Matt McCarten: Ministers without a clue

15 Apr

By Matt McCarten

Apr 14, 2013

Every time I drive over the bloody Auckland Harbour Bridge in the morning it’s gridlocked. The motorway is backed up as far back as I can see. In the middle of the night I can make the trip from home to work in 10 minutes. Daytimes it can take an hour. Sometimes longer.

Gridlock starts before 6am and finishes around 8pm. And every report says Auckland will just get bigger and bigger, busier and busier.

Aucklanders were told the only way to solve our problems was to morph into one big centralised city and act and speak with one voice.

So we did. Aucklanders pretty much agree that we should focus on clusters of high-rise buildings linked by rail like every other major metropolis in the world. An integrated housing and transport solution to our population explosion. A no-brainer.

And what is the Government’s response? Sending up two clueless hicks from the South Island to run Auckland.

Housing Minister Nick Smith actually believes if we just keep sprawling houses in every direction all will be fine. After all, there’s all this space north to Whangarei and south to Hamilton. If Auckland’s mayor didn’t open up more land, he threatened to step in and take over Auckland with a new planning agency. Really?

I’m sure Len Brown patiently explained the obvious. That if you spread outwards too densely, new outlying homeowners may as well use our roads as carparks.

But Smith is from Nelson, where traffic gridlock is three cars at a stop sign.

This is where the Christchurch-based Transport Minister joins in. Gerry Brownlee doesn’t support Auckland’s desperate call for rail, so the Government won’t fund it. Fair enough – though the rest of the country was more than happy to pay to fix his city’s problems.

But it’s a bit rich for him not to allow Auckland to raise a regional levy to pay for it themselves.

Aucklanders just want their housing and transport fixed. Instead, we have one South Islander wanting us to spread out, causing more traffic headaches, and his colleague denying there’s a transport problem.

This Government must have a death wish if it keeps allowing these two to obstruct solutions to Auckland’s problems.

Enter Labour’s transport and housing spokesman Phil Twyford, who this week launched a billboard campaign. If the Minister of Sprawl and the Minister of Gridlock (as Twyford labels our southern duo) want to run Auckland why don’t they run for mayor? Indeed.

It takes a lot to get Aucklanders riled. When they do, governments fall.

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)


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