Leaving Solid Foundations For Auckland’s Transport
Auckland regional councillor Les Paterson is retiring from politics after nine years as the Auckland Regional Council’s Transport Committee chairman.
His three terms in regional council politics follow three years as a Community Board member in Howick, and a full business career spanning engineering, marketing and chief executive roles in both the transport and disabilities industries.
“I’m looking forward to retirement, knowing that the hard yards have been done for the future of the transport networks of the region,” said Councillor Paterson.
In 1992, when Cr Paterson took over as chairman of the newly formed ARC Transport Committee, patronage of public transport had been steadily declining for a decade. He oversaw the reversal of this trend and since 1994 a steady increase in public transport patronage. “We’re now in a very positive situation where in 2000, seven percent more Aucklanders took public transport than in 1999,” said Cr Paterson. “The projection for this year is even higher.”
During these nine years more bus routes have been added throughout the region. In particular the ARC Transport Committee has funded a clutch of innovative new services such as the Link bus service in central Auckland, new cross-town routes and other local loop services. More ferry services have been established, including the popular Half Moon Bay ferry and additional sailings on other services.
Rail has been the toughest nut to crack. Cr Paterson played a lead role in more than six years of sustained work by the Auckland region in negotiations with Tranz Rail to find a way to improve rail services.
“The future looks assured now for rail transport in the region, with the Government publicly committed to assuring Auckland region access to the rail tracks. This is the biggest direct commitment that Government has ever made to assist in the solutions to Auckland’s transport problem.”
Alongside steady improvement in public transport, Cr Paterson’s tenure as Transport Committee chairman has, above all, been a time of setting solid foundations to enable major improvements to Auckland’s transport networks in the future.
Cr Paterson presided over the formation of the Regional Land Transport Strategy and the Passenger Transport Action Plan, two historically important documents for Auckland that have set the vision and direction for improving all aspects of Auckland’s transport, in close association with the Regional Growth Strategy. The three documents were drafted by the ARC in close collaboration with the local councils, and launched in November 1999 with commitment from all local councils and other agencies.
“In these strategies, we have a very secure foundation and every opportunity for continuing growth in passenger transport numbers,” said Cr Paterson.
“In addition, the commitment to achieving the roading objectives of the RLTS have been taken up by Transit NZ and Transfund, and we can look forward in the very near future, to starts being made to easing congestion around Spaghetti Junction, the Ports of Auckland and the North Shore Busway. There is also a commitment to progressing the north-western main arterial route for linking state highways 20, 18 and 16.”
“The ARC has come a long way in establishing this solid regionally agreed strategic direction and framework for the future. We have taken on this heavy responsibility despite having little statutory authority, by being inclusive and working closely with local councils and other community representatives. We have played a lead role in bringing the whole region together throughout this time.”
“The next step is to forge ahead with getting things done, and removing the roadblocks that are slowing action. We need to ensure that central Government continues to be our active partner in solving Auckland’s transport issues, and we need to continue to work with business on solutions to ensure that Auckland remains competitive as an international region.”
“There is a need now for more authority to be given to the Regional Council by Government, both through legislative reform and through giving directions to funding authorities in order to give teeth to the strategic direction that we’ve set. Clearly, funding must follow strategies and must be assured.”
“Nothing that we have achieved as a council could have been achieved without the hard, behind the scenes work of our dedicated staff. I can’t speak too highly of them, from our CEO and Director of Transport down through the ranks. I’ve also enjoyed the active support of our Chairman Phil Warren and many of my fellow councillors, not only within the ARC but within each of the local authorities in the region. I must also thank the people throughout the region who have been supportive of our efforts.
“On a more personal note, I could not have given so much time and effort to the transport portfolio without the support of my wife, Brenda, who has been an ever-present adviser and sounding board over the years.”
Councillor Paterson will finish his term at the October local elections. He is planning on enjoying his retirement, although he has already been approached by some organisations to be involved and is considering those opportunities.