Back your own horse call to Government

On 5 September I joined the Auckland Council delegation speaking to the Council’s submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill at the Local Government and Environment Select Committee Hearings

I spoke after the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.  There was a short item about the presentation on Checkpoint Council weary of changes to local government act Radio NZ  5 September 2012

Tena Kotou Katoa

My name is Pippa Coom. I am Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board – the Board covering the central city and inner suburbs of Auckland. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to speak on behalf of the Board’s submission that forms part of the Auckland Council’s response to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill.

I wish to speak specifically in relation to the proposed consequential changes to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 that fundamentally alters the purpose of Local Boards and the concerns this raises about the impact on local decision making and the role of local boards in contributing to community well-being.

This Act was intended to strengthen local democracy and community engagement based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. As Nikki Kaye, MP for Central Auckland said at the third reading of the Act – the new structure will deliver “strong local boards so that people can better influence what goes on in their community”.

In my experience it is only now –after almost 2 years – that Aucklanders are coming to grips with the new structure of local government in the region and to appreciate the role of their local board.  Local board members have become the go to people for local issues.  Without a doubt there have been many transitional issues and challenges but local democracy and grass roots engagement have been one of the success stories of the amalgamation. Local boards are strengthening their communities, undertaking place-making, and in other ways supporting or improving the life of their citizens as encompassed by the “four well-beings”. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

It therefore seems completely at odds to have supported the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act and set up the structure for strong local boards to now propose to effectively make Local Boards redundant.  What is proposed will make the local boards a local service delivery agency and many current activities could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed new purpose.

I think the best way to illustrate this is with regards to local board plans. Within the last year we have engaged extensively with our communities to develop a local board plan that sets out the aspirations and priorities of the people and businesses in our local areas for the next three years and beyond. As we support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner we have been fiscally prudent and maintained a balanced budget.  The majority of our projects are low cost but that will have high impact in terms of building strong local communities. There is no doubt that our activities complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.  We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas more appropriately covered by central government.

However these plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.  To give just one example-  there is strong local support within our area community gardens and fruit tree planting. Through a combination of volunteer labour, donated trees, a small local board contribution and support from the parks team we are holding a community planting day to kick off an orchard in a local park.

The lawyer in me can’t but help but point out that fruit tree planting is not “good quality local infrastructure”; it is not strictly a “public service” and it is not being undertaken in the “performance of a regulatory function”. But it is an activity that will strengthen the community and have lasting benefits.

As a lawyer I could go through our local board plan and argue that on every page there are initiatives that fall outside the proposed new purpose for local boards – all initiatives that will be of no interest to Central government or the private sector but matter to our communities.

We have therefore requested in our submission to you that no change is made to the purpose of local boards before the new structure has been given an opportunity to be fully tested. If Aucklanders don’t agree with the direction of their local boards then the election next year is the appropriate mechanism for change. I ask those in government to back your own horse as you put it in place less than 2 years ago – to fully support local democracy, and local decision making by maintaining the current function and purpose of local boards.


Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

The government’s proposed changes to the purpose of local government are poorly thought through.    It especially makes no sense to change the purpose of Local Boards when they have been in existance for less than 2 years. Submissions close today. My submission focuses on the impact of the Bill on the role of local boards.

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

I wish to make a submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill strongly opposing the introduction of the new purpose statement and the removal of the four well beings from the 2002 Act. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the proposed changes on the role of Auckland Council’s 21 local boards.

I make this submission in my personal capacity but draw on my experience as Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Council in providing my comments on the Bill.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance identified two systemic problems – fragmented regional governance and poor community engagement. Addressing the first of these issues was the principal rationale underlying the establishment of Auckland Council, while the creation of 21 local boards as part of the council structure was the primary means of addressing the issue of poor community engagement.
Under the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 local boards are a key part of Auckland’s governance, enabling local representation and decision making on behalf of local communities. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

Local boards have been in existence for less than two years and in that time have developed, following extensive consultation, aspirational plans with their communities that reflect local priorities and preferences. These plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.

