Buckets of money vs real world change: transport edition

Money and effort goes in, lots of good sounding words are crafted, then… some strange stuff happens on the ground. What’s going on? GreaterAuckland’s Heidi O’Callaghan takes a look into the machinery


This month we’re hearing a lot from wannabe local leaders about “doing this or that with transport money”, including “we’ll pressure Waka Kotahi to do [this]”, “I’ll make council do [that]”, and even “we’ll fight the government tyranny of [the other thing]”.

An important thing to know about – regardless of whether your council candidates understand – is the difference between Waka Kotahi’s transport funding buckets, called activity classes, and actual transport outcomes: people or goods being there rather than here in the real world, and having got there by one means rather than another.

Councils have transport outcomes to achieve, accountable to the elected councillors and (indirectly via Waka Kotahi handing out money) to the Transport Minister. Both accountable, theoretically, to us the collective citizenry, and to future generations of us.

So when we have a good sounding set of outcomes set at the top, like the vision zero stuff, or reducing emissions from transport, and endorsed by the “local top” aka your council in road safety goals and their own emissions reduction targets… how on earth do we end up seeing stuff on the ground going directly against those directions?

The above is one of the great lines in this eye opening piece by Heidi O’Callaghan, asking this question with her characteristic investigative nerdery, and answering it as best one can.

It’s through an Auckland lens but that’s actually useful cos there are fewer actors: they’ve got Auckland Transport (a council-controlled organisation wholly owned and directed by Auckland Council) doing transport spending and operations, instead of “a bit of your local council plus a bit of Greater Wellington”.

It’s a great read. How do you think this is playing out in Te Upoko o te Ika?

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