So there was an election. I won’t bother going through the results in detail as there is plenty of readily accessible information about that out there. What does it all mean for transport though? And what does it mean for Christchurch?
Ultimately, more of the same. The government was surprisingly positive about the prospect of rail passenger transport returning to Christchurch, as the Council had proposed in the draft Central City Plan, so nothing should change there. It will still likely be a ‘wait and see’ situation on that front. Nevertheless, I would expect it will be full steam ahead for RoNS. I do not have a huge problem with the current RoNS proposed for Christchurch, as I have explained they do have a positive BCR at least, and clearly improve the current approaches into the city from north and south as well as the western corridor. However, I do have concerns about the lack of balance of transport expenditure by the Government in the greater Christchurch area. Remember, Auckland and Wellington received hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in public transport over the last few years, primarily towards rail. The only obvious sign of government support for future transport expenditure in the greater Christchurch area is in further RoNS, even further to the north and south along SH1, where traffic is, and therefore benefits are, minimal. That is where this RoNS policy starts to worry me.
Of more interest is the likelihood that Labour will lose Waimakariri. This is interesting as despite a lot of resentment toward CERA and Brownlee, people seem to be endorsing National and their post-earthquake approach. I am not sure what Kate Wilkinson’s approach to transport policy will be (even though I once wrote a paper for her on transport policy in the Waimakariri area!), although I imagine it would probably endorse the overwhelmingly roads based approach her party is taking. Having said that, it is not as though Labour and Clayton Cosgrove’s approach was any different. Transport might well become an important issue in the area over the next few years, and indeed it really should be now, but somehow I don’t think the candidates have realised that.
Christchurch Central will be more interesting, with Brendon Burns (Labour) and Nicky Wagner (National) tied in a dead heat. They will have to wait until the special votes are counted before knowing who has won the seat, which has been held by labour since 1946. Should Wagner take it, it will be interesting to see what her approach towards the draft City Plan will be, and what effect that might have down the line.
Elsewhere, things have stayed the same with National’s Gerry Brownlee and Amy Adams taking Ilam and Selwyn respectively, and Labour’s Lianne Dalziel, Megan Woods, and Ruth Dyson holding on to Christchurch East, Wigram, and Port Hills respectively.
In recent times, Christchurch’s Labour MPs have been as scathing toward improved public transport as some of their National counterparts. Woods was a key supporter of Jim Anderton, and in the 2010 campaign for Mayor I felt he was rather dismissive of the role of public transport in Christchurch, and did not see much beyond fast-tracking bus lanes and building suburban hubs. Good things, but not going anywhere near far enough quite frankly. Furthermore, his policies on transport were nothing new – and ‘new’ was needed. Lianne Dalziel was recently critical of proposed rail projects in the draft City Plan. Transport is critical to the future shape of the city, so these attitudes are disappointing.
It seems as though transport issues are largely the domain of local government for now. There is hope however. MPs were rather disengaged on transport issues in Auckland, but this has recently changed. Improving the rail, bus and ferry networks in Auckland are popular views now. The balance of transport funding, the function of roads in the CBD and key suburbs, the role of cycling and walking are all hotly debated, and local MPs are getting involved. As Christchurch starts to rebuild, and we start to educate ourselves on the car-city we have become, and the people-city we can be, we may see more debate rather than ignorant knee-jerk reactions.