Month: April 2012

Need a Slick Marketing Campaign for the CRL

Why build the CRL? It’s about capacity « Auckland Transport Blog.


As I covered in Tuesday’s post about me being at the LTP Forum, it seems the CRL marketing campaign is a dismal failure by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. Why? If only two out of twelve at my table on Monday (me being one of the two and the Councillor not counting) know of the CRL and its actual benefit/costs then I could safely translate and transfer that figure out to the rest of the tables at the Forum on Monday and the rest of wider Auckland. The article at Stuff was pretty indicative of what I already knew and to be honest; at current rates we are very close to within a whisker of losing the City Rail Link REGARDLESS if our resident Mayor (sorry no prude jokes this morning) stumps up with the funding from China!

The Auckland Transport Blog has been hammering on about the need to “Sell the CRL” to Auckland over the last week with posts at the hyperlink in the title above and HERE as well.

My thoughts on the entire affair can be seen here:

Quoting (I hate manual adding html code)
[The reason why all of this is important is not just so nosey bloggers can keep up with the play, but also because public support for the CRL is critical in ensuring that it goes ahead. While most of us are resigned to the fact that the current government will never fund the project, no matter how fantastic its revised business case is, there may be a change in government by 2014 – still time to push the “go” button and have the CRL completed by 2021: which has always been the target completion date. However, there are a few huge assumptions in that timeline]

And there is the entire argument summed up in a nutshell.

Basically where Council has failed – the little people need to step up to the plate and “take-over” – or another way of putting it “If you want it done right then do it yourself!” :P

What I am getting at is can you Peter (and Matt and Patrick) some up your Marketing CRL posts to 900 words each, collate them and pester the Herald big time to try to run either a Dialogue printing or even a mini-series. Pressure from those concerned ending up in the Herald could spur Council back into action before the LTP derails things in June.

This needs to be put back in the spot light and rather fast – I was not particularly amused that Dog Registrations can get 4000 submissions and the CRL bugger all and a scant remark out of Although I did have a happy moment Council Finances and Debt did get a mention with yours truly getting a quote put in Tuesday’s Herald :D – a shame though it wasn’t the CRL which I did hammer on at Length though on Monday at the LTP forum AND got the entire table of 12 made up of all sorts to agree (on a pause, rethink, educate, and re-engage with the public even if that means delaying the CRL by up to 5 years) (when only two of us at that table plus Councillor Wood knew what the CRL was and how it worked) :D

Blowing ones trumpet aside for a moment

Please do accept my apologies however if I appear what is the word I am looking for here – I will think of it later – not enough coffees yet :P but myself and some of my work colleagues are coming to the conclusion that AKL is coming close to a whisker of losing the CRL regardless of Len stumps up with Chinese Money to bankroll the entire operation.

Time to sell the CRL benefits to the public and turn the 2 out of 12 knowing into 12/12 knowing :)


Basically sums my feelings in a nutshell on the CRL to date.

It is time for the private citizen to stand up and take over where Council and the bureaucracy have failed in marketing the CRL in a meaningful manner to and for Auckland. Having the private ratepayer undertaking a marketing campaign could give the spark to kick-start Council in getting  a wriggle on with the CRL and putting out accurate information – not misinformation that is prevalent.

You can only have a fair and true discussion once all the facts are known and on the table – anything else is Heresy!

The Forum on the LTP Yesterday

Attended the Long Term Plan Forum (and a mention in the NZ Herald)


So I attended the Auckland Council Forum on the Draft Long Term Plan yesterday morning. I was a tad late with the accident at Baldwin Avenue Rail Station (doozy cyclist – two tracks means TWO TRAINS) delaying my Southern Line train but I made it none the less and was seated with 11 others at Councillor George Wood’s table (sorry Mike maybe next time 😉 ).

The session which ran from 9:30-12pm with a coffee break in-between covered two major topics with a general session at the end of it. The topics were: Rates and Finance, and Transport (what my submission had mainly covered) and boy my table was a formidable one with seasoned campaigners. We also had Bernard Orsman from the NZ Herald present for the entire session with him writing up a report which I will comment on soon. In fact I recommend you read the actual Herald article, Bernard sums up the session quite nicely and saves me duplicating material.

