Hello Auckland - it's APEC so take the day off; otherwise chaos
By Richard Harman (author)
Congestion in Auckland is likely to be so bad during the APEC summit in 2021 that it is already being suggested the city’s workers stay home for the duration of the meeting.
Auckland EMA CEO Kim Campbell said yesterday this was one possibility and sources in Wellington say it would be one way of solving the likely jams as both the President of the US and the President of Russia along with another 19 heads of state and government from Pacific Rim countries gather in the city for the summit.
Each year's meeting is one of the world's biggest security challenges.
Last year’s in Manila brought the city to a standstill as thousands of military personnel and armed police provided security.
Campbell's comments come as his organisation publishes an Election Manifesto today which has a big emphasis on the need for reform of local Government finance, planning legislation and the problems of congestion in Auckland.
He says they are currently doing a study of the cost of congestion and though it is not complete it is likely to be costing the city around $1 - $2 billion a year in lost productivity.
“But you’ve also got to factor into that people deciding they don’t want to do something here because it is too hard to do it,” he said.
“And you’ve got transport companies running at 60% capacity or having to buy more buses and trucks.”
Campbell’s organisation is just one of a group of bodies in Auckland which are becoming impatient with what they argue is the Government's tardy response to the Auckland infrastructure crisis.
Because they are National leaning, they are unlikely to make a big noise before the election.
But it is clear they are going to put the pressure on whoever is the Government after the election to reform the overall governance environment and to bring forward some of the big transport projects already in the pipeline for Auckland.
Prime Minister Bill English hinted on Monday that the Government was reviewing the list of transport priorities outlined in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project report on transport requirements over the next ten years.
“We’ve been working with the Auckland Council on whether the current plan meets Auckland’s requirement,” he told his weekly press conference.
The cost estimate last year for the work was $24 billion.
"The Council has raised the question that the $24 billion may not be enough, so that is under discussion," he said.
That may be enough to satisfy the Auckland lobby in the lead up to the election, but it is unlikely to do so once the new Government is formed.
"There ought to be more urgency,” said Campbell.
“It ought to be part of the mainstream debate.”
Part of that debate should be whether transport led economic development or followed it.
"In most countries, economic development follows where transport leads and transport becomes the enabler.
“But here it hasn’t.
“If you talk to the Ministry of Transport people that’s not their brief at all.
“Therefore the planning systems that fall off the back of that are reflective of that thinking."
However, Campbell does see some hope on the horizon.
"With APEC and the America's Cup (both scheduled for 2021) suddenly there is a deadline.
“I’ve been to the last five of them and you see what everybody does – they shut streets, in Beijing they sent everybody home.
"In Manila, the whole centre of the city was closed off with battalion strength security.
“Auckland will have never seen anything like it so.
“These will be big international events, and we don't want to look like a banana republic.
“We need to step up with better hotels and better transport infrastructure.
“The Greens have come up with the idea of light rail which is great.
“It’s going to make people realise that we’ve got to get moving so having a deadline is a good thing.”
POLITIK understands that the Government will shortly announce the creation of an APEC planning office to deal with the arrangements for the meeting.
Meanwhile the pressure on Auckland's transport system will only intensify.