Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sustainable Economics vs Ostrich Economics: the apparent confusion

As a trained economist, I should know by now not to read anything put forward by people claiming to be "sustainable" or who believe in "peak oil". And, sure enough, today there is more head-in-the-sand/we-want-standstill-traffic-every-Friday-and-public-holiday/more-than-one-anecdote-equals-data/cow-pat-economics press releases from a councillor (with a union background - but of course!!) in Kapiti.  This from Lyndy MacIntyre, a ward councillor.
The road to nowhere

Last week, two months after the Minister of Transport announced he would ram a motorway through our community whether we want it or not, councillors voted on a KCDC submission.
You mean, after the council wasted decades of time and money on building a road that was supposed to take traffic off the state highway, but ended up looking like a goat track?  After the council allowed its decisions to be driven by the personal politics of a Mayor and the preferences of property developers?  After the Government made it very clear that the state highway north of Wellington is a road of national importance and the council still did nothing?

Perhaps some people in the community are sick of traffic sitting at a standstill every Friday, every public holiday, and every time there is an accident on the narrow two-lane bridge into Waikanae.  Perhaps there are some evil capitalist businesses that want to move their freight more efficiently on a roading network.
Determining the KCDC position has been a hard road to travel. Councillors were faced with responding to a Ministerial edict that is not about benefiting our community, but all about getting from Wellington to Levin 12 minutes faster, and accommodating the trucking industry.
It was only a "hard road to travel" because the Mayor and her councillors decided this would be an opportunity to push their preferred views, did not bother to talk to people who may have a differing view to them, and based their opinions on the views of a vocal view, rather than those who are DIRECTLY affected. For many people and businesses who make the regular trip between Wellington and Auckland, 12 minutes off the travelling time to Levin would be brilliant when calculated over a year.

And, anyway, the edict was never about tourism to Kapiti.  It is about creating an effective roading network and identifying the roads of national importance.  The entire purpose of this exercise is to move traffic through Kapiti.  You always go on and on and on about how you want to retain Kapiti's small town, community feel.  Ensuring people don't stop here is a very effective way to do that.
The council submission concludes that building a motorway through Kapiti is a total overreaction to our transport issues. Even Opus, the company tasked by Government to develop the state highway plan, identifies the issue as "peak traffic demand".
Oh, so you actually WANT the traffic to be sitting at a standstill ever Friday/public holiday/whenever there is an accident up the line!  Dumb me!  Here I was, thinking that because you call yourself "environmental" you would prefer that traffic moved, rather than sit still for hours on end with engines idling.

Remind me again what it is about you that is "environmental"?
The submission, endorsed by councillors in a seven to three vote, takes a much-needed sustainable approach. It demolishes the NZTA argument for a motorway and concludes that peak congestion issues can be addressed by investing more in public transport, building a two-lane Western Link Road and making incremental improvements to the state highway. I supported this recommendation with the amendment that four-laning SH1 would happen "as and when is necessary".
What's sustainable about it?  The council has now endorsed four-laning the current state highway, which would result in 400+ homes being fully or partly demolished, over the Sandhills Motorway option that would result in 40 homes being affected, but these people knew about the designation anyway.  PLUS the forging ahead of a two-lane Western Link Goat Track, the purpose of which is....... er........ gosh, I don't know.  Please tell - the purpose of the Western Link Road was to take local traffic off the state highway.  If a highway is upgraded, it is unlikely locals are going to choose to travel on a meandering suburban street over the quick route.

And I would happily wager a bet with you that "making incremental improvements to the state highway" would end up being astronomically expensive, and a complete waste of money when the whole thing could just be sorted out once.
Four-laning SH1 has huge implications for the Paekakariki community. In this whole debate there has been no discussion about what happens in the southern end of the district. Many Paekakariki residents have asked me what will happen south of McKays Crossing if there is a four-lane highway through the entire district? The answer of course is a massive bottleneck, and the same issue arises if the entire SH1 is four-laned.
And this is based on what traffic modelling?  Of course, this would not be an issue if/when Transmission Gully is ever built.  Or if the residents of Paekakariki just faced reality, concede they live on State Highway 1 and not a back road, stopped trying to reduce the speed limit through the district, and allowed the road to be four-laned.  Or considered the merits of a local road that linked it with Kapiti through Queen Elizabeth Park (shock!  Horror!  The poor native trees that apparently cannot be replanted!).
We can make immediate sensible improvements to SH1 to address traffic flow and safety issues, but we don’t need to create a defacto expressway on SH1.
From this comment, I can only assume that you have never travelled on the State Highway through Kapiti.  If you had, you would have noticed the many houses dotted all along its route, with driveways that end directly on the State Highway. You would have noticed the many fast food outlets that have drive-through facilities and with entrances and exits on the State Highway.  You may notice the local roads, lots of them, that have Give Way intersections with the State Highway.  You have also possibly noticed that the road is, in parts, narrow and winding and is terrifying with the quantity of trucks at times.  And, finally, it may have also escaped your attention that a combination of all the above, plus a demographic that is largely elderly and terrified when driving in tiny cars around large trucks, culminates in traffic jams for hours every Friday night, at the start and end of every public holiday, and whenever there is a frequent accident at the Waikanae bridge.

