Politics of car culture looks like hell



Car is King in Auckland, city of cars. It’s been that way since the 1950s, but the massive construction zone that is the current North Western Motorway expansion, confirms Auckland’s urban form as dominated by the car, tarseal, concrete and steel.

The $2 billion Western Ring Route cuts a swathe through schools, communities, urban forest remnants, open space, and a marine reserve, and is a clear indication of priorities, but will leave negative impacts for generations. Fast tracking this motorway building by classing the Western Ring Route a ‘Road of National Significance’, reinforces Auckland’s car culture, diverts massive funds from other projects, and creates megalithic flyovers dwarfing all human scale.

85% of Auckland’s journeys are by car. About 85% of those journeys are to work, and 90% of those are single occupancy vehicles. We have one of the highest car ownership rates per capita, in the world. Auckland’s car fleet grows by an additional 15,000 cars per annum. Our urban form is laid out for car driving – and obviously so is our public investment.
Past, hard won public transport improvements, such as rail redevelopment and the Northern Busway, are even less likely to be repeated with a government that’s hostile to alternative funding sources and public transport per se. But the structural arrangements behind Auckland’s existing public transport services are also problematic (competitive, and relatively deregulated) and do little to improve the confidence of Aucklanders in alternatives to the car.

The mad, bad car dependency also looks to be entrenched with the fast tracking of ‘Special Housing Areas’ (SHAs) which leave no time and give no care, to integrating land use and transport to avoid more of the car based sprawl that has shaped Auckland so far.

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My hometown of Kumeu, 35 km from the city centre has a motorway extension to within 4kms of its strip-development heart. We’ve got a motorway almost to our community’s door. Of course almost as soon as it was completed, it’s been congested and blocked with induced traffic. But the alternative bus service winds through slow suburban streets for most journeys to town. For anyone that’s not a committed public transport user, these bus services will never compare with even the slowest journey by car.

The SHAs propose an additional 2,500 houses for Kumeu, and several thousand residential sites are already under construction in the area. Auckland Council plans for an eventual extra 80,000 houses and 200,000 more people to live in the current Western greenfield periphery of Auckland.

But the $2.5billion already invested in the Northwestern motorway corridor excludes a dedicated, congestion-free public transport busway. The concession to bus passenger travel amidst this concrete jungle, is a bus shoulder lane for 4 kms of the journey by 2017, and another 4 or so kms by 2021. Current consultation on the local bus service review indicates no sign of dedicated busway for generations.

In the meantime, the existing, dedicated, congestion-free rail corridor, stations and line, right in the heart of this development area and the SHAs, lie idle. The railway station at Huapai/Kumeu sits empty. Auckland Transport is about to withdraw services from Waitakere to Swanson. We must be the only communities in the region facing a worsening public transport service rather than an improvement.

Officials, and others, suggest that our area should just wait for the Northwestern busway. Pragmatism tells us local PT users, and residents, that it’s better to use the existing resource invested in rail that’s available now.

Politics is at the heart of transport investment decisions. The politics of Auckland transport shows a disregard for PT, for current and future PT users, a lusty love affair with the car and bad planning.

We’re not getting a dedicated bus corridor amidst the country’s biggest roading project on the Northwestern motorway. There is no plan for rail services where the line and stations currently exist. That’s not a matter of ability, but a matter of political will. It looks like hell to me.


  1. Car is king in ChCh also . Witness the comments sections on Stuff
    ( thankfully shut down now ) and Chris Lynch’s facebook page with regards to the issue before Council of the Ruapuna Racetrack
    ( allowed to operate 360 days a year at levels that have overseas noise experts shaking their heads in disbelief ).

    However Big Money ( Mike Pero Raceway ), Old Money ( the Stewart family ) and cars rule in ChCh and the poor people of Templeton and Hei Hei ( two low decile areas ) are literally swamped with noise nowadays .

    To add to their misery , every petrolhead in Canterbury feels that because they live in the area they ‘deserve everything they get ‘ . A far cry from what happens when the Davis Gelatine factory emits pollution into the surrounding neighbourhood .

    Kiwis are traditionally been scornful of people whose lives are torn apart by noise – especially Motor Racing noise , 95 % of comments on Lynch’s Facebook page are along the lines of ” If you don’t like it move ” or ” Stop winging (sic) and move out , we were here first “.

    In fact they weren’t there first they were moved there -( 4 km away from Templeton ) in the 1960’s and for about 40 years were a fairly benign presence in the area . A rule change by a Commissioner Collins ( may he rot in hell ) in 1999 changed that forever and now people who live 4 km away have to listen to noise every day .

