Why the by-election in Northcote won't improve its traffic woes

by Bill Ralston / 22 May, 2018

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

Traffic on SH1 between Northcote and Takapuna. Photo/Getty Images

Traffic on SH1 between Northcote and Takapuna. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - Northcote by-election

Auckland leaders have always made the mistake of thinking small – the rush-hour crawl between Northcote and the bridge attests to this.

Most people would find it hard to summon up much enthusiasm for next month’s Northcote by-election. It comes so soon after the general election that even many political junkies are politicked out.

But my interest perked up in April when MP Jonathan Coleman quit to get a real job. Northcote is where I grew up and went to school. My family had lived there since the time of my great-grandfather.

Over the past 60 years, the area has gone back and forth between Labour and National; its MP, until he resigned, was a National one. This was not because the voters were especially fickle; the switches reflected demographic changes that in turn followed fluctuations in the nature of Auckland itself.

Northcote went from being semi-rural to suburban in barely a decade, thanks to explosive population growth driven by the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Many of its problems today stem from that time in 1960s.

Apart from the multi-lane Northern Motorway that charges off the bridge along the harbour edge, much of Northcote’s internal roading is still a similar width to what it was in the 1960s.

The population growth has clogged the roads as rush-hour vehicles crawl to and from the harbour bridge. Actually, the term should be “rush hours”, as the traffic seems almost as intense all day, aside from lunchtime. Transport should be the No 1 by-election issue but I doubt any of the candidates have a real policy that would solve the Shore’s traffic paralysis.

It is the same problem virtually Auckland-wide, as anyone who has tried to make it to or from Auckland Airport recently can testify. The Waterview Tunnel has made the journey from my place in Ponsonby easier, but it is reaching capacity and congestion on Auckland Airport’s land brings you to a grinding halt within view of the terminal.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has picked up the bright idea of light rail – modern trams that will whisk me to the airport from the central city – but since it will further restrict road space for cars, it won’t help the good people of Northcote, where there is no railway, light or otherwise, get to their plane.

Anyone trying to cross Auckland will have the same complaint about traffic crawling pathetically slowly. Bus lanes exist in parts but they make little real difference. The city continues to be car-addicted because of the perception that the public transport system across the region is grossly inadequate.

Auckland’s leaders and central government have always made the mistake of thinking small. In 1956, the city axed its trams. The original plan for the Auckland Harbour Bridge called for five or six lanes, but four were built and extra lanes had to be added only 10 years later. In the 60s, Auckland Mayor Dove-Myer Robinson pushed for a rapid-rail system and consultants’ recommendations strongly supported him. But when Robert Muldoon got into power in the 1970s, he killed the idea.

Auckland is now paying the price for these failures of vision and there is little prospect of any clear insight on the city’s transport problems today.

That’s why I spend much of my time in the rural idyll of Hawke’s Bay, where two cars waiting at an intersection is called gridlock. After the by-election, I suggest the good people of Northcote might consider doing the same, because no one is going to solve Auckland’s traffic chaos any time soon.

This article was first published in the May 26, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


Best smartphones on the NZ market: What to look for and what to avoid
94991 2018-08-16 00:00:00Z Tech

Best smartphones on the NZ market: What to look fo…

by Peter Griffin

The smartphone market is complex, rapidly evolving and heavy on marketing hype. Here's NOTED Tech's five-point guide to help you before you buy.

Read more
Simon Bridges' expenses leak inquiry to be decided by Speaker
95000 2018-08-15 10:18:16Z Politics

Simon Bridges' expenses leak inquiry to be decided…

by Craig McCulloch

Parliament's referee Trevor Mallard is to decide today whether to launch a full-scale investigation into who leaked Simon Bridges' travel expenses.

Read more
Quinovic ad 'disgusts' landlords
94989 2018-08-15 08:02:40Z Property

Quinovic ad 'disgusts' landlords

by Katie Doyle

Landlords and real estate groups have joined tenants in condemning a Quinovic advertising campaign that appeared to celebrate making renters lives a m

Read more
Business might not trust the Govt, but should the Govt trust business?
94928 2018-08-15 00:00:00Z Politics

Business might not trust the Govt, but should the …

by Jane Clifton

The Ardern Administration and the business community are at loggerheads on the issue of trust – and there's fault to be found on both sides.

Read more
How a museum robbery lead to a bizarre story about feather fetishists
94411 2018-08-15 00:00:00Z Books

How a museum robbery lead to a bizarre story about…

by Linda Herrick

When Kirk Wallace Johnson heard about the theft of 299 rare birds skins, he had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Read more
New Zealand's soil has a lack of selenium, but we make up for it in the sea
94776 2018-08-15 00:00:00Z Nutrition

New Zealand's soil has a lack of selenium, but we …

by Jennifer Bowden

Many Kiwis are deficient in selenium, which plays an important role in inflammation, immunity and the production of thyroid hormones.

Read more
Some of our best subversive Kiwi playground rhymes
91871 2018-08-15 00:00:00Z Humour

Some of our best subversive Kiwi playground rhymes…

by Paul Little

“Roll, roll, roll your dope, Scrunch it at the end. Puff, puff, That’s enough. Now pass it to your friend.”

Read more
Bridges: National caucus didn't leak travel expenses
94949 2018-08-14 11:07:18Z Politics

Bridges: National caucus didn't leak travel expens…

by Jo Moir

Opposition leader Simon Bridges is standing by his MPs, saying he doesn't believe one of them leaked his travel expenses to media.

Read more