Monday, 31 October 2016

Playing politics with Auckland infrastructure? It’s just what politicians do!


What’s the connection between an Auckland stadium project and today's by-election politicking over light rail (or not) down Dominion Rd? Well, apart from the billions being fought about coming from the same pot (yours and mine) it’s the fact it’s so clear that politicians so readily place politics before sense when it comes to spending (or promising to spend) those billions. 

It was no more surprising that Phil Goff elected to kick off his mayoral duties by wool-gathering about stadia any more than Labour kicked off this by-election with a $1.4 billion dollar promise they’re in no position to make – any more than anyone should have been surprised when National promised millions of dollars in bridges to kick off the Northland by-election campaign. Because this is how dumb politicians think voters are. And thank goodness for Northland's voters showing them we’re not.

But do take the lesson from what we see from these people: their decision to spend billions is made often on the hoof, and more frequently judged by the standards of politics rather than sense.

It’s why stadium politics have been an issue in Auckland ever since Trevor Mallard first used it to divert attention from Labour’s transparent corruption with the pledge card – like a good conjurer misdirecting attention towards a decision about location that was in the end purely political, and as dumb  as it continues to prove expensive.

Businesses need certainty if they’re going to do business, yet this is the last thing politicians promote. While the politicians promise, the uncertain outcomes their promises present become a nightmare for everyone trying to do business with the “regime uncertainty” this creates. (Just ask businessmen and women trying to do business in central Christchurch with all the grand plans flying around down there!)

This is the point made by the Dominion Rd Business Association today over the years of broken plans and promises over politicians’ plans for the street who called on both National and Labour parties to “stop playing politics over the future form of mass transit along Dominion Rd.”

Businesses along the 7km iconic strip want certainty over what transport will look like over the coming years [they say], not political posturing.

Absolutely right they do, having been shafted for years by the uncertainties of 20 years of political plans and promises.

Various concepts for Dominion Rd have been put forward over the past 20 years including 24 hour bus lanes with no on-street parking, then a complete widening of the road with peak-hour only bus lanes through to light rail with no on-street parking.
    In 2014 the plug was pulled at the 11th hour on widening and creating continuous peak hour-only bus lanes down the full length of Dominion Rd because light rail was deemed the new weapon against burgeoning congestion on the road.
    This was after two years of consultation between Auckland Transport, business and property owners about the project which included much needed upgrades to the three commercial centres along Dominion Rd.
    [Business Association Manager Gary] Holmes says the uncertain future for Dominion Rd has been a constant source of worry and confusion for businesses and landlords alike, holding back any significant investment in the area.

He’s right. It has. But that wouldn’t worry the politicians at all. Not a jot.

It wouldn’t worry them, because their decisions affecting millions and costing billions are made purely on their own political calculations, about what is best for them. Because the fact is, politicians will always place politics before sense when it comes to spending (or promising to spend) billions of your dollars. No matter the cost, or the harm caused.


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