Thinking Big still

Just before I went on holiday I wrote sceptically about the “five point economic plan” speech given by the then National leader Todd Muller.

We were promised then a series of major speeches fleshing out the framework Muller enunciated.  Among the five points was this

Delivering infrastructure had this promise

Before the end of this month, I will announce the biggest infrastructure package in this country’s history. It will include roads, rail, public transport, hospitals, schools and water.

My heart sank somewhat.  A new and different Think Big? But lets see the specifics.

Of the five points Muller had outlined, this seemed to be one where they were investing any hopes they might have of lifting New Zealand’s medium-term economic performance.

New leader Judith Collins started on the details with a speech given on Friday and some supporting documents.    This announcement had (a) some big headline numbers for spending over the next decade, (b) the “roads, rail, public transport” components for the North Island north of Tauranga, several of which are mainly about periods well beyond the next decade, and (c) some material on how they propose to replace the RMA, and to fast-track some of these projects in the meantime.  I think there had already also been a promise to build an expressway between Christchurch and Ashburton.

I don’t have any particular problem with building more and better roads where they make sense.  Same goes for rail within cities, again where such proposals make robust economic sense.  (I’m much more sceptical of things like cycleways, whether across the Waitemata Harbour or locally.)  And clearly congestion is a major issue in Auckland and –  for what is really a pretty-tiny city by international standards – to some extent in Wellington too.  Congestion has real economic and welfare costs.  National’s leader referred to one estimate of those costs in Auckland (presumably this one) at around $1 billion a year –  and since the study was done a few years ago, perhaps it would be reasonable to use a higher estimate now.

But we have tools that can deal with congestion.  Pricing.  It is a tool that seem to work when tried in other countries/cities.    Of course, simply pricing congestion doesn’t mean building no more roads ever, but it (among other things) helps give a better steer as to what the real price of congestion – and the value people put on avoiding it – and it deals with the congestion directly in the meantime.    Even the current government’s Minister of Transport has been on record suggesting that congestion pricing is “inevitable” at some point, just not now.

And what is National’s stance, to address what Collins calls a “congestion crisis”?

Looking further ahead, if we and Auckland Council ever look at congestion charges in the future, my Government will insist they are only ever revenue neutral, with other fuel taxes reduced to compensate.

“If we ever”….Not exactly a ringing endorsement, looking to shift the ground in the debate.  Perhaps congestion pricing isn’t easy electoral politics, but it is the direction we need to be heading.  It might actually make a material difference within five years, unlike (as far as I can see) most other things in the National plan.

Instead the focus seems to be a flinging around some big numbers, not being too bothered about how robust any analysis supporting the mooted projects is, and all with little or no sense of decent mental model of what has gone wrong with New Zealand’s economic performance,   And yet it is, supposedly, “the Plan that New Zealanders –  including Aucklanders –  have been waiting for, for generations”.

Pretty sure that last sentence isn’t true.  Collins, for example, talks up the “if onlys”, in her case around Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s “rapid rail” proposal, that got lots of attention in Auckland in the early 70s.  We moved to Auckland about that time, but I was 10 and can’t claim to have given it huge attention.  But here’s the thing: the population of the Auckland urban area then was about 650000, the birth rate had been dropping for a decade, and the new government was just about to markedly tighten up on immigration access, a policy that carried through for the following 15+ years.  And even with all the New Zealand tendencies to boosterism, neither central nor local government was persuaded that Robinson’s scheme made economic sense.  Nor, most likely, did it.  Collins also talks up the City Rail Link project, the costs of which have escalated greatly since the government she was a part of first signed off on the project, which didn’t look very economic even then.

The promise seems to that this big infrastructure spend-up is going be pretty transformative in economic terms.  There are these quotes

This city is broken by congestion. Every Aucklander and every visitor to Auckland knows it. Congestion costs Aucklanders over $1 billion per year. That’s the strict economic loss. It represents lost production, lost productivity, lost opportunity.

But congestion is far worse than that. Congestion means unreliable journey times. It means frustration at sitting idle on the motorway. It means goods being delivered late to our ports. It means Mum being late to pick up the kids from rugby practice. It means a tradie only doing two, rather than four, cross-town trips per day. That’s fewer jobs for him; less income, and less economic activity.

