Thursday, January 26, 2017

A case for heavy rapid rail to Auckland Airport - from Puhinui

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Some 3 and a half years ago, in July, 2013, we saw some hot air during Auckland mayoral election. Mayor Len Brown said a rail link to the airport would have been a focus over the next year if he won a second term. The same Brown had promised at the 2010 election to build rail to the airport by 2020. It is said that studies had confirmed that the best choice of rapid transit was rail. While arms and legs were promised, nothing eventuated. Blinkered leadership in Auckland resulted in literally ‘shitty’ waters with overflowing sewerage and an apparent dysfunctional Water Reticulation system. Lack of rail link to airport suffered same dereliction of duties by our previous city fathers and government. Hope we have some hope from the current ones. 

Rapid Heavy Rail Link to Auckland Airport was on the planning board of past mayor, Len Brown, but dereliction of duties by City fathers and respective governments have robbed travelling public the facility that most major airports have to their respective cities.
Reportedly, in 2013, planners had come up with two options for rail to the airport - a 6.5km link from Puhinui on the main trunk line costed at about $470 million, and $1.45 billion for a full circuit including Onehunga, which has had its branch line reopened for passenger trains and is 9km from the airport.

But Onehunga is out, and I am supporting a cheaper and better alternative that many other support: a shorter route of some 7km, mostly through green country via Puhinui station. The plethora of so-called experts in Auckland Council, Auckland Transport (AT) and Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) need to urgently meet and make this happen, and pass a proposal to Government about the urgency and necessity of this issue over which the Auckland Mayor’s office has already been asleep for over 7 years. Hopefully Phil Goff can make this happen.

Approach from Puhinui Station to Airport, via 2km of built-up area can be widened to accomodate railway lines, if there is enough political will for a rapid rail link to Airport. I am no expert, but we need experts to tell WHY THIS CANNOT BE DONE
Our respective leaders, Andrew Little (Labour) and Metiria Turei (Greens) meet this weekend at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall to lay out our priorities for the election campaign and their vision for a stable, responsible alternative. I earnestly hope heavy rail to the Airport is seen as an election a priority. I have already reminded Andrew Little and Labour Party of this in my earlier article, but they have a habit of ignoring views they do not like.

Rapid link to Airport is no longer a choice, but a necessity. The fact that scheduled airlines are delayed in a First World Country because pilots and crews cannot reach the airport is a story for Somalia or other Third World Dysfunctional democracies or dictatorship-not New Zealand. As I had said to Andrew Little, Labour needs ‘political balls’ to bite the bullet NOW.

Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) has a conflict of interest situation where it mines gold from car parks at Auckland Airport. Hence, they may not be very supportive to kill their cash cow through a railway link.
One problem may be from the Airport Company (AIA) which is making a killing with its car park revenue, as they mine gold in Mangere carparks at Airport, with one car space having a potential of returning more revenue than renting a million-dollar home. The other hindrance may be from other assorted road transport lobby groups. But we need to make a decision and start planning NOW. With its shares in Auckland Airport, Auckland Council need to DIRECT Airport Board to be effective, as well as being efficient.
Puhinui Station is the shortest railway link to the Airport, mostly through farms, and has easy approach to Domestic and International terminals. We need experts to do a serious project planning on this option.
A case for the link from Puhinui:

I have walked some 2km distance from Puhinui Station, past Motorway 20 to Manukau Gardens, through the built-up part of the proposed projects. As road widening is taking place in Te Atatu Road from Motorway 16 to Flanshaw Rd, similar work can be done without demolishing any houses to widen the road and accommodate two lines to the Airport.

Just past and under Motorway 20, Motorway 20b, via Puhinui Rd from near Manukau Memorial gardens is only 5 km through farm lands to  Auckland Airport. Why do I need to tell this to our so-called experts - they need to get out of their ivory towers to see chaos at Auckland Airport.
And from Manukau Gardens to the Airport for some 5 km, we have green country, and government can institute its right to possession for national development. It is basically open fields. It could cost-effectively link to the Domestic and International terminals respectively. We need input from the highly paid so -called experts, who need to wake up. I wonder why it needs a layman like me to advise them on how to do their job. What are over-rated and highly paid bureaucrats and politicians doing while almost all First World’s major airports have rapid, convenient and affordable rail links to their cities, linking to the national rail network?

