Beware Greeks bearing gifts….

130207-billboard-morning-hold-2A bus strike in Auckland  – how strange that  was  when  media  reported little in the way of carpooling,  the tactic which served locals well  in the oil shocks of the 1970s.   Another hint of the collapse of community?  Aucklanders  were warned  about the obvious traffic jams ahead – as if there aren’t any most other days.   The city’s woeful dependence on cars is its major failure and in Wellington that hasn’t been helped by a lack of vision.

Labour reneged on a 1972 election promise to support the plan;  National ruled it out in 1976 so it’s a cause for saying a pox on both houses. In the mid-1950s, the city lost its trams, but had gained miles of motorways, more and more cars and,  increasingly, trucks.

Fast forward 40 years to   this National Prime Minister’s media-hyped, belated concern for Auckland’s transport woes.   He announced at his ‘State of the Nation’ address in the city that he had brought 2.5 billion worth of spending forward. So with a bit of luck we should get the show on the rails in…2020. Perhaps.   But what accompanied the announcement   – not from Key but from his reliable outriders – were suggestions that Aucklanders might be tolled to travel on their own roads.

And that’s the Trojan horse – get a long overdue rail system for a near broken transport system – and ask locals to pay. Key is downplaying tolling but we’ve heard all that before with asset sales and foreign investment in residential and rural land.   It’s been nicely set up for tolling by Rodney Hide (read Key’s) re-structuring of the Auckland City Council. That resulted in the emergence of so called Council Controlled organisations over which the Council has a vestige of control. Yet these boards are responsible for 70% of Auckland’s assets.

Aucklanders can however take comfort in the fact that they now have a Government which really, really cares about rail – even if we’re one of the few cities in the world with   no rail link to its international airport…

Lost in much of the laudatory coverage over the inner-city link announcement was Key’s mention that the Council would have to do its own financial homework to see how much it could contribute. And the prize there is the one National has always pursued – asset sales.   Ah the Nats, the Government which keeps on giving. To its mates.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.