Minto for Mayor policy launch: Free public transport, 20 000 new council homes, living wage & Robin Hood Rates

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Minto for Mayor Policy launch – John Minto – July 7th 2013

Another hour at home with your family – every work day

There’s an old cliché in politics which says “it’s time for change” and it’s usually prattled by politicians who have no intention of changing anything.

But Mana is saying it’s time for change in Auckland – a change from nursing the greed of the 1% to meeting the needs of the 99%.

That’s why I’m standing as the Mana Movement candidate for Auckland Mayor.

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We are bringing to this campaign four major policies to deal with –
• Traffic gridlock
• Unaffordable housing
• Unliveable wages
• Sherriff of Nottingham rates

Our policies will deliver –
• Free-flowing traffic in rush hour
• Affordable housing for everyone
• The living wage for Aucklanders
• Robin Hood rates

Over the next three months I’ll be campaigning on these big four issues on behalf of the majority of low and middle income families who are struggling to live a decent life in this city.

And before I go on I can say the policies we are promoting will NOT result in increases in rates or council charges. Each of the four big policies is either cost neutral or will save money.

Of these four big policies we have already announced plans to ensure every council employee and every employee of a council contractor is paid a minimum of the living wage – currently $18.40 an hour. How we pay for that will be outlined in the full living wage policy which will be released in early August.

We have also already announced our plans for Auckland City to build high-quality, affordable council rental housing. More details of that policy will be released on the steps of the Auckland District Court on 23rdJuly when Mana leader Hone Harawira appears in court on charges related to protesting against the removal of state houses from Glen Innes and the destruction of the GI community.

But today I’m announcing our policy to get Auckland City moving. I’ve lived here for 36 years and the last 20 years of that time the traffic has got worse every year and despite the building of more motorways, more express roads, adding lanes to existing roads, putting feeder lights to the motorways etc etc the problem has continued to get worse. With future growth we are looking at the serious gridlock we have now turning into hell on earth.

Look what’s been announced over the last two weeks. Prime Minister John Key has said the government will fund the inner city rail link along with two other huge roading initiatives – the AMETI and second harbor crossing – at a cost of $10 billion.

This has been portrayed as a consensus with Auckland City Mayor Len Brown so we’ve seen a delighted mayor and celebrations all round. But this consensus is NOT a solution for Aucklanders. It’s really just more of the same – roads, roads and more roads with a bit for public transport slipped in in seven years time.

It means that current traffic gridlock will continue as it is and Aucklanders are supposed to just suck it up. We are told we have to continue to spend an extra hour every day in bumper to bumper traffic and hope that in 12 years time there will be some easing of congestion with the rail link.

It also means we are to be lumbered with wasteful spending on new roading projects which will NOT reduce traffic gridlock.

Every Aucklander knows that when a new road is built it just gets you to the traffic jam faster.

Let’s remind ourselves of the cost of traffic congestion to Auckland. A report to government in March this year and found $1.25 billion in lost productivity every year from traffic gridlock in Auckland. It’s an eye-watering figure but should be no surprise. Trucks and vans are just as snarled up as the rest of us.

What about the economic cost to Auckland families? As well as paying rates and taxes for new road projects and paying a lot more for petrol and diesel we burn up in traffic queues every year Mayor Len Brown is telling us that Aucklanders must find another $11 to 12 billion extra over the next 30 years. That’s an additional $400 million per year for mainly new road projects. (3/4 of that funding is for new roads) And how will it be paid for? Len Brown’s “consensus building group” is proposing petrol and diesel tax increases, congestion charges, network charges, rates increases and increased fares on buses and trains and almost certainly toll charges as well. AND even after all that the most important thing to remember is it won’t end traffic gridlock.

It’s madness – the tarseal addicts in the roading lobby and government are dominating decision-making and unfortunately the mayor is going along with it. It’s like being in the dark tunnel of traffic gridlock and the Mayor says he’s going to switch the lights off. How crazy is that? It’s the policy equivalent of “ice-road truckers” – reckless, brainless and damaging to the environment.

But what is the personal cost to families? This is where it gets really serious. I spoke to a woman a couple of weeks back who lived out west and worked in town on a cleaning job. She had to leave home two hours before her work time and left for home on the last bus at midnight. Traffic congestion was the culprit. Every member of every family in Auckland has an awful story to tell of unnecessary stress and wasted time through traffic gridlock.

