Well we are back in business, now we see the potential for Ecan to hit the ground running with new public transport development focus. Unfortunately the turf war with the Christchurch City Council just got a whole lot bigger with a stupid law passed by the Government to facilitate the transfer of public transport services from regional to city councils. This government has made the issue too much about politics and their unquestioning faith in the ability of local government and not about the government’s own commitment to properly funding public transport development. There is only so much that can be achieved with weak support from the Minister of Transport, something has become increasingly obvious in Auckland and is becoming an issue here with the limp wristed outcomes to date on their promise to develop urban passenger services.
Never the less, one of the least known outcomes and one the Government should be front footing is an improvement in the funding formula, which is tipped to shift to a more favourable farebox recovery target of 33% locally. This will enable impetus to be given to the new regional public transport plan with the extra routes that are intended to go in. The Ecan public transport staff have been working away on this and sent out tender specs during the election campaign, which is questionable because it has limited the ability of the new council to influence the process. Rumour has it also that a living wage is on the way for local bus drivers, and the new tender specs have asked operators to put forward proposals for diesel and electric services. But one key issue for the latter is the much greater cost of buying electric buses, and their limited range, which on some routes would see buses pulled off in the middle of the day for charging. We don’t expect electric buses by themselves to make a big different to the desirability of public transport services. A whole lot more work is needed which CCC has consistently failed to deliver.
Now the real theme of this article as its title befits, is the endless war between the CBD and the suburbs, about which a lot has been heard since the quakes and continues endlessly. The real problem is that ratepayers are being asked to fork out constantly for the CBD to develop in ways that are not provided for universally across the city. When Bob Parker was the mayor he gave the finger to the Central City Business Association and fellow travellers and allowed a large amount of development to take place in the suburbs. Check and you will discover that many of the whining CBD developers also own property in the burbs and have benefited from developments out there. So here’s an article published in the Press before the local elections. Surprise surprise, a push for more freebies and corporate welfare for the CBD, but at least some kind of balance is achieved with Julie Downard of Extinction Rebellion countering many of the pro-development viewpoints. But the newly elected Council has once again pushed the agenda with a new thrust from Jamie Gough for more handouts. Let’s just understand that the CBD is good for some things but supremacy over the rest of the city does not cut it. The chief reason why all this support is called for is the very high prices of CBD property, which is due wholly to a historical fact of a closed market of property in the area with most of it being controlled by a relatively small number of landowners and no real competition. Much of the undeveloped land currently within the Four Avenues is being land banked long term by owners rather than release it for development at a lesser price. This gravy train is expected to be propped up endlessly by ratepayers all across the city. The Mayor has shamelessly jumped on this bandwagon which she sees as her power base, empire and re-election ticket. She would do well to reflect on the background of the groups she purported to represent at the beginning of her political career and her record has become tarnished in recent months with a number of political scandals, including the code of conduct fiasco against her protege councillor in the Central Ward and the latest revelation of a culture of withholding information from elected representatives and the public. No doubt we are going to see another power battle over the running of public transport in the city in coming months. We need an end to the gravy train for central city property owners.