs, as the Labour Party is doing, I think we have to ask some tough questions.

David Shearer: Given the Minister’s answer to written question No. 1515 that the calculation of the wider economic benefits on the holiday highway is not consistent with New Zealand Transport Agency’s own economic evaluation manual, has he asked for the business case to be re-evaluated; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: What I can confirm for the member is that the two projects—the central business district rail loop and the Pūhoi to Wellsford road—have been measured using the same ruler and have been found to be very, very significantly—

Hon Shane Jones: Oh, rubbish.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it happens to be true. I know it is sometimes difficult to face the truth when one is in the Labour Party, but it is actually true that it is over 1 versus 0.3 to 0.4.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Did you hear what he just said?

Mr SPEAKER: I heard what he just said, but I also heard interjections from the Labour Party that provoked him. If members do not want other members who have the floor—and the member may resume his seat—to comment, they should not make loud interjections. I think the interjection related to something about the truth, and [Interruption]—we are not going to take that matter further. If members do not want Ministers to pick up on interjections, they should not interject.




  1. Matt L says:

    And still they ignore the bulls#@t claim that the government is investing $1.6b in Auckland rail, $600m was already budgeted and spent and $500m is a loan. Labour are pretty hopeless at the moment

  2. Brent C says:

    Parliament was rather exciting yesturday!
    I do notice how the real Labour transport spokes people (Ardern and Shearer) tried to take control over this matter.


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