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ARC's 'Political Ambush' Criticised by RAM

ARC's 'Political Ambush' Criticised by RAM

Below is the draft annual plan submission made to Auckland Regional Council by RAM - Residents Action Movement.

It criticises the ARC for a lack of participatory democracy. An example was the ARC's "political ambush" of Robyn Hughes, RAM councillor on the ARC, over a $170 million Ports of Auckland share bid.

This submission on the ARC draft plan comes from RAM - Residents Action Movement.

RAM is a citizens organisation with a sizeable supporter base and a specific interest in the Auckland Regional Council.


As part of this submission, two lengthy appendixes detail RAM's attitude to:

(1) Rating policy.

(2) Transport policy. (While the law now says transport policy is the responsibility of Auckland Regional Transport Authority, the ARC enjoys considerable institutional and informal influence over our region's transport issues. The ARC must do much more to promote a cut-through solution to traffic gridlock, rather than playing around the edges as at present. So we present RAM's submission to ARTA on 21 March 2005.)


In brief, here are RAM's key submissions:

(1) The ARC should move towards an Equal Shares rating policy where business and homeowners each pay 50% of the total rate take. This will require a business differential of around 4. On average, this would deliver a 30% reduction in ARc home rates, which is long overdue. (See Appendix 1.)

(2) The ARC should convene a Citizens Assembly to discuss rating policy before councillors take a binding vote on rate setting. The Rates Revolt during 2003-4 showed an unprecedented intensity of public discontent with the ARC's rating policy. It would be wise, prudent and democratic for the ARC to go beyond the widely discredited "consultation process" and also engage in an interactive debate with a broad range of community representatives at a Citizens Assembly.

(3) The ARC should use its strategic oversight of ARTA and its considerable institutional and informal influence over regional transport issues to promote a cut-through solution to traffic gridlock, global warming and the looming oil crisis. In our geographically huge region with a mostly light population, more tarseal per person than any comparable city in the world and few rail tracks, this cut-through solution can only be massive investment in modern buses. RAM has asked ARTA for a large-scale trial of free buses, which is supported by Manukau City's transport committee. RAM asks the ARC to likewise support such a free buses trial. (See Appendix 2.)

(4) The ARC should express opposition to toll roads. The Labour government, supported by corporate lobbyists, is promoting a toll roads strategy which threatens to take our roads out of the public domain for the first time since the birth of the New Zealand state. The people who will pay for toll roads will be the same people who pay for the corporatisation and privatisation of all public assets - the grassroots majority. Because the government and the corporates realise the deep unpopularity of their toll roads project, they are seeking to rename it as "traffic demand management". Sadly, the ARC is going along with this political relabelling, leading RAM to doubt there is the political will on the ARC to fight for free roads. We would like to be proved wrong, but aren't holding our breath.


RAM wishes to make a verbal submission to the ARC on these points.

For the record, however, we state our complete lack of confidence in the ARC's process of "community consultation".

If the ARC was really serious about "listening to the people", then two things would have happened differently:

(1) Our proposal for a Citizens Assembly, which has been repeatedly raised by RAM as an organisation and by RAM councillor Robyn Hughes, would have at least been seriously discussed by the whole ARC. But instead, no other ARC councillors have shown any keenness for such a council debate to happen, leading RAM to conclude that the ARC's "community consultation" is a very different beast from "participatory democracy".

(2) Our conclusion has been reinforced by the ARC's secretive behaviour around the $170 million Ports of Auckland share bid by ARC subsidiary Auckland Regional Holdings. Despite the enormity of this financial transaction, which will have huge implications for our region, at no time did the whole ARC even debate whether or not to engage in public consultation around the ARH share bid. It was sprung on RAM councillor Robyn Hughes at the last moment, meaning she had no serious information and couldn't make the decision-making meeting. RAM regards this process as a political ambush.

So, while taking part in the ARC's "community consultation", RAM expects little from it in terms of benefits for the vast majority of grassroots people. With the honourable exception of Robyn Hughes, we expect that corporate lobbyists will exert an influence over the ARC out of all proportion to their numbers in society.

Dollar democracy, not people's democracy, looks likely to prevail once again at the ARC.

That's why RAM isn't pinning our hopes on convincing the current ARC to break the mould of Gwen Bull's council, targeted by the Rates Revolt, which was a brilliant example of popular democracy.

Instead, RAM aims to win the battle of public opinion around rates justice, participatory democracy and free buses. That will translate into a popular movement for change, votes at election time and a power shift on the ARC. This strategy seems the only viable path towards turning the ARC into an expression of the will of the majority, which RAM believes is at the heart of democracy.

RAM organiser
634 4432 (day & evening)
PO Box 13-157 Auckland

Appendix 1

RAM's proposal for ARC rates justice

Business and homeowners should each pay equal shares of the Auckland Regional Council's total rates take, says RAM - Residents Action Movement. There should be a 50/50 balance between the ARC's two contributing groups of ratepayers.

At present, ARC rates heavily favour business, particularly big business.

The tiny 1.5 business differential introduced in the final year of Gwen Bull?s ARC means that business is only required to pay one-quarter of total rates. (Memo from ARC finance director Brian Monk, 23 February 2005.)

Under Mike Lee, the ARC voted a microscopic rise in the business differential to 1.6. Mike Lee admits that this merely retains the status quo.

That means business is still one-quarter short of paying an equal rates share with homeowners.

The ARC's current policy of unequal shares imposes an unjust burden on homeowners, who must pay three-quarters of total rates.

Because of this unjust policy, struggling homeowners have subsidised the ARC's business ratepayers to the tune of $27 million over the last year alone. (The ARC Long-Term Council Community Plan 2004-14 gives the total rate take as $108 million, so the quarter share that business avoided paying comes to $27 million.)

The ARC's $27 million subsidy to corporate Auckland shows an outrageous bias towards favouring big business.

Equal shares by business and home ratepayers would require a business differential of around 4. (Table 2, ARC rates modeling February 2005.)

A differential of 4 would mean, on average, around a 30% reduction in home rates and an 85% rise in business rates.

North Shore City Council has a business differential of 9.35. (ARC officers' report 2003.) In other words, North Shore business rates are over 9 times higher in the dollar than home rates.