I guess $1 billion per annum is supposed to sound like a big number.  In fact, it is about 1 per cent of Auckland’s GDP.   Fixing the problems is probably worth doing, but 1 per cent of GDP is tiny in the context of either Auckland’s gaping economic underperformance, let alone that of New Zealand as a whole (recall that the productivity leaders are more than 60 per cent ahead of us).

And yet, according to Collins, there are really huge gains on offer.

National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.

Quite possibly, some east Asian cities/countries did infrastructure better than New Zealand has, but I’d be surprised if National can cite any authoritative development studies suggesting that the catch-up of that handful of successful east Asian economies was primarily about moving things/people more easily around their own countries.  They are typically regarded as outward-oriented, tradables-sector led, growth stories, perhaps with improving infrastructure going hand in glove with those flourishing outward-oriented opportunities.

But, as least as far as we can tell from this speech, or the framework one Muller gave, National’s policy approach is now primarily inward-looking?  That has long been the practical effect of the policy approach they (and Labour) have adopted over 25+ years, but it isn’t usually so blatantly put.

Collins went on.  Build these roads, rail etc and

Half of New Zealand lives in the Upper North Island region. We want a genuinely integrated region of 2.5 million New Zealanders. Our vision is to transform the four cities to be one economic powerhouse. We will unlock their potential so that the upper North Island becomes Australasia’s most dynamic region.

Recall that the expressway to Whangarei, complete with possible tunnel under the Brynderwyns, is –  even on this plan –  well over a decade away.  And recall that in the regional GDP per capita data, Northland has the lowest per capita GDP in the entire country, suggesting that if Whangarei has any part in some future “Australasia’s most dynamic region” it has a very very long way to come.      But even forget about the Whangarei bit of the fairytale for now, do the National caucus have any serious idea how far behind key bits of Australia productivity levels in New Zealand actually are (and Australia is no great OECD productivity success story)?   As a hint, that 1 per cent of GDP Collins talked about fixing won’t even begin to make a visible dent in the productivity gap –  a gap only likely to continue to widen for the next few years, even if Collins plan did eventually make some small helpful difference.

National –  like Labour really –  seems to have no idea at all what has gone wrong with the New Zealand economy, what has taken us from among the very richest and most productive countries on earth to be some slightly embarrassing laggard, increasingly unable to offer the best to our own people.   But they’ll just fling some more cash at things –  as Labour does, just a slightly different make-up – in the hope of getting elected, and the vague sense then the something must be done, and anything is something.

Here is the Collins approach to project evaluation

The economists will tell you we should build projects only when they’re needed. My sense from my time in politics is that you just want the government to get infrastructure projects built. You just want them done. And you want them done ahead of time.

My Government will be informed by processes like NZTA’s Benefit-Cost Ratio analysis, and by advice from the Infrastructure Commission. But we will not consider that analysis or that advice to be holy writ when making decisions about major transformational projects. Think about all of the Roads of National Significance the National Government built.

I don’t think Transmission Gully passed a decent cost-benefit test, even when it was going to be operational by now.

Now I’m not about to suggest that officials and appointees to government boards should be making the decisions, but any well-done cost-benefit analysis should be a key hurdle in any proposed commitment of large amounts of public money.  Perhaps there are reasonable arguments about methodology or about specific assumptions used in the calculations.  All that can and should be debated, but a project that cannot return a decently positive benefit-cost ratio is one the public should be very sceptical of.  Simply waving your hands and talking about “major transformational projects” should be no more acceptable now than ever.     And having projects in place “ahead of time” –  when few projections about the future, including about population, are that robust –  also has significant economic costs, even at today’s lower public sector discount rates.

One other questionable aspect of National’s plan is what they call “intergenerational funding”.  This is fancy language for borrowing, in this case off the core Crown accounts and having NZTA borrow instead.  As far as I can see there is almost nothing going for this particular approach –  one already indulged in by Labour, with Housing New Zealand now borrowing on-market.  It will be a (a bit) more costly than the central government borrowing itself, with no more likelihood the debt will be defaulted on, it is less transparent,  and unless the government is proposing to delegate all final decisions on projects to officials (which they –  rightly in my view –  show no sign of) there is no reason to think it will either tap new sources of capital (the NZ government not being debt-constrained) or introduce new disciplines on Crown capital spending.  There is, or can be, a place for government borrowing, but decisions on that are better taken, and managed, centrally.

