Securing the significant opportunities for Auckland from decarbonising our transport network is a priority for me in 2022.
We know the need to rapidly lower our transport emissions as part of becoming a low emissions city is urgent. Transport currently contributes close to half (47%) of our greenhouse gases and these have almost doubled since 1990 – the index year for global emissions measurement. The Zero Carbon Act Parliament passed without dissent in 2019 mandates that we produce an emissions reduction plan to achieve this target. Not dealing with domestic emissions means we will need to buy carbon credits to meet our commitments.
There are real opportunities for Auckland, and especially for the North Shore, as we make this transition. We’ve already made a good start with more to come in 2022. Last year some big bits of the jigsaw puzzle were decided upon. The 10-year $31 billion Auckland-wide transport realignment project (ATAP) was finalised, while the Northern Busway extension to Albany Station is well underway and cycling improvements like the Tapuwae safe cycle bridge between Northcote and Smales Farm opened. Around one in four new car sales are now EVs.
The Northern busway is a great example of visionary long term leadership and investment that we need more of. Opened in 2008, it now carries more than 8 million passengers annually, or 50% of peak traffic, more than proving that its early critics who said it would be a white elephant were wrong.
We need to make sure the new transport investments being planned deliver a win win for us on the Shore – tackling both congestion and lowering emissions. The additional harbour crossing now being planned, for example, must be engineered to properly link up to the light rail network to be built from the central city to the airport, enabling expansion to the North Shore. That would be a truly transformational project for us on the Shore giving people better transport choices and leaving our roads less congested for those who need to use cars.
At the same time the additional harbour crossing also enables us to rethink how it connects with local streets to relieve existing hot spots, such as the heavily congested Onewa Road which is currently the only route through Birkenhead and Northcote to the bridge. We also cannot lose sight of the contribution a walking and cycling connection across the Waitematā should make as part of an integrated transport network.
Transport consumes a big chunk of my time in Wellington on the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee and as chair of the government’s Infrastructure and Environment Caucus Committee. In both roles I see the challenges and trade-offs we face in reorienting our existing network – but also the real opportunities our necessary work to tackle climate change will deliver as long as we keep that objective front and centre. This is a real legacy to leave our grandchildren and the generations that follow them and I’m ready to play my part in realising it.