Roll out the pork barrel

I have given National a bit of stick here over the last couple of weeks about its employment relations policies. Now it is Labour’s turn to cop some, on a different issue.

Today, Transport Minister Annette King announced that North Shore outpost Whangaparaoa’s pet Penlink roading project would be funded from the Auckland Regional Petrol Tax. This is the worst example of pork barrel politics since the political demise of the Prince of Pork, Rob Muldoon.

Maybe we Greens are sometimes too trusting when we are given assurances from other political parties. Only three months ago, Jeanette Fitzsimons spoke in Parliament on the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill:

In fact, after the regional priorities have been established and applied to the first 5c that Auckland will fund through the regional fuel tax, Ministers can add a second 5c that does not go through that process and that they do not put through that process, and Ministers are not obliged any longer, after the select committee—as they were when the bill came in—to be satisfied that their projects are consistent with the region’s priorities.

This is the worst kind of roading pork-barrel politics, and I do not believe that the Government intended it. It took me so much time last night, when I had another look at this, to work circuitously around the clauses, and around the actual impact of what the select committee had done, that I think it is a mistake. I do not believe that Ministers would want to force Aucklanders to pay the interest costs, through a regional fuel tax, on roading projects that they had not chosen and that were not consistent with their priorities.

So the Greens negotiated an amendment to the legislation to ensure this would not happen:

65M Additional capital projects may be included in proposed regional fuel tax scheme for Auckland region
(1) If the proposed regional fuel tax scheme that is lodged with the responsible Ministers under section 65K is for the Auckland region, the responsible Ministers may amend the proposed scheme by including 1 or more capital projects that the responsible Ministers have identified as priorities for the Auckland region, provided that the responsible Ministers are satisfied that the projects are consistent with the Auckland regional land transport strategy.

Now the Minister of Transport, Annette King, has said that she will approve funding of the Whangaparaoa Penlink road from Auckland’s regional petrol tax.

Jeanette was quick to respond. This extravagant roading project is not consistent with the Auckland Region Land Transport Strategy. It is the pipe dream of Rodney Mayor (elected under FPP with 29% of the vote) and former ACT MP Penny Webster. It is totally inconsistent with plans to get Auckland moving, because it will just encourage more commuter cars onto Auckland roads. And, above all, it is not consistent with the Auckland land transport strategy adopted by the Auckland Regional Council.

So it is strongly arguable that Annette King’s proposal is completely unlawful, as well as being one of the worst incidences of pork barrel politics designed to get votes from an outlying Auckland suburb that normally votes overwhelmingly National.

Jeanette has threatened legal action for non-compliance with s 65M of the Land Transport Management Act. Go Jeanette!!!

Let’s hope Aucklanders see through this debacle and give their votes to neither Labour or National, but to the Greens, who will get Auckland moving again and engage in principled, rather than pork barrel, politics.

6 thoughts on “Roll out the pork barrel

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

  2. Have I got this right? The regional tax taht I supported cos it was the only way to get our trains into the 21st century is being stolen to build a road for Gulf Harbour yuppies to drive their SUVs on. That stinks.

  3. You have indeed got it right Lady P.

    And I’ve just discovered something else that is interesting re Penlink. This report back in July would indicate that the pork barrel deal may have already been done between the Government and Rodney District Council back then. It certainly appears that Rodney Deputy Mayor Kohn Kirikiri was privy to information that Green Party candidate David Hay (who is an expert on transport planning) was not.

  4. The money for Penlink isn’t being “stolen” from trains it is being stolen from other more deserving road improvements in the region.

    Is this really the worst example of pork barrel politics since the political demise of the Prince of Pork, Rob Muldoon?
    What about the directive issued to LTNZ to fully fund the second Tauranga Harbour Bridge just because Labour had done a deal with NZ First? LTNZ opposed this because of their studies of traffic growth when tolls were removed from the original bridge.
    Or the pressure brought to bare on Transfund to divert funds from ALPURT B2 to fund Britomart and CMJ when ALPURT B2 had the strongest BCR of all the land transport proposals in the Auckland region and Britomart had one of the lowest. Britomart’s low BCR has turned out to be well founded. Most of the rail passenger growth has been mode shift from buses and even that growth has been sufficient to push Britomart close to it’s design limits. The Transfund board members who opposed contributing to Britomart did so because they could see the similarities with the Auckland Harbour Bridge where the demand was “do it now, do it cheap”. We all know that was a big mistake with the bridge, most of the proponents of Britomart are still in powerful political positions so we have not yet had the acknowledgement for Britomart.

  5. Fair enough Kevyn, but along with the ones you cite, still one of the worst examples of pork barrel transport politics.

    A large part of the rationale for the regional petrol tax was to fund the interest payments on the electrification of Auckland’s rail. I don’t have a problem if there is an allocation from it to fund roading projects that are priorities under the Regional Land Transport Strategy as well, but Penlink is not one of them.

    So it is money stolen from both priority rail and roading projects. Meanwhile, just 2 slow ferries continue to run between Gulf Harbour and Auckland each peak hour.

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