So there were big numbers in the announcement, some big projects (which may or not be economic, may or may not ever happen even if National winds), but little or no sense of a credible economic model lying behind it, grounded in the specifics of New Zealand’s underperformance.  And if there is such a model at all, it just seems to be more of the same –  rapidly growing, but quite volatile, population – the strategy that has so comprehensively failed for the last few decades.      More and better roads aren’t going to materially change that.  Nor –  although it should be done as a matter of priority –  are the sorts of land use reforms that might make house prices more affordable. The new Leader of Opposition suggests a National government might do something there.  But we’ve heard that story before – whether from National in Opposition in 2008 or from Phil Twyford in Opposition in 2017.  Perhaps this time really would be different, but I’m certainly not counting on it.

36 thoughts on “Thinking Big still

    • She seems to have the knack of being an effective Opposition leader, as (my hazy youthful memories suggest) Muldoon did. It is a pretty rare skill. But to what end, what grounded vision etc?


      • National should do what Muldoon would have done and that is to save Tiwai Point Smelter which in turn saves 2600 highly skilled jobs. We should not and cannot be wholly dependent on China for our aluminium raw material just because they are cheaper. China produces cheaper because they compromise quality and they use cheap slave labour. Labour party and Jacinda Ardern is just completely dumb.

        Also Marsden Point Refinery should be kept active in NZ. This will save 3500 highly skilled jobs. To import and buy petroleum refined in Singapore which is just another China lackey(Singapore trained most of Chinas administrators in the early formation of Chinas economic growth strategies) is just stupidity by Jacinda Ardern who clearly is dumb.

        Grant Robertson who talks about productivity keeps subsidising bungy jumping and tourism which is low skilled and low productivity and he wants to shut down Tiwai Point Smelting and Marsden Point refineries which are high skilled and highly productive factories. Dumb and dumber are our Labour Government leaders.


  1. In real terms where has the growth been in the last 30 years? I listened to Kathryn Ryan interviewing Judith Collins and there was no sense of looking back and asking whether we might not have been in better shape?
    I think of the highway south of Christchurch as the AirB’nB Highway?


    • 1) The growth has been the totally unproductive use of capital bidding up land prices
      NZ has had the largest increase in real house prices since 1980.

      2) I disagree with Collins. Capital is scarce & NZ needs to use it the best it can. The wellbeing approach across government spending (cost/benefit approach & improvements in total welfare(per capita) pushed by Bill English) is the right one. It needs to be extended to local government spending as well.

      Every dollar Collins puts into transport ahead of time is a dollar not available for other wellbeing spending.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I think this is a very negative take on National’s proposals Michael. This country is light years behind other developed nations when it comes to infrastructure, and even some developing countries eg Malaysia. I would be happy to bet that the drag on productivity imposed by Auckland’s congestion is now well north of $one billion. (Wellington not so much perhaps as few people actually produce anything in that town). The Gordian knot has to be cut and a bold outline of the way forward set in place. An important step in the right direction will be the total repeal of the Resource Management Act which has been a deadweight on the economy for decades. That was included in the announcement too, with the RMA to be replaced by two main pieces of new legislation that will be fit for purpose. So my glass is more than half full, even if yours is apparently more than half empty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think where we may differ is that I’d emphasise congestion charging in Akld and Wgtn, and the stuff in/around Akld itself (since I’m quite comfortable with the idea of congestion being quite costly). What makes me uncomfortable is the tunnels (to Whangarei and Tauranga, esp the former.

      And being an economist I do like to see projects pass cost-benefit tests,

      And much of it is still attuned to the mad rush to grow the population in an unpropitious location – and thus, in some sense, a distraction from confronting the real issues.

      But I guess there are more speeches/promises to come.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree Michael regarding immigration. COVID 19 has effectively suppressed it for the foreseeable future so perhaps NZ businesses will come to realize that investing in new plant and equipment is more productive than relying on access to cheap imported labour, which also imposes significant costs elsewhere including on infrastructure, services and the environment. Every cloud has a silver lining, another outcome of COVID being that New Zealanders are now taking a more critical view of China and are voicing their concern about CCP infiltration of our political parties. Madame Wu was moved to react menacingly today to such criticism in her speech at the NZ-China Business Summit in Auckland.

        As for congestion charging, it’s fine in theory but potentially very burdensome on the lower waged workers who need to commute by car to keep our hospitals and factories ticking over.

