Monday, August 07, 2017

Auckland's future is rail

National and Labour both announced transport policy over the weekend, with the usual lists of projects and spending. But while they had different priorities, one thing is clear: Auckland's future is rail. Both big parties now support the third main (the idea National tried to bury) to stop freight from clogging Auckland's roads. National supports electrification to Pukekohe, Labour supports rail to the airport, but either way its on tracks, and they're arguing about what trains to build when rather than more useless roads. Which is a big shift from the previous roads vs trains arguments of the previous decade. I guess the evidence that Auckland needs proper public transport has got so overwhelming that even the trucking-industry funded National party can no longer ignore it (alternatively: too many Ministers got stuck behind trucks in Auckland gridlock).

The big difference between the parties is in funding: Labour would allow councils to charge regional fuel taxes, giving them a source of revenue to fund transport upgrades. National hates this idea, partly because its a tax, and partly because of control freakery. Auckland having its own revenue stream for transport would allow them to set the agenda, rather than having to wait for central government to dole out the cash (and if Auckland sets the agenda, Auckland politicians rather than government Ministers get to make the announcements). But it seems entirely fair that if Aucklanders need more transport infrastructure, they should pay for it, and for the revenue to be collected from those who would directly benefit from the spending rather than from residents in general. And its certainly a better idea than letting politicians in Wellington slowly strangle Auckland until there's an election on and they need to announce some spending.