RAM's proposal for a differential of 4 is modest. But it would go a long way towards returning ARC home rates to what they were before the Rates Revolt in 2003.

This massive revolt was sparked by Gwen Bull's council imposing home rate hikes of up to 650%. Most homeowners paid between 100% to 300% more.

Not a word of pity for hard-hit homeowners came from corporate Auckland. They applauded the axing of the business differential, which put tens of millions into the pockets of big business.

It was only when pressure from the Rates Revolt forced the last ARC to concede a pitiful 1.5 differential that corporate Auckland let out a howl of rage. Yet the old ARC itself said the 1.5 differential meant the 2004/05 "business rate will be less than the business rates paid in 2002/03". (ARC?s New Rates Policy, 2004.)

So even the ARC's own publications admit that business has been the winner from the current 1.5 differential.

The majority of ARC councillors were elected on a pledge of "fair rates". Because of the ARC's erosion of credibility, these councillors have only one chance of convincing homeowners that they really will deliver rates justice.

Going by RAM's feedback, a rating policy that requires equal shares by businesses and homeowners will be seen as good by the vast majority of citizens.

But RAM doesn't expect the ARC to take our word on it. We want the ARC to call a Citizens Assembly so there's a mass interactive debate on rating policy, which has never happened before.

Opponents argue that the 7% of the region?s ratepayers who are businesses shouldn't have to fund half of the ARC's total rates take.

But there are compelling reasons why business should pay half:

* While small businesses would lose on their business rates, they would usually gain at least as much, probably more, on reduced rates of their mostly higher-capitalised homes. And more money in the pockets of home ratepayers is far more likely to be spent with small businesses than the rates reduction of big business would be. On balance, therefore, small businesses will be a winner from RAM's equal shares policy.

* The corporates receive most of the benefits of ARC services except parks. For instance, at times of low business activity there's no traffic gridlock. Ask any worker if they would go to work if they had a choice, and most would say they'd rather be somewhere else doing something else. Corporate Auckland, who hire a big majority of the workforce, is easily the main beneficiary of the ARC's big ticket spending on public transport.

* Business enjoys state perks like GST refunds and tax write-offs on their rates, as well as the ability to pass rates onto consumers through price hikes. Home ratepayers don't get these huge advantages.

* The corporates have a massively greater ability to pay than home ratepayers. All equitable tax systems are based on a highly graduated income scale. The law prevents local bodies adopting an income related scale of rates, so RAM's equal shares policy would be the nearest legal equivalent.

RAM's plan for ARC business and home ratepayers to pay equal shares is a bold move towards rates justice.

Given the level of corporate antagonism to RAM's proposal, we don't expect to win this campaign quickly. We believe that the current ARC will stick to its conservative, business-friendly policy which discriminates against homeowners.

RAM is looking medium term. We aim to win the battle of public opinion on this issue, which will translate into a popular movement for change, votes at election time and a power shift on the ARC. That seems the only viable path to rates justice at the ARC.

Appendix 2

RAM presentation to ARTA
21 March 2005

Our present system of social organisation faces the onset of two intertwined mega-catastrophes: global warming and energy crisis.

The Hedley Centre of the British Meteorological Office held a conference in February 2005 on Dangerous Climate Change. It was sponsored by Britain's environmental department at the request of prime minister Tony Blair.

Scientific reports to the conference make for terrifying reading. (Go to www.stabilisation2005.com for these reports.)

The common view was that climate change risks are more serious than previously suggested by the United Nations. There's now strong evidence that climate change is already underway and that future emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to increase global temperatures by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C during this century.

On current trends, the attack on the climate will continue on two fronts.

First, despite the Kyoto climate treaty, there will be a rise in greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Vehicles are a major culprit in CO2 emissions which, predicts the International Energy Agency, will increase 63% on 2002 levels by 2030.

Second, the rise in CO2 emissions will intersect with a weakening of the planet's ecological systems which soften the impact of global warming. Increasing acidity of the oceans and continuing tropical deforestation mean that the two most important "carbon sinks? taking CO2 out of the atmosphere may well cease to operate. The oceans could reach CO2 saturation point. And the forests, if levelled at current rates, will release more CO2 than they absorb.

Climate increases above 3°C would cause irreversible planetary upheavals, including changes to global climatic and oceanic circulation systems and destabilisation of the Antarctic ice sheets.

The conference agreed that the impacts of climate change are already being felt and seen. Changes are underway to polar ice, glaciers and rainfall regimes, sparking Europe's drought of 2003 and, most recently, the trans-Tasman storms of January 2005.

The conference concluded that the rate of adjustment will have to be greater the longer that action on greenhouse gas stabilisation is delayed. A 20-year delay could require the rate of emission adjustment to be three to seven times greater to reach the same temperature. Even a delay of five years could be significant.

The Hedley Centre's conference, said acclaimed British environmentalist George Monbiot, shows that global warming "threatens the continued existence of human beings on the planet?.

The Kyoto treaty goes nowhere near far enough towards the cuts in greenhouse gases that are needed, said Monbiot. "If we're going to have a serious impact on this problem we're really talking about 80% cuts within 20 years, rather than 5% cuts by 2012.?

"Everything has to change if we are to deal with this humanity-threatening problem,? Monbiot concluded. (Socialist Review March 2005.)

"You've got to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases,? insists Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-sponsored network of climatologists. With the ten warmest years all occurring since 1990, Pachauri described the evidence of global warming as "so strong?. (NZ Herald 16.12.04.)

But not everyone agrees. Backed by the US government, which refuses to sign up to Kyoto, Big Oil is sponsoring a minority of scientific dissenters. For instance, a conservative US institute which funded a conference of British climate change sceptics in January 2005 was in turn funded by ExxonMobil. Playing a central role was Sallie Ballunas, who has written in support of the release of more CO2. Ballunas is senior scientist with the Exxon-sponsored institute. (The Guardian 27.1.05.)

There are eerie similarities to how Big Tobacco could always find scientists ready to "prove? that cigarettes don't harm your health.