Another quick example. A boy I taught in South Auckland gained entry to Auckland University but the family couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars each year in bus fares so they bought him an old car to get there. These are the sorts of decisions which drive traffic congestion in Auckland.

Mana’s policy is to reduce stress on families and give back to Aucklanders the extra hour a day they currently spend in bumper to bumper traffic.

We will do that with our policy of free and frequent public transport around the city.

What would this look like?
Comfortable, modern, low-emission trains and buses, fitted with free wifi, would provide free and frequent travel along transport corridors to all parts of the Auckland City urban area. To get the best from the rail network we would need to complete the Auckland inner city rail link as currently agreed but in a much shorter timeframe. This would more than double the capacity of our rail network.

This policy will get Auckland moving like never before. People will abandon their cars and enjoy faster travel to and from work. No cash no cards – just jump on and go as far as you like – check your emails and the news on the internet along the way.

How long would it take to put in place?
Less than a year. Currently there are nine transport contracts for buses and trains run by Auckland City. This is one of the reasons the system is so inefficient with frequent and well-justified complaints. These separate contracts need to be brought together to provide a unified, coherent network to enable quick travel across all parts of the city. We also need time to bring in significantly more buses to meet the extra demand.

How much would it cost?
Nothing – this will save Aucklanders money. Based on current public transport usage the cost would be approx $280 million annually (70 million public transport trips in 2012) although this would rise as Aucklanders flock to public transport. It would need an initial investment to significantly increase the number of buses – approx. $400 million over three years to double bus numbers. Additional trains would come later as the inner city link is completed and the rail system can accommodate more trains.

Where will the money come from?
From funding already allocated for road building in Auckland. Prime Minister John Key told us last week the government has $10 billion to spend over the next 10 years. We’ll need not much more than half that to ensure we get gridlock free roads. The big roading projects will not be needed in the medium term at least and can be reassessed based on the impact of free public transport. Remember also this policy will save the $400 million per year extra Aucklanders are being asked to pay for additional roads and which we know will NOT give Aucklanders more time at home with their families.

I want to emphasise again there would be NO extra cost to ratepayers. Not only will this policy save Aucklanders an extra hour per day at home but it will save money on rates and taxation because we would no longer need the big roading projects in the foreseeable future.

Another important point needs to be made here. Auckland’s transport needs have been seriously underfunded by central government for a long time. In the 1990s the National government used Aucklanders taxes to build roads in rural and provincial areas where National Party voters live. The Auckland Chamber of Commerce reports that a 2006 study indicated that $18 billion in revenue was collected from Auckland taxpayers for transport but only $14 billion was returned to meet Auckland’s transport needs. National owes Auckland big-time and it’s time we collected.

Why don’t we just build more roads?
As I said every Aucklander knows that a new road just means getting to the traffic jam quicker.
The roading lobby won’t be happy till the whole city is tarsealed – and there will still be traffic gridlock. We must break out of the madness with which the tarseal lobby grips Auckland.

What about the environment?
It’s irresponsible to promote roads in the face of the environmental crisis which is global warming. Currently 56% of Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and trucks. Public transport is far cleaner and greener and would significantly reduce Auckland’s carbon footprint. In fact this Mana policy would probably be the single most important green policy New Zealand could undertake to help our environment.

Will Auckland be the first city to do this?
No, but we’ll be the first city in Australasia to run free and frequent public transport. Other cities ahead of us include Tallinn in Estonia, Lugoj in Romania and Chengdu, the fourth largest city in China where some of the main transport pathways are free. There are dozens of other examples from around the world where different versions of free public transport exist.

So in summary – what are the benefits?