        Liked by 2 people

      • What you need to do is spend a few weeks driving a truck over the Kaimai’s or up the Brynderwyns.
        They are not the only unproductive bits of road we have but are certainly in the top 5.
        Lots of grind for very few miles. Around Lake Taupo would be next on my list.

        You could look at the Tauranga Katikati road. Very high use, very high accident rate, still looks like the cart track it was when I moved here 45 years ago. The Nats. got that to get started. Twyford stopped it and they are still wrangling with the geology guys over the payment for the Geotech surveys. According to Twyford its shovel ready. Would be finished almost if he had left it alone.

        Cost-benefit analysis is hockey pockey dream up numbers rubbish. Garbage in garbage out. The needs are rather more obvious.
        Even with the Transmission Gully road. There is no way to fix the sea route as it is on the submerging side of the Island and every big earthquake tips it a little further over into the sea, unlike Kaikoura which lifted the land.
        No cost-benefit spreadsheet will ever show that. It requires a sense of rational perception of nature. Oh, you can dream up numbers forever but they, like political polls, are just a guess.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Odysseus: We cannot be certain about Covid-19 suppressing population. I’m waiting to see how many couples in lockdown will be having children at the end of this year. Our crazy high permanent immigration was about 50k per year and has been dropped to 35k under the current govt. It is New Zealanders leaving and returning that control our population numbers. It is quite conceivable for half a million to return in the next two years and virtually none to leave – that would be the equivalent to a decade of our recent population changes. Hope I am wrong. Fortunately work visas should be dramatically reduced while Covid-19 remains active.

        A modern computerised congestion charge could easily be tuned to minimise impact on low waged workers – those working shifts could have free or even subsidised travel charges; entry to hospital grounds could be a negative charge; more than say 4 identical journeys a week could be free; older cars cheaper; etc.
        Compared to the code underlying Uber, Trade-Me, AirBnB it is trivial to write a flexible congestion charge system linked to NZTA’s database of vehicle registrations.
        New Zealand’s failure to write half decent computer systems has long been a puzzle to me since all the Kiwi programmers and analysts I met when working in the UK and various overseas countries were pragmatic and skilled.
        My most recent NZ computing story was yesterday and is the the Auckland AT Hop card (a bus-pass). You can register your pass online which makes loading funds on to it simple. If like me you have a grandson you want to travel with during school holidays then you can add his card to your registration. Linking card makes sense – an entire family’s cards accessed from one screen. Seemed good. Until my grandson started using his bus pass to travel home from school. His mother (different address) needs to control it now. The system prevents a card being attached to more than one registration. However the brain dead designer permited linking but not unlinking. After a long discussion with AT staff they tell us we can cancel his bus-pass (large paper form); get a refund of his money to a bank account and then buy a new card. The new card costs $10. It is not the cost or inconvenience that bugs me but the stupidity of the designer. Of course the high level computer analysts will never catch a bus.


  3. Dove Meyer Robinson pushed his “vision” for years and was opposed by the establishment

    Wikipedia: Robinson’s main focus during his second period as mayor (1968-1980) was his advocacy for rapid transit system for Auckland. Robinson’s proposal for a bus-rail rapid transit plan was “to provide fast, modern electrified railways through the main traffic corridors of the region”..The proposal had passenger trains every three minutes running from an underground subway terminal in the city centre with above ground tracks leading to Howick, Auckland Airport and a tunnel to the North Shore. The scheme was heavily criticized for its cost (an estimated $273 million in 1973) and both the ARA chairman Tom Pearce and most of its members opposed the scheme.

    Eventually the underground subway terminal in central AKL came to fruition together with the elimination of the terminals and railyards at the bottom of Parnell

    What I do remember of that time was the total opposition to Robbie. He was ridiculed. Which has the very same characteristics to the opposition to relocating Port-of-Auckland. The voices will oppose and oppose and oppose. Until one far distant day in the future there will be capitulation and will be done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s pretty much my recollection of the Rapid Rail idea. Robbie was a visionary type and others who opposed him in council were not. He was right about sewage treatment and he was right about the need for improved rail network. Should have been done years ago.


  4. Odysseus: “As for congestion charging, it’s fine in theory but potentially very burdensome on the lower waged workers who need to commute by car to keep our hospitals and factories ticking over.”

