Like it or not, the Government has been Len Brown’s enabler

The big blowout on Auckland’s Central Rail Loop announced yesterday will probably add another half billion to the Government’s bill and pose real challenges for the Auckland Council.

And the man most likely to become its next Mayor is willing to abandon his own party’s long held positions to do a major flip flop to deal with those challenges.

With the announcement of the funding for the Central Rail Loop and the report expected today of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), Auckland’s transport blueprint for at least the next 30 years will be in place.

The CRL is a major victory for Mayor Len Brown, and Beehive Ministers are also crediting him with the agreements that have been reached within the ATAP project.

And yesterday he was ecstatic at the formal agreement which he called a historic milestone.

“Central Government and Auckland Council are now in clear agreement that the CRL is at the heart of dealing with the city’s growth, with propelling our economy, and creating a future Aucklanders deserve,” he said.

The centre-right Auckland Future group welcomed the news.

But Labour MP and leading Mayoral candidate, Phil Goff, is not happy with a billion dollar blow out in estimated construction costs for the loop, and he’s not happy with the way the Government has managed it.

“If all the central agencies thought the $2.4 – $2.5 billion was sound before, what has changed?” he says.

“We are owed an explanation on that.

“And we are owed some from of assurance that these latest figures are not going to be as rubbery as the earlier figures.”

Finance Minister, Bill English, was apparently not surprised at the cost blowout.

A spokesperson for him told POLITIK that the initial estimate of the cost of the project was always expected to change once more detailed work was done, and the revised estimate was based on a more thorough understanding of the scope of the project.

She said the Crown’s share would be financed through the usual budget process.

I can’t see any upside to this.  It is clear that this sis going to cost something close to $5b by the time it’s all done and dusted.  Just like Bill English, I know this is the nature of these things.   It’s a huge hole in the ground that we’ll pour money into for years to come.  And for those outside of Auckland, I’ve told you for a long time you’ll be paying for it too.

Call me a cynic, but I get the feeling National just sees this as another economic stimulus opportunity.   When immigration tapers off, as they expect it will, they need something else that pumps money through the  Auckland economy.

It is leaving a confusing political landscape where it is very hard to decide who to vote for.  By the time you agree with Phil Goff and not with National, what the hell happened?


– Richard Harman, Politik

  • Sally

    If Goff came out and said he would put a stop on the CRL immediately and prefer to put that money into upgrade infrastructure and investigative alternative transport option such driverless mini buses which would service all suburbs I might consider changing my vote. As it stands he is just a fence sitter and no better than Len Brown.

    • biscuit barrel

      Not going to happen. The reason why its being built is that it makes senses
      Both Brown and Banks supported the project at the first 2011 Supercity election.
      Not sure what 3rd place Colin Craig was for ?

  • Fry

    “a historic millstone” is probably more apt.

  • GoingRight

    I think the government knew those coming in will fluff around trying to look like they are balancing the books and so lennys train set will be put onto the back burner which could delay any move forward in the public transport area or any area for that matter – so they thought best to give in to Lenny now before the election – what’s the betting Len will get a knighthood for this! Aaaaah this would make me very cross if that were the case. Arise Sir Pants Down Brown!

    • sheppy

      Don’t forget the gold statue of Sir Len at the tunnels entrance

  • Gladwin

    I love it. It’s not Len’s fault, it’s central government’s. Good labour political stuff!

  • A few kilometres of rail and 3 or 4 stops, yes, that will fix Aucklands transport problems.

  • rustyjohn58

    Personally I think investment in rail is dumb. If public transport is the way to go then buses and bus ways are better value for money and more flexible.

    What would be worth seeing is some true financial analysis particularly noting what the true “economic Stimulus” value of the work is. Public works do serve a useful purpose in this regard so often the full cost of those works is not really the $$ spent. But finding out the true costs is very difficult.

    Also the works should be a fixed price contract and run by private firms. Having council involved is a recipe for disaster. They don’t deal with other peoples money very well.

    • Brian Dingwall

      The public transport future of Auckland is clearly jeepneys and tuk tuks, perhaps with the odd electric rickshaw…..

      More seriously, HK has an MTR, light rail, buses and light buses (say 20-25 seaters), what about a commercial service of light buses for Auckland? Given the low population density, and big collection area, and large number of commercial and industrial destinations it must have some merit (alongside the hub and spoke downtown based services.

  • One_step_beyond

    Where is my self-driving Uber hover-car? This is the 21st century isn’t it? I was promised so much more than rail!

  • pidge

    $5 billion buys and runs an awful lot of buses, much cheaper that Len’s Tunnel Of Love.

  • jcpry

    Its the heart alright. Its just that the veins and capillaries are blocked or non-existent and the arterials have collapsed.
    Never mind pump in a few hundred million more and she’ll keep on breathing – just. .

  • Win

    “A spokesperson for him told POLITIK that the initial estimate of the cost of the project was always expected to change once more detailed work was done, and the revised estimate was based on a more thorough understanding of the scope of the project.”
    This is BS. What private company would ever accept such blowouts. For Auckland Council officers, they must be very inept to not be able to accurately budget for large capital projects. There are various ways of doing this, but they should be made public at the outset. Were the actual estimates known up front and deliberately hidden from the public? Or is it the appalling level of governance at Auckland Council that thinks a lack of budgeting acumen from well paid, senior employees is acceptable. Can the names of the council officers responsible for the incorrect figures, and those who signed these off please be made public? There needs to be accountability.

    • biscuit barrel

      happens all the time on big projects. You should see some of the cost blow outs on big Aussie mining and natural gas processing contracts.
      Or even the Sydney rail project
      “North West Rail Link: Costs blow out on Sydney’s biggest public transport project”