#spatialplanning101 – City Centre to Mangere Light Rail Iced, Airport to Botany Rapid Transit and Mill Road Progressing in Post Covid Era

Transport and Spatial Planning Economics Change Dynamics

Budget 2020 was delivered yesterday and would mark Day-1 of New Zealand’s Post Covid Era. Post Covid being that the virus is under control and focus starts on rebuilding our shattered economy. The Government obliged by smattering cash across OPEX (wage subsidy) and CAPEX (infrastructure and housing).

What was brought to my attention was two concurrent themes in Spatial Planning and Infrastructure provision here in Auckland. One was from Government and one was from Auckland Council itself. Both have major consequences to the Spatial outlay of Auckland and this was picked up by the Officers in Council yesterday.

Light Rail iced until further notice (if at all)

City Centre to Mangere Light Rail had much promise as an Auckland Transport project back in 2017. Even since Transport Minister Phil Twyford took the project off AT and had both NZTA and the SuperFund do competing bids the project has been forever stalled. Now the project is really stalled.

From NZ Herald:

Budget 2020: Auckland light rail ‘on pause’, cash for Cook Strait ferries

14 May, 2020 3:35pm

Auckland’s $6 billion light rail project is on hold as the Government turns all its focus towards the Covid-19 response.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s office confirmed this afternoon that a funding decision for modern-day trams was “on pause at the moment”.

There was no timeframe for getting the project across the Cabinet table, a spokesman said.

At the same time, the Government has announced $3 billion worth of infrastructure spending, and another $1.2 billion going to KiwiRail.

Light rail - seen here as a render of what trams could look like in Auckland's Mt Roskill - is on hold.
Light rail – seen here as a render of what trams could look like in Auckland’s Mt Roskill – is on hold.

Light rail was promised by Labour to run from the CBD to the airport, and from the CBD to the West Auckland, within 10 years. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to build light rail to Mt Roskill within four years.

The project is worth $6 billion – but has so far made slow progress as bureaucrats grapple with one of the biggest projects in New Zealand’s history.

Official papers and a statement from the NZ Transport Agency previously showed the task was more difficult than the Labour politicians envisaged with a business case for the CBD to airport line still being worked on months after it was due in December 2018.

Since then there has been ongoing back-and-forth about who will build the scheme, with NZTA and NZ Infra the two bidders.

An analysis of both bids has been completed, but the winner was yet to be decided.

Twyford’s office told the Herald it remained committed to the project. But a decision on which delivery partner the Government worked with was on hold.

Source: Budget 2020: Auckland light rail ‘on pause’, cash for Cook Strait ferries

On pause with no time frame to resume the project means it has effectively been iced until who knows when. Most likely new leadership will be required to ever see the project through given current leadership has forever tainted the project.

Auckland Council grapples with Spatial Planning and Urban Development in South Auckland

Yesterday the Auckland Council Emergency Committee in place of the Planning Committee met to discuss a refresh of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project or ATAP. This refresh is needed given Covid and Government priorities changing (re: Light rail getting iced).

For example with Light Rail being iced but Mill Road to proceed the funding allocations and urban development patterns change.

This from Auckland Council:

Emergency Committee14 May 2020

ATAP 2020 Update and Terms of Reference

File No.: CP2020/05840

Te take mō te pūrongo

Purpose of the report

1.       To seek endorsement of the rationale, scope and proposed process for the Auckland Transport Alignment Project 2020 update.

2.       To seek endorsement on the draft Terms of Reference for the update.

Whakarāpopototanga matua

Executive summary

The report would normally go before the Planning Committee, however, in light of COVID-19, it must now be considered by the Emergency Committee

3.       The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) was last updated in April 2018. There is a need to refresh the 2018 package in light of a number of emerging issues:

·    changes to the funding baseline due to the impacts of COVID-19 on existing revenue streams; any resulting economic stimulus packages introduced by central government; and the implications of the pre-COVID-19 New Zealand Upgrade Programme

·    climate change and mode shift as increasingly important priorities for Auckland Council and central government that need to be better reflected in the transport package

·    the need to provide strategic direction for upcoming statutory planning processes, such as the Long-term Plan (LTP) and Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), particularly for the last three years of the first decade (2028-31) which were not part of ATAP 2018

·    the need to consider the transport investment needs of emerging brownfield and greenfield spatial priorities.

4.       The ATAP 2020 update will develop a prioritised indicative investment package based on shared Auckland Council and central government objectives for transport, including priorities from ATAP 2018 around enabling quality compact growth, improving travel choices and access, increasing sustainability and resilience, eliminating road harm, and ensuring value for money.

5.       In addition to the ATAP 2018 priorities the update will also focus on climate change, mode shift, emerging spatial priorities and post COVID-19 recovery.

6.       The initial focus for the update will be to identify the available funding envelope. The project prioritisation process cannot begin until this work is complete. The revenue uncertainty caused by COVID-19 will mean that different funding scenarios will be required, ranging from no additional Crown funding (i.e. revenue holes are not plugged) to additional Crown funding to assist with economic stimulus.

