Auckland mayor Len Brown lets people take his flights of fancy seriously. Perhaps, when enough people do it, they’ll stop being mere flights of fancy.
He did it at Browns Bay a month ago during a visit to the new 42-unit Norfolk Apartments block under construction on Bute Rd, where he saw more intensive suburban living justifying better public transport links. Running rapid transit up the motorway corridor was not a silly idea and, when someone suggested the ferry linking to downtown, Mr Brown liked that too.
In a Manukau Courier article last Thursday, James Ireland quoted Mr Brown: “We want to run light rail from Manukau up through Clover Park, all along Te Irirangi Drive, up to Highland Park, up Panmure Highway and back to Manukau.
“The idea of getting mass transit into suburban areas is to give commuters flexibility. The key thing about running rail down Te Irirangi Drive is that people already complain about the traffic lights holding them up. The trains would run down the median strip in the road and they would take priority over cars.”
Te Irirangi Drive is designed for that to happen, which is not to say it will happen. But, where there’s a flight of fancy and someone takes it seriously…..
One of Mr Brown’s regular council opponents, Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer, was also quoted in the newspaper article: “I think the mayor needs to focus on getting the money for the $2.8 billion city rail link. This additional project is just not feasible in the foreseeable future.”
2 other regular opponents, Howick councillors Dick Quax & Sharon Stewart, joined Cllr Brewer in issuing a statement on Sunday, ticking the mayor off under the heading, Mayor loses the plot with his latest light rail push, say councillors:
“3 Auckland councillors say it’s a complete surprise that the Auckland mayor is now actively pushing another costly rail project without any discussion with councillors, nor is a Manukau light rail loop in any Auckland Transport or Auckland Council budget or plan.
“Howick councillors Dick Quax & Sharon Stewart & Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer believe the mayor needs to stop promising so much, and focus on delivering existing projects.”
Cllr Quax, whom Mr Brown defeated in 2007 for the final Manukau mayoralty before the super-city was created, said of the light rail idea: “This smacks of the mayor’s 2006 promise to deliver light rail from Bucklands Beach to Mangere Bridge. He just can’t be taken seriously with these kinds of ridiculous promises which never come with any costings, backing or evidence.
“However, the alarming thing here is supposedly some kind of investigation is already underway – no doubt involving a raft a consultants. It needs to be stopped now, before the big bills start coming in.”
Cllr Brewer added: “I seriously think the mayor has lost the plot. He keeps dreaming up all these projects with no idea of where the money is going to come from. He’s flaying all over the place. Delivering a funding plan for his city rail link is where his focus should be, not dreaming up local light rail projects with the sole hope of winning back some support in the south.”
Cllr Brewer believed the mayor’s obsession with rail was out of control: “To think that almost all of Auckland Transport’s capital expenditure for public transport is going towards rail in 2014-15 when just 1% of Aucklanders take the train says it all. At the same time a paltry $1.4 million is being allocated to new buslanes across the region when buses take 80% of our public transport users. The mayor’s latest pet project proves he’s completely lost perspective.”
Cllr Stewart said she had serious concerns about the costs & potential impact on ratepayers: “Rates keep going up and council debt is soaring. The council is under enormous pressure to cut costs, yet the mayor is racing around promising to spend even more.
“Let’s not forget that communities are already complaining that many of our town centres, parks & streets are untidy. I think we need to focus on delivering on council’s core business first & foremost before adding to the wish list.”
Attribution: Councillors’ release, Manukau Courier, Browns Bay comments which went unreported at the time.