Auckland Central: urban life, city issues & climate

Auckland CBD Residents’ Advisory Group organized a meeting of Ak Central candidates. Cities concentrate many big issues of transport & infrastructure, which touch on climate.

Peter Whitmore, candidate for Auckland Central, presented to the residents. They posed 6 key questions on urban issues:

1.  Improving air quality, reducing noise pollution in the central city

At the moment we are continuing to rely very heavily on fossil fuels to power our transport needs. It is the use of these fuels, and particularly diesel, that is giving rise to the high particulate, gas and noise emissions in the city.

A major reason we are still going in this direction is that our emissions trading scheme, which is supposed to be the main driving force for reducing our emissions, has degenerated into a farce.

While a UK government report of 2006 put the cost of the damage done by emitting a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere at $NZ100, polluters under our emissions trading scheme have recently been paying under $5 and as little as 15 cents. This is a bit like road rules set up so that if someone runs into your car and causes $100 of damage, they only have to pay you 15 cents in compensation.

If we get our price signals right we can start seriously reducing our emissions in general, including the transport-related particulate, gas and noise emissions that are already a problem in Central Auckland.

2.  Schools easily accessible from the city centre

We think it is important that primary children do not have to travel far to get to school and that ideally they should be able to get there safely on foot or by bike. We also think schools should have access to adjacent outside playing and sports areas.

What I don’t think we want is the sort of outcome New York has come to, where the school ends up in multi-storey building with playing areas on the roof.

We will therefore work towards leaving adequate areas available for provision of future schools close to the central city, based on projections of population increase.

3.  Seismic strengthening and protection of heritage and other buildings

We believe preserving heritage buildings is important. We have lost far too many already, so we support steps to achieve this.

If a building met the structural requirements when it was built, and these requirements were subsequently changed then we believe, where the building justifies it, that some financial assistance is made available to enable the new requirements to be met.

4.  More equitable funding for major arts and culture entities in Auckland

We certainly believe that the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery are very important institutions on a national basis. We further believe that funding for such institutions should be based on their importance and not on their location.

We would also support the same type of approach for other artistic and musical ventures, such as the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

5.  Constructing and funding the city loop

The New Zealand transport sector accounts for over 40% of our non-agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Not only will improving our train system will allow us to start making serious reductions in these emissions, but it will also allow people to get to work in less time and at lower cost, and reduce traffic congestion on our roads and highways.

But our transport improvements need to go well beyond just the proposed city loop. We also need train services to other parts of the city such as the North Shore and the airport area, as has been recently proposed by Generation Zero and The Campaign for Better Transport in their “Congestion Free Network”.

The Auckland Council attempted to achieve the same vision almost 50 years ago, in the late 1960’s when Sir Dove-Myer Robinson was mayor. And in 1946, almost 70 years ago, the Ministry of Works had a plan for trains to extend into the city and to other parts of Auckland which still today have no service. This shows just how far behind the eight ball we are.

In a well developed train network, one train line can carry as many people as up to 10 highway lanes and one trains can replace up to around 750 cars. With trains powered by electricity from renewable resources, the emissions compared to everyone going by car or bus are tiny.

Sydneysiders, whose trains are more frequent, more reliable and service a greater portion of the city than in Auckland, make around nine times as many suburban trips per capita as we do. They could use their own cars to commute if they wanted, but many choose not to because the trains work better for them.

Developing a better train system is a win-win way forward. Many people will be able to save time and money by leaving their cars at home. We can start reducing the almost $7 billion a year we currently spend on fossil fuel imports – almost half what we earn from our dairy exports. And we can start making serious reductions in our transport-related emissions.

We therefore support the building of the city loop at the earliest opportunity, as proposed by the Auckland Council.

We also believe that the city should receive strong governmental funding for this venture because it does not have the funding options that the central government does. Forcing it to rely too heavily on funding from city rates is not equitable because some rate payers are not strong users of either cars or trains.

We believe that some of the funding currently going into the highway system should flow instead into this venture. For example the “holiday highway” connecting Puhoi and Warkworth is budgeted to cost $750 million. Projects such as this should be postponed in favour of the city loop which will yield much greater benefits.

6.  Other policies – Steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

As already covered we urgently need to get our price signals right regarding the use of fossil fuels. In this regard, our emissions trading scheme has essentially turned into a lame duck, or perhaps a dead duck would be a more appropriate description.

What we propose instead is a carbon charge applied to all fossil fuels. This approach is simpler, less costly to run and more effective than our current emissions trading scheme. And unlike the ets, we will recycle any revenue collected via this charge, back to the public. This could be done by reducing personal and corporate tax rates, or by reducing gst rates, but our plan is to refund it back to all New Zealand residents via a citizen’s dividend.

So for example, a charge of $30 for a tonne of carbon dioxide would equate to around an extra 10 cents a litre on the cost of petrol. People will be compensated for this via the citizen’s dividend, but it will still start to give a clear financial incentive for them to reduce their expenses through steps such as using public transport more frequently or buying more fuel efficient cars. We know from experience in other countries that this type of approach will work.

We need to go down this road to achieve the very rapid and major reductions in emissions that are needed to enable us to leave a liveable planet, with some semblance of what we have experienced during our lifetimes, for our children and grandchildren.


Resident’s questions raise good points, which we strove to answer. Urban areas, and Auckland in particular, suffer challenges to which the government has not provided means or economic instruments to meet.

The Climate Party’s purpose is to raise the single issue of climate as a priority. Our answers focus on transport, pollution, the city rail loop & greenhouse gas emissions.

However we believe that the means & will,  that will enable us to tackle climate,  can enable us to solve many of these other issues.

Are you an Auckland resident? How do transport and pollution affect you?

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