So, in response to your vacuous comment, you actually do need to create an expressway through Kapiti.  Your proposed safety improvements on the current road will never be sufficient, and in fact are outdated already.
We should give the rail improvements and the Western Link Road a chance to reduce peak-time congestion, while  incrementally making improvements to SH1. Improvements could include an underpass at Te Moana Road, replacing traffic lights with roundabouts, slip lanes for properties with SH1 entrances, left in and left out onto the highway, tidal lanes, and four-laning where appropriate.
Ahahahaha!!!!  That's so funny!  What rail improvements?  Do you mean the train carriages that would make some communist states laugh at the antiquity?  Do you mean the double tracking of the track to Waikanae.  Remind me, are we talking about the same rail service that is being increasingly shunned by people because it is not always a cost effective alternative to fuel and parking in Wellington, and is so unreliable that people fear for their job security when they catch it?  And are we talking about freighting goods on this rail network that currently travel by road because this is a more cost effective and quicker option than rail?  And always will be?

I see you have probably never worked as a roading enginner.  Granted, neither have I.  So perhaps the glaring gap I'm seeing here is a complete and utter lack of common sense.  This is not "sustainable".  It is extremely unsustainable  As always, economic naivety and a lack of English ability, masquerading as sharing, caring policy, is alive and well in Kapiti.
A second motion supporting council’s fallback position of an eastern motorway was passed with the mayoral casting vote. I did not support this motion as I believe it offers support for an unacceptable motorway proposal, and undermines the council’s preferred  package.

Over the past few weeks I have talked with hundreds of residents from my ward.
Presumably you only spoke to those residents who agree with your stance.  I, for one, have been actively collecting petition signatures and can vouch that there are also several hundred residents in your ward who think your views are, well, "s***" (as stated by a 90 year old resident who you didn't talk to).
I really appreciate those who take the time to contact me to share their views and talk over these hugely important issues. The overwhelming view is that motorways are not the solution and we can and must find a more sustainable solution. But it is true that people feel powerless in the face of a Government determined to have its way.
No, again I must differ.  The Government, you may recall or have possibly conveniently ignored, initially presented two options.  They then listened to the concerns raised by affected property owners and tabled a third option - a brilliant option: The Sandhills option, which affects far fewer properties and goes along an existing roading designation, is the cheapest to construct and is the quickest to construct (yes, sometimes upgrading an existing road is not the quickest or cheapest option, but your lack of economics nous probably didn't realise this).

Conversely, the Council has had decades to construct a road that would take local traffic off the State Highway.  Instead, it has chosen to delay the process by small minded, private agenda politicking.  The Council has repeatedly ignored the rights of private property owners over the rights of property developers and the school of choice for Mayoral grandchildren.

The only way these affected resident have been able to effect any change to council decisions, and the only way the residents have been privy to private discussions between council officers and property developers that directly affected their properties, has been through official processes, such as OIA requests, complaints to the Ombudsman, complaints to the Auditor General, judicial reviews, press statements to national media, repeated meetings with Ministers of the Crown and MPs.  This is what being powerless in the face of government is.  Your ratepayers should never have to go through this.
I don’t underestimate the power and confidence of this Government. But that doesn’t have to mean saying yes to something that is wrong for our community, wrong for New Zealand and wrong for the planet. Let’s say no to motorways and let’s say yes to a sustainable solution.
Again, I LOL and PMSL.  While you are at it, let's also say a resounding YES! to longer traffic jams!  YES! to more accidents along dangerous stretches of roads!  YES! to more people leaving Kapiti in a quest for a place that is more accessible to Wellington's CBD!  YES! to economic disaster as businesses fold due to an inability to efficiently transport goods through the capital city to Auckland, and vice versa!

You are deluded if you think your views are "sustainable".  Learn the meaning of the word as a first step.  To assist you, I can immediately think of three definitions:
1. (Economics) capable of being sustained;
2. (Life Sciences / Environmental Science) (of economic development, energy sources, etc.) capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage; and
3. (Economics) (of economic growth) non-inflationary.

None of your ideas achieve any of the above.  The only thing I can think you possibly mean is sustainable means do nothing?  I think, perhaps, you are confusing "sustainable" with "ostrich"?  I can think of two definitions that might aid you:
1. A large, swift-running flightless bird (Struthio camelus) of Africa, characterized by a long bare neck, small head, and two-toed feet, and a tendency to spend long periods of time with its head in the sand.
2. One who avoids reality by refusing to face it.


libertyscott said...

She doesn't understand the power and confidence of the government, well:

1. It recently won the election, rather convincingly albeit in coalition with three other parties. Together that's a fair chunk of Parliament.
2. This win also included the electorate where much of Kapiti is located.
3. The government sets and collects the charges levied on road users, so can spend it as it sees fit.
4. The government owns the state highway network, so will expand or replace it as it sees fit.
5. KCDC only has rates to contribute, and even then seeks most of the WLR funding to come from government.

So really, why should she be surprised?

What I get angriest about is she has hopped on the Sue Kedgley propaganda that it is "all about trucks". It isn't, but so what? How does she think everything in Kapiti gets there? There are no freight sidings or services anymore, except the gravel works at Otaki adjacent to the river.

The other thing is, it would appear KCDC opposes Transmission Gully (and obviously a coastal upgrade), wonder how popular it thinks that point of view is up there?

Opinionated Mummy said...

"it would appear KCDC opposes Transmission Gully"
Yes, because this would cut through the Mayor's property. Now, isn't that an interesting revelation.....

coge said...

I think the good news for the public of Kapiti is that less than 10% of them are militant greens. The Kapiti militant greens are ignorant of the fact their agenda effectively seeks to hijack the rest of NZ, & the free movement of the population, services & goods. So their luddite agenda & lies will never prevail or become a reality in a democracy.