So there's a political war going on over global warming. On one side are a minority of climate change sceptics backed by Big Oil and the US government. On the other side, in the words of Tony Blair, are "the majority? of scientists with "independent voices? who "deserve to be listened to?. (The Guardian 27.1.05.)

The time to choose sides is now, when humanity still has a few years left to introduce far-reaching measures to halt global warming. If we wait it may be too late.

Over the decade ahead, one of the key elements of true leadership will come to be seen as a practical commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. In New Zealand, that means creating a positive alternative to the "car culture? which puts more CO2-emitting vehicles on the road per person than any other country in the world. (NZ Herald 19.3.05.)

Such an alternative can only be public transport. By law, Auckland Regional Transport Authority is now in charge of transport in our region. ARTA has a responsibility to confront global warming by promoting a bold turn towards public transport.

Such a bold turn would also tackle another looming calamity - the oil crisis.

The global market is lubricated by cheap oil. Demand for oil has been so extreme that, in just one century, about half the planet's known reserves have been used up. Yet oil consumption continues to skyrocket.

The world now consumes six barrels of oil for every new barrel found. In 2000 there were 13 major oil finds of over 500 million barrels, six in 2001, two in 2002 and none in 2003. Three major new projects will come on stream in 2007, and three more the year after. In the following years, however, none have been scheduled. (Oil Depletion Analysis Centre 29.1.04, citing a report by Chris Skrebowski in Petroleum Review, January 2004.)

"It looks as if an unprecedented crisis is just over the horizon,? observes oil geologist Kenneth Deffeyes. "There will be chaos in the oil industry, in governments and in national economies. Even if governments and industries were to recognise the problems, it's too late to reverse the trend. Oil production is going to shrink.? (Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, published 2001.)

Global oil production is about to peak, signaling an end to cheap oil, declares the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. ASPO is an influential group of oil executives, geologists, investment bankers and academics.

Recent steep rises in petrol prices is just the start, warns APSO. Prices could soon escalate to three or four times what they are now.

And it could happen very quickly. ASPO's Ali Bakhtiari, head of strategic planning at the National Oil Company of Iran, predicts that "there will only be sudden explosive change?. (BBC News 7.6.04.)

The pace of events has certainly caught the authorities out. In 2003, New Zealand's Economic Development Ministry forecast that oil would be $US20 a barrel the following year. The prediction was based on data from the US government and International Energy Agency. What actually happened in 2004 was a sharp spike to over $US50 a barrel. (NZ Herald 21.10.04.)

"I can't rule out the rise of a barrel of oil to $US80 in the coming two years,? conceded Adnan Shihab-Eldin, secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. (NZ Herald 4.3.05.)

Recent price hikes have already added $2.5 billion or more to New Zealand's oil bill, lifting it to around $6 billion a year.

Nor are there cheap and practical alternatives to oil on the horizon. Biofuels may require more arable land than is presently available for global agriculture. (George Monbiot in The Guardian 22.11.04.) America's engineering academy points to problems that rule out hydrogen for the next quarter century. (The Hydrogen Economy, 2004 report by US National Academy of Engineering.)

"The end of cheap oil is coming towards us with the force of a tsunami and New Zealand is not ready,? warns Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. "At first it will cost you $3 a litre to fill up your car. Later, there will be absolute shortages, no matter what you're prepared to pay.?

Fitzsimons stresses the need to "transform our civilisation so it can meet the challenges of peak oil, climate change and ecological collapse?. (NZ Herald 17.1.05.)

Clearly, one of the things we must urgently transform is Auckland's car dependency.

In the Auckland region, notes political analyst Chris Trotter, "the privileging of private over public transportation facilitated a colossal, taxpayer-funded construction and building boom - as well as the semi-permanent entrenchment of construction and real estate interests in the city's political and planning structures?.

But now, says Trotter, the depletion of oil and consequent price hikes pose "a genuine threat to New Zealand's future economic security?.

He predicts that people who will be priced out of their cars would judge the authorities on how well they respond to surging demand for public transport. (The Independent 30.6.04.)

How well will ARTA respond? That will largely depend on how soon ARTA and its political master, the ARC, start pushing for a major shift of government funds from roads to public transport. And on whether the ARC rallies public opinion to move a government that's bound to be reluctant.

Without collective action on a world scale, global warming and the oil crisis will spark mega-catastrophes that threaten our economic, political and environmental security.

Given the seriousness of the threats, New Zealand's attempts at risk management are so inadequate as to be farcical.

If Helen Clark's government wanted to get real about global warming and the oil crisis, billions would be diverted into Auckland's buses and trains. Instead, over 80% of the region's transport project funding flows to roads under Labour. Even worse is the National Party's "more roads? mantra.

The road bias of the politicians reflects their appeasement of powerful vested interests, like the road construction industry, Automobile Association, carmakers, Big Oil, Transit, property developers, trucking firms and so on.

If we're not going to get realistic and visionary leadership from the top, it's got to come from below. That's why RAM has started a free buses campaign, which is being greeted with enthusiasm by Aucklanders sick of traffic gridlock and fumey air.

RAM's free buses petition calls for "a major shift of government funds away from motorways and into buses for the people?. Our petition seeks "the urgent introduction of thousands more buses across greater Auckland which are free and frequent and close to everyone in built-up areas?.

It will be presented at the Regional Land Transport Committee's public hearings in July/August 2005.

Our petition has been personally endorsed by close to 200 top academics, community activists, prominent artists, Maori leaders, environmentalists, union officials, local politicians, business people, religious figures, ethnic representatives, sports stars and other respected Aucklanders. (See Appendix 1 for a full list of endorsers.)

Manukau City's transport committee voted in February 2005 to back our petition. The committee's resolution "urges ARTA to give serious consideration to the concepts underpinning the free buses petition?. (MCC transport committee minutes 3.2.05.)

At this meeting, Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis called on "all authorities in the Auckland region? to support RAM's "vision? of free buses. (ArchiveStuff 11.2.05.)

Sir Barry wants ARTA to give free buses a large-scale trial in the three suburbs of Mangere, Otara and Manurewa. (RAM meeting with Sir Barry 24.2.05.)

The mayor reports calls from "all sorts of people? endorsing his support for free buses. (Manukau Courier 8.3.05.)