7.       There is a need to ensure that any transport stimulus packages introduced by central government to assist with the recessionary impacts of COVID-19 are consistent with the shared government and council objectives for transport, as opposed to focusing only on economic recovery and job stimulation.

8.       The update will not impact on the delivery of projects that are already underway or committed, which comprise a significant proportion of the existing 10-year programme (2018-28). It will also not remove council’s statutory decision-making responsibilities in the development of the LTP, or Auckland Transport’s responsibilities in the development of the RLTP.

9.       Phase 1 of the update will focus in detail on the current first decade (2021-31) and is expected to be completed by August 2020. Phase 2 will focus on decades two and three (2031-51) at a more indicative level and will be completed at a later date.

Ngā tūtohungaRecommendation/sThat the Emergency Committee:a)      endorse the rationale, scope and proposed process of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2020 updateb)      endorse the draft Terms of Reference for the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2020 updatec)      delegate authority to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Chair of the Planning Committee to provide political oversight for the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2020 update. 

Horopaki

Context

Rationale for the update

10.     The first Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) in 2015 aligned the priorities of both Auckland Council and central government. Initial work developed a long-term strategic approach for the development of Auckland’s transport system.

11.     ATAP was last updated in April 2018 and includes a $29 billion ten-year investment package. There is a need to refresh the 2018 package in light of a number of emerging considerations. These include:

a)      the significant impacts of COVID-19 on Auckland Council and central government revenue streams, taking into account any economic stimulus packages announced by government within the timeframes of the ATAP 2020 update

b)      the recent New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) of transport investment in Auckland

c)      climate change and mode shift as increasingly significant policy considerations for both Auckland Council and central government

d)      the need to provide direction for the upcoming round of statutory planning processes including Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP), council’s Long-term Plan (LTP), the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS), and the National Land Transport Programme (NTLP)

e)      emerging spatial priorities.

Project scope and process

12.     The ATAP 2020 update (the update) takes a collaborative partnership approach aimed at agreeing an indicative prioritised investment package for Auckland. The prioritisation process is defined by the shared central government and Auckland Council objectives for transport in Auckland, which are:

·    enabling and supporting Auckland’s growth and the quality compact urban approach

·    accelerating better travel choices for Auckland

·    better connecting people, places, goods and services

·    improving resilience and sustainability of the transport system

·    making Auckland’s transport system safe by eliminating harm to people

·    ensuring value for money across Auckland’s transport system through well targeted investment choices.

13.     In addition to the objectives above, the focus of the update will be on climate change, mode shift, emerging brownfield and greenfield priorities, and post COVID-19 recovery. The update will also take into account broader priorities outlined in relevant statutory documents such as the Auckland Plan and the draft GPS.

14.     The initial focus of the update is to identify the available funding envelope.  The process of prioritising projects and programmes for possible inclusion in the indicative package can only commence once available funding levels are determined. There are a number of key considerations that will impact upon this calculation:

i)        the impacts of COVID-19 on existing revenue streams and the implications of any economic stimulus packages announced by the government within the timeframes of the update

ii)       the implications of the NZUP:

·    will the $1.6 billion of decade one ATAP funding freed up by the announcement be available for reallocation in Auckland?

·    what consequential investments will be required as a result of the announcement?

iii)      pending decisions on significant investments such as Drury and City Centre to Mangere

iv)      cost escalation of existing projects

v)      the portion of the existing programme that is already committed (and therefore not available for reallocation).

15.     A range of investment package scenarios will be developed and evaluated to illustrate potential trade-offs between agreed objectives set out under paragraphs 12 and 13.  These will be based on the best available knowledge of expected funding levels, which have become increasingly uncertain as a result of COVID-19.

16.     The update includes two phases:

·    phase 1 of the update will cover in detail the first decade (2021-31) with particular emphasis on the first three years, including the impacts of COVID-19 and any central government stimulus. This work is critical to informing the LTP 2021-31 and the RLTP 2021-31

·    phase 2 of the update will focus on decades two and three (2031-51) at a more indicative level. Identifying priority projects for the outer decades provides a long-term approach to transport investment that supports climate change and mode shift outcomes.

17.     The update will not undermine the delivery of projects that are either already underway or have a strong level of commitment (however that is defined). These projects constitute a significant portion of the overall decade one package.

18.     The proposed ATAP 2020 process and workstream details are captured under section 5.4 of the draft Terms of Reference (TOR) (Attachment A) as developed by the ATAP Governance Group

Tātaritanga me ngā tohutohu

Analysis and advice

Funding uncertainty

19.     COVID-19 and the resulting travel restrictions have led to significant uncertainty around traditional council and government revenue streams. Anticipated Auckland Council revenue from public transport fares, parking and enforcement, and the Regional Fuel Tax (RFT) have decreased substantially and may continue to do so. National Land Transport Fund (NTLF) revenue from fuel excise duty and road user charges has also declined.

