The Nasty Whiff Of Socialism


There’s a great column by leftie political commentator Chris Trotter in the Dominion this morning on how successive governments have screwed over Auckland rail so that it still feels locked in a 1949 world.

“Visitors here for the World Cup from Western Europe and North America must have wondered what they’d struck. Gazing incredulously at last Friday’s hopeless snarl of decades-old, diesel-belching locomotives, and SRO carriages lacking effective air-conditioning, a working PA system, and the professional assistance of trained railway- guards; they must have asked themselves if they really were in a first-world city, in the 21st Century.”

Tracing back the plight of Auckland’s antiquated system to National’s 1949 election win and the party’s new love for the automobile, he notes:

“In the nostrils of the Nats, trains always carried the whiff of socialism. They still do - as anyone who has listened to Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s paeans of praise to the virtues of the motor car can attest.”

But as we know Labour has not been much better:

Labour’s neoliberal conversion in the 1980s saw the railways ruthlessly downsized and readied for privatisation. Free marketeers drove cars: public transport (especially trains) were for state- subsidised losers.

Not even the election of a Labour-Alliance government in 1999 was enough to halt the madness. And when prime minister Helen Clark backed and won New Zealand’s bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011, there was scant understanding of what that would require of Auckland’s public transportation system, and even less enthusiasm for making it happen.

Finance minister Michael Cullen chose to prevaricate and delay on investment in an electrified light-rail network.

So when we most needed it to succeed, Auckland’s rail network simply collapsed under the sort of numbers most modern cities move about every day of the week.”




  1. Cam says:

    Says it all. Hopefully things are about to change though.

  2. Decanker says:

    Careful now, you’ll be labeled a “left-wing transport blog”. Oh wait..

  3. Jon C says:

    @Decanker Haha.. very good

  4. Ian says:

    Never mind, that nasty whiff of socialism is more than made up for with the right wing rantings of tossers like Richard Young and Karl du Fresne.

  5. tbird says:

    “Visitors here for the World Cup from Western Europe and North America must…”

    Well Chris Trotter, may you should move to these “paradises” and stop worrying about not being good enough. Not everyone in this country has a massive inferiority complex!

    Personally, if some Aspie Kraut, whinging Pom or loud-mouthed Yank has a problem with our trains then they can **** off. But I doubt they even notice, they’ll be too busy complaining about the beer and the weather.

  6. Matt says:


    So we should always do what we have always done before and not listen to any criticism? We should ignore best practice from around the world? Yeah let’s be happy with substandard.

    I reckon if someone has something to offer we should listen rather than getting our backs up like a seagull facing the wrong way in a gale.

    Maybe you think “Auckland - it’s kind of not very good, but we like it that way” is a good slogan, but some of us may beg to differ.

    The 1950s have called tbird, and they want their national stereotypes back.

  7. Ingolfson says:

    Yeez, tbird, you remind me of something that occurred two years after I had moved here - some engineer during a discussion on improving cycling heard me use a sentence roughly like “In Europe, they…” - and responded with a classical “Well, then maybe the cyclists should go to Europe!” kind of response.

    Typical. This defensive “my country right or wrong” thinking. She couldn’t conceive, in her insultedness, that I LOVE my adopted city, and want to make it better. All she saw was me slagging it. But thanks, I KNOW what I am slagging, and it’s not Auckland’s best qualities. We shouldn’t be defensive about THOSE.

  8. tbird says:

    My real problem was that Trotter is imagining what these masterful Europeans would think. (And to be honest, I didn’t read the article past that first line.)

    There’s nothing wrong with improving the city and our transport. And yes, we should make our city attractive to foreign visitors and their money, and hopefully it will attract some skilled workers to our country (even racist ones).

    But direct comparison isn’t always appropriate. We’re not going to have a bullet train to Wellington then through the Cook Strait ‘strunnel’ and off down to Invercargill.

    Trotter’s way of thinking is flawed. He’s imagining a whole lot of tourists being bewildered by the stupidity of our country’s train management, as if things always run perfectly overseas. Well, unless he has evidence that was actually the case, he might as well have pulled his column out of his arse.

  9. Dayne says:

    ^Mate, making the leap to a bullet train and a tunnel beneath the Cook Strait is making a giant leap from what Trotter and PT advocates on this site are saying. Slow your roll.

    All they’re saying is, PT in our city of 1.4m people should be up to a better standard than it currently is. That surely is a no-brainer. No one is calling for anything as dramatic as a bullet train haha, just a rail network that’s more capable of moving citizens and tourists alike around the place.

    Also, no shit trains don’t all run perfectly overseas (I’m currently living in London and the Tube always has faults and closures), but again, no one said they do! But, if you’ve been to some of the cities he’s alluding to, it’s very clear that Auckland’s rail system is much poorer. I’ve used trains in many cities, including London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Melbourne, and while they are larger cities, I don’t think that’s an excuse for our system to be as lame as it is.

    Things like having only a single station in the CBD (and a dead-end station at that), western line trains having to pass through Newmarket to get to town and all rail lines running outwards, with no loops anywhere, are all issues that need to be resolved. Would you at least agree with that?

  10. tbird says:

    “Also, no shit trains don’t all run perfectly overseas, but again, no one said they do!”

    That’s what Trotter’s opening statement is implying. I’d argue that the North Americans and Western Europeans would probably think: “Typical… trains down… story of our lives.”

  11. Jim C says:

    Ah if Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson had managed to get is underground railway system running, Auck would be sitting in a good PT place. Its amazing how what ever government is in office they balk on spending money on railway until it becomes absolutely essential. Take Auckland and Wellington at present.

  12. George D says:

    There are plenty of cities with less population and similar incomes who do things much better. Again, it’s a matter of ideology, a refusal to look overseas (especially at people who speak funny languages), and cheapness.

    We get what we vote for.

  13. Arry says:

    Um… I’ve lived in Auckland for most of my life. I’ve been to Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, to name a few (Not even North American or West European!)…

    And even without experiencing the RWC, on a daily commute, I know for a fact that our train system is a disgrace for a developed city like ours! I had a breakdown (apparently a very rare one) in Singapore, and even then, Auckland is worse!

    I agree with ingolfson in which your attitude really shows the defensive “my country right or wrong” sort of thinking!

    And I love Auckland!!!

  14. Riccardo says:

    Actually people who don’t seek feedback and heed criticism DON’T love their city (or themselves, I would argue). My country right or wrong is a recipe for making your country third-rate. All the world’s great cities became that way because people improved them, and thought how they could be better.

  15. 1 says:

    Good article but unfortunately he clearly does not have a huge amount of knowledge of public transport as he says at the end of the article “electrified light-rail network.”


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>