Rosebank Advocates March 2018 – By Dr Grant Hewsion

To ensure the voice of Rosebank business is heard at the highest levels, the RBA maintains relationships across the political spectrum.

At a recent EMA Policy Forum – that hosted Hon Phil Twyford, the new Minister of Transport, Mike Gibson spoke briefly with the Minister and invited him to speak to Rosebank businesses and a wider ‘business-west’ audience later in the year. The Minister accepted, and plans are underway for such a business forum.

In his presentation at the EMA, the Minister began by admitting that people were meeting him with “a mix of expectation and pity”.

Taking on both the Housing and Transport portfolios was a huge task with immediate problems. “1.3 billion dollars are wasted in year in lost productivity from people stuck in Auckland’s gridlocked traffic” said the Minister.

“And 2/3rds of New Zealanders simply cannot afford to live in Auckland, the country’s biggest city. That’s really unacceptable.”

On housing, the Minister spoke about the Government’s key plans to:

  • extend the bright line test from the current two years to five years;
  • no longer allow tax losses on rental properties to be used to offset tax on other income
  • establish the KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over 10 years (with 50% of them in Auckland).
  • establish an Affordable Housing or Urban Development Authority to work with the private sector to cut through red tape. The UDA would partner with private developers, councils and iwi to undertake major green-fields and re-vitalisation projects
  • remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls.
  • pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill currently before Parliament that will set standards for all rental properties.

On transport, the Minister spoke about:

  • passing legislation to allow Auckland Council to collect a regional fuel tax to fund the acceleration of rail, light rail and other public transport investments, and also allowing Auckland to issue infrastructure bonds and set targeted rates to capture value uplift.
  • building light rail from the CBD to Auckland Airport as part of a new light rail network that will be built over the next decade with routes to the central suburbs, the airport, and West Auckland, and which will later be extended to the North Shore
  • investing in more electric trains, electrification to Pukekohe, and building a third main trunk line urgently between Westfield and Papakura (especially to facilitate freight)
  • creating a passenger rail service linking Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga and, if justified by demand, upgrading it in stages to a rapid rail network throughout the Golden Triangle.
  • investigating a rail line to Marsden Point and Northport and upgrading the North Auckland Line to take pressure off the roads in Northland.
  • as part of a national freight strategy, developing a national ports strategy with a particular focus on the upper north island.
  • refreshing and moving to implement the ‘Sea Change’ strategy to revitalise Coastal shipping.
  • making investments from the National Land Transport Fund on a mode neutral basis, meaning that rail and walk/cycle projects will be eligible for funding where evidence shows clear benefits to the transport system and local communities.
  • making it easier and safer to walk or cycle in our communities by committing more funding to urban cycleways and active neighbourhood projects.

As can be seen, on transport in particular, this government is prioritizing rail and public transport over more roads. For Rosebank, any alleviation in traffic congestion will likely come from investments in traffic management and public transport options, such as light rail or a dedicated Busway along SH16. The opportunity to explore these and other issues with the Minister will come later this year.