A few weeks ago, I asked a friend who lives near South Head what were her major concerns going into 2023? Her response was all about transport, roads, and infrastructure, with possibly a few swear words for emphasis.
She mentioned the state of the local roads in rural areas. The traffic queues at Kumeu “while Westgate and Kumeu are being developed with zero supporting infrastructure” for existing growth.
And, she told me, “They won’t even chuck a train on because electric trains can’t go through the tunnel, despite the fact they could use a diesel connection.”
Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi received similar feedback from the community in various rounds of consultation in 2020, 2021 and in June 2022. The local and central government alliance - Supporting Growth - reported in August 2022 on key themes arising from that most recent consultation in their ‘Feedback Summary North West’.
When it comes to extending rail services to the North West, it says - “We heard in several pieces of feedback that people want passenger rail in the North West. We heard lots of good suggestions from people around station locations, train frequency, and run times.”
On traffic congestion and travel time – “Many people emphasised to us the community’s experience with traffic congestion and travel times. They would like to see construction brought forward.”
And, on project timeframes - “We heard your concern over how far away construction of the project is, and that you would like a solution sooner rather than later.”
Based on my friend’s response, I can only imagine how many swear words had to be removed from the final consultation report.
On my recent visit to South Kaipara the unsealed roads look like riverbeds after only a brief rain shower. State Highway 16 has the same dangerous corners I remember from when I used to commute to work in the 1900s and 2000s.
The traffic congestion is however much worse because tens of thousands of people have moved to North West Auckland when it was opened up for subdivision and development over 20 years ago.
And, despite the North Auckland rail line running through Kumeu, Huapai and Helensville there is no passenger train service beyond Swanson. That is why I believe that Government has broken the contract with the North West community.
Local government collected development contributions when new subdivisions went in, and property taxes from land owners. These charges are meant to fund infrastructure and provide basic services like roads and public transport.
Central government collects petrol taxes, road user charges and takes money from general taxation to fund infrastructure. So why has the North West missed out?
When the local National MP was the Prime Minister, nothing was done to prepare for growth that was already occurring in our community. Under the last five years of a Labour government, they have shied away from investment in road capacity and public transport for the North West.
Their priorities area now-cancelled bike bridge, and an Auckland light rail project which will gobble hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars before it too will no doubt be cancelled.
Endless rounds of consultation confirm we already know what infrastructure is needed for our community to thrive. We simply want the agencies responsible to get on with building and stop giving us the run around.
We are all familiar with the cycle of politicians announcing projects which they run out of money to deliver, or projects which are simply cancelled following a change of Government.
Under a government involving ACT, local needs like building roads for tens of thousands of new residents would become the priority for government agencies, not bike bridges and light rail fantasies.
This Government might be allergic to building infrastructure where it is needed, but ACT is not.