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Speech to the NZ Herald Project Auckland Luncheon – Simeon Brown

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Introduction

Thank you for inviting me here today to address you all as Minister for Auckland, Minister of Transport, and Minister of Local Government.

Before I begin, I would like to first acknowledge just a few of the key people assembled here who have made today possible.

I would like to particularly thank Fran O’Sullivan for her organising and championing of this annual event, but also to Michael Boggs, Murray Kirkness and the NZME team, and representatives from the organisations sponsoring this event.

Thank you for coming together and putting on such an important Project Auckland event for Auckland.

It is wonderful to have so many leaders – so many people passionate about Auckland and its success – together in one room.

The importance of Auckland

The Coalition Government shares your passion for this city and for the potential and opportunity that this city holds.

We know that when Auckland succeeds, New Zealand succeeds, and therefore we need to do everything we can to unlock the potential of this city.

The Christopher Luxon-led Government recognises the potential that Auckland brings to New Zealand, and the economic powerhouse that it is for our country, with 37% of our GDP sitting here within this city, despite only accounting to 1/3 of our population.

But we also see the people who make that happen.

The small business owners who work long hours to deliver the goods and services people consume.

The migrants who have come here to make New Zealand home and contribute their skills and expertise to this country.

The growing innovative tech sector which is creating new opportunities for the many young people who make up our city.

The volunteers who spend countless hours in our schools, churches, and sports clubs who give of their time freely to help make this city a better place to call home.

Challenges facing Auckland

However, we also recognise that Auckland has been going backwards over the past few years.

Aucklanders have been hit hard by the Cost-of-Living Crisis.

Aucklanders have faced a crime wave across the city.

And despite many promises – there has been a real lack of transport delivery – leaving Aucklanders facing worsening congestion.

I paint this picture, not because I want to dwell on the past, but because it gives a sense of why over 57 percent of Aucklanders voted for the parties that make up the Coalition Government on 14 October last year – a percentage far higher than any other part of the country.

And it is that mandate that Auckland gave this Government which now gives us a sense of urgency to get Auckland Back on Track.

Vision for Auckland

In preparation for this speech, Fran O’Sullivan asked what my vision for Auckland was.

My response was that Aucklanders are sick and tired of hearing about visions and grand plans and that instead they are wanting a government that delivers.

A government that has practical, deliverable ideas to make their lives better.

A government which has a plan to get things done.

A government which is committed to delivering against these plans each and every day.

And that is what I want to outline today – how our Coalition Government’s plan will deliver for Aucklanders. How we will reduce their cost of living, deliver better infrastructure, and restore law and order on their streets.

In my role as Minister for Auckland I will work with my colleagues across every portfolio which affects Auckland to ensure that we are delivering for this city.

Today I will focus on five key areas that our Government is focussed on for Auckland.

  • 1. Cost of living
  • 2. Crime
  • 3. Housing
  • 4. Water
  • 5. Transport
  • Cost of living

    Firstly, the cost of living.

    In recent years, Aucklanders have endured a prolonged cost of living crisis. Interest rates have risen for families and businesses, and the Government books have dived into the red. Debt has soared, and growth has slowed. Times are tough.

    Finance Minister Nicola Willis has acted swiftly on first steps to deliver the cost of living relief that Aucklanders need, and the fiscal repair that our country needs.

    • We have restored the Reserve Bank’s single focus on price stability.
    • We have reduced the regulatory burden on businesses through removing Fair Pay Agreements.
    • We have restored 90-day trials and we are restoring discipline to government spending.
    • And we have passed legislation to axe the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax on 30 June this year, saving Aucklanders 11.5 cents per litre every time they fill up their car.

    Aucklanders thought that they were getting Mill Road built faster by paying the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax – instead, they got speed bumps slowing them down. Not one person has expressed any sadness to me about fewer speed bumps being built.

    Crime

    Secondly, crime.

    Crime has become a growing concern for Kiwis around the country, but the rising level of crime is particularly concerning for Auckland.

