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.