Political & Practical Advantages of Trains to Huapai
Political and Practical Advantages of Trains to Huapai, Ceded to National, New Zealand First
Opportunities to use existing infrastructure in Auckland are being overlooked this election, as political parties scramble to fast track grand expensive new projects, says the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).
Out in the North West’s sprawling development centre around Kumeu, existing railway lines lie idle, but some political parties ignore community sentiment and the potential of existing investment, says Christine Rose, PTUA chairwoman.
The Helensville electorate was held by Prime Minister John Key until his resignation last year, and many local residents have been critical of his lack of representation for the area, especially on public transport matters. “That’s why people are finding it ironic that one of the most pragmatic supporters of the current Trains to Huapai diesel rail service proposal, is National Party candidate, Chris Penk”. “Even though the National Party have no official policy on the Huapai trains initiative, the community was encouraged by Mr Penk’s support”. “The New Zealand First candidate, Helen Petersen also reflects her party’s specific policy to support passenger rail to the area”.
The Trains to Huapai campaign has captured the imagination of visitors, residents, businesses and Local Board members, as well as these two aspiring politicians in particular, who recognise the valuable asset that lies in the existing line.
But the PTUA suggests the ‘Greater Auckland’ Congestion Free Network version 2 has been ‘uncritically’ adopted by Labour and the Greens, causing them to overlook cost effective solutions that already exist for the area.
The Green party candidate, Hayley Holt, rejected the Trains to Huapai campaign proposal at a public meeting held in July to discuss the subject, and although Labour’s candidate Kurt Taogaga personally supports the campaign, it’s not party policy there either.
“Ambitious, hypothetical ‘fast-tracked’ solutions such as “busways” and “light rail’’ in the North Western motorway corridor, from both National and Labour convey an impression of vision and progress, but costly, vague and futuristic promises won’t in themselves get people from the wider Kumeu area to work, school or commerce. Meanwhile diesel trains could be deployed tomorrow with the right political will”, says Mrs Rose. “Our politicians should also be committing to battery and / or electric trains for the area on the existing line in the medium to long term future”. “They offer more immediate, realistic, meaningful and cogent solutions that resonate with the public for the Kumeu area, than anything else”.
Huapai-Kumeu is equal in population to a good-sized town elsewhere in the country says Mrs Rose. “Issues at stake in the campaign to restore passenger rail services to Huapai, include economic efficiency, regional equity, integration of land use (growth) and transport, and wise stewardship of public resources”.
“Some members of the public feel it’s counter-intuitive for Labour and the Greens to not support Trains to Huapai given these issues are often seen as the purview of the left”. “It’s also inconsistent to their approach to revitalising rail elsewhere in the country”.
“In failing to support Trains to Huapai, Labour and the Greens have ceded policy ground and political support to National and New Zealand First”. “There is political opportunity to be gained from recognising the importance of the Helensville electorate to the outcome of the general election, despite it being a traditionally safe National seat”.
“We’re hoping that all parties will recognise the practical and political advantages of supporting this campaign, and the popularity of the initiative with the public”.