As for me I went into bat and covered three areas of concern:

  1. Council Debt (as mentioned by Bernard Orsman)
  2. The City Rail Link
  3. The Port of Auckland Question


Now through the session we had guest councillors at the table: Christine Fletcher, Penny Webster (chair of the Strategy and Finance Committee which is overseeing the LTP process), Sandra Coney, and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. So needless to say we had some movers and shakers visiting the table! I even got a quick face-to face introduction to Councillor Dick Quax (sorry I use titles in VOAKL post for people in official positions) during the coffee break – so both of us know each other quite literally know 😛 .

Now despite the limitations of the forum style setting compared to the traditional style which I presented my Auckland Plan and City Centre Master Plan submissions; I got my points home (and even a mention in the Herald), got Council to go check out Municipal Utility Districts as an alternative to Developers Contributions, and was given reassurances from our Deputy Mayor that my Port of Auckland Question will be answered! I was given the reassurance that a wide body made up of Local Government Authorities, the respective Ports in the North Island, industry, business, logistics, Kiwi Rail and even Central Government were conducting a thorough review of Port operations in the North Island including the possibility relocating Port of Auckland. I was given further reassurance that the community will be consulted in due time of the Port of Auckland Question – to which I will be submitting on when that time comes. I am not going to miss the opportunity of a life time with all my work on this project done so far and upcoming with Port of Auckland – that is for sure! Mind you I now await this review to see what comes up and whether we get excited or royally pissed-off and an opportunity that could be winner or simply blown…

Now as for the forum itself (before I go onto the Herald article); it was a new exercise for me after being use to traditional style hearings. There were both positives and negatives but in the end experience wise I gave it a thumbs up – however for my particular submission I would give it a thumbs down (which I will explain in a moment).

The Positives:

  1. With a group of diverse people so hearing different view points
  2. Got to debate and discuss with those diverse people and opinions
  3. Learn the art of compromise and negotiation with your table
  4. Learn who these people are and their passions (they also did the same to me)
  5. Focused on two main areas: Finance and Transport (although I got the POAL question in and people talking including the Deputy Mayor) 

The Negatives

  1. Unable to go one-to-one with the Councillors as you could in a tradition hearing
  2. Time is always against you when its a table of 12

Further negative:

A person commented when I stated on Facebook I was off to the Forum yesterday (and a follow-up today) that my submission was not suited for the Forum style hearing – I will leave names out but these were the remarks including my replies:

The “forum” is not an ideal way to get across the important ideas and dat you have Ben Ross. Good luck… I suspect you’ll stand out from the crowd due to the effort you have put into your submission.

Well that happened in both accounts – it was hard to get points across (but I got them across and home) and I could say I stood out when I rose the Debt, MUD and POAL issues which got everyone talking on the table.


My reply:

Thanks XYZ. The forum today was interesting and a learning curve as well. I had a formidable table that was chaired by George Wood to which I thank 🙂 XYZ you were right in the forum not being idea in my particular case with my LTP submission, it would have been better served in front of a traditional hearing of the Council. Needless to say I did have some luck with development contributions and an alternative I presented. While I have no disrespect to the people of my table, I did honestly felt my submission was in a league of its own. The submitters on my table were mainly concerned with their patch while I was concerned with ALL of Auckland in my submission. Thus the forum I found while interesting it did not serve my submission well. If I could I would front up in front of the FULL Council, the Mayor and CEO and hammer my submission out that way. Never mind, I now await what comes out of this, full report at my blog tomorrow.

Well tomorrow is today and here is the blog post 😛

My reply also sums up what came out of yesterday. While it was a positive for the education/experience value in another matter entirely, submission wise it was a negative for the reason I stated above. I did feel frustrated that the table did get bogged down with “patch issues” and I was the sole voice (well had two others) for ALL OF AUCKLAND!

The final comment presented was:

 ‎Ben Ross maybe worth considering a deputation to Council, at the very least so they all hear your main points.


Now that is a thought worth considering – a deputation in front of the FULL Council and Mayor to hammer my submission home. Probably get locked into a debate with the Councillors and the Mayor but it is one way of getting crucial points home! Right time to go find out when the Governing Body is next up for a meeting.