For example the Waitemata Local Board plan covers a whole range of projects that could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed purpose of local boards such as local events, community gardens, fruit tree planting in local parks, support for local business associations, installation of water fountains, and community-led waste minimisation projects to name but a few.

I support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner. However there is no evidence at all to suggest that the well beings have caused a blowout in local government costs.

There is also no evidence that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas covered by central government. Most local projects are low cost but highly effective at building strong local communities. The activities of local boards complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.

I am concerned that just as local boards are starting to find their feet that the proposed change to their purpose will undermine their autonomy and their ability to deliver on their communities’ priorities as set out in their three year plans. Local boards may be required to re-write their local board plans before they have been in place for even one full three year term.

Furthermore the proposed changes to the Act will undermine the Auckland government reorganisation and the concept of co-governance on which it is founded.

I therefore strongly oppose the introduction of the new purpose statement and strongly oppose a change to the role of local boards before the new structure has been fully tested and allowed to work.

I wish to appear before the committee to speak to this submission.




Submission for a sustainable transport policy

I’m completely baffled at the illogical and unreasonable amount of money going towards roads in New Zealand. In Auckland there has been a clear vote for an integrated transport system that provides a range of options. In particular if we want a healthy, sustainable, prosperous future there has to be substantial investment in Public Transport and walking/cycling.

Unfortunately even though the goal of the Government Policy Statement on Transport 2012-22 is to enhance economic activity and growth the proposed investment of $13 bn on motorways is only going to increase  cars, pollution and congestion. There needs to be a complete re-allocation of transport funds and the government needs to be told why. With the help of Auckland Transport Blog, the Greens and Cycle Action‘s submissions I’ve been able to make a quick submission myself just before the deadline today.

Submission on the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2012-2022.

The proposed GPS 2012 does not address the transport needs of New Zealand, and ignores historic and ongoing transport trends in its strong and indeed further increased focus on state highway construction funding.

After two fuel price peak periods in only 5 years (showing the increasingly volatile nature of the the petrol markets) and after 5 years of no state highway traffic growth (2010 traffic volumes being equal to those of 2005, despite population growth), I consider that the direction of the GPS is unreasonable, and indeed, illogical.

The GPS proposes to essentially approve and ‘reward’ the past budget-overruns in the state highway activity class ($50-150 million each year during the last three years) by providing further money for this activity class, and proposes to proceed with new Roads of National Significance (RONS) – while proposing strong cuts to new and improved local road and public transport infrastructure.

It also seeks further savings in smaller activity classes. These are strangely enough argued as “driving efficiencies”, while the largest activity class is exempt from any cutbacks, despite having numerous low-BCR projects, and a much greater potential for cutbacks in a time of budgetary constraints.

This proposed funding allocation is also a classical case of “putting all eggs in one basket”, and furthermore, increases New Zealand’s dependency on imported fuel, which has a damaging effect for our economy, and our trade balance.  I would therefore suggest the following funding allocations:

Allocation of funds to Transport Modes

1) Dramatically reduce funding allocated to new state highways.

The Government Policy Statement suggests that over the next 10 years we should invest $13.7 billion (based on an average of the low and high range of expected expenditure) in building new state highways. This is over a third (39%) of the total land transport fund for this period. I strongly disagree with this. I am concerned that many of the current Roads of National Significance being built in New Zealand have very poor economic justification (e.g., Puhoi to Wellsford, Wellington Northern Corridor) and will have devastating environmental and social impacts. I believe that most of the possible new Roads of National Significance listed in the Government Policy Statement are likely to have even poorer economic cases and deliver a lower return on investment. Building more state highways will do nothing to resolve problems such as rising oil prices, climate change or congestion. The government should drastically reduce the amount of funding going into new state highways over the next 10 years to just 10% (maximum) of the National Land Transport Fund.

2) Increase funding allocated to walking/ cycling.

