Saturday, August 13, 2005

Former railways minister wakes up after 30 years to tell us: I had a dream

Just what do Ministers do all day while earning megabucks and waiting until the next election?
The Herald’s main letter to the editor today is from a Ron Bailey, who proudly describes himself as Minister of Railways 1972-75. It’s a wise letter which says in part:
Late in 1975 the Auckland Regional Authority laid out a detailed plan for an extensive rail system for Auckland which, I am delighted to find, is similar to the one now put forward by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. Had the $140 million project gone ahead at that time, we would be enjoying this much-needed service now.
So true. But if this guy was Minister of Railways in a Labour government, what did he do to make it happen? If my naive reading of NZ political history is correct (the Internet doesn’t seem to go back to Mr Bailey’s day) , Labour continued to run down the railways so they could eventually be sold off by another Labour government to greedy wealthy multi-millionaire Aucklanders who used the profits to spend more on their selfish America’s Cup ventures.
There is a constant wave of nostalgia about a wise old Auckland mayor called Robbie whom it is said could have solved Auckland’s transport woes if only people had listened to him. Such statements are trotted out as if the chance for such things is long past. Pity we missed the opportunity, these people say shaking their heads adding we just have to grin and bear the traffic gridlock because these days such plans would be impossible – too much capital needed, too much hassling with the resource management act, the need to consider swamp-dwelling taniwha and goodness knows what else .
But good on Mr Bailey for apparently coming to his senses. Just a pity it is decades on from the time he was in a position to set something in motion. And his plan is brilliant:
Let’s also look to the north. With the North Shore and Rodney districts growing rapidly, the motorway at times can not cope. Rail seems a much better solution through to Orewa. There would need to be a second harbour crossing.”
And for this first-time voter, what potential government can I rely on to make a difference rail-wise this time around?
Well, National and Act say train enthusiasts are nutters and when they get in, they’ll build lots and lots of motorways because everyone in their MP-salaried household now owns a gas-guzzling SUV and they selfishly want to drive it everywhere, to hell with the environment.
Labour says it will build more motorways, announcing such plans only just before each election when its polling shows Auckland voters see the gridlock as a major issue. Because it needs the Greens for a coalition, Labour may throw $50 to them to have another cycleway and mutter politically correct niceties about “integrated transport” (like have a bike rack on your SUV). Yet the massive petrol tax continues to go to…anything but transport.
Is it too late to ask Mr Bailey to stand again for Labour?


Blogger Stanley said...

Labour did start to develop a plan for Auckland railways, as Mr Bailey pointed out in his letter to the editor. But such plans don't come cheap, and they don't come fast, as we're finding now when the powers-that-bve talk about electrification by 2010 and the Mt Eden link by 2020. Before Labour could put such plans in action, Muldoon and National came to power in, and scotched the whole thing, caving in to road lobbyists... and lo, congestion was born.

11:39 AM  

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