    If low-paid essential workers cannot afford to commute to work, the solution is higher pay, failing which these workers will drop out of the relevant market. With the borders closed indefinitely, employers can no longer rely on importing more low-paid workers to fill the gaps. Many of these workers are in industries substantially funded from the public purse (health, ECE, bus drivers, etc), so the Government will have to come to the party.
    The consequence of higher wages is that employers start to substitute capital for labour and to redesign processes for greater efficiency. Both of these improve productivity.
    So a possible consequence of congestion charging, over time, may be to contribute a bit to resolving the low-productivity/low-wage problem that Michael keeps talking about.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to see you back and in good form.

    RMA repeal is likely just another election promise! .
    Reform has been prominent in manifestos in the last three elections that National won.But it did not happen.
    Excuses for non implementation included ,United Future, the Māori Party and even Peters winning Northland.
    While MMP has enabled those results there also seems to be a lack of will in the party to address reform or repeal, MMP ensures they are not held to account.
    I suspect they still do not have the courage to address this monster embedded as it is throughout the NZ economy.
    This is sad because deregulation could energise NZ productivity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whether its RMA repeal or revision it does need to be done.

      Government after government has failed to put in place national environmental standards based by social cost benefit assessment.

      Government after government has allowed the RMA to be applied like the town & country planning act, rather than being truly effects based.

      It is now full of rules stacked as high as the skytower which have been written at the whim of planners who dont face the costs of the rules themselves, and which have not had individual regulatory impact or cost/benefit assessments undertaken on them.

      Personally I’d prefer the RMA is revised. It is theoretically sound legislation just appallingly implemented.
      Along with national environmental standards being implemented all the existing rules should be sunsetted and new rules only imposed if they are at the national level and backed by RIA C/B assessment.

      There should be very few cases where more localised rules are truely needed.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The RMA claims ‘sustainability’ as its goal. Exponential growth and sustainability are an oxymoron, which may explain our impasse. And it is sad, this late in the human trajectory, to still be seeing comments like “This is sad because deregulation could energise NZ productivity”.

    One stage further back, we fail because we discuss the ‘economics’ of things, rather than the physics. This is why Climate Change. This is why oceanic plastic soups. This is why resource draw-down at exponentially-increasing rates. ‘Economics’ calls these ‘externalities’, whereas I’d call them ‘required to support life’.

    For those who haven’t though to question ‘productivity’, or indeed any of the peddled mantra, here’s a brief brief:

    While our collection of activities could grow (basically while we could extract ever-more historically-stored solar energy), we constructed causal stories that were simply incorrect. You may have a mole on your left cheek and you may be alive; you may also believe the former is the reason for the latter. It will work for you until it doesn’t; ‘growth forever’ economics is akin to mole-belief. We need to be addressing long-term sustainability, and much of our current collection of car-centric sprawl, along with our fossil-energy-requiring agribusiness format, will be found wanting.

    In physics terms, cities aren’t ‘engines of growth’ or ‘centres of productivity’; they are nothing more than giant heat-engines; the Laws of Thermodynamics apply (as is being proven by CC) as does the problem of entropy. Becoming sustainable will require massive de-growth, massive triage, inspired re-purposing and innovation (Cuba post-USSR the best example, if we can divest ourselves of abhorrence acquired via propaganda; Dr Seus’ Butter Battle book will explain if still confused). I see it as no coincidence that globalism has peaked and is ebbing. I see it as no coincidence that we are shaping up to fight over ‘what’s left of the planet’. And I see many folk continuing to believe the moles on their left cheeks are why they’re alive (Otherwise known as worshippers of GDP thinking its continued pursuance will solve all ills).

    As for the RMA, it was always going to be largely about lines drawn on the physical topography; what else is there when you have to adjudge competing spatial demands? What it isn’t doing, is providing sustainability; the test being that future generations (plural and indefinite, yet so often it’s appraised as a 1:1 ratio) can have the same access to resources and energy, as we do. With the important proviso: Per head. Each. So the RMA has to address population and fossil energy draw-down, to be within a bull’s roar of sustainability.

    The opposite, of course is unsustainability. Unsustainability is what we’ve been practicing thus far, but (irrespective of whether the unsustainable activities are severally big or severally small, and even whether they stack-up ‘economically’, unsustainabiity is unsustainable. Make that ‘was’.


