Wow. A nail-bitingly close election and now a Labour Government led by Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern. It goes without saying that I think Jacinda will do an amazing job as leader and Prime Minister.
Many of you will have encountered Jacinda personally, in her capacity as the Labour candidate and list MP in Auckland Central and you will know that she is utterly committed to building a better city. It is great for Auckland Central to have someone who understands the issues in this city in the top job.
There are wider implications for the whole country of course. Labour will make very positive change. Jacinda’s ability to engage with people about Labour’s vision, including with a new generation, in a genuine, caring and courageous way was incredibly exciting to watch take hold and bring with it this successful change of government. I have no doubt it will make her one of New Zealand's great prime ministers.
While I was on the edge of my seat watching the Honorable Winston Peters make his announcement, I was not really surprised at his party’s ultimate decision. That is not to suggest it was a fait accompli but when I was campaigning I saw the synergy between Labour, the Greens and the NZ First play out in very practical ways - we often agreed. What the parties fundamentally had in common was they were all deeply concerned about the damage done by abandoning people to fend for themselves in the freemarket. The National Party had its head buried in the sand, denying there was a housing crisis for example. If NZ First had gone with National it was just not going to address the problems that it was articulating.
It was and is patently clear in Auckland Central that ordinary people were and are paying a very real price for the application of a failed ideology. Our city is less people friendly and even less economically productive as a result of this approach. We all wanted government to do its job and lead.
As I write this, the details of the agreements made are still coming out. That means I will be more specific in my next column but I can already indicate what sort of problems impacting on people in Auckland Central have been recognised and will be addressed.
Labour has recognised an urgent need for investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure, the need for a housing policy that builds houses, trains apprentices and redevelops Auckland’s urban environment in accordance with the highest standards of urban design. I have said repeatedly in this column that Auckland’s infrastructure mess reflected a lack of leadership, vision and investment and that is what will now need to be put right.
Auckland will look very different in 10 years and it needs a big city plan. The number of people living in the CBD will continue to grow. In 2012, Auckland’s City Centre Masterplan laid out a 20-year vision for transforming the city centre. It predicted that the 2012 population of 27,000 would grow to 45,000 by 2032. That figure has already been reached - 15 years ahead of the prediction. It is expected to grow by a further 30,000 people by 2027. That number will only increase.
For too long Auckland’s infrastructure issues have been put in the too-hard basket or delegated to council without giving them any ability to address them. The outgoing government spent less on new transport and upgrades in Auckland today than in 2010, despite the population growing by over 200,000.
In transport that means Labour’s plan is to step in and lead this change, prioritising public transport such as light rail to Mt Roskill in four years, to the airport and West Auckland within a decade, and
a line connecting the North Shore to the CBD will change the way we get around Auckland. We’ll also build a Bus Rapid Transit service connecting the airport and East Auckland, and a third main trunk rail line to serve the commuter and freight rail traffic. I think this is exciting. Each individual project will make an immense difference to Aucklanders.
Cumulatively, however, Labour’s plan for Auckland used to have a world-class public transport system. In 1945 Auckland’s tram network carried 100,000,000 trips (Auckland’s population was 500,000). Last year, with Auckland’s population more than three times higher, our entire public transport network carried only 82,000,000 trips. Labour’s plan will rebuild our light rail network and provide Auckland with fast and efficient public transport system.
Auckland Central’s home ownership rate has fallen by 16% since 2008. The main driver of this is the lack of supply of new houses. The population of Auckland grew by more than six people for each additional house built last year. We need to build houses. The fastest way to do this is for the Government to get building. Labour’s KiwiBuild programme will build 100,000 high-quality, affordable homes over 10 years, with 50% of them in Auckland. High-quality apartments will mean more people will live in the CBD and Auckland will need to re-shape our CBD to focus more on walking and cycling and creating exciting open spaces such as Linear Park and the new square outside of Britomart.
While campaigning, the importance of warm, dry, affordable and secure long-term rentals in the central city became very clear to me.
Our local schools in Auckland Central received $83,000 less in operational funding in 2017 once population growth and inflation is factored in. That is recognised as not good enough.
Health, mental health, education and social development need more priority than they have been given - they also need more space than I have in this column so I will address them properly in the future. (HELEN WHITE)
Helen White representing Labour for Auckland Central.