Finance Minister’s Appalling Obstructionist Attitude Continues to Hamper Upper North Island

Joyce’s 1960’s mindset harming Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Tauranga


I see Finance Minister Steven Joyce is continuing his appalling obstructionist attitude since he was a Transport Minister towards the upper North Island when it comes to transport economics.


From NZ Herald:

Finance Minister wants better discipline in assessing benefits of big infrastructure projects

7 Jun, 2017 7:51pm By: Audrey Young – Political editor, NZ Herald

Finance Minister Steven Joyce. Photo/Mark Mitchell. Source: NZ Herald

Finance Minister Steven Joyce is looking for greater discipline in assessing the benefits of large infrastructure projects in the future.

Some projects in Auckland, such as the City Rail Link, did not stack up on a traditional cost-benefit basis, he said, although the Government has committed to funding for it.

“I think there is unfinished business now for all of us to think about what are the true wider benefits of some of these projects and trying to get a bit more discipline to them in the years ahead,” he told the finance and expenditure committee at Parliament in response to questions from Greens co-leader James Shaw.

“From my perspective, I think it is important that we go through the benefit-cost ratio discussion.

“However I would signal that some of the projects that we collectively have all committed to, including the CRL, doesn’t really stack up on a traditional cost-benefit basis.”

He said the tendency in New Zealand had been for parties to commit to a project without looking way for a way to unlock some of the benefits to help pay for the project, such as a planning change.

Just about every motorway in Auckland was being expanded or was about to be expanded which would give real benefits for a few years.

He could not recall the next year that those benefits started to recede.

But that was why the Government was having a discussion with Auckland on demand management “which might achieve an outcome in the medium term which is better than what we are getting now.”

“That is a conversation which is going to unfold over the next few years.”

Speaking outside the select committee he dismissed any suggestion that Auckland’s infrastructure costs could be funded by refunding gst to Auckland Council.


Source and full article:


These two responses are pretty spot on when it comes to Joyce and transport economics:




Okay the second one was on the Transport Minister Simon Bridges trying to block an information request into the economics of the Third Main on the Southern Line between Wiri and Otahuhu. For $53m that section of the Third Main removes congestion and separates out the freight trains from passenger trains allowing more efficient movements in that section of the rail network.




And of course:

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JUNE 28: Minister of Economic Development, Science and Innovation, Small Business ,Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce, speaks during the National Party Annual Conference at Michael Fowler Centre on June 28, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Around 600 National MPs and delegates are expected to gather for the two day conference, during which new policies will be released ahead of New Zealand’s general election in September. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)


Apart from the Victoria Park Tunnel and Waikato Expressway the rest of the Roads of National Significance is a classic exercise of pouring money down a hole based on very marginal economics. While the Northern Hemisphere are working as fast as they can towards rail investment and even tearing out highways our Government seems to have missed the memo entirely.

Rather odd given rail is the most efficient form of land transport movement of both people and goods over longer distances.



I have to wonder though if the Minister (Joyce) really understands transport and even urban economics. Because while the current version of the East West Link has a negative marginal Benefit Cost Ratio (in relation to the inland Option B that does make sense) and has the Minister’s attention, the City Rail Link that doubles passenger rail capacity certainly does not.



If you have the trains running every five minutes that is a lot of people on the move and potentially a lot of cars off the road freeing road space for things like freight. Proof that investing in rail works? Try rail patronage growing at double figure percentages month on month since the electric trains came out in 2014.

Rail also has a wider economic and social benefit that the Minister misses as well. When rail runs through or next to something like a Metropolitan Centre (the network goes through six of the ten) it becomes a catalyst to intensive urban development. Clustering around a transit station especially in a Centre brings on agglomeration bonus effects pulling in both commuters and leisure travellers for work and play. Manukau City Centre is an example this as a (Super) Metropolitan Centre under going urban regeneration triggered by the catalyst of Manukau Station continuing to surge in patronage (currently the sixth busiest station in Auckland). If you want an example of a Centre not working due to lake of transit but connected solely by motorway and roads (the things Joyce loves) then look no further than North West Mall at Westgate.


Manukau Bus Station getting its first frames


Inter-Regional Implications

Joyce’s lack of grasp on transport economics harms Auckland’s neighbours as well. This is because while money is sunk on road follies that money could have been better spent on rail upgrades to allow both inter-city passenger rail (see: Planning Committee Digests – June 17. Council Drops Ball on Inter-City Rail) and better rail freight connections. While a 50 wagon train equals 100 trucks off the roads rail is in the best position to move raw products like logs (Northland) to either a port (North Port) or a manufacturing centre (Auckland or even Tauranga) compared to trucks clogging that road space. As Europe figured out quickly opening up inter city passenger and freight rail opened up regions surrounding major urban cities as well as an alternative to air travel between urban centres (hello environment).


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


In the end I have to question the Finance Minister’s grasp on transport and urban economics because his comments in the Herald certainly give the impression that he (Joyce) has none. Joyce’s comments make him also tone death to transport developments around the world in pursuit of a 1960’s dream that was long ago deemed a failure (and costly to fix).


September 23 it will be time to change the Government


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