RAM's experiences dovetail with Sir Barry's feedback. At sports, cultural and community events, typically 75% to 90% of passersby will sign the petition.

A stream of supportive messages have flowed into RAM. A few samples:

* "I've always believed that free public transport is the key to unlocking the huge potential of bus lanes, by reducing the point-of-entry ticketing delay and providing genuine enticement via a free service.? - transport consultant.

* "A frequent fare-free service will attract many more passengers than the current system does. It will reduce road congestion, which is very expensive in terms of time, petrol and pollution. As a result, both bus passengers and car drivers should be better off than they are today. Thus the net cost to society of providing the fare-free service is much lower than it seems. It's a win-win solution.? - transport network designer.

* "I strongly support your petition as an effective means to address increasing traffic gridlock in Auckland.? - business executive.

* "At last, a sensible and affordable solution.? - community services manager.

* "It's a great idea.? - top business academic.

* "An important merit with free buses is a better flow of people on and off the bus, so they can be more efficient. We have to change the cultural thinking in Auckland towards favouring public transportation. An education campaign promoting free services and the reasons behind it is very important to encourage public buy-in. We want to attract people onto buses who're not just sensitive to the ticket price.? - local body politician.

* "I fully support free buses. The more we get cars off the road, the smaller our country's fuel bill will be, hence a saving in our overseas debt.? - another local body politician.

* "My daughter works in the city and drives to work because bus fares are so expensive.? - Waitakere community activist.

* "Free buses are a socially responsible idea.? - top humanities academic.

* "Your proposal will bring a lot of environmental and personal benefits to Auckland and Aucklanders.? - senior Maori academic.

* "I support free buses and would like to see it extend to ferries as well. A combined bus/ferry service would take a lot of pressure off the harbour bridge, and maybe save huge expenditure on future harbour crossings.? - another senior Maori academic.

* "It's the most viable of all answers to our continuing gridlock and unclean air and all the other downstream effects of too many cars and no effective public transport.? - art gallery manager.

When very different groups of citizens support free buses on the basis that "it's just common sense?, you know it's an idea whose time has almost come.

RAM has also fielded a small number of objections from advocates of "user pays?. Their criticisms are usually ideological rather than practical.

Sometimes free bus sympathisers will ask "Can we afford them?? and "Will the politicians listen?? These interlinked questions raise the politics of money.

When was the last war cancelled because of cost? The answer, of course, is never. Politicians always come up with the money to send others to fight in their wars.

We need to declare a different kind of war on the threats posed by global warming, the looming oil crisis and Auckland's chronic congestion. If we don't, then we will remain trapped in our slowly moving carpark, helping fuel the twin calamities of climate convulsions and oil depletion.

To win any war, you need a strategy that's boldly realistic.

RAM's free buses initiative has been widely greeted as the only transport strategy that fits our region's special characteristics:
* More tarseal per person than any comparable city in the world. (Research by Dr. Paul Mees.)
* Only 100 kilometres of rail track.
* A population spread fairly thinly over a large geographical area.
* Popular sentiment favouring bold moves to quickly break gridlock. Most people will grow impatient with transport authorities who deliver only marginal improvements while waiting for growth corridors and other longterm plans to deliver bigger benefits in the distant future.

Imagine what would happen if ARTA and the ARC declared a war on gridlock, and asked the government to fund free and frequent buses out of a fairer distribution of transport funds.

This would focus existing popular discontent with gridlock onto positive changes to the transport agenda.

And then the pressure would go on the politicians to explain why they support a funding split which grossly favours roads over buses and other public transport.

It's all about the politics of money.

Let's look at the figures. Over the next 10-15 years, total road construction projects involving the Auckland region will cost at least $8.5 billion, and possibly two billion higher. Most but not all of this cash will come from central government. (Projects and costings from Transit, RLTS and NZ Herald. See list in Appendix 2.)

Over the same period, the total capital costs of Auckland rail will be $1.4 billion, while buses get a microscopic $0.3 billion. (Projects and costings from ARTA and RLTS. See list in Appendix 2.)

Even using the minimum figure for road construction, the gross funding disparity gives bus projects only 3% of combined capital costs. Rail gets 14%. Roads, however, get a staggering 83%.

If 50% of transport funds went to buses and rail over the next decade or so, rather than the projected 17%, that would deliver at least an additional $3.3 billion to public transport, and possibly another billion as well.

But much of these extra billions for public transport would remain unspent until the abolition of another form of favouritism towards the roads lobby. At present, state highways are fully funded by Land Transport New Zealand. But public transport only gets around half of total expenditure, leaving local bodies to find the rest, and when they cannot the project falls through.

The government should order an "equal shares? funding split between roads and public transport. And the government should order the full funding of public transport costs as well as roading costs.

On this level playing field, there should be adequate funds for free and frequent buses in Auckland, plus extra for rail. And the region's roads would still get between five and six billion over the next 10-15 years, allowing improvements at a slower tempo.

Giving public transport an "equal share? of public money would seem more than reasonable in view of the costs imposed on society by Auckland's congested roads.

The government says that gridlock costs Auckland businesses $1 billion a year. Most of this $1b would be passed on down the food chain to final consumers.

And a university study estimated that public transport subsidises Auckland's "hidden? road costs, such as traffic accidents, air pollution and climate change, to the tune of $685 million a year.

"Public transport users literally subsidise private transport users and not the other way around as often claimed,? the study found. "If motor vehicle users were to pay the full amount of the costs they impose on the general public, petrol and diesel prices would both need to be increased by 68 cents per litre.? While the study doesn't advocate such a move, which would more than double the existing level of petrol taxes, it's included to show "the extent of the problem?. (Transport Cost Analysis by Astrid Jakob, John Craig and Gavin Fisher, Auckland School of Geography & Environmental Science, 2003.)

Auckland's gridlock costs and "hidden? private vehicle costs together impose a massive $1,685 million burden onto society each year. A huge portion of this $1.6b annual cost would be saved by getting Auckland moving with free and frequent buses.

Our region's road-dominated transport network is an economic drain on society. The Millenium Cities database says that Auckland, described as an "auto city?, spends more than 15% of its gross domestic product on moving people around. By contrast, public transport cities invest less than half this percentage of GDP. (STEM newsletter March 2004.)

