Final Summer BBQ 2014: Len, Ben, and 2015

The year that was

The year that is coming

The Sunday BBQ
The Sunday BBQ


The final Summer BBQ Podcast for 2014


The excerpt from Metro Magazine

Len Brown: Dead Man Walking

Is Len Brown really going to keep on shuffling his way towards political oblivion?

Originally published in the January/February 2015 Metro, on sale December 18.


The drums are beating. And whether or not you’re as dismayed as me about some of the attacks Brown has to put up with, that’s a problem. He has lost popular respect. We hear stories at Metro of business groups, schools and community groups, all reluctant to invite the mayor along to launch their new project, hand out their prizes, be their guest speaker. These things matter: they’re the way the mayor connects citizens with the larger life of the city and bestows civic value on their activities.

Len Brown has also lost his nerve. In his year-long desire to hide from controversy, the big projects he’s been associated with — the CRL, progress on the Unitary Plan and, of course, the management of rates — have dropped from sight or now appear to be in difficulty.

It’s often said we need Brown because he embodies an exciting vision for the city, and it would be a disaster if he were to go. That’s simply not true.

True, he did articulate a vision, but making Auckland a modern, efficient, exciting and extremely liveable city is now the mainstream idea we have about this place. But Len Brown is no longer in the forefront of promoting it.

On the contrary, whether you are talking about transport reform, urban regeneration, education initiatives, housing options or the future of the container port, Brown is muddling along in the middle. He’s been laggardly on transport issues; he’s actually voted against housing density initiatives; he’s been silent on the port.

He’s a dead man walking. People with good ideas tell stories of meeting Brown, being impressed by his enthusiasm, and then waiting, and waiting, while nothing happens.

There are nearly two more years before the next council election. If Brown continues like this and stands again, he will lose. But it’s not conscionable for him to drift along and then resign at the end of it either. So what’s he going to do? Here are three suggestions:

1/ Spread your wings, Len. Take a few risks. What have you got to lose? There are lots of issues to choose from: housing, education, the port… what about a major project to restore the glory of the West?

2/ Restructure your office. Dump half those political advisers and bring in a kind of kitchen cabinet of bright minds, empower them to get things done, and be brave about backing them.

3/ Fight back. When they start in with that sniggling, go on TV and rip their heads off.




The 10 Questions sent to the Mayor and his reply:

The Mayor Replies To My 10 Questions On Transport

Flexibility is the key & There is none



The Ten Questions to Mayor Len Brown on Transport in Auckland

Questions (in bold italics): 


1) Why was only the two funding options given. Why were other proposals like Public Private Partnerships not actively considered to help fund the Transport investment program. 

PPPs are a procurement model as opposed to a funding tool. While Council has done a significant amount of work on PPP options this has not formed part of the CBG/IAB work. The recently presented IAB report was a second round of work following on from the initial CBG report. That first round of work analysed and extensive range of funding tools (more than 20) and concluded that the two pathways focused on by the IAB deserved more work. It was always intended that the IAB would develop full business and policy cases for the two pathways.



2) With such a large funding gap and the Government reluctant on new taxes whatever they may be why has the Council, Auckland Transport, and the IAB not gutted projects out of the Summary of ITP Transport Networks (Auckland Plan, and Basic) especially around the roading front.

Aucklanders were extensively consulted on the Auckland Plan, and they told us that that is what they expect us to deliver, and the transport programme was at the heart of this. In preparation for the draft LTP, Auckland Transport has worked with NZTA to optimise the delivery of the Auckland Plan transport programme, this has included a reworking of the sequencing, timing and scope of the projects. As a result, the revised Auckland Plan transport programme is both less expensive than the initial version and delivers better outcomes. The question we are now working with Aucklanders is if they want this programme to be implemented, and if so how that is achieved. We certainly are not currently seeing a groundswell in favour of “gutting the programme”.


An example I give is the $472 million (approx) ear marked for the Mill Road corridor that was meant to be done because the Southern Motorway was not going to be upgraded until after 2025. Now that that the Southern Motorway is being upgraded from 2015 (so this is a follow up question) why such the expense on Mill Road when I am sure a simple upgrade costing no more than $75m (for both north and southern ends) is being pursued? Is this not an example of gold plating duplication of roading projects. 

The Mill Road project has been designed to service projected growth and improve safety in Flat Bush and Takinini, a priority spatial priority area. More than 4,470 houses will be fast tracked in Flat Bush through the Special Housing Accord Areas and 1,170 houses will be fast tracked in Takanini. Furthermore, the existing corridor had 283 crashes and four fatalities in the period 2009-2013.

Rather than being a gold plated, Mill Road is an important and strategic multi-modal component (including, bus lanes walking and cycling) in delivering the integrated transport network that Aucklanders asked for through the Auckland Plan.



3) Has the Mayor and IAB actually considered the Congestion Free Network? 

The IAB was not tasked with determining the optimal transport programme, instead their brief was to look at mechanisms for funding the optimised Auckland Plan. The Mayor, Council and relevant officers have received and considered a great deal of information about the CFN. The programmes presented last week reflected the current thinking of Council’s transport advisors based on their most recent modelling and policy analysis. The Council will decide whether to consult on the proposed two programmes through the LTP. The LTP process will provide proponents of the CFN to once again advocate for their programme.


