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Brownlee: no tolls to fund rail loop; Auckland should sell assets

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Auckland Mayor Len Brown will have to consider selling council assets to fund the central city rail loop.

Speaking on TV3’s The Nation, Mr Brownlee said selling the assets - shares in the airport and port - would inevitably have to be something considered as the business case for the loop.

But speaking on “The Nation” last May, Mr Brown said he would not agree to the sale of any assets.

“That’s fine, that’s his position and I think he's entitled to go to the ratepayers in the coming election and say that,” said Mr Brownlee.

“Let's be clear: He's got a right to stick to his policies, but as we come up to the point where we're looking at the business case which is about how it's funded and all the other aspects of it, he'll have to have some answers.“

Mr Brown has proposed that the rail loop could be funded by road tolls, or a congestion or a network charge.

But Mr Brownlee said the Government would not agree to any charges being imposed on existing assets that had been funded by taxpayers.

Mr Brownlee said the council maintained it could build the loop without selling the assets.

“I think that’s a political decision that they have to make,” he said.

“They're as committed to this as we are, they're actually committed to doing it sooner than we are.

“So I would assume that they’ve got all that sorted out.”

“I don’t think it would be fair to say that we are somehow trying to put a wedge in there that’s going to put pressure on Mayor Brown,” Mr Brownlee said.

Comments and questions

Auckland Council should not be holding any assets anyway....they should uphold their prime responsibility of serving the helpless ratepayers, no ifs or buts.

Aucklanders need to consider funding transport infrastructure from every available alternative, including asset sales, user-pays tolls and rates increases.

To not do so will mean Auckland Council will still be fighting about how to pay for transport in another 10 years, just like what happened in the 1990s.

Didn't Len's mother teach him that if you want to buy a new train set and you didn't have enough in your piggy bank that you must sell some of your other toys to pay for it? I really do despair at some of our leaders who understand so little about where money comes from.

Build a monorail. Way cheaper and better.

Nonsense. Monorails are just a fairground attraction and running on one rail are difficult for train units to pass each other on or connect to other routes. The original installation of the Sydney monorail was a combined project with the initial private light rail linking the Sydney Central station, Glebe, Sydney University, Darling Harbour, casino and several non-rail suburbs with several interchanges to the monorail which provided a link to the CBD. It was such a percurssor of the far more high-capacity light rail system that will replace the monorail.
The final decision of Sydney to go with light rail is the lesson Auckland should learn because the new Key / Brownlie decision to build the heavy rail loop ties the urban rail development to areas of no interest in the view of most tourist guidebooks. Who wants to go to south Auckland or west Auckland?

Look at the light rail network in Dublin. This works well.

Don't say that because all the council boys will use it as an excuse to be on a ratepayer-funded trip to Dublin to have a look see.

Fair NZer is quite wrong. The move to divest Auckland of its assets and transfer them to no doubt foreign buyers is either ill-conceived, or sinister.

Brownlee is merely the talking voice for his master, as well all know. A good yes-man. And John Key will be well out of it by the time it comes to pay for his lavish promises - the burden of these, as he well knows, will fall on others.

NZers should own their own strategic assets...not the Chinese, the Russians, the Germans or even the Australians - not anyone who has enough money to buy us out.

The word strategic means just that- though the money-boys couldn't care less- and I'm certainly not a socialist just a concerned NZer who wants our freedoms and ownership of what we already have paid for, retained.

This doesn't happen when we no longer own what our parents, grandparents, and forebears worked and paid for. We are then at the mercy of others controlling us even further- apart from the fact that we certainly do not, as Helen Clark very well knew, "live in an incredibly benign environment.

So why did she claim this, as she set out to destroy the combat wing of our airforce?

Why are we being told so very many unruths, I wonder. And perhaps Key and Brownlee can tell us the meaning of the word "assets"?

Or even the meaning of the word untruth?

I'd be very surprised not to find that those airport shares and the port assets aren't pledged to the banks that are funding Auckland's $5-6 BILLION debt.
Something more substantial than Len(in)'s ha-ha laugh must be, don't ya think?