Currently walking/cycling is allocated less than 1% of the total National Land Transport Fund. However, walking/cycling infrastructure is often very cost-effective and has multiple benefits including reducing congestion, improving our health, reducing air pollution, and making us more resilient to rising oil prices. I believe funding for these modes should be increased immediately to 3% of the National Land Transport Fund, rising to at least 6% by 2022. Only by taking these measures will it be possible to realise a reasonable number of the numerous walking and cycling projects that local Councils and NZTA regional offices all over New Zealand would like to finally proceed with.

I support the consideration of the New Zealand Cycle Trail during local and state highway road improvements, as proposed in draft in the GPS.

In addition I’d like to see government funding for the operation of Public Bikes in the major cities around New Zealand that already have traditional bus and/or train services to their centres. Public Bikes hire schemes are excellent public transport because they are not dependent on a schedule and can be ridden to many different end points. As such they provide an excellent complement to the fixed schedule and routes that characterize buses and trains. The benefit cost ratios for even modest Public Bike systems (ie 250 bikes and 40 rental stations and average use) are excellent – $2.35 for every $1 invested by government.

3) New rail projects should be eligible for funding from the National Land Transport Fund.

This would mean that new capital expenditure on rail projects would have an assured and secure source of funding as new cap ex on roading projects does. It would also enable councils to provide their residents with improved public transport and help reduce our dependency on cheap oil. I do not accept the argument that rail projects should be excluded from the National Land Transport Fund because most of our transport funding comes from the fuel tax paid by motorists. It is clear that rail projects which reduce congestion do benefit motorists in various ways (through reduced congestion leading to faster travel times, cleaner air, safer streets, reduced risk of catastrophic climate change etc).

4) Increase funding allocated to public transport services

The Government Policy Statement allows for an increase of only $90 million in subsidies for public transport services over the next 10 years. PT services will receive only 10% of the national land transport fund. This suggests that the government is content to allow public transport patronage to increase only slightly over this time. This will lead to increasing gridlock in our major cities such as Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. Auckland, in particular, will experience such dramatic population growth over the next 10 years it is difficult to see how it could accommodate such a small increase in public transport use and remain a functional city. The government should increase funding available to public transport services dramatically, aiming to increase it to 16% of the National Land Transport Fund by 2022.

5) Increase funding allocated to new public transport infrastructure

Currently just over 1% of the current National Land Transport Fund (or $370 million) is allocated to building new public transport infrastructure. This is clearly inadequate to achieve, for example, the improvements to the Auckland passenger rail system that have been identified as a priority by the Auckland Council and Aucklanders in numerous surveys. It will also not pay for the improvements to public transport wanted by other major councils in Wellington and Christchurch. I suggest that the Minister should increase funding for new public transport infrastructure to at least 25% of the National Land Transport Fund by 2022.

6) Decrease funding allocation to state highway maintenance

Currently state highway maintenance and renewal will take a significant proportion of the National Land Transport Fund (16%). It is important to ensure that our state highway network is maintained to an adequate level to keep NZ drivers safe. However, I believe that if the Minister does not pursue his proposed policy of investing significant sums into building new state highways and, instead, redirects these funds towards improving our rail, bus, walking and cycling systems then traffic on our state highways will be dramatically reduced. Shifting more freight by rail and coastal shipping will also reduce impacts on the state highway network. This will mean less money is needed for maintenance and the proportion of the national land transport fund allocated to state highway maintenance and renewal can be reduced to 10% or less.

Design of the Government Policy Statement

I also wish to state that I disagree with the current way in which the Government Policy Statement process works. I believe that the process gives too much power to the Minister of Transport to interfere in our transport funding decisions for political reasons. I am also concerned that allowing the Minister to set percentage ranges of the Government Policy Statement which must be spent on certain transport modes does not lead to us investing in the right projects or getting the best return on investment.

To give just one example, the very small percentage of the National Land Transport Fund allocated to walking and cycling infrastructure means that many cycling projects with very strong economic cases (or benefit cost ratios) could be delayed for many years as the New Zealand Transport Agency will have exhausted all the funds available within their “percentage range” for cycling/walking projects. At the same time many new state highways with very poor economic justification will be approved simply because the Minister has allocated a high percentage of funding to them.