    In the last six years, we have seen a significant increase in anti-social behaviour on our streets and a spike in ram raids affecting our local businesses.

    This was felt most deeply following the devastating death of the Sandringham dairy worker at Rose Cottage Superette in late 2022.

    Gangs have peddled misery on our streets. For too long they’ve been allowed to behave as if they are above the law.

    But that ends here.

    Our government will:

    • Increase the number of Police officers across New Zealand by 500.
    • Ban gang insignia in public places.
    • Give Police more tools to disperse gangs from gathering.
    • Start boot camps for young offenders to get them off our streets and give them another chance.

    Aucklanders want law and order restored – and we are committed to delivering that.

    Housing

    Third, housing.

    One of the most important things we can do to rebuild Auckland’s economy is to fix our housing crisis.

    Our Going for Housing Growth policy addresses the root causes of our housing crisis:

    • Noncompetitive land markets
    • challenges in infrastructure funding and financing
    • and insufficient incentives for councils and communities to promote housing expansion.

    Going for Housing Growth provides councils with flexibility to decide how that growth happens. In some cases that will mean more greenfields development. In other cases, it will mean more density.

    And as my colleague Chris Bishop has announced this morning – we will be giving councils flexibility in applying medium density residential rules – while requiring councils to zone enough land for long term growth.

    Water

    Fourth, water.

    In my capacity as Minister of Local Government, I am working at pace alongside Auckland Council to agree an approach to create a financially sustainable model for Watercare.

    As part of Local Water Done Well, we are returning water back to councils rather than mandating a co-governed, mega-entity, bureaucratic approach to water delivery.

    For Auckland this means financial separation of Auckland Council and Watercare, which the Council and central government are working at pace on to ensure a sustainable, efficient, and affordable approach to water infrastructure for Auckland.

    We will have more to say about this in coming weeks.

    Transport: getting Auckland moving again

    Finally, and the issue I will spend the most time on – transport, which is a key enabler for growth in Auckland.

    As Transport Minister, I am acutely aware of the importance of our transport network in unlocking economic growth, increasing productivity, and reducing congestion.

    The last six years of promised cycle bridges and light rail have left Aucklanders frustrated, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent, but no focus on delivery.

    Previous National Governments have a proud track record of delivery both roading and public transport for Auckland.

    National delivered the Waterview Tunnel and the Victoria Park Tunnel, we electrified the Auckland rail network, and started – and will finish – the City Rail Link.

    But, there is still more to do.

    Recently, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and I released the draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport.

    Our GPS is not just a document; it’s our plan to get Auckland moving again.

    At the heart of our plan for Auckland is a bus rapid transit network connecting Auckland’s east and west.

    In the next three years, our focus will be on the completion of the City Rail Link and Eastern Busway. Planning will also be undertaken for the delivery of the Northwest Rapid Transit Corridor and the Airport to Botany Busway.

    The Northern Busway’s success shows how important it is that we invest in rapid transit corridors to reduce congestion.

    Since the busway opened in 2008, more than half of all commuters travelling over the Harbour Bridge into the city at peak times have come by bus rather than car.

    This is what smart and successful investment in public transport looks like.

    The recently released GPS will unlock the infrastructure investments that are needed to help Aucklanders get to where they need to go, quickly and safely.

    The GPS also identifies four new Roads of National Significance in Auckland.

    • Mill Road and the North West Alternative State Highway have been listed to unlock housing growth
    • the East West Link is a project that will boost productivity and improve connections for moving freight in and out of Auckland
    • and Warkworth to Wellsford is listed as part of our long-term vision of a four-lane connection between Whangarei and Tauranga.

    To help deliver these projects quickly and cost-effectively, our government is also passing legislation to establish a one-stop-shop fast track consenting regime to get infrastructure built sooner.

    If we want to get things done in this country, we need to slash the red and green tape which is holding our country back.