It is not right that Auckland sit on wealth and expect the taxpayer to fund Auckland's infrastructure.

Of course NZers should own their own strategic assets, but the very reason why they do not have enough money to buy us (the Auckland Council's or fellow NZers's assets) out suggests that they are really poor savers, like their forefathers.
Get real and start saving now and hope for the best.

Do businesses make money or not? If yes, then they are good to hold on to. It is ideological nonsense that borders on treason to suggest that governments should own money-making ventures.

... "should NOT own..." (!!)

You can sell the airport shares, but if Singapore or an Aussie outfit get a majority then Auckland becomes the spoke to their hub. Good financially, bad economically. There is a big difference.

Yes, I'll buy them, I'll get them operating efficiently and increase the prices for the services they sell. Increasing the dividend for me to pay for my Jet to fly me to the Cayman Islands and live on my luxury cruise ship. I promise I'll pay the National Party a $5,000,0000 donation for the trouble they are going to extract a sale of these assets from the stupid Aucklanders who think they actually own them. Pass me another cigar.

Selling assets that produce a steady income stream can help fund the costs perpetually. Selling them gives a one-off boost...

City planners should have long-term strategies not short-term ... all they think about is profiting from the sale of assets.

Huh? Here's what selling assets does. Selling assets that produce a steady stream of income divests the council of a steady stream of income.

It's the central government who's got short term thinking around asset sales, more than the current AK council.

Let the user pay, toll roads work, look at the infrastructure in Sydney, Brisbane and every other major city is the world, start now and by the time they start the tunnels we wont have to sell the assets, not the council should own them anyway.

I have no problem paying tolls on roads that I use but I object to tolls on roads to pay for a train system that I am unlikely to use.

Good, then because your cars are creating a never-ending demand for roads, pay the real price for the roads in your toll and don't be subsidised by the ratepayer or the taxpayer.

Your thinking is confused...and so it is that of all those who invoke the so useful mantra that governments should not own our strategic assets - or our important national businesses. This is just a cliche.

The government owns nothing. It has no money of its own - although one would not conclude this from the way it helps itself to the money that New Zealanders themselves earn - and gives it to others - like the $200 million handout that John Key, in his munificence, bestowed on one more than northern tribe alone, on Waitangi Day. Their claims of poverty and disadvantage will no doubt continue...

New Zealanders are never consulted - any more than they have been consulted about asset sales. Our governments now do as they please, furthering their own interests.

So, granting that the government does not actually own these assets, but merely oversees their operation on behalf of all New Zealanders - those who actually own them and paid for them - it has absolutely no moral right to sell them off without consulting New Zealanders themselves.

It is no wonder that yet another devious, self-serving government proceeding this one saw to it that referenda would merely be "indicative" - not binding. Dear me, no - we can't have New Zealanders themselves making the decisions that affect us.

However, the Swiss do - they control their government - not vice versa - which is why they have become the most successful and prosperous democracy in the world.

The way to claim back this country is through the new 100 Days movement , which will give New Zealanders the right, and responsibility, to say yes or no to similar opportunism by those who dominate our power circles. It's our only real hope to put a stop to the wrong things happening. Otherwise nothing will change ... as usual.

I don't disagree. I just made a bad typo. I actually think the state should be involved in the provision of all staple goods and services. The private sector can focus on innovation and specialities.

Bread is a staple good - so is milk, and potatoes, and ... Do you think the government should be involved in their provision? The Soviet Union tried this, and collapsed due to its internal inefficiencies - even though they used the secret police to enforce compliance.

There is no mind as much to be pitied than an old mind that believes its thinking never needs to change.

We are consulted. It is called elections!

We are consulted. It is called elections!

New Zealanders are never consulted - any more than they have been consulted about asset sales. Our governments now do as they please, furthering their own interests.