The Labour government is making the right noises about promoting public transport to deliver sustainable solutions to congestion.

"We're investing record money in public transport and efforts to reduce dependency on cars,? says transport minister Pete Hodgson. "We must break the cycle of building more roads just to see them jam up because we've done nothing to provide viable alternatives.? (Speech to NZ Contractors Federation 6.8.04.)

It's true that, under Labour, public transport has received "record money?. But that's easy when the starting point was so low. Today's funding of public transport is still very, very far from what's fair and reasonable.

If the government is serious about creating a "balanced? and "integrated? transport network, then an "equal shares? funding split between private and public transport systems seems logical.

But necessary changes mostly don't happen just because they seem logical. The political impetus for social progress is usually created by popular discontent intersecting with major crises (like traffic gridlock, global warming and oil depletion).

RAM's free buses campaign is an important catalyst for social progress because it focuses popular discontent with gridlock onto Auckland's only sustainable solution.

And we're not putting up an untried model. Free buses are a growing phenomenon in cities around the globe.

Hasselt is a Belgium city of 70,000 residents which sees another 300,000 commuters daily from nearby towns.

In 1997 the Socialist Party mayor of Hasselt made the city's buses fare-free. He also reduced city taxes (their equivalent of rates) because introducing free buses meant the money for a third ring road didn't have to be found.

There's been a 1,000% rise in bus patronage, requiring a large expansion of the bus fleet. The city's second ring road has been narrowed and greened, becoming the world-renowned Green Boulevard.

International awards have been showered on Hasselt for its innovative answers to congestion and pollution. Free buses have reversed the city's slow decay and population drift. It's now a boom town with a lower debt than a decade ago and no toll roads.

Hasselt's example is sparking changes across Belgium. Politicians in other cities, including the capital Brussels, are moving towards reducing and removing fares on public transport.

In the United States a number of small cities are making their buses fare-free, including Carrboro, Amherst, Cape May, Frisco, Plantation and Clemson.

Over one million US university students in many cities bus fare-free under Unlimited Accress. This scheme is spreading rapidly across America. A UCLA study put the cost of Unlimited Access for their university at $US1.61 per student each month. (Bruingo: An Evaluation by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, May 2002.)

Many of the world's major cities, including New York, Munich, Boston, Marseilles, Seattle, Manchester and Pittsburgh, have removed fares from sections of their public transport networks, mostly in downtown cores. Auckland City's fare-free City Circuit buses have become hugely popular.

Invercargill has removed fares at off-peak times, while university students in Palmerston North ride the buses free.

Even Stagecoach recognises the pulling power of fare-free buses. The company's telemarketers are offering one week's free travel to British people. Stagecoach says that one in five of those contacted switch to the bus. (Stagecoach media release 14.3.05.)

Isn't it time to give free buses a trial?

In this paper, RAM hasn't attempted a detailed cost breakdown of free and frequent buses. Obviously, we've got our own ideas about what it might cost. We think the economic, social and environmental benefits far outweigh the costs. Anyway, how do you put an exact price on turning Auckland into a public transport region which offers a sustainable response to global warming and the oil crisis?

However, RAM feels it's time for the transport planners to start coming up with their own figures. It lacks logic to demand that an under-resourced group of community volunteers should substitute itself for a fully-resourced organisation of transport professionals.

And the cost variables are mind-blowing: bus company ownership, numbers and sizes of buses, their motive power, routes and frequencies, hours of operation, availability of public infrastructure and so on. That alone makes it hard to come up with realistic cost scenarios.

We don't expect large sums of public money to go into an untested proposal. We want to see practical trials as well as theoretical modeling.

Sir Barry Curtis is proposing that ARTA run a large-scale trial of free buses in Mangere, Otara and Manurewa.

RAM fully supports this initiative so long as ARTA creates the necessary conditions for a realistic trial, such as:

* ARTA should take full control so the trial is totally independent of Stagecoach. At the heart of the free buses campaign are the principles of fare free, public service and community oversight. These principles conflict with Stagecoach's high fares, maximum profits and overseas ownership. So there would be a conflict of interest if Stagecoach had any influence over the trial.

* The trial needs to be big enough, in terms of both geography and buses, to counter at least some of the severe limitations of operating in just one part of a vast region.

* The main focus shouldn't be just on feeding rail. Free and frequent buses are a complementary, not a subsidiary, network to rail.

* ARTA to look at creating new bus lanes and other bus priority measures as part of the trial.

* The widest possible community involvement is essential. so we harness the thousands of experts in each suburb who know what buses should go where. Community oversight is key to creating a social climate that deters "undesirable? behaviour on the buses. Other security measures would include modern technology (such as video cameras), a "zero tolerance? behaviour policy (instant trespass notices) and bus guardians (Maori wardens and other volunteers).

* Another key player should be the Tramways Union as the major representative of bus drivers. Their hands-on expertise would be a valuable asset for the trial.

* RAM seeks close involvement during the planning stage, and also a monitoring role during implementation.

Fact-finding delegation
ARTA to send a fact-finding delegation to Hasselt and other Belgium cities where free buses are operating. This investigation of a living model would help in setting up a large-scale trial of free buses in Manukau.

Transport funding
ARTA and the ARC to ask the government for half of transport funding to go to public transport. And a request to be made that the government allows public transport the same 100% subsidy level as roads.

Bus priority measures
ARTA to speed up the creation of more busways, bus lanes and other bus priority measures. Look at integrating such measures with cycleways and truckways.