    I lie , they get 5 days a year free of noise – and when I say ‘noise’ I mean NOISE , 7 days a week noise, 9 am until 6-7-8 pm – sometimes 10 pm noise – great gas guzzling barely muffled vehicles , driving around and around and AROUND , loud enough to be the subject of a Noise Complaint from a person living 11 km away.

    In a country where Greg Murphy is regularly called “a hero ” by commercial media and where Jeremy Clarkson would be voted in as PM if he ran in the next elections , people who take a stand against our Car Culture and or Noise Pollution are vilified , threatened with violence and labelled nimbys and whiners by their fellow kiwis . ( ” They’re as bad as those Western Springs people ” is a catch cry – no matter that the Speedway at Western Springs was breaking it’s consents ).

    The same happens in this city when a ‘cyclist vs car ‘ incident hits the morning paper – social media and The Press comments sections are rife with cantabrians spitting ” get off our roads ” – ” you deserve everything you get if you ride two abreast ” and similar gems.

    I despair .

  2. Excellent article. I did not realize that there is not even a dedicated bus lane in the Northwestern motorway. Who decides and votes on these issues? The National party gets a lot of donations from roading. Soon Auckland will be a noisy polluted congested spaghetti junction, where poorer people will not even be able to get around on public transport (due to having such a poor service) and when congestion charges hit, taxpayer money paying for the roads will be subsidized by a ‘user’ charge so that the poor again who are more likely to live further out will be hit again. The housing fast track is a joke – expensive houses that will be ugly and poorly planned. Just like apartments in the CBD that are ugly and leaky (but at least affordable) they will just put people off and ultimately cost the ratepayers and taxpayers and owners just like leaky building.

    If you have a look around, the Auckland council are destroying neighborhood amenity, not happy with driving people out off the CBD with bad planning in the 1990’s they are now turning to the suburbs (using the idea of affordable housing) to instead approve mcMansions taking amenity from their neighbors and taking builders off affordable houses. The new trend is to build suburban houses to the maximum possible intensity (and then add more), no front gardens just garaging and carports. Big Gates and retaining walls and fences. Sun and views destroyed for others. Absolute domination of structures where there were once leafy gardens where kids could play.

    The idea should be to build moderate size houses and to use solar and energy and water saving to prevent further costs to the ratepayers. The Auckland planning department is doing the opposite and by doing so removing the right for the neighbors to have access to sunlight and open space as well and enriching one party by destroying anothers value.

    I love the fact that sections being created are used in the calculations of affordable housing. (sarcasm here). Yep you can’t live in a section – let’s see how many poor people are actually housed at this point under the fast track as it will only be a handful. Where is that statistic?

    The Auckland council planning and transport has dirty hands. And with building and roading, you won’t notice for 5 years until the buildings built how bad their decisions are, and then people will say How did this happen?

    • I’m always curious about whether or not Fulton Hogan has one of those Lobbyist’s passes into the Beehive . They benefit hugely from this demented road and motorway building in NZ in more ways than one -( a few years ago I noticed that they were part owned by one of the large Oil Companies – not sure if that’s still the case ) but you have to wonder how much sway do they have with the policy makers and how many shady deals are done .

    • You also need to remember that Rodney Hide’s restructure completely split Auckland Transport from Auckland Council, so urban planners in Auckland Council do not get to influence the roading engineers.

      This is ridiculous. How people move (transport planning) and how people live (land-use planning) is integrated.

      The chalice of Auckland Council was poisoned at the outset by the structure and form, and the refusal of NZTA to contenance any change to its roading proposals.

      The SHA’s were the result of threats from our National Government not to allow the vision of condensed city living to be undertaken.

  3. Thank you for showing that the issues surrounding the Roads of National Stupidity can be made real along with some of their ramifications. If only the MSM employed insightful, caring and cogent writers such as yourself and featured their work regularly we might have a chance of turning things around.

  4. I think I did a good report on housing and transport here.


    It has a Canterbury slant and it is a few months old but I think it is relevant for all kiwis.

    There is also a good discussion here about land banking by Bernard Hickey here today.

  5. Cars are fantastic. For a start they assist in global warming. A more balmy NZ winter is highly desirable. There is enough oil for the next 200 years or so, and its cheap. In a couple of hundred years when the planet has warmed up nicely, electric cars will be developed sufficiently to be a satisfying drive. Cars give us ultimate freedom to go and do largely as we please,(that should appease the freedom loving left) and enough ammunition for the Greenies to make even more stupid statements than usual, and in the process further distance them selves from middle New Zealand, thus ensuring they will never have any chance of real power. Most of all, cars mean we do not have to share buses with smelly hippy like citizens.Long live the internal combustion engine.