Viewing site on Puhinui Road, as seen from runway of Auckland Airport. Rail Link from Puhinui Station via this green country will be less painful and less costly.
Those who have been to Sydney would have seen how, they can connect to the wider Sydney network, and go anywhere without worrying about gridlocks on approaches to our Airport. George Bolt Memorial Drive, Tom Pearce Drive and Puhinui Roads, and the obstacles of lights at Kirkbride and Montgomery junctions cannot continue serving Auckland’s growing population and hugely expanding air-traffic. To make this worse, light and heavy traffic taking a bypass to Airport through these roads create the gridlock we are talking about. And nobody seems to be doing anything about this.

As I am finishing, I just saw on Al Jazeera TV about 12,000 km Silk rail link from China to Great Britain. What a pity, the British migrants New Zealand got some two centuries ago did not have as much foresight about rail transport as their “convict” counterparts who went to Sydney had. In Sydney, they have emulated British rail system, while Auckland still resembles a Third World Country.

Auckland Council and Government can continue with this chaos, and Labour Party can ignore this at their peril, as people go through election booth later this year.


  • How Auckland's poorly managed rubbish collection planning contributes to traffic congestion?
  • Why are Auckland Bus Stations, Train Station, Domestic Airport and some Parks so dry? Does Aucland Council have shares in fizzy-drink and water bottling companies?
  • Why bus link from Albany Station to Constellation Station, as part of Northern Busway gets bottle-necked , with poorly planned entry to bus lane at Graville On -ramp?

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh does what most qualified ethnic migrants do when they are not accepted in their qualified job market – drive. Thakur has Masters in Communications with honours from AUT. He tried to join Auckland Council in its Media and Communications dept., but despite his plea, the Council refused to colour this department from an ethnic journalist. The irony is that Thakur studied on Pacific Island Media Association (PIMA) Scholarship to add colour to a very white NZ media scene. He is a part-time bus driver, and knows Auckland extensively. Seeing the barriers to media, he runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is active on social media, with Auckland Council Watch one of many sites he manages.  This is his first of other posts relating to Auckland Council]

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An open letter to Andrew Little: Labour needs to start listening if it wishes to win.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Ahead of the meeting of Labour Party caucus in the town of Martinborough, I wish to flog a dead horse. This is because Labour Party is not in a habit of listening to anybody, least of all a Brown boy like me. And it is in this small town where the cream of Labour Party will gather in the New Year on Monday and Tuesday 16 and 17 January, 2017 to “plot election strategy.” 

Martinborough is a town in the South Wairarapa District, in the Wellington region of New Zealand. It is 65 kilometres east of Wellington and 35 kilometres south-west of Masterton. The town has a resident population of 1,600, but will bulge slightly with movers and shakers from Labour Party this week. 

Some six months ago I tried knocking on their doors with some thoughts, with no results. However, knowing its apathy, lethargy and lackadaisical attitude to suggestions from well-meaning members, I use my blog, FIJI PUNDIT to write this open letter to Andrew Little (sometimes Angry Andy) directly, and hope somebody will listen.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little: He needs to make Labour listen, inculcate a paradigm shift, grab the opportunity of changed leadership in the National Party, and most important of all: stop scoring own goal.
“Hi Andrew, this is a Fijian bloke you hardly notice in Labour meetings, as I may be considered so insignificant. My speciality is media and communications. I possess a Masters in Communication, with honours from AUT. Despite some attempts to get Labour’s attention, I never heard back to grant any help in my area of speciality. The Party immediately needs to improve on two things: to inculcate diversity and enhance efficiency in its administrative and support office. 

For a change, the right wing National Party seems to have more colour than Labour, which is still too White, not reflective of the demographic make-up of Aotearoa. On its internal management, it has performed miserably in the recent past. Last election campaign was very wanting, and an ineffective media and communication cell let the party down. It is one thing to have good policies (even bad ones), it is quite another to sell them on a timely basis, well dressed for the market. Labour has been failing in this area, and many commentators have observed and commented on this deficiency. But it appears nobody has been listening or noticing within the caucus and leadership. 

What is more worrying is that I recently briefly bumped into your President (of course he will not remember it), and even he believes Labour has an outstanding media team. However, the results, poll and public media humiliations speak the opposite. I have already enumerated them to your General Secretary, Andrew Kirton, and do not wish to further embarrass you with truth that will hurt, and which perhaps Labour does not wish to confront.

