Planning Committee Digests – June 17. Council Drops Ball on Inter-City Rail

What was a planning issue became a Finance Committee issue


Yesterday the Planning Committee was in session with the tops of Panuku, and inter-city rail the two big draw points.

From Auckland Council:


Committee considers heritage grants and reviews passenger rail 

Auckland Council’s Planning Committee met today to approve funding grants that will support a number of regionally significant historic heritage places.

The committee also agreed to support a high-level review to identify the opportunities and challenges of a passenger rail service between Auckland/Hamilton while acknowledging it is a low priority for Auckland Council at this point in time.

The agenda is available on Auckland Council’s website and minutes will be added once confirmed. This meeting was also webcast on the council’s website and items are available on demand.

Items 1-8 were administrative items, with the exception of public input summarised below.


Item 5: Public input

Rob Weir, Chair of The Rail Opportunity Network spoke to the committee about a passenger rail service from Hamilton to Auckland. The Hamilton-based lobby group supports the development of rail between the two cities.


Item 9: Use of Urban Renewal Tools by Panuku

The committee endorsed the prudent use of statutory urban renewal tools, such as designation and compulsory acquisition, by Panuku Development Auckland in Unlock and Transform development locations.


Overwhelmingly, the majority of land required for future Unlock and Transform development would be acquired by negotiated settlement. The use of statutory urban renewal tools would only be used where:

·         the relevant council committee and local board has endorsed a High Level Project Plan

·         the location is within the High Level Project Plan and in accordance its objectives.

·         negotiated acquisition is always undertaken in the first instance

·         any designation proposal has the support of all relevant council-controlled organisations, particularly Auckland Transport and Watercare Services Limited, as required on a case-by-case basis

·         Panuku has the necessary budget provision.


Item 10: Consideration of passenger rail service from Hamilton to Auckland  

As part of cross-council work currently underway examining future development andgrowth pressures in the Waikato area on the southern boundary of Auckland, the Waikato Regional Council provided a position paper on passenger rail between Auckland and Hamilton.

The paper identified significant challenges including constrained network access, no funding sources and that the previous 2011 study into passenger rail was no longer feasible for today’s conditions.

With previous work being out of date, the committee agreed to participate in the preparation of a high-level review to identify the key constraints, benefits and options of a passenger rail service between Auckland and Hamilton.

Overall, the committee supports in principle the provision of a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland but in doing so it agreed it is a low priority for Auckland Council, particularly given the significant growth challenges facing our region and communities that need to be addressed.

It also recognised that existing issues cannot be resolved without significant capital expenditure.

The high-level review does not support any outcome. There are no plans or commitments for any Auckland to Hamilton passenger service which would be unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.

The high-level review will be reported back to the Planning Committee. More information is available in the meeting agenda.


Item 11: Regional Historic Heritage Grants Programme 2016/2017 Allocation

The committee approved the grant allocations for the Regional Historic Heritage Grants Programme for the 2016/2017 financial year.

The Programme aims to incentivise best practice, increase understanding and encourage community involvement in the care of regionally significant heritage sites and places across all of Auckland.

There was a total of $80,744 available for allocation in the 2016/2017 financial year. In total, 42 applications were received with seven applications recommended for funding ranging in value from $2,248 to $20,000 with an average grant of $11,535.

The grants were made to:


St. Patrick’s Cathedral Heritage Foundation $20,000
Rawinia Iraihi Rangi Henderson $2,248
Helensville District Health Trust $12,420
Friends of Waikumete Inc $3,450
Friends of Onehunga Community House $20,000
Pitt St Methodist Trust $6,337
Antony Waterhouse $16,289




The inter-city rail debate was a disappointment and I am disappointed in the Committee members for how the debate concluded out. I was lost on whether I was sitting in the Planning Committee or the Finance Committee given the debate ground down into dollars rather than Planning itself.


As I explained to some of the Councillors in and after the open-agenda items the inter-city rail debate is an urban geography issue in pretty much its purest form. What we are looking at is both the spatial development of towns and cities, and variations between cities (Auckland and Hamilton).


While issues of the Third Main on the Southern Line need to be addressed to even get inter-city rail off the ground the inter-city issue has highlighted a major weak spot in Council thinking. The lack of integrated planning, something I brought up with the Independent Hearing Panel for the Unitary Plan two years ago. The entire inter-city rail issue is actually more complex than nominal money terms. Councillor Daniel Newman was very much spot on about how an inter-city service would trigger the rise of satellite towns between Drury and Te Rapa north of Hamilton as this is the urban geography issue the Committee should have covered rather than dollars and cents.


What is forgotten here is that the Council is the main advocate of Auckland to Wellington. And while inter-city rail is most definitely a Central Government issue in terms of funding the Government wont necessarily move on the issue of Waikato and Auckland can not get their collective acts together.


Take a look at Step Five from Panuku Development Auckland in terms of inter-regional connections:

Step 4 and 5 of Manukau Framework Plan
Source: Panuku Development Auckland


Panuku with Transform Manukau have realised the increasing importance of inter-region connections between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga over medium and long terms. While Panuku have set Manukau up to be in pole position to take advantage of inter-regional connectivity it wont be happening without getting ourselves together on the transport side. This is where Council should have kicked in. The Planning Committee should have read Step Five above and worked out for itself how can we advocate these links to Central Government? Forget the dollars – that comes much MUCH later down the track when Government puts a case together.


For now the inter-city rail debate has been lost in isolationism and money rather than figuring out the consequences of the links between Auckland, Hamilton and the Waikato. Council should remember that right now it is in advocate mode not finance mode. Government will not move on its own accord if the advocacy is simply not there. So to the Planning Committee shall we try again?


The Planning Committee debate on inter-city rail:

Below are the two Omnibuses that reference on the inter-region situation

South Auckland Growth Omnibus

Transform Manukau 2017 Omnibus


6 car passenger train at Manukau Station