    • Yeah… nah… the laws of Thermodynamics do not apply to innovation – and that’s what cities are good at… plenty of research on that topic….


  7. I’m wary of the usefulness of the standard cost benefit analysis (CBA) used by engineers to assess the value of projects. Having a trawl through the NZTA website does not fill me with any confidence that these CBA tools are taking into account the dynamic effects of economic activity.

    I’ve built many a detailed cost model for businesses and feasibility studies for construction projects. The one page analysis is backed up by detailed cost analysis over time taking into account a myriad of different inputs and algorithms.

    The details and the outcomes are not the same as a CBA for a roading/tunnelling project, but the principals are the same. The short point is how much use is being made of real option analysis in any of this CBA analysis and what of Monte Carlo analysis around changing variables? It would seem pretty obvious to me that any CBA modelling over time needs to take these two techniques into some account at the very least.

    I’ve found one NZTA research paper on option modelling and one on Monte Carlo analysis… from 2001 about earthworks slopes… ok… so nothing built into financial analysis and CBA…

    These people need some financial economists (I know at least one) rather than more engineers cutting these analyses… then we might get some outcomes that reflect reality… for example, the Waterview Tunnel had a very poor CBA result, but would Auckland be without it now??

    Not sure about a tunnel under the Brynderwyn hill for road or rail, or a road tunnel under the Kaimai ranges, but a beefed up rail tunnel there might make some sense… depending on the above analysis…


    • That all sounds sensible.

      Re Waterview, I think even the std cost-benefit analysis would have looked much more favourable if the road had been trenched rather than tunnelled.

      A robust Treasury would, of course, be making the sorts of points you are, and no doubt others.


      • I love the Waterview Tunnel. It has removed and diverted all the western traffic from Richardson Road, May Road and Dominion Road. I get a clear 15 min run from Mt Roskill into the city in peak traffic. Wonderful!! Initially I had my doubts about the Waterview Tunnel but National did a great job. I know this because everytime they closed the tunnel due some mishap or accident, it takes me more than an hour to get from Mt Roskill into the city on Dominion Road. Also a reminder how jammed up it was for many years before the tunnel was built.


      • Due to Nimby objections trenches takes time and extensive public consultation, visual, noise and air pollution mitigation costs will also need to be factored. Tunnels bypass Nimby objections to visual, noise and air pollution.


    • Yeah, nah,nah.

      Ingenuity can only help use energy more efficiently. That too comes up against the Second Law (of Thermodynamics). The classic is the difference between a Model T and your (presumably0 modern fuel-injected, aerodynamic, computer-controlled car.

      Both run to a halt with an empty tank. Lesson learned? So this ‘belief in the human brain’ or ‘belief in technology saving us’ is wrong. Prima facie wrong. As is all the economic claptrap which hinges on it.

      “These people need some financial economists” Ah, no. That’s what has got us to where we are now; that and those who believe technology will save us from……… the effects of technology.

      Good interview on Nat radio as I post this; the son of Mel Brooks unsurprisingly. Good logic and good lateral thinking. Worth the listen.


  8. Have sat through a number of ILM ( investment logic mapping )processes often used by NZTA .
    They also use BCR ( benefit cost ratio ) which they use to assess project viability.
    ILM is pretty complex in operation but does get a lot of other “relevant “ issues considered.


  9. The wet carpets in the staterooms on E deck were a puzzle. A team of off-watch Engineers were sent to solve it. Many were the ideas batted around; these were after all practical people. One in-depth 🙂 study looked at removable carpet-squares which could be taken away in rotation, and dried on deck in the sun. Another suggested pumps. A further one went so far as to do a cost-benefit analysis on throwing all the carpet over the side, and using lino. Inevitably, one investigated the costs involved in shifting everyone up a deck.

    Having failed to factor-in the hitting of an iceberg an hour earlier………

    Doesn’t matter how detailed, how smart, how many hours went in, who did it; if the scoping is too restricted…. This is were we are at present. 99.999% of the human race is acting as if tomorrow will resemble yesterday. Do any of those roading studies research the availability of surfacing feed-stock post, say, 2030?


  10. Many cycleways have BCR of 7 or more, and cost very little, compared to other infrastructure, so it’s not clear to me why you would be skeptical of them


    • The main one I’ve paid close attention to is the notorious Island Bay cycleway. The numbers for that scheme certainly did not add up.

