National going urban?
Underneath National’s Alfred Ngaro’s stupid comments threatening Non Government Organisations at the recent National Party Regional Convention in Auckland there were some surprises that had come out from the Nat’s. Education Minister Nikki Kaye was first off the bat in saying the Government is going to look and build “metro schools” in Auckland. Later in the conference Finance Minister Steven Joyce was recorded in saying that while inter-city rail between Hamilton and Auckland was not on his radar Pukekohe electrification certainly was. Couple both statements up with noises over Southern Airport Line (The Southern Airport Line. Our Next Project After the City Rail Link) is the Government to go urban on us?
Well no. There was no Auckland policy from National over the weekend (Labour was not exactly promoting Auckland policy either but its policies it did announce do have consequences to Auckland and other urban areas) but the issues of metro-schools, rail and bus-ways do warrant an eyebrow to be raised and Budget 2017 to be scrutinised very closely.
The metro-school concept that Minister Kaye promoted over the weekend and quickly followed up by Labour is a serious step in recognising how urban Auckland is becoming. Currently Auckland and Manukau City Centres lack (either enough or) schools within their boundaries to service their rapidly growing residential populations. Auckland City Centre’s residential population has taken off as the City Centre continues to develop while Manukau is forecast for 20,000-25,000 new residents in the Transform Manukau area. This means schools are going to be needed and with land scarce in both City Centres for a traditional school with large fields the metro-school suddenly looks a worth concept.
A metro-school is your primary and/or secondary school built within a highly urbanised area but has no fields unlike a traditional suburban school. Instead for open green space the City’s parks and fields are used by the school. Perfect for Auckland City Centre and Manukau City Centre.
Wynyard Quarter with Victoria Park nearby would be the perfect spot for a combined primary and secondary school servicing Auckland City Centre while the MIT site over the Manukau Rail Station (and next to Hayman Park) would be perfect for a high school servicing Manukau (there is already an existing primary school nearby and a second one can be built at the southern boundary of Transform Manukau).
Actually a high school right next to MIT Manukau and the Wiri industrial complex not only is fully accessible by transit but also gives students access to further training whether it be MIT itself or on the factory floors in Wiri. Job training right on your door step.
Where the metro-school concept will go is yet to be fully fleshed out by either side and will need cooperation from Auckland Council who own the parks and/or urban sites.
Pukekohe Electrification and the Southern Airport Line
This from Simon Wilson at The Spinoff Auckland:
It was one of a number of revealing moments which are being obscured by the fallout from Alfred Ngaro’s foolish comments – all of which deserve more scrutiny than they’re currently getting. One such came from Steven Joyce, addressing the conference as minister of finance for the first time. Asked from the floor why the government didn’t introduce a commuter rail link from Hamilton to Auckland, he said he didn’t think there was a case for it. The last time he’d looked at it, he said, when he was minister of transport (that is, before 2011), it would have been cheaper to fly the passengers by helicopter.
Which is funny, but it wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now. Besides, what an idiotic thing for a minister of finance to say when he’s just finished a speech boasting about his government’s commitment to good infrastructure.
But then he seemed to reveal a budget item. He said he was more interested in extending the electrification of the rail line into Hunua, by which he meant the National-held Hunua electorate that stretches around the Bombay Hills. In other words, Pukekohe. Joyce doesn’t say things like that randomly. Electrification to Pukekohe is already on the government’s 10-year plan. Hot tip: watch for an early date and financial commitment in the budget on May 25.
quote context: http://pllqt.it/cEp5IU
So nothing on inter-city rail (as it would derail the massive expense called the Waikato Expressway) but it seems Joyce is willing to fund sending the wires from Papakura to Pukekohe allowing the final stretch of Auckland’s commuter rail network to be serviced by the electric trains rather than a mix of diesel and electric as current.
Given the pressure to open us as much of the Future Urban Zone in Southern Auckland as soon as possible I am wondering if Joyce will make it a condition of Pukekohe electrification. Open that land up to get housing pressures under control and in return we will give you Pukekohe Electrification and (half-pay for) the three new stations between Papakura and Pukekohe. It wouldn’t surprise me if it came down to that.
With Pukekohe Electrification it stands to reason that a transit connection between the Airport and the rest of Auckland will be on Joyce’s mind as well. The Airport Line is a weak spot against National from both residents and business alike not enjoying being stuck on the roads. Given the recent murmurs on the Southern Airport Line (busway and later Light Rail from Manukau to the Airport) I also wonder if Budget 2017 will get that transit connection underway (it will most likely be tied in with widening SH20B given the Puhinui industrial Gateway zoning is live).
There seems to be an undercurrent in National to get things moving in Auckland. However, there is no comprehensive Auckland policy which continues to leave the Nat’s exposed rather badly. If Nagro’s comments were anything to go by (and they were deliberate and calculative) the Government is very exposed to the point it might have given up with Auckland and its voters. I could be wrong on the latter but we will see what September 23 has to say on the matter.