So, granting that the government does not actually own these assets, ...
1. Are not the members of parliament also New Zealanders?
2. Commercial businesses don't own their assets either - their shareholders do. The directors use those assets for the betterment of their shareholders. If the shareholders don't like what their directors are doing, they can vote them out. If the NZ voters don't like what parliament is doing, they also can vote them out.

And the Descartes Logic award goes to .....??

User pays has already gone too far in this country.
Sell assets? Of course! The council should not retain assets when major expenditure is require for general public use and benefit.
Core infrastructure is council responsibility so the council should fund it and not retain assets, and not place the additional burden on already stretched Auckland ratepayers.

Gerry you are just going to have to can some of those roads of National Party significance that you never cost justified. And by the way we want to see the new cost justification you based your U turn on .Show us the figures!

This is the most transparently thoughtless contribution anybody has ever made on Auckland's infrastructure question.

In the same week that central government hikes petrol tax, Gerry blocks Auckland doing effectively the same thing, only in a more targeted, strategic manner.


The PM must be frustrated with the like of Brownlee: just as Key is enjoying the glory of a $10 billion transport solution, Brownlee pulls the rug on the ratepayers. Without a mix of funding, including tolls - which Aucklanders support - the burden will fall heavily on ratepayers only (including rates driven up by loss of dividends of any assets sold).

Brownlee again turns this from a winner to a loser for National.
What happened to a bit of user-pays through tolls?

Two thoughts:

1. It strikes me that Brownlee's strategy is (having been forced to make a u-turn) to create such a funding burden on the Auckland Council that the project's future becomes threatened - ie, Brownlee/Joyce's original position/objective achieved by more devious means.

2. I do not understand why we spend so much money on more and more motorways, links, etc, when by the time they are built there are so many more cars on the road (encouraged by the motorways/links) that we need to build even more! Isn't this stupid under anyone's ideology?

Every government or local government asset should be evaluated on its return on investment. We should always own a controlling stake in any important assets, such as utilities companies. Otherwise private enterprise just rips everyone off as our country is too small to have effective competition in these areas.
Just saying sell the assets to pay for this or that is a stupid statement. If there is a very good income coming off that asset, then there is good reason to keep it to retain that income to subsidise the services the council/government provides. It's just common sense, isn't it?

Why do they need to sell assets to fund the rail loop, but not the second harbour bridge crossing, the east west link and the holiday highway. Why is rail held to a higher standard than these car modes. Rail is green and can be way more efficient than roads. And it leaves the communities in a better shape than having a four-lane highway through the middle of them and massive carparks.
And it is the stupidest train set in the world when all the trains go into one building and have to reverse out back to Newmarket and then out to the suburbs. It's slow. One simple piece makes us into a modern city with a rail system. And without it we can never have rail to the airport or North Shore.
It's a small piece and rail barely works without it. And the reason is is because roads are funded from the giant transport pool and I think they have said rail is cap ex. It's an accounting anomaly. The government needs to put the one missing link in the train system so it works and they pay for it, just like they do the roads.

The simple answer is that rail was Len Brown's and the Auckland Council's idea and it is the government's way of undermining an idea they were opposed to. I agree with Tom above.

Agree. Rail Loop first please, Mr Brownlee. It is a route of national significance. And should be paid for in the same manner as the roads.

Are you being deliberately, or inadvertently, naive?

Elections are not there to consult us. They are there for political parties to win power, and they will virtually promise whatever they need to to do so. The real dealmaking, the compromises, the breaking of promises, the claims of a mandate to do things for which the country gave them no mandate at all - as with asset sales (it's a very mixed bag that electors have to choose from, and all they can eventually do is reject the party with the most destructive directions ahead - New Zealanders have consultation process at all on individual issues).

We no longer have even a representative democracy. Our MPs now do as their leader tells them, in order to keep their positions and perks. The leader (as John Key quite blatantly did) picks the List candidates who represent nobody and owe their allegiance only to the leader, and then, like Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce, manage - or arguably mismanage - hugely important portfolios, although they were never even elected to Parliament!


Anyone who parrots that we have a reprsentative democracy needs to start putting some hard work into thinking.