/Supporting documentation
Full list of free bus petition endorsers

n ARONIA AHOMIRO, J.P. and chair of Tamaki Makaurau ki te Tonga District Maori Wardens Trust.
n Rev. MERVYN AITKEN, minister of St James Presbyterian Church, Wellesley St.
n PERCY ALLISON, chair of Poverty Action Coalition.
n CANADA ALOFA, award-winning comedian (part of "The Brownies?), actor and radio presenter.
n MAINE ANDREW, secretary of Waitakere Young Mothers Group.
n Dr. ROSEMARY ARNOUX, Green Party policy networker.
n JOAN ASHWORTH, director of Edgewater Community Education.
n DAUD AZIMULLAH, vice-chair of Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
n Dr. TUPENI BABA, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland.
n Prof. PAUL BARRETT, adjunct professor of Psychometrics & Performance Measurement, Business School, University of Auckland.
n Dr. HELEN BASTURKMEN, Applied Language Studies & Linguistics, University of Auckland.
n BILL BATEMAN, president of Greypower Pohutukawa Coast.
n Dr. TIM BEHREND, School of Asian Studies, University of Auckland.
n Dr. CLAUDIA BELL, Sociology Department, University of Auckland.
n Dr. RICHARD BENTON, honorary research fellow at University of Auckland.
n AHMED BHAMJEE, president of the International Congress of Fijian Indians and chair of Mt Roskill Islamic Trust.
n PETER BOYD, lecturer in Maori Studies at Manukau Institute of Technology.
n KERRI BRETT, co-ordinator of Whare Marama Women's Refuge.
n PHILIP BROWNE, membership secretary Cycle Action Auckland.
n Dr. LINDA BRYDER, associate professor of History, University of Auckland.
n PETER BURN, chair of Birkenhead/Northcote Community Board.
n Dr. MARK BUSSE, Anthropology Department, University of Auckland.
n Dr. BRIDGET BUXTON, Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Auckland.
n DENIS CARLISLE, Local 13 president of Maritime Union of NZ.
n Dr. CATHY CASEY, member of Auckland City Council.
n DON CHAPMAN, national vice-president of Greypower.
n PAKI CHERRINGTON, stage & screen actor.
n Dr. HILARY CHUNG, School of Asian Studies, University of Auckland.
n DAVID COLYER, editor of Socialist Worker magazine.
n PETER CROSS, secretary of Auckland Tramways Union.
n Prof. TIM CUNDY, professor of Medicine, University of Auckland.
n MARIA DAVID, member of Mangere Community Board.
n PATIENCE DAVIS, student co-delegate for Viscount Primary School, Mangere.
n BEVERLY DAWSON, administrator of Mangere People's Centre.
n ARVIND DHARAMSI, manager Mangere East Postshop/Kiwi Bank.
n Dr. ROBYN DIXON, associate professor at School of Nursing and director of Centre for Child & Family Policy Research.
n LYN DOHERTY, psychologist for Ohomairangi Early Intervention Service..
n PAT DUREY, general manager of Alzheimers Counties-Manukau.
n TUINATE'E T.P. ELIA, J.P., Matai and life elder of Pacific Island Presbyterian Church.
n JEREMY ELWOOD, actor, musician and comedian.
n RIEMKE ENSING, writer.
n Dr. ROSEMARY ERLAM, Applied Language Studies & Linguistics, University of Auckland.
n ESTEBAN ESPINOZA, co-ordinator of Salvation Army welfare services and president of Auckland Latin American Community.
n PETER FATIALOFA, selector & assistant coach of Manu Samoa rugby team.
n Dr. SABINE FISCHER-KANIA, European Languages & Literatures, University of Auckland.
n Dr. BRUCE FLOYD, Anthropology Department, University of Auckland.
n WILLEM FOURIE, deputy head of department, Nursing & Health Studies, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n ROGER FOWLER, QSM, manager of Mangere East Learning Centre.
n GARY FROGGATT, president of Auckland Tramways Union.
n CHE FU, award-winning hip-hop singer/songwriter.
n DINO GARDI, secondary school teacher.
n SANDY GILES, course co-ordinator, Hair & Beauty, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n LACELLES GNANAKUMAR, president of NZ Tamil Society.
n Dr. LUKE GOODE, Film, Television & Media Studies, University of Auckland.
n GARY GOTLIEB, barrister and vice-president of Auckland District Law Society.
n Prof. VIVIENNE GRAY, professor of Classics & Ancient History, University of Auckland.
n Pastor TERRY GRIFFITHS, minister of Living Faith Church.
n Dr. LISA GUENTHER, Philosophy Department, University of Auckland.
n MARY GUSH, deputy chair of Otara Community Board.
n MARION HANCOCK, director of Peace Foundation.
n LAILA HARRE, industrial manager of NZ Nurses Organisation.
n GRANT HAWKE, senior member of Ngati Whatua o Orakei.
n Prof. JUDITH HUNTSMAN, professor of Anthropology , University of Auckland.
n KEVIN IRELAND, writer.
n WILLIE JACKSON, Maori broadcaster.
n Dr. MAHAVEER JAIN, family doctor in Mangere.
n ROBIN JENKIN-WINTER, manager of Newmarket Business Association.
n PETER JONES, member of Papakura District Council.
n WILF JONES, organiser of Greypower Waiheke.
n Dr. MERE KEPA, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, University of Auckland.
n JOHN KERR, former member of Manukau City Council.
n FARUK KHAN, president of South Auckland Muslim Association.
n Dr. BARRY KING, associate professor and head of school, Communication Studies, Auckland University of Technology.
n MONA KINGI, kaumatua of Te Puea Marae.
n GLENYS KNOWLES, general manager of Barnardos Northern.
n HAROLD KNOWLES, vice-president of Sutton Park Residents & Ratepayers Association.
n CHRIS KNOX, entertainer.
n Rev. MA'AFALA KOKO, minister of Pacific Island Presbyterian Church, Owairaka.
n Dr. DARL KOLB, Management & Employment Relations, Business School, University of Auckland.
n Dr. VANYA KOVACH, Philosophy Department, University of Auckland.
n KATHLEEN KRSINICH, literacy advisor to Further Education Department, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n Dr. MAUREEN LANDER, Maori Studies Department, University of Auckland.
n NAOMI LANGE, Mangere community worker.
n TAFAFUNAI TASI LAUESE, member of Mangere Community Board.
n LINDA LEE, wormaculturalist ("the worm lady?).
n ANDY LELEISI'UAO, South Auckland artist.
n THOMAS LEULUAI, half-back for Warriors and Kiwis league teams.
n LINN LORKIN, singer chanteuse & songwriter.
n Dr. ROSE LOVELL-SMITH, English Department, University of Auckland.
n Dr. KAMBIZ MAANI, head of division, Information Systems & Operations Management, Business School, University of Auckland.