      I have no particular trouble with cycleways in new areas. Retrofitting them, against wishes of residents, in difficult lgeographies seems more a matter of ideological assertion than anything else.

      Liked by 3 people

      • If a cycleway has a strong BCR, I don’t know why the views of the locals who want the neighbourhood preserved in amber should be really taken into account. We certainly don’t follow that with other infrastructure.


      • When, as in the IB case, almost all of any plausible benefits supposedly accrue to residents, the widespread opposition of residents is a pointer to the (in any case evident) inadequacies of the cost-benefit analysis undertaken. There isn’t always that sort of alignment, but in this particular case there was.


      • Both sides of the cycling ‘debate’ are suffering from a lack of scoping; the comments above more so than cycling advocates.

        The Titanic (refer above, and link further up) scoping is that an SUV, bought new now, will not see its operational life out before it becomes a stranded asset. Our very fast, very mobile, very recent way of life was predilected on fossil energy (as is EV tech and renewable energy hardware). Extrapolate it out, and there opens up a window of mass cycleways; our roading network before it decays.

        Both sides fail to address what ‘work’ really is too. Thus the nonsense about cities being ‘engines of growth/innovation etc. Physically, we extract, consume and excrete resources. Most of us in the current construct are parasitic upon that flow; we are issued socially-agreed amounts of tokens, redeemable in processed resources. We call it work. It isn’t. So when the chips are down, most city ‘work’ won’t be either in demand, or remunerated.

        Which rather changes transport – and demographic – planning (expect a return of labour to food-production, for instance). But bikes will outlast the current crop of ICE vehicles, nothing surer.


    • The question is, does the CBA take into account the number of people who will actually use the cycleway as opposed to the number of people who own bikes in the area or who say that they may use a cycleway if one was built? The Hutt Road cycleway in Wellington has X uses per hour, but would a CBA take into account the social and medical costs of the increased/decreased number of people who are t-boned by a car/t-bone a car as a result of the cycleway being there?


  11. Building for the future requires vision

    The planners of the Sydney Harbour Bridge built a bridge for the future, not the past. The population of Sydney was 1 million in 1923 when they began building the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was completed in 1932 in the middle of the great depression. It was built with a life-span of 100 years which has 10 years to go. Population of Sydney is now 5 million.

    After a 1948 Royal Commission, construction of the 4 lane Auckland Harbour Bridge began in 1956 and completed in 1959. It reached capacity in 1968

    The current leader of the opposition is proposing to expand the width of SH1 from 2 lanes to 4 lanes from Whangarei to Hamilton and out to Tauranga. that is short-term thinking. First of all SH1 as it exists today is simply the 1900 dirt track with tarseal overlaid over the top. It follows least-resistance geographic contours, built long before the massive equipment of today was available. Adding 1 lane either side of the existing 2 lane SH1 would be so disruptive to current traffic it would simply perpetuate the type of 50% disruption the construction of the CRL is causing in parts of Auckland CBD. A 3 year shutdown of large parts of the CBD. The only solution would be to build 2 additional lanes beside the existing SH1. Such a solution would lock the existing design and course flaws in place for the next 100 years. How long it would take to build is unknown

    Flying a “Think Big” kite
    What is required is a visionary divided dual carriageway distribution backbone from Auckland to Wellington along the same lines as the Hume Highway in Australia. Rail and Train will never happen in the North Island because of its geography. NZ has little to no choice to do anything but roading

    Check out this picture of the Hume Highway


    • The Lincoln Road Interchange project on Auckland’s Northwestern motorway (SH16) was upgraded to replace the existing two-way single lane interchange and overbridge. Commenced 2010 completed 2015. See picture in following link and look at the size of it. 6 years to complete and solve a 2005 problem

      The Transmission Gully Motorway is a 27-kilometre (17 mi) four-lane motorway under construction in Wellington, New Zealand. Construction officially began on 8 September 2014 and completion was originally scheduled for April 2020, but has been delayed to later in 2020. Transmission Gully Motorway include 4 interchange- flyovers. 7 years, 27 kilometres and still not finished.


    • I don’t believe the plan involves simply adding a lane or two to the existing highways, the Northern Motorway extension (to Warkworth) is entirely on a new alignment, as are much of the Waikato and Tauranga expresssways. New Bryndurwyn and Kaimai tunnels are also proposed.


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