There are fundamental flaws in the multi-billion dollar Auckland Transport Alignment Project 2021-31 package's emissions ambitions, and some of the claims made for it don't add up, say climate and transports groups.
Urbanist advocacy group Greater Auckland promotes good city planning and says the project, known as ATAP, fails to meet the council's own emissions targets.
Yesterday a $31 billion investment in the plan was announced for Auckland- Tāmaki Makaurau, with the aim to reduce emissions to help the city meet the challenges of climate change.
It's designed to encourage a shift away from private cars toward public transport, walking and cycling, and is predicted to increase the number of public transport trips significantly. And is based on a $28 billion 2018 package, but now includes $600 million more for walking and cycling initiatives, and $500 million more for buses and ferries.
However, Greater Auckland administrator Matt Lowrie says it gives priority to projects that will raise emissions and make driving easier, such as roading and motorways.
He says while the backers talk a big game about reducing emissions, the plan as it stands is set to increase emissions by six percent.
"It just fails to meet the targets and objectives that the council have set for themselves around mode shift, around climate... around emissions reduction, it just doesn't achieve those things, it doesn't even come close close to it.
"But with the government and the council declaring climate emergencies, we need to do more, to get emissions down - the plan relies on other policy interventions to do that and it should be doing it itself. This is a 2018 plan in a 2021 world."
Overall public transport funding had gone up under the new version of ATAP, but Lowrie said the overall amount of money was being reduced by about $360m, while the amount spent on roading had gone up by $367m.
"Effectively we are getting less money for public transport and more for roads.
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"One thing we know from both the government and council surveys is that people want more public transport, they want more walking and cycling infrastructure and reduced congestion and what this plan does is quite the opposite."
Lowrie said problems weren't because of a lack of funding but rather the mix of projects and existing policy that was causing ATAP's contradictions.
"The challenge would be to rebuild it without the political conservativeness of not wanting to impact everyone because we need to get those changes made to discourage driving to reduce those emissions and congestion as well."
Paul Winton, founder of the nonprofit 1Point5 Project, said ATAP was a "sprinkling of good things," but at its core remained a transport system which was designed more than a decade ago.
"The problem is we have tried to continue doing transport the way we have always done it while making tweaks at its edges, whereas what we actually need to do is disembowel the current transport plan and build one that is safe, healthy, equitable and decarbonised."
He said policy makers had "not challenged the current model" and instead hoped they could get away with a substandard transport plan.
Auckland Council had committed that by 2030 it would reduce all emissions by half, but Winton said ATAP was "entirely inconsistent" with this goal.
"It is entirely inconsistent with what is demanded by both the science and future generations around transport poverty and inequity - this plan will lock generations into transport poverty and inequity."
He said Auckland Council could be opening itself for potential litigation if it fails to deliver on its own climate objectives.
"We have collectively been very clear that if ATAP is not consistent with its promises and the science then there is high risk it will be legally challenged.
"This plan is really inexcusable and hard to see how they are going to get away with this."
Winton said this was a "real abdication of responsibility on the part of the politicians, the Ministry of Transport, the Minister, Auckland Council and Waka Kotahi: Those people need to be called to account now and scrap this plan."
Transport Minister: 'Bigger and better'
At the launch for the new package, Transport Minister Michael Wood said the new plan goes further toward addressing climate responsibilities.
"For the first time we're turning around transport emissions rising in Auckland. The ATAP 2021-31 package alone would result [in] around 13 per cent decrease in emissions per capita when compared with the previous package, and is projected to increase public transport trips by 91 per cent.
"Alongside our recently announced policies to reduce transport emissions, ATAP could help prevent up to 3.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions in Auckland over the next decade. This is a good first step, but we know we have to do more."