Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Rail loop must be Banks' fair price

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Saturday's results will mean positive things for Auckland public transport if John Banks can keep his promises.
Photo / Janna Dixon
Saturday's results will mean positive things for Auckland public transport if John Banks can keep his promises. Photo / Janna Dixon

Thanks to the vagaries of MMP, Prime Minister-to-be John Key needs to lock in Act Party sole survivor John Banks, and United Future's Peter Dunne, to ensure a stable majority in the new Parliament.

For Auckland public transport, Saturday's cliff-hanger result is a better election outcome than anyone could have hoped for. That is if former Auckland City Mayor John Banks keeps his cool - and his election promises - and holds out for a fair price for his loyalty to Brand Key.

To ensure a working majority, Mr Key has to lock in these two one-man-bands by dangling the baubles of office in front of them.

For Mr Banks, it's his big chance to twist National's arm, and make a difference, by holding out for Government backing for the Auckland inner-city rail loop.

It's not as though he doesn't believe in it. Like Len Brown, his victorious rival in the Super City mayoral campaign last year, Mr Banks was a staunch advocate of the cause.

Similarly, he plugged it vigorously in recent months during his battle for the Epsom parliamentary seat.

In June, after announcing his bid for Epsom, he said if he was returned to Parliament in November he would continue to be a flag bearer for Auckland issues, particularly the inner-city rail loop which, he said, would be built.

"The problem is the very real challenge around the global recession, but the designation of the route and work to bring it to fruition need to continue."

In late 2009, he wrote in these pages: "This rail loop is more than a rail link. It is a transformational economic development project at the centre of the new Super City."

He said "informed citizens of Auckland are united in their belief that a CBD loop is a good idea". He added that if the $1 billion to $1.5 billion rail loop was not built, at least $3.3 billion worth of new roading and additional parking capacity would be needed to meet demand.

The loop "delivers less congestion and agglomeration benefits that will benefit the whole region. This equals growth in economic productivity and to New Zealand heading back to the top half of the OECD."

Mr Brown was just as enthusiastic. and as mayor has been banging his head against a brick wall as far as convincing Transport Minister Steven Joyce and the National-led Government of the loop's necessity.

To date, all Mr Banks has squeezed out of Mr Key is a very public cup of tea. Over the next day or two, he has a unique opportunity to up the ante and hold out for the "transformational" tunnel. As a lone MP, it's his one chance to be the flag-bearer who made a difference. If he were to deliver on it, I'd be the first to demand it be named after him.

In the run-up to the election, much was made of the way National and Act "gamed" the MMP system to try to bring other Act list candidates in on Mr Banks' slipstream. It wasn't to be, but a quick look at the results in other electorates highlights that vote-splitting is not just a device of those parties.

Epsom does stand out though, with Mr Banks getting 14,150 on the night, while his party scored just 804. National got 20,505 party votes, but its candidate Paul Goldsmith just 11,665. Both the Green and Labour candidates scored much worse than their party, showing how many of their supporters voted for Mr Goldsmith to try to ruin Mr Banks' day.

But thanks to the cup of tea, it seems more than half of National supporters voted for Mr Banks. Confused?

In my seat of Auckland Central, the jumping around wasn't as extreme, but again showed how adept voters have become in their mixing and matching. Labour's Jacinda Ardern, on 11,823, scored 4698 votes more than her party, the extra votes coming mainly from Green and NZ First party supporters.

MMP also resurrected Winston Peters from the grave, emerging as though he'd never been away, bashing the media and muttering darkly about "circumstances" that meant he hadn't brought more MPs in on his coat tails. Circumstances that "I'll talk about ... in the next few days".

What would we do without MMP?

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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