EVERY Aucklander will get an extra hour at home EVERY work day. Even those who never use a bus or train will be able to travel a gridlock-free roading network.
It’s cheaper than tarseal addiction – saving hundreds of millions every year.
No extra charges for anyone – no rates increases, no extra fuel taxes, no congestion charges, no network charges, no toll roads, no PPPs. Those are Len Brown’s policies – not Mana’s.
Improved productivity – as I mentioned a government-commissioned report released in March this year estimated lost productivity at $1.25 billion every year from clogged Auckland roads. This policy will release that lost productivity and enable better pay for workers. Note here that Business New Zealand tells us we need higher productivity to get higher wage increases. Here’s a golden opportunity to pass on these big productivity increases to workers in wages.
Faster bus travel on unclogged roads and no time wasted collecting fares.
Revitalization of Auckland’s inner city as more people travel to enjoy Queen Street and the Auckland waterfront – some kids for the first time in their lives.
Cleaner and greener – this will be the single greenest policy in the history of New Zealand! – less pollution, smaller carbon footprint – big ups to the environment.
Savings for workers – the Mayor of Tallinn calls it the “13th monthly salary” because of estimates the policy saves a month’s pay for workers using the free transport service.
Economic stimulation as workers have significantly more to spend in the real economy.
Tourism boost as tourists use the system to see all parts of Auckland as we sell the city as an eco-friendly city – released from the grip of dull ideas from the middle of last century.

Who loses and who will oppose the policy?
The big oil companies, car manufacturers, corporate lobbyists and their political friends. The oil companies in particular make a mint from petrol and diesel burned up pointlessly on Auckland’s congested roads every day.

It’s important to make a distinction here with small and medium sized businesses who I believe will see the value in this policy – the corporate sector will oppose it outright because vested interest groups will often cut off their nose to spite their face.

Conclusion
We hope Aucklanders will give this policy close scrutiny – question it carefully and support it enthusiastically.

So for this mayoral election Mana is saying to Aucklanders –

vote for yourself
vote for your family
vote for your community
vote for more time at home
vote for the environment
vote Minto for mayor.

Thank you.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always thought it madness that the poorest people, live the farthest away from the central city and its amenities, yet pay the most in public transport costs through the zoning of fares.

    I’m keen to see more details…

  2. Great launch, great policy on transport, the voice of sanity, all Greens ought to be voting for this candidate.

  3. I need to check my eligibility, but if I can vote, you get mine. At last, something different for Auckland transport, which has suffered from an almost complete lack of vision since Robbie was Mayor.

  4. Congrats on such a forward thinking policy toward transport.
    Even say a flat fee $2 for any trip, any distance would be better than the piracy we currently have.
    My only other thought is as Mana (and its membership) as Hone pointed out is about activism not establishment, my question is how do you see the role of ‘city father’ and dealing daily with the wants and needs of big business in NZs biggest city. How will you transition from the street corner with a megaphone to the halls of power looking over those same streets?

    • Mana is about ‘activism’ until the establishment starts ‘acting’ in the interests of the people and not ‘economic well-being before human well-being’ – at that point Mana becomes establishment – it’s time for the people to have a voice and John is the right candidate for the job

  5. What about the ferries ? Or are the people who already contribute nothing to the traffic, cars or buses, to be left out ? It seeems a little unfair and unbalanced when the thrust is to get more people using them. Why would we if we have an option of a free bus ?

    • IMO, Buses should feed to the ferries/trains which ever is the better option. All should be free to use.

  6. Great policies, so sensible that they shouldn’t be considered radical at all. My concern is that to be effective we are relying on the public actually being sensible and to break that fear of leaving their beloved car, I am really not very hopeful of that. As a society we are basically afraid to be too close to strangers any more.

    This is a crucial issue, not only for our environment and economy but for the mental well-being of society. Unfortunately our love of cars is both a indicator and a cause of what is wrong with our society, where we can move into a neighbourhood and live there for years and not one neighbour comes over to introduce themselves (unless there is a problem).

    I live rurally now (not for reasons of escaping human contact) and really miss catching the ferry and bus with my pre-school daughter every morning. It is perhaps only because I travelled with her that people (and mostly elderly) spoke to me, but it was entertaining and informative and I did feel the spirits of an entire bus lift at every conversation between a 4 year old and 80 year old.

    These 2 generations at opposite ends of the age spectrum aren’t afraid to converse, everyone else is terrified, they either feign interest in something out the window or more commonly put their face in their electronic gadgets.

    We will all be forced onto public transport eventually and I hope that generations from now society will be the better for it, but Aucklanders need decent options. It has improved a little in the last 5 years but from my experience of using all 3 modes of PT daily for 2 years, I see the problems as cost and connectivity, it is very expensive to utilise more than one mode, and you have to if you want to get anywhere fast.

  7. John fought the disaster of apartheid and beat it imagine what he could do against the unmitigated disaster Auckland’s traffic congestion.