This is not the way to get the best return from our investment in transport. Instead of having such a system, I would prefer it if all transport projects (regardless of mode) were evaluated by the New Zealand Transport Agency using the same criteria to determine which projects should have priority and be built first. This would mean all transport modes had a level playing field in terms of accessing funds.

The system used to determine the priority of transport projects should not rely on the traditional economic evaluation model which is flawed and over-estimates the time saving benefits of motorway projects. Instead projects should be evaluated for priority using a transparent formula that adequately measures environmental and social (as well as economical) costs and benefits of transport projects. In particular, such a prioritization approach should take into account key factors excluded from traditional transport evaluation models such as impacts on land use from transport projects, predicted changes in oil prices, impact of transport choices on climate change and the health benefits of active modes.


Overall, in my opinion the GPS engagement document is a disappointment and seems highly unlikely that transport investment will achieve its goals of enhancing economic growth and productivity if funding is allocated as proposed in this document. In the past few years there have been some significant changes to transport trends – with higher fuel prices contributing to far lower increases in traffic volumes, or even some years (like 2008) when state highway traffic volumes decreased by almost 3% compared to the year before.

If transport investment is to assist economic growth and productivity it needs to be well targeted, to areas where there are the greatest bottlenecks holding back the economy and also to areas where demand is increasing most rapidly. The GPS will guide the funding of transport projects in the next 10 years, not the last 10 years – so must look forwards and anticipate where additional capacity is required between now and 2022, or to set aside sufficient funds to keep existing infrastructure in a good state of repair so that it can be used to its maximum potential.

As noted above some significant changes to the GPS are considered necessary in order for it to achieve its stated goals.

Overall, there appears to be a significant gap between the worthy goals of the GPS (to enhance economic growth and productivity) and the funding preferences to achieve that goal – in particular the emphasis placed on constructing new state highways at a time when traffic on state highways is static or declining. To ensure it is a credible document, the GPS should explain this connection far more clearly.

Having my say on NZ’s Draft Energy Strategy

Thanks to WWF and Greenpeace I have been able to make a quick submission on the Government’s visionless Draft Energy Strategy.

Submissions are due by Thursday 2 September at 5pm.

My submission:

Please accept the following as my submission on the draft Energy Strategy and draft Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy for New Zealand.

I wish to make a number of general comments.

The Draft Energy Strategy is an inadequate and inappropriate response to the challenge of tackling climate change and to providing a sustainable, clean and secure energy future for New Zealand.  There is no plan to protect New Zealanders from the rising costs of oil in the future, nor to set us on a path to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.

The stated goal of 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 will not be achieved by this strategy, which fails to provide clear policy goals and incentives.

New Zealand must start real work on achieving a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (on 1990 levels) by 2020. This has to include mandatory emission reductions, and a renewable energy strategy that supports the development of resources like wind, marine, geothermal, biomass and solar.

I therefore call on the Government to:

  • Shift the priorities in the draft strategy towards research, development and greater use of new clean energy technologies and away from fossil fuels (coal and oil). New Zealand has the potential to be a world leader in the development and use of home-grown biofuels.
  • Set out a clear strategy for facilitating a transition away from New Zealand’s current reliance on petrol and diesel for transport. Initial priorities should include expanding public transport in order to provide real alternatives when oil prices rise, and introducing fuel economy regulations (as has been done in several other countries) to gradually make cars sold in New Zealand more efficient.
  • Set out a clear strategy and progress indicators for achieving the goal of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2025. Policies such as ‘feed-in-tariffs’ should be implemented to achieve the desired goal of increased local electricity generation.
  • Clearly state that coal-fired energy generation will not be expanded. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) may not become viable and will almost certainly not be in place during the life of this strategy. Expanding coal-fired energy generation over the next 5 to 10 years therefore not only runs counter to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but would also be a risky and potentially obsolete investment.

Your sincerely,

Pippa Coom

Emailed to:

Further reading

Have your say on NZ’s energy future. More information here on Lynda Brendish’s Good Magazine blog.

More details about the strategy and how to make a submission here on the MED website.