      • To be Frank, frank, no. I do believe global warming is happening, but do not accept that man has much to do with it. When one considers the vastness of the universe, the power of the sun, gravity and so on, can man really influence things so much? In my view, global warming has been turned into an industry, much like oil companies, but on the other side. There is enough oil for another 200 years and its cheap. Electric cars in my view do have the driving appeal of say a v8, and are in limited supply second hand. I did read that the manufacture and subsequent disposal of the batteries for these cars is not overly environment friendly, but it would be good to have that confirmed or dismissed. In summary, better public transport is desirable, as are much better facilities for cyclists, but let us petrol heads enjoy our cars too.

        • Dan,
          Although the size of the cosmos is vast beyond our limited comprehension- there are billions on gargantuan universes contained within it- we are stuck here on a tiny planet which we’re rapidly destroying.
          I don’t think even you would be stupid enough to shit in the water you drink. If you really believe climate change is not man-made, all I can suggest is you do more reading on the Keeling Curve, methane clathrates (aka hydrates) and positive feedback loops etc.
          Any Guy McPherson lecture should scare the shit out of you!

          • After you said “how can anyone’s conscience be clear when one has taken another’s life for any reason” I just cant take you seriously. Anyway, go back to your herbal remedies and have a happy life.

            • Remember this…

              “Dan says: November 5, 2014 at 6:29 pm It will a like all those people on this site who backed the Green MP for supporting homeopathy as an Ebola treatment, then later even the Green party itself had the common sense to remove the portfolio from him. The left can be sensible and constructive, as can the right. The left of the left is just loony YogiBare says: November 8, 2014 at 8:17 am Dan says…”It will a (sic) like all those people on this site who backed the Green MP for supporting homeopathy as an Ebola treatment,” References please. I must have missed these supporting comments ’cause I didn’t see anyone on this site backing this MP. All I read was CLEANGREEN making a argument for not dismissing alternative medicine out of hand and, in my own case, stating that although I believed there wasn’t enough evidence to support homeopathy this shouldn’t prevent one from keeping an open mind.”

              You never produced the evidence I requested, despite further prompting, and now you have the audacity to make the flippant remark that I take herbal remedies, even after I made it perfectly clear I felt there wasn’t enough evidence to support homeopathy.

              It was Michael Brown’s mother that I paraphrased from a TV interview when I stated “how can anyone’s conscience be clear when one has taken another’s life for any reason” It would seem she has a better moral compass than you. I find it depressing that you seem to think you could kill an other human being and have no remorse over their death.

              • I am somewhat sorry Yogi. My comments are intended in part for amusement.I do take exception to the comment “how can anyone’s conscience be clear when one has taken another’s life for any reason” though, I would consider that our soldiers have a clear conscience and do not deserve to be subject to such opinion, equally anyone who who defends themselves or someone else against attack when there is no other option. Solders after all gave us the freedom we enjoy today.We do however share a similar view on unions I have noticed.You must excuse me now. I am about to go for a drive in my V8 while I still can, and give it a good old thrash.

                • I would suspect the World War One “Shell Shock”, and the more modern “Post-Trauma Stress Disorder” (PTSD), suffered by some returning servicemen may have been brought on by the fact they had to kill enemy combatants.

                  • I firstly thank them for their service and sacrifice, and quickly add that in all reality, there was no alternative.

  6. Good blog Christine Rose,

    Auckland is going to be an un-livable City in future at this rate as NZ has the highest car ownership per capita in the world now.

    We are now warned by NIWA studies that in Auckland suffers from air pollution and road culvert runoff pollution sources of pollution and tyre particles, brake & clutch lining particles along with oil deposits left on the highways along with remains of air pollution sources from the burning of diesel/petrol and all these will choke the waterways and poison the steams and tributaries of rivers and coastlines.

    Also it will enter the lungs of residents, as we saw in other major centres we visited.

    LA, Toronto, Shanghai and London, all suffered until they discovered building more roads just encourages more cars so they have now begun a turnaround plan, with more public transport, and several types of zoning tax for driving in congested areas.

    We now hear it is working instead of the old obsolete “build it and they will come philosophy,,,,,,,,,

    Just keep building more roads for more vehicles and air quality suffers and the health of Aucklanders, so how dumb is that?

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