  8. There is no such thing as free. You are just pushing the cost onto the national government who will raise taxes.

    • Taxes are the most efficient means of funding anything that is universal. In this case, the taxes will be Auckland rates possibly with some funding from the government.

  9. I spotted an article in a London newspaper recently about that city issuing free “travel cards” to students. Among the benefits listed for this policy were, “less hospital admissions from pedestrian and cycle accidents” in the student population, which I thought was an interesting addition to the many benefits you have stated.

    Naturally, the predictable benefit of taking cars (it actually said 4X4’s) off the school run, was also high on the list.

    Sensible policy!

  10. This is revolutionary and progressive indeed, I must say!

    My concern is, how will John get the needed votes from the mostly motorised Aucklanders, who will not easily give up the “intimate privacy” and “comforts” of their still preferred, yet over the longer term unsustainable individual private motor vehicles?

    That is the greatest of all challenges, as I fear that the public is not ready and willing enough for such change and transport revolution, which should be overdue, to bring Auckland to truly “world city standards”.

    “Nimbys” still tend to cling to their cars, prefer to travel when and where they please, even if they have to sit in the congested rush hour traffic, and listen to music or some radio broadcast.

    And with bus fleets and more rail infrastructure needing expansion, and also at some stage replacements, some costs will inevitably come, which will have to be paid by someone after all.

    And to “”encourage” the many drivers to switch to buses, it may need a bit more than just offering a free ride – to be shared with other people. I fear that some tax incentives in the form of higher petrol taxes may be necessary, but the local body will not be able to enforce that.

    As a side effect, many may actually give up running their cars, or at least a second car per household, leading to a glut of cheap second hand vehicles, which may be counter productive.

    But I wish John Minto well, at least he comes up with some ideas, unlike that New York restaurateur who just tries to come up with ambiguous talk, meaning nothing.

    I can see benefits in what John Minto is proposing, the voters will have to have the ability, awareness and sensibility to see them also.

  11. Hi John,

    I like your idea for the living wage, introducing it through the council and basically incentivising contractors to pay it as well, or basically not get the contract.

    I also really like your drive to improve the public transport. I am not from Auckland but now live here and the only complaint I have about the city is it’s traffic. I deliberately picked where the area I live so that when I have to take my car to work, instead of my bike, I am driving against the traffic. That was before I really appreciated what it was really like, and now I’m so glad that I made that decision. I find it amazing that outside of peak times actually driving around is relatively pain free. Weekends and evening are so easy to get about. That is one reason that I believe that an improved public transport system would really help the city, when you take away some of the cars, the roads are pretty good. But for it to work it would involve a really well designed system that doesn’t just focus on getting in and out of the city. People drive their cars because the live in one place and work in another, not necessarily the city. They either don’t know about the routes that they can take across the city, or find them so long and convoluted that it is just easier to drive. For example, Titirangi to Progressive Foods Depot in Mangere involves 4 buses/trains and takes 1 hour 30 minutes. As they say, the devil is in the detail. Details cost money though…

    I suggest that you adopt a fare scheme that will contribute to the running of the transport system but be affordable for everyone. My suggestion is $1.00 day pass, $25 month pass and $250 yearly pass. One million people in Auckland, if half of them buy a years pass you have $125 million dollars, nearly half of the running costs straight out. More would be made by tourists who would happily pay a dollar a day to jump on and off buses, visiting places and areas that would not normally see them. You wouldn’t have to scrap the AT Hop scheme that is currently under implementation either.

    On top of any fare change there needs to be greater network planning and initiatives that allow people to use the network more effectively. Bigger car parks for Park & Ride. Vastly increased bicycle storage at stations and the ability to carry them on buses and trains like in Christchurch. More use of fast water craft, Auckland’s transport is constrained and convoluted in so many areas by the two harbors. Work with local businesses to promote more carpooling and putting on shuttle buses to the local train station. Convince people not to drive their kids to school. It’s not good enough to just make it free. It has to be smart as well.

    • Paying fares adds another point that needs to be addressed – statistics. Without the statistics that the act of paying a fare provides we wouldn’t be able to plan the public network and so it would fail. As much as having PT be free seems like a nice idea it just won’t work unless you put in another way to get the statistics and all the other ways that I can think of aren’t as simple.

      • What are you saying, can’t you just have a scan to see how many people get on and off the bus, or a thing like they have on the road to see how many cars go along a road.

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