n Dr. ANNE MACKAY, associate professor of Classics, University of Auckland.
n Dr. FRANCO MANAI, School of European Languages & Literatures, University of Auckland.
n JENNIFER MARGARET, lecturer in Further Education, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n MATT McCARTEN, secretary of Unite Workers Union.
n MICHELLE McCORMICK, programme head for School of Sport, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n CAM McCRACKEN, director of Te Tuhi - The Mark.
n MIKE McENANEY, president NZ Professional Firefighters Union.
n DON McGLASHAN, singer/songwriter.
n RANGI McLEAN, manager of Te Kura Hau Panmure Surgery and trustee of Wiri Licensing Trust.
n Dr. JUDITH McMORLAND, Management & Employment Relations, Business School, University of Auckland.
n Prof. JIM MILLER, professor of Applied Language Studies & Linguistics, University of Auckland.
n ALISON MILNE, secretary of Titirangi Community Arts Council.
n JOHN MINTO, academic dean of Tangaroa College.
n Dr. HARUMI MOORE, School of Asian Studies, University of Auckland.
n BRENT MORRISEY, manager of Otara Union Health.
n BILL MUDGWAY, member of Counties-Manukau District Health Board and former "Eye in the Sky?.
n DENIS MURPHY, area manager of IHC Counties-Manukau.
n WAKA NATHAN, All Black legend.
n Prof. MICHAEL NEILL, professor of English, University of Auckland.
n PAULA NES, Auckland Branch contact of Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.
n TIGI NESS, reggae singer/songwriter.
n Rev. VAL NICHOLLS, superintendent of Whangaparaoa Parish, Methodist Church.
n Dr. NICOLA NORTH, associate professor at School of Nursing, University of Auckland.
n LINDA NUNN, Executive Committee member of Long Bay-Okura Great Park Society and private health clinic operator.
n Dr. MATTHEW O'MEAGHER, History Department, University of Auckland.
n LEN PARKER, housing advocate.
n Dr. JUDY PARR, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland.
n GARRY PARSLOE, secretary of Auckland Seafarers Branch, Maritime Union of New Zealand.
n HARI PATEL, accountant.
n WARREN PEAT, executive head of St Kentigern College.
n REX PENNALLIGEN, manager of Nga Ture Kaitiaki Ki Waikato Community Law Centre.
n RALPH PENNING, executive trustee of Independent Business Foundation.
n PAM PETERS, director of Community Education, Aorere College.
n LOGAN PETLEY, GE-free campaigner.
n Dr. KIM PHILLIPS, History Department, University of Auckland.
n Rev. Siosifa Pole, presbyter at Mt Roskill Parish, Methodist Church.
n ARMIN PRASCHNIG, Bakery & Patisserie lecturer, School of Baking, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n WARWICK PUDNEY, secretary of NZ Father & Child Society.
n GEMMA RAMSAY, the "face? of RAM's popular billboards.
n JEANIE RICHARDS, co-ordinator of YouthLaw.
n JOHN ROACH, president of Samoan Auckland Rugby Union Club.
n CAMPBELL ROBERTS, social policy director at Salvation Army national headquarters.
n DELWYNE ROBERTS, services co-ordinator for Age Concern Counties-Manukau.
n JIM RODGERSON, programme director, Batchelor of Engineering Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n Dr. N. S. SAINI, family doctor in Balmoral.
n DICK SCOTT, award-winning writer.
n MELITA SEQUEIRA, co-ordinator Pt Chevalier Community Centre.
n Rev. LE'I'ITE SETEFANO, minister of Pacific Island Presbyterian Church, Tamaki.
n PITA SHARPLES, co-leader of the Maori Party.
n PETER SIDDELL, artist.
n Rev. SA SI'ITIA, minister of Avondale Union Parish.
n Dr. PETER SIMPSON, associate professor of English, University of Auckland.
n RICHARD SIMPSON, member of Auckland City Council.
n PREM SINGH, programme leader for Hospitality, School of Catering & Hospitality, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n Dr. CHANGZOO SONG, School of Asian Studies, University of Auckland.
n ELAINE SPARK, service manager of Ohomairangi Early Intervention Service.
n Dr. SUSAN ST. JOHN, senior economics lecturer at University of Auckland.
n Rev. MUA STRICKSON-PUA, co-ordinator of Tangata Pasifika.
n Dr. ELUNED SUMMERS-BREMNER, Women's Studies, University of Auckland.
n Rev. JOHANNES SUWANTIKA, minister of Titirangi Presbyterian Church.
n Rev. PETER SYKES, director of Mangere East Family Service Centre.
n VICKI SYKES, director of Friendship House, Manukau City.
n BOB TAIT, environmentalist.
n Pastor AILAFO TALIAI, minister of Kerisiano Fa'afouina Church, Manukau..
n HAUPAI PATSY TAWHARA, kaumatua of Mangere Maori Wardens.
n PAUL TEIO, member of Pacific Island Advisory Committee of Manukau City Council.
n SANDY THOMPSON, national executive officer of National Association for Out of School Care & Recreation.
n HALE TIA, student co-delegate for Viscount Primary School, Mangere.
n LINDA TOCKER, secretary of Tamaki Business & Professional Women.
n JOHN TODD, programme leader, Computing & Information Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology.
n Dr. DAN TRIETSCH, associate professor in Information Systems & Operations Management, Business School, University of Auckland.
n CHRIS TROTTER, political commentator and editor of "NZ Political Review?.
n DENYS TRUSSELL, environmentalist and writer/musician.
n DAVID TUA, world heavyweight title boxer ("the Tuaman?).
n TOLEAFOA MATAILI'ILI TUIMAUGA, secretary of Samoa Atia'e.
n GREER TWISS, sculptor.
n MICHAEL UTTING, All Whites goalkeeper.
n TAGALOA VUI, president of Samoan Catholic Community.
n DAVID WAKIM, pharmacist.
n JANFRIE WAKIM, director of Child Poverty Action Group.
n Rev. GILLIAN WATKIN, minister for Auckland Central Methodist Parish.
n MARGARET WESTON, psychologist.
n JUDITH WHITE, writer.
n Dr. ROBERT WHITE, Peace Studies, University of Auckland.
n Dr. DAVID WILLIAMS, associate professor in Law, University of Auckland.
n BARRY WILSON, civil libertarian.
n MAURICE WILSON, kaumatua for Manukau City Council and Makaurau Marae, Ihumatao, Mangere.
n Prof. JILNAUGHT WONG, professor of Financial Accounting and head of department, Accounting & Finance, Business School, University of Auckland.
n DONNA WYND, economics lecturer at University of Auckland.
n Prof. JULIAN YOUNG, professor of Philosophy, University of Auckland.
n Dr. XUELIN ZHOU, Film, Television & Media Studies, University of Auckland.