    We also need to consider how transport decisions are made in Auckland. Auckland is the only region in New Zealand where elected members cannot approve the Regional Land Transport Plan. Mayor Wayne Brown has rightly called for change, and I look forward to working with the mayor on how this change can be delivered.

    Our GPS outlines our commitment to deliver a time of use charging framework, working with Auckland Council to improve travel times and network efficiency in our city so that we can maximise the use of our existing assets.

    It also provides funding for the use of dynamic lanes in Auckland, maximising the use of our existing assets, to manage demand and improve efficiency in the flow of traffic.

    Aucklanders have also become increasingly frustrated by the persistent slowdown in their daily commutes through hundreds of speed bumps being put on our roads or slowing speed limits down – Aucklanders are frustrated and want a different approach.

    In recent years, speed limits throughout our city have been slashed – a consequence of the speed limits Rule imposed by the previous government – leaving both NZTA and councils with little choice but to implement blanket speed limit reductions.

    The previous government’s untargeted approach to setting speed limits has led to widespread speed limit reductions across New Zealand, rather than implementing targeted reductions on high crash areas of the network.

    Speed limits have gone from 100 km/h to 80 km/h on many State Highways, and from 50 km/h to 30 km/h on many urban roads, ignoring the economic impacts and giving insufficient weight to road users’ and local communities’ views.

    Our government wants to see a transport system that boosts productivity and economic growth and allows New Zealanders to get to where they want to go, quickly and safely.

    We campaigned on this vision, and we now have the mandate to deliver on it.

    I want to expand on this vision today and outline how our Coalition Government is pulling every lever to get Auckland moving again.

    In December, as Transport Minister, I amended the previous government’s speed limits Rule to remove requirements for NZTA and councils to implement further blanket speed limit reductions on our roads.

    It makes no sense to have roads that can safely accommodate higher speed limits, only to require motorists to drive more slowly.

    At the time, I said that I would be working on a new Rule to ensure that when speed limits are set, economic impacts – including travel times – and the views of road users and local communities are taken into account, alongside safety.

    It is critical that we establish appropriate settings to improve both economic growth and road safety.

    Today I am pleased to announce the direction of travel of our new speed limit Rule, as part of our coalition agreement with ACT.

    Our new Rule will reverse blanket speed limit reductions on our State Highways, which has slowed down economic growth.

    It will reverse blanket speed limit reductions on our urban roads, which has slowed down motorists trying to get to where they need to be.

    It will ensure that any speed limit reductions on urban arterial routes are appropriate for the road’s unique conditions.

    It will enable existing Roads of National Significance to have 110 km/h speed limits and will provide for new Roads of National Significance to have 110km/h speed limits from when the roads are opened.

    And importantly, it will require variable speed limits to be implemented outside schools during drop-off and pick-up times, keeping young New Zealanders safe as they arrive and leave school.

    By the middle of the year, we will release our new speed limits Rule for public consultation, listening to local communities’ views on these important changes.

    And before the end of this year, as Transport Minister, I will sign the new Rule into force, requiring Auckland Transport and other road controlling authorities across the country to reverse blanket speed limit reductions by the end of 2025.

    Our government will implement pragmatic measures to get Aucklanders moving quicker while ensuring that safety interventions are targeted and fit for purpose.

    These measures are about unlocking our economic potential by getting our cities and regions – particularly Auckland – moving again.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion – our government has a clear and comprehensive agenda to work with Auckland to deliver on our objectives of economic growth, better public services and infrastructure, restoring law and order and reducing the cost of living.

    The steps we are taking as a government are vital for driving positive change and ensuring a brighter future for our city.

    But Auckland must also play its part in facilitating progress, and only by working together will this happen.

    We will continue to drive a constructive and forward leaning approach with Auckland Council and the business and social sectors to deliver for our city.

    When I look around the room here, I see a lot of people that are ambitious for Auckland. Who want this city to succeed.

    I want you to know that I share that ambition. This Coalition Government shares that ambition.

    And we have a deliverable plan to unlock Auckland’s potential and get our city back on track.

    Thank you.

     

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