20.     The ATAP 2020 update will reflect this revenue uncertainty by assessing different funding scenarios in the development of a funding baseline. These scenarios include:

·    no additional Crown funding provided (i.e. revenue losses are not plugged)

·    Crown funding provided only to plug revenue losses

·    additional Crown funding provided to assist with economic stimulus

21.     More work is required in relation to the impacts of including Mill Road and Penlink in the NZUP. RFT revenues were previously earmarked to part fund these projects. However, as a result of the NZUP announcements both will now be entirely funded by central government. More work is required to assess the quantum of any RFT revenue ‘released’ as a result of this and whether it exceeds any forecast reduction in the RFT arising from COVID-19 related reductions in travel demand.

22.     If, as a result of this work, it is determined that some RFT revenue is available to for reallocation to other projects it is likely  that any such proposal will need to follow the process set out in the Land Transport Management Act (2003), including the requirement that the public be consulted on the proposed changes. 

Post COVID-19 economic stimulus packages

23.     Central government is developing a series of economic stimulus packages to respond to the recessionary impacts of COVID-19. Work has started with the identification of shovel-ready projects, led by Crown Infrastructure Partners. Auckland Council has provided a list of 73 projects for consideration, many of which are already on Auckland Council’s books.

24.     There are considerable benefits in providing an integrated perspective of what Auckland needs from a transport stimulus package, as opposed to focusing only on economic recovery and job stimulation.

25.     As such, any transport projects proposed for Auckland as part of the recovery process should also be consistent with the agreed Auckland Council and central government priorities outlined in paragraphs 12 and 13 above. This is particularly pertinent for goals around mode shift and climate change which require a long-term approach to transport investment to achieve envisaged outcomes.

26.     The implications for the available funding envelope of including any ATAP projects within the government funded stimulus package would need to be assessed as part of the update.   

Terms of Reference

27.     Staff propose an update to the ATAP 2018 TOR so that they reflect the drivers underlying the ATAP 2020 update, the priorities of Auckland Council and government for transport in Auckland, and the focus of its workstreams.

28.     The TOR also offer an efficient and timely means by which the political sponsors of ATAP 2020 can provide their direction for the process. As such, staff recommend that, in line with what occurred previously, a group consisting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Planning Committee receive delegated authority to provide political direction to staff throughout the ATAP process. The final ATAP report would be provided to the Planning Committee for its approval. The TOR is attached to this report for endorsement by the committee.

Source: Auckland Council

This part was the important bit:

ii)       the implications of the NZUP:

·    will the $1.6 billion of decade one ATAP funding freed up by the announcement be available for reallocation in Auckland?

·    what consequential investments will be required as a result of the announcement?

iii)      pending decisions on significant investments such as Drury and City Centre to Mangere

That figure is now $3.4 billion if the Light Rail seed fund is also reallocated back into the general pot (I remember NZTA were already doing this pre Covid so I am not sure right now what the status is for the moment).

At the same time there is still around $3.4b to be allocated to “Shovel Ready” projects recommended by Crown Infrastructure Partners and adopted by Cabinet. I went into this with Airport to Botany and Airport to Onehunga Rapid Transit here: My Post-COVID-19 Stimulus Options for Auckland (that have nationwide social, economic and environmental benefits)

Rather ironically the discussion Council had around the above matter was pretty much automatically determined by Budget 2020 a couple of hours later. Mill Road at $1.35b will proceed as part of the Upgrade Package from Central Government. Now I know Government is not planning of just doing a road in the middle of paddocks when there is Future Urban Zone land in the area and we are short on housing and industrial land pre and post Covid. Housing and the encouragement of industry (jobs) would also occur and what better place for both than blank Future Urban Zone land that has a new road with existing infrastructure like rail not far away.

This creates a Spatial Planning situation in needing to map out the entire area to encourage beneficial behaviour from the roading and urban development exercise. Something my Councillor fails to understand (out of sequence will soon be in sequence) and it seems the Officer failed to grasp the issue as well.

The above clip is from the Emergency Committee talking about development in South Auckland. Councillor Newman continues on about out of sequence planning (short for NIMBYism) while the Officer replies (56:34) that the Council-led workstream in doing Spatial Planning for the South has led to no indication of ‘out of sequence’ development in the area.

Umm Mill Road proceeding would be a massive indicator that Government wants housing and industrial development to proceed now rather than in Decade 3 as part of the Post Covid recovery. That was even made apparent pre Covid back in February as NZTA and Kianga Ora look to the area.

Road wise you can see here: http://supportinggrowth.govt.nz/have-your-say/south/

Southern RTN between Manukau and Papakura

Consequences?

City Centre to Mangere Light Rail being paused indefinitely while Mill Road goes ahead means the Spatial outlay of Auckland changes. CC2M was to encourage intensification along its corridor, this will no longer happen as easy with the absence of CC2M (Airport to Onehunga section I am advocating very hard on as part of an enhanced Airport to Botany Rapid Transit). Mill Road happening means the area is prime for development so spatial focus shifts from the Isthmus back to South Auckland.

The South is already our largest and fastest growing sub-region in all of Auckland and what happened to CC2M and Mill Road is only going to drive that growth even more. It can not be stopped but it can be managed through proper Spatial Planning!

Southern RTN enhanced Otahuhu to Manukau including Botany and Mangere

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