Transport projects and costings

Transit figures March 2005:
* Central Motorway Improvements:
* Grafton Gully $68m (completed)
* Central Motorway Junction Stage 1 $55m (nearly finished)
* CMJ Stage 2 $140m (estimate)
* Greenhithe Deviation $94.4m (underway, completion 2007)
* Upper Harbour Bridge Duplication $37m (underway, completion June 2006)
* Hobsonville Deviation $141m (out to tender July 2005)
* Northern Motorway Tollway Extension (Orewa to Puhoi) $365m (commenced Dec 2004, toll approval expected soon)
* SH20/SH1 Manukau Extension $174m (estimate, main tender expected May 2005)
* SH20 Mt Roskill Extension $167m (with bus lane & rail provision, tender closes March 2005)
* SH20 Avondale Extension - surface roads $680m, or tunnels $1.120m, $850m in draft 2004/5 (to complete link to NW M'way, study underway, 10/11)
* Harbour Bridge to City (Transit wants northbound tunnel, options & funding not resolved) - partial tunnel $200m (2002 estimate), or full tunnel $280-430m (estimate)
* TDM motorway projects $23.5m (estimate)
* Weiti Crossing (PENLINK) $76m (07/10)
* ATMS Stage IV $64m (06/07)
* Newmarket Viaduct to Greenlane extra lanes $20m (08/09)
* Manukau Harbour Crossing $146m (09/10)
* Waterview to Rosebank 8-Laning $39m (12/13)
* SH16 Extension - Brigham Creek Extension $25m (07/08)
* Newton Rd to Western Springs extra lanes $8.8m (05/06)
* Northcote to Sunnynook extra lanes $7.4m (06/07)
* Kirkbride Rd Grade Separation $21.3m (09/10)
* Auckland Harbour Bridge Stormwater Upgrade $3m (11.12)
* Te Atatu Interchange Westbound Upgrade $4.8m (09/10)
* Dome Hill Realignment $7.5m (15/16+)
* Te Atatu to Royal Rd 6-Laning $22m (11/12)
* SEART to Ellerslie extra lane $8.2m (15/16+)
* Papakura Interchange Upgrade $10.3m (15/16+)
* Takanini Interchange Upgrade $3m (15/16+)
* Hill Rd to Takanini Southbound 3-Laning $6.7m (15/16+)
* Newmarket Viaduct $88m (07/08)
* Newmarket Viaduct to Greenlane extra lanes $20m (08/09)
* Takanini to Papakura 6-Laning $7.7m (15/16+)
* Schedeways Hill Deviation $50.2m (15/16+)
* Kumeu Bypass $42.2m (15/16+)
* Hoteo - Dome Realignment $4.9m (15/16+)
* Papakura to Drury 6-Laning $7.6m (15/16+)
* Plus another 18 major (over $3m) roading projects at a cost and start date to be determined, including two "big ticket? items, the Waitemata Harbour Crossing and the Eastern Corridor. Rough estimate of total: between $3b and $4.5b.

Regional Land Transport Strategy, February 2005:
* Neilson St 4-Laning $11.7m (construction 2009)
* Waiouru Peninsula Interchange & Connection to SH1 $74m (underway, finish March 07)
* SH1 4-Laning Auckland to Hamilton $710m (underway, finish 2015)
* SH2 Maramarua Expressway $300m (finish by 2015+)

NZ Herald transport series January 2005:
* Greenlane East Interchange $2.4m (to start 05/06)
* Ellerslie-Panmure Highway Interchange $0.2m (finish end 2005)
* Mt Wellington Off Ramp $2.2m (to start 06/07)
* Puhinui Interchange $14.5m (finished, was first step in SH20 Manukau Extension)
* Greville Rd Northbound Off Ramp $0.4m (completion 06/07)
* Wainui Interchange (near Orewa) $2.7m (no date)
* Hungry Creek Southbound Passing Lane $1.7m (underway)
* Sheep World Southbound Passing Lane $1m (start 05/06)
* Mangawhai Passing Lane $0.7m (start 06/07)

NZ Herald 31.5.02:
* Local roads fully funded by local councils $1.4b

Over the next 10-15 years, total road capital costs across the Auckland region will be between $8,539m and $10,520m, depending on what figures are used.

ARTA submission to ARC February 2005:
* Rail Upgrade Stage 1 $775m (underway, finish mid-2009)
* Rail Upgrade Stage 2 $695m (target start date 2008)

Over the next 10-15 years, total rail capital costs across the Auckland region will be $1,470m.

Regional Land Transport Strategy, February 2005:
* Northern Busway Stages 1 & 2 - $257m ($188m busway, $69m stations)
* Esmonde Road Interchange $37m (underway, finish early 2007)
* Central Transit Corridor (between britomart & Newmarket) $20-25m (start construction 2007)

NZ Herald 18.1.05:
* Mt Wellington bus lane $0.1m

Over the next 10-15 years, total bus capital costs across the Auckland region will be between $314.1m and $319.1m, depending on what figures are used.

Over the next 10-15 years, total road, rail and bus capital costs across the Auckland region will be between $10,314m and $12,309m, depending on what figures are used.

Using the minimum figures in every category, an overview of total capital costs reveals an extreme lack of balance between road, rail and bus spending:

* Buses will receive just 3% of total project spending.

* Rail will receive 14% of total project spending.

* Roads will receive a gigantic 83% of total project spending.

* If we use the maximum figures, buses will receive just 2.5% of total project spending.


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