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Twiddling thumbs will only make them sore

Let us move fast on Auckland’s transport woes

David Shearer – Twiddling thumbs-David Shearer Web

A new vision for Auckland

You might have seen the headline in a recent edition of the New Zealand Herald “Workers bear brunt of public transport madness.”

Worse, you might have been one of those in the rain at Auckland bus stops that morning, waiting in vain, while bus after bus sailed past, filled to capacity.

Auckland buses are so full that they they cannot stop to collect waiting passengers.

Journeys that should take 15 minutes are taking an hour and a half.

Six extra train carriages have been added – but even they are not enough to cope with demand. And don’t even mention the traffic jams on our motorways.

Lethargic administration

Our biggest city is experiencing a gridlock that was 100% predictable, and predicted. Unfortunately, our government was not prepared – it seems best at planning for yesterday’s needs.

The City Rail Link should have been well underway by now. But the government dug its toes in for years and continued its old-fashioned mantra that our future lay in more motorways.  Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said about City Rail Link in 2011: “That is not smart transport; that is pouring money down a hole.”

Now – five years later – he is eating his words while Aucklanders stand in growing queues. Other cities plan ahead for projected growth. Our government waits for a crisis then plays catch-up.

Short-sighted decision

In the light of this, it was exasperating to see Auckland Council’s similarly short-sighted decision last month to reject the plan for greater housing density.

It showed a lack of vision, and will leave our city about 200,000 homes short of what we will need by 2040.

Some very impressive young people submitted to Council in favour of higher density living. Dr Sudhvir Singh and his colleagues from Generation Zero showed some inspiring long-term thinking.

The Council should have listened to them.

They are young professionals who want to live in the city near work, entertainment, parks and public transport, just as people do in great international cities everywhere. They have travelled the world and they know how great high-density cities work.

They know that if we put a little extra effort into our city planning now, we can have world-class public transport serving quality apartments at affordable prices, right in the city.

Bad designs

Why should they instead be condemned to long commutes from the Southern and Western city fringes?

It is not high-density housing or apartments we need to fear: it’s bad design.

Our leaders failed to plan ahead for Auckland’s growing transport needs.

Let us not make the same mistake for Auckland’s growing housing needs.

With a population growing as fast as ours, the need for higher housing density in Auckland is clear and becoming urgent. Let’s get on with it.

With quality materials and thoughtful design protecting privacy and light, we can make our city even more practical and beautiful.

David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.

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