4) Why when the Congestion Free Network being cheaper to implement but gives better outcomes than the entire ITP (think travel congestion and speeds in 2042) not being actually pursued vigorously – in place of the ITP 

See above.


5) (For Mayor Len Brown) With the Government holding firm on the CRL start date and funding so lacking (without the need for large rates rises or extra taxes including tolls) why does the Council not put the start back to 2018 and offer some other alternative funding mechanisms to the Government as a compromise. (Note the 2018 start date does not include the Precinct Properties part of the CRL) 

We are continuing with negotiations and discussion with the Government regarding the CRL start date. These negotiations will be concluded prior to the LTP being adopted. The outcome of negotiations will determine the nature and structure of the CRL capital programme included in the final LTP. As with any complex negotiations a range of options will be worked through.



6) As a full alternative why does the Council and IAB not consider this as in these two blog posts (which have the full details that I am not repeating here) and I gave in Summary to the Auckland Development Committee on the 16th of October: 



Your presentation on 16 October provided you with an opportunity to convince Councillors of your views. Similarly the upcoming LTP consultation provides you with an opportunity to advocate for your proposed solutions. I encourage you to actively participate in the LTP process.



7) For the Mayor: Why is Pukekohe Electrification delayed when if built by 2018 along with the two new stations at Drury and Paerata, as well as extra EMU’s would stave off the need for new roading projects in Southern Auckland – thus saving money and congestion. This is especially as Southern Auckland is due to get 24,000 new homes + new businesses including the 384ha Drury South Heavy Industrial Complex that recently went operative 

Electrification to Pukekohe has not been delayed as it is not provided for within Auckland Council’s 2012-2022 LTP.  Auckland Transport is currently preparing a business case for electrification between Pukekohe and Papakura to confirm optimal timing to meet expected growth in the south.  This includes consideration of new stations at Drury and Paerata.

The project has been identified in the Long-term Plan Transport Proposal as being implemented during the 2015-25 decade under the Auckland Plan transport budget scenario.  However, the Transport Proposal notes that this is reliant on central government funding.  Decisions as to the funding and timing of implementation of the extension to Pukekohe will therefore need to be worked through between Auckland Transport, KiwiRail, Auckland Council and central government.



8) For the Mayor: Why after being Mayor since 2007 (Manukau then Auckland) have I heard you multiple times say Council will get the Manukau South Rail Link built to allow direct Papakura to Manukau Station services but yet nothing is done and Auckland Transport keep stalling after it was raised in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 


More to the point why is the Manukau South Link not even on the Summary of ITP Transport Networks (Auckland Plan and Basic) at all when the link and trains running at 15 minute frequencies using the link would allow accessibility between the Southern Auckland population and its major employment/recreation.civic/entertainment/shopping centre in Manukau City Centre (and Wiri to an extent using feeder buses) as well as assisting in mitigating against congestion in Southern Auckland. 

Auckland Transport has reviewed the proposal to provide direct rail services between Manukau and Papakura via a southern connection from the Manukau rail link to the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) at Wiri junction, but no decision has yet been made. While I do understand the project would carry its challenges, I remain a strong supporter of a southern link.



9) Will you as Mayor instruct Auckland Transport to have the Manukau South Rail Link built and in full operation by July 1 2015 even if that means the Southern Local Boards might have to pay a targeted rate for it to cover the CAPEX cost. If not why not? 

The Auckland Council governance model is not set up for the Mayor to simply “instruct” in this way. Tomorrow the budget committee will determine whether to include the draft transport programme presented last week into the draft LTP for consultation. The Governing Body will adopt that draft in December and then extensively consult on it from late-January. Final decision will be made in May/June 2015. Throughout this process the Mayor represents one vote around the Council table.


10) What will Auckland Council do if Government rejects the Transport Package announced today, and what will Council do if the citizens of Auckland reject it in the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan consultation next year? 

If the Government decides not to consider alternative funding sources, Aucklanders will be left with only two options. Either:

  • making do with the Basic Transport Network; or
  • significant increases in rates to fund the Auckland Plan Transport Network.

In his discussions with the Government, the Mayor has requested that they provide the space for Aucklanders to conclude the funding conversation before they make a final decision on their support (or otherwise) for Auckland’s preferred option.

Similarly, Aucklanders will need to decide which of the two transport options they want and if it is the AP programme, how they want to fund it. The intention is that the LTP provides a very clear set of options for Aucklanders to consider.


Again my thanks to the Mayoral Office in their replies



Full article and podcast here:


And that is the final podcast and blog post for 2014. Talking Auckland now goes into Summer Series mode until late January when the Long Term Plan consultations start.


Dwarf Pohutukawa Tree
Dwarf Pohutukawa Tree

Talking Auckland wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful break over the Summer (or winter if you are from the north).

2015 will be even more action packed as several large issues come to ahead through the year.

Until then

Take care and try and not get too sun burnt out there