Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

While the fundamental purpose of the recently-announced, joint initiative of the Government and the Auckland City Council by way of the Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project is somewhat different, it is nevertheless similar in many ways to the Roading Investigation undertaken in March 1952. Instigated by then Minister of Works, William Stanley Goosman, the eventual report of the Roading Investigation Committee was completed in February 1953.

Of course, priorities were somewhat different sixty-five years ago. One of the main concerns then was not the building of new roads but the strengthening of existing roads and streets so they could withstand the inundation of larger and faster motor vehicles. As the Committee observed, “A comparison of registration figures between those of 1932 and 1952 shows that while the number of cars increased during the twenty-year period from 148,159 to 293,236, the number of trucks increased from 31,319 to 98,668. This means that while the number of cars almost doubled, the number of trucks more than trebled…The growing relative importance of trucks to cars in 1952…indicates a fundamental change in the character of motor transport.”

[Ironically, one of the heavier vehicles to cause a problem was the trolley-bus, so much so that it received special mention by the Roading Investigation Committee: “These vehicles have created special major problems of road construction and maintenance for some of our cities…Contrary to popular belief, trolley-buses, which appear to be the smoothest of vehicles in operation, are in fact excessively severe on road maintenance…Recent developments in Auckland afford even more striking evidence of the effects of these vehicles…In all, twelve streets, mostly with considerable thickness of road formation, have been seriously damaged by trolley-bus traffic and now require extensive reconstruction.”]

Where the two investigations naturally correspond is of course with the issue of local and Government funding. One of the recommendations of the Roading Investigation Committee resulted in the replacement of the Main Highways Board with the National Roads Board and the establishment of a National Roads Fund to finance all road building and maintenance. The Committee recommended that the Fund should receive all road-user taxation as well as a Central Government contribution of approximately 12½ per cent of the nation’s road bill but, of course, that was not to be.

The stated purpose of the Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project specifically rules out the raising of extra revenue. Nevertheless, as in 1953, the question of who ultimately pays for this latest roading problem, in terms of proportionality between the road user, local Government, and Central Government, is likely to remain as imponderable as ever.

This imponderability is explored in greater detail in the soon-to-be-published, second volume of Auckland transport history, Gas Pedal to Back-Pedal – The Second Century of Auckland Transport. In the meantime, the scene is set by Waka Paddle to Gas Pedal – The First Century of Auckland Transport, now available as a paperback and EBook from Amazon or as an EBook from Kobo Books.

Farewell 2016

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

During the last days of 2016, various commentators reflecting on the events of that year have recently spoken of the apparent neglect of citizens’ basic concerns by their country’s politicians. For instance, the unemployed in the USA and Europe have felt disenfranchised by the globalisation of trade which has led to the closure of factories and the disappearance of many traditional jobs in their home countries. At the same time, tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa have been allowed to enter and encumber the social and political infrastructure of much of Europe. No wonder a majority of British citizens voted to exit the European Union and Donald Trump was elected U.S. President during that tumultuous year. But, for whatever reasons these events did occur, the fundamental motive of those voters seems to have been their desire to regain control from politicians who they felt no longer represented their views; who they felt no longer knew of, or sympathised with, their local needs.

This is not a new phenomenon. The need for local control of community affairs existed long before national politics and ideologies assumed command and influenced so much of everyday life; long before party politics transformed local representatives to national lapdogs.

In New Zealand, during the 1930s, there were some 700 local authorities serving the needs of a population of about 1.5 million. Long before the amalgamation of its many local bodies, infrastructure, and services to form the present ‘super-city’, Auckland consisted of as many as 17 local authorities, each with their own ideas as to how their districts and responsibilities could best be served. While the implementation of those ideas might directly benefit a borough’s comparatively small number of citizens, more often than not, they prejudiced the aspirations of the city as a whole.

But there have been exceptions. Newmarket’s Olympic Pool, envisaged and financed through the Local Government Loans Board in 1938 and opened on 17 February 1940, was a prime example of just such a local body initiative that provided an immense asset to Auckland. As the Auckland Star reported on opening day, “…the new Olympic swimming pool…is considered the finest of its kind in either Australia or New Zealand…the first of its kind in this Dominion.”

It is doubtful that a larger authority, and certainly not a national government, would have proceeded at the time with such a public amenity. The administrators of the day were too intent on planning roads and motorways that would never fully cope with the inundation of motor vehicles to come. Even the far-sighted Newmarket Borough Council, in line with the national aspirations of the time, borrowed £3500 more than the £15,500 it needed to build the Olympic Pool.

The additional finance was used to provide municipal parking areas in the borough. Even swimmers had to park somewhere.


Keith Mexsom

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Investigative Journalist and Transport Writer – please refer to my Profile and Portfolio pages for more information.

Please visit my ‘Waka Paddle to Gas Pedal‘ page for a description of my most recent work, Waka Paddle to Gas PedalThe First Century of Auckland Transport, published as an Ebook (October 2016) and as a Paperback (April 2017). This fully-referenced and comprehensively-indexed narrative of some 220,000 words is available from Amazon at and a Kobo version from

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