Recent history of CCC campaign to take over control of Christchurch public transport

Well since yesterday I have learned that TraNZport has been commenting on the CCC campaign for control of PT services and their latest post addresses this matter specifically. In a nutshell, they have clarified some of the recent process of the joint approach by Ecan and CCC to the Minister of Local Government regarding the potential for changing PT governance. All that has been done with this approach to date is to request that the Government speed up the timeframe for fixing an anomaly in the Local Government Act that blocks any possible change from being implemented.

TraNZport goes on to suggest that handing over control of city PT to CCC might not be the best way of realising better PT outcomes for the city and that the option for a unitary transport authority should be considered. This, in fact, is along the lines of what consultant Peter Winder recommended in two reports completed in November 2015. These are “Review of governance and delivery arrangements for public transport in greater Christchurch” and “Draft public transport governance and delivery arrangements beyond greater Christchurch”. The most immediate result was the formation of the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee made up of representatives from Ecan, CCC, Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council in December 2015. However the work of the Committee has been used by CCC to further its agenda with the Mayor constantly stating that is the intention of the process as far as she is concerned. Examples of this as reported by The Press (Stuff) include:

  • Canterbury bus patronage drops 4.5 per cent despite new routes, bus interchange  – quotes the Mayor making a select committee submission saying falling bus patronage showed why the city council should have control of the network. “We cannot realise our potential when we have no say as a city, other than through the region, where the buses will go and what type of buses we want to run.” The select committee was hearing submissions on legislation to return Ecan to an elected council and the Mayor’s comments were a direct attack on Ecan’s functions and roles.

  • Christchurch’s bus network is ‘broken’ says Mayor Lianne Dalziel – self explanatory headline. This happened at the same time as the Council approved the setting up of the PTJC.  The new committee was only the first step in the council taking over public transport, the mayor said. “I want our city to be leading the way and not following in hot pursuit.” Dalziel said she had made it “crystal clear” to ECan that the city council was in the best position to lead Christchurch’s public transport. Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said the joint transport committee was a “make do solution” because the Government would not put transport where it belonged – with the city council.
  • Transport model is ‘flawed’ – this one actually came from Dame Margaret Bazley in 2014 in her role as the appointed chair of Ecan after the regional council was sacked and replaced by commissioners. Bazley wrote to the local government minister Chris Tremain asking for a review of PT governance arrangements. The letter, released to The Press under the Official Information Act, states: “The current model for delivery of integrated and effective public transport is flawed in Christchurch in particular. We have signalled our support to the minister of transport for a review of public transport arrangements.” Bazley said ECan was unhappy with the level of funding from the council. “The absence of any significant capital expenditure to improve the operation of public transport over the next three years reinforces our view that the city council no longer seems committed to a viable future for public transport in Christchurch,” she said.  (However Peter Winder was subsequently contracted to review governance arrangements – this appears to have been at the instigation of the Canterbury Mayoral Forum). What is also odd in this statement is Dalziel appeared happy with the status quo and did not demand city control of PT.

  • Full Environment Canterbury democracy ‘a step backwards’ – Ngai Tahu –  an article from late 2015 detailing submissions made to the select committee hearing legislation to return Ecan to elected governance. The council’s written submission described the actions as “extraordinarily arrogant” and said Canterbury “deserved more than the rushed, superficial review that has led to the bill currently being reported on”. Dalziel told the panel there was little justification for the regional council to have control of public transport and air monitoring, and its continued ownership of those functions was holding the city back. The article claims Dalziel was the only mayor in Canterbury to oppose the proposed legislation, which appears to say in effect that all of the other territorial councils did not see the need to hijack the process with demands that Ecan hand over some of its powers and functions to local councils.