My question is, with so much highly paid and supposedly celebrated media, communications and public relations team, why did we have such an unfortunate and defeating let down by this department? Why has Labour failed to effectively use social media and other communications channels and sources to its advantage?

Now is an opportunity to clean up the Labour Office, with many such openings, and having efficient and effective personnel that can take the Party to victory in the next election. Please do not go for cronies, try looking outside the box. The fact that an Ethnic/ Indian Party was launched shows perception in the ethnic communities that the main political parties are incapable of taking care of those communities and their grievances. I disagree with this, but this perception is out there. 

HEAVY RAIL TO THE AIRPORT: Labour needs to bite the bullet and commit heavy rail to Auckland Airport to prevent bigger chaos at airport.  Puhinui is the shortest distance of seven kilometers to Airport, mostly through green country. They need to commit this option in 2017 election manifesto.
The caucus in Martinborough need not re-invent the wheel. These strategies have already been communicated to your Secretariat. Some of suggested policy items needing your consideration to “plot election strategy” are as follows:

Heavy rail to airport. Labour party needs to show it has balls to tackle this issue stifling development of Auckland. It also needs to silence and pull Auckland Airport Board in line, which thrives on cash cow of parking profits to scoff at this idea which will weaken their cash cow. I will do a separate article in Auckland Council Watch site on Facebook, arguing for a heavy link from Puhinui (Southern Link) to Airport, via Puhinui Rd, linking Domestic and International Airports, and thence linking to wider Auckland rail link. This no longer is an option, but a necessity for Auckland to manage Airport commuters.

Introducing laws and regulations to protect large voters who are tenants. We need to strengthen laws around renters to grant them security of tenure from unscrupulous landlords. I would even suggest inflation-based rent controls, even proposing rent freeze.

Having equal protection for landlords as well, from unscrupulous tenants.

Eyeing and targeting the low-decile non-voting younger (especially Maori, Pacific and Ethnic) people who have been marginalised from housing market, employment and other opportunities by the National Government. We need to concentrate on some million non-voters. One way is to mobilise our Youth team on social media where the prong of strategy would be to reach these marginalised and ignored voters. 

North-Western Busway, and other transport strategies to correspond with booming population in West Auckland, especially in and around Whenuapai and Kumeu / Huapai area.

Concession /subsidy on driver-learning for younger drivers, or even introducing in upper forms in schools.

The biggest election campaign for Labour will be those sitting in gridlock in Airport traffic will decide to change to the Party which has balls to commit heavy rail to the Airport.
Labour Party needs to realise and appreciate that to win the election, they have to win Auckland. To reiterate, they also need to re-vamp communication, media and public relations cell and re-visiting its media strategy, assuming they have one.

As earlier stated, the fact that an Ethnic/Indian Party has been formed shows that Labour, which has been a beneficiary of their large support must have failed somewhere. 

While he may not be your best friend, Rodney Hide at times does speak much sense. In a critique on Labour on Sunday 25 September, 2016, he appeared to have spoken some sense.

Among other things, he said about Labour, that…..“Their minds are closed and they gasp and take offence at any idea or opinion different to their own……. They are a self-reinforcing sect who in their wretchedness and anger are becoming ever smaller. Their narrow and insular outlook prevents them reaching out. Little (my idea-pun intended) wonder it's not attractive to new recruits…………………. Labour is the narrow party that has shut itself off from the great bulk of New Zealanders.”  

The caucus in Martinborough needs to prove Hide wrong. I will wait to see to what extent this eventuates. The ball is in your court. I close my case. You are at a liberty to ignore this communication, but Labour needs a paradigm shift if it wishes to wrest power back from National in the next election. John Key has gone, and Labour, for a change, has to stop scoring its own goal, and grab and capitalise on the opportunity.

The past strategies and support office have failed, hence they need new blood and new ideas in administrative support. 

You can ignore these at your peril.

Wishing a fruitful deliberations in Martinborough - hope you can make Rodney Hide eat his words.

Yours Sincerely,

FIJI PUNDIT, aka Thakur Ranjit Singh, 
Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland.”

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Auckland-based ethnic (read Indo-Fijian) journalist running his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT. He is a member of Labour Party, a former Board Member of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) and is a media commentator.]