As for the Herald article

As I said Bernard Orsman was at our table taking notes of the proceedings, his article can be found in the hyperlink above. As I also said I got a mention when I was hammering on about debt:

Another burning issue was the level of debt Mr Brown’s council is proposing and lifting the debt ceiling from 175 per cent of rates income to 275 per cent to pay for projects in the 10-year budget. Ben Ross, a new homeowner, found the figure of 275 per cent scary and wanted the Government to put strict instruments in place to control burgeoning council debt.

Fleeting but it’s there in the Paper – so I am happy there. I just noticed though this:

The informal budget hearings continue today and next week. The council is holding traditional hearings for larger groups starting on Friday.

Right that is enough to stir my to seek a deputation in front of the Governing Body – if larger groups get a Traditional Hearing, then I am going to go all out and present my case in front of the Full Council. So time to write a few emails to some Council secretaries.

So an interesting day yesterday by all accounts. Whether I do it again is another story 🙂 But I hammered my points home (despite the inherent difficulties with a forum-setting) and got Council to go investigate a few things, so a victory for me and VICTORY FOR AUCKLAND on those fronts.


Below was my Submission to the LTP (Link to Municipal Utility Districts are on page 10)

Life on city’s edge is no field of dreams – The Age

When Planning Can Go VERY WRONG

via Life on city’s edge is no field of dreams.


ON THEIR daily walks around their Point Cook housing estate, Stephanie Sikman and her son, Stefan, 4, kept seeing the same vacant lots. Months passed, but very little in Esperance Estate seemed to change. Where scores of new houses should have been rising, the land remained empty, leaving gaps like broken teeth in the streetscapes. In some parts of the subdivision, vacant sites sit in clusters of a half dozen or more, with residents left to stare out over fields of dirt and weeds.

Good lord what happened here at Point Cook. Usually when a sub-division goes down, houses and sometimes business go up but not here in Point Cook.

Nearly two years after developer LinksLiving transferred the first lots in Esperance to their new owners, nearly one-third of the estate is empty and undeveloped. And with nearly one in 10 properties in the subdivision recently listed for resale – a rate more than three times the city average – it could be years before Esperance is finished.

Hmm we nearly had that at Addison, Takanini where Stage One is fully complete; however Stages Two and Three are struggling along (building is happening but heck it is slow) and the land that was set out for a retirement village and local town centre seem to have gone back up for tender (the development was meant to have happened four years ago but the Global Financial Crisis would have seen to that). What is not helping Addison is more land has just opened up for seemingly more houses right in front of the Addison Development. Err unless my new Walters Road Park and Ride Rail Station is being built there, you might want to finish off Addison in its entirety first BEFORE I go build a rail spur down it instead 😀 😛

How what is happening at Addison is also happening at Point Cook:

At the time Esperance was sold off in mid-2009, the planned subdivision sat close to the far reaches of Melbourne’s urban edge. Several major new estates further on were already earmarked for future development or have since been brought to market. Mooted plans include a new suburb of 5800 people in Point Cook West.

Oh bugger and very much oh bugger when you have this:

The estate’s stalled progress is being blamed on a gap in planning laws that allows developers to sell land without setting limits on when owners must start or finish construction on their homes. Planning experts and industry lobbyists say the state government should consider setting more building controls on new subdivisions in light of Melbourne’s continuing problems with urban sprawl and housing affordability. Many developers set starting deadlines of one year or a finishing deadlines of two years to ensure a steady pace of construction and set a de facto completion time for the project. But LinksLiving set no time constraints over when – or even whether – owners in Esperance have to build. LinksLiving spokesman Ron Smith declined to comment on this decision despite repeated requests from The Sunday AgeIndustry insiders say subdivisions with loose building controls are attractive to speculators who hope to ”bank” and then sell land for a profit without any obligation to build.

Now here is a paradox, Melbourne seems to be heading for the Worst of Both Worlds with its shoddy planning, Housing Unaffordability coupled with urban sprawl issues and over-supply of housing? What gives here? Must go dig up those Macro Business Economic posts on Melbourne’s sad state of real estate to see what is going on here.

‘The other estates in the [Point Cook] area looked finished, they look established. Why is there so much vacant land in Esperance? It comes down to the fact there are no limits like in other estates,” he argues. Paul Ciprian, project director with Oliver Hume, says there is ”nothing surprising” about developers selling land this way and it was made clear to buyers there were no deadlines over Esperance. ”All the buyers at Esperance, those who have built and haven’t built, they’ve all purchased under the same guidelines,” he says. Ciprian also argues that the slowdown seen in the new homes market and the wider slump in the Melbourne property market are delaying the building plans of investors and owner-occupiers. Despite the tough trading conditions, developers continue to release new subdivisions in the Point Cook area and elsewhere, effectively ”leapfrogging” over estates such as Esperance that have been sold to individual buyers but are unfinished.

RMIT planning expert Michael Buxton argues that allowing land to sit empty, either by individuals or developers, is ”socially undesirable” as it encourages speculation, increases urban sprawl and stresses infrastructure and services.

”Governments could easily overcome it by introducing new planning requirements or owners could pay a prohibitive tax on land withheld from construction outside of a reasonable time,” he says.

Time for a trip to Melbourne after Marsden City to see HOW NOT TO CONDUCT OUR PLANNING when Auckland starts on its 400,000 new houses and supporting infrastructure (including employment centres) anyone? This kind of mistake in Melbourne can not be made here – it would cost Auckland dearly for decades to come. So lets see if Auckland can learn from Melbourne’s misfortunes!

Concerns about lax planning controls and land speculation are likely to intensify as the Baillieu government tackles the problems of housing affordability and population growth by opening vast swaths of new land on the city’s fringe to development. At the time Esperance was sold off in mid-2009, the planned subdivision sat close to the far reaches of Melbourne’s urban edge. Several major new estates further on were already earmarked for future development or have since been brought to market. Mooted plans include a new suburb of 5800 people in Point Cook West.

A growing chorus of complaints from residents, councils and planning experts have highlighted the failure of infrastructure and services to meet the demands of the development and population growth in the city’s west.

Wyndham City Council, which has claimed its resources are being severely strained by this pace of growth, charges higher rates on vacant land to ensure these owners make an ”equitable financial contribution” to the city’s services and infrastructure.

”At present, this system is considered effective and no further measures are necessary,” chief executive Kerry Thompson says.

Again something Auckland needs to watch as it apparent Melbourne has not done it right – with the GFC also compounding matters. I do have an idea though for infrastructure development with new Greenfield development sites. It can be found HERE and its called Municipal Utility Districts – something Melbourne and Auckland should try. A further proposal can be found in my submission to the Draft Auckland Plan in regards to land use.

Again hopefully Auckland can learn from Melbourne’s mistakes.

My Submission

Auckland Council Chief Planner Has a Moment



It seems that Auckland Council Chief Planning Officer – Dr Roger Blakeley had a moment or rather lapse of judgement and wrote in his Council Official capacity to the New Zealand Herald. This is what Dr Blakeley wrote:

This was the article he referring to: Compact city a blurred vision

And this was the reply from Councillor Dick Quax:

FB Transcript

Now I have often called Councillor Quax out especially on his anti-rail stance, however and as you will see in my Values page (under development at the moment), I will work with (often quite happily) with those who are opposite to me. In this case Quax is a conservative where I am a liberal 🙂

Meaning I agree with what Councillor Quax and Nigel Turnball (in his reply to Quax’s thread) have said in Dr Blakeley’s “moment.” Blakeley should have not embarked on a letter writing exercise like that, if he believed if there was misrepresentation in the Herald opinion piece then I am sure Council in its official and actual capacity as OUR representatives and policy makers.

I personally do not take kindly to mistakes like that from such a senior bureaucrat who should know better. As a result I call on Council to pass a reprimand Dr Blakeley for his letter to the editor – as someone said he can always run for public office if he is not happy with Council Policy. The good Doctor is an advisor and executioner of Council policy – not the public voice of conscious for that is what we have Councillors for.

Dr Blakeley – stick to your knitting please