Small town rural New Zealand is where I live and own commercial buildings, but I also have a batch in Ponsonby and own commercial buildings in the cities, so I have a unique view of the two very different New Zealands, being urban and rural where the gaps are bigger than the widely discussed wealth gap.
Most media commentators, policy makers and politicians are urban, hence rural dwellers get to know about life in the cities, but the converse doesn't happen and nonsense like the recent economic rubbish suggesting that congestion in Auckland costs the country $1.6 billion (it doesn't) go unchallenged, along with other myths like Auckland being the economic driver of New Zealand.
Bear with me, but, as Auckland mayors have been saying for years, the city has around 33 per cent of our population and 38 per cent of GDP, yet only a pathetic 9 per cent of our export income. Even economically challenged areas like Northland produce a higher percentage of export income than either their population or GDP share. What the city figures show is that Auckland is the centre of economic consumption paid for by the export earnings of the rest of New Zealand.
It could be argued that city traffic congestion helps the national economy. Indeed, if the city was gridlocked all day New Zealand would soon run external payment surpluses and the savings from dramatically reduced road accidents would not only save lives but money, allowing rural New Zealand to get the roads they deserve. Congestion may well cost Aucklanders $1.6 billion but not New Zealand as a whole.
The recent political responses to congestion are worth noting. The Nats' continued spending on more motorways is just plain dumb, making no effort to get Aucklanders to either use public transport or at least fill their cars with passengers. Look at the very modest claims of only 7 per cent improvement to traffic from the $1.6b Waterview Tunnel. That is the difference in traffic between 4.55pm and 5.10pm. Waterview's cost benefit is down there with Muldoon's methanol plant.
Regional fuel taxes or congestion charging to get Aucklanders (and I am one when I'm down at the bach) to pay to change their behaviour makes sense and shows that Labour have noticed that the claim that a third of New Zealand lives in Auckland actually means that two thirds don't.
Out in rural New Zealand the only politician really offering to help overcome years of Auckland focus groups deciding what happens is Winston and he is on a roll focusing those rural voters who loyally stuck with National for years only to be taken for granted and bequeathed the worst roads in the country.
Real progress with roads in New Zealand won't happen until there is massive change at Land Transport NZ with a new board and new managers aiming at supporting our exports with a reliable robust roading network rather than the PC safety nonsense that eats up all the cash at present. Hopefully, strong political representation from rural New Zealand, most likely to be delivered by NZ First will see such a change including rural business representation on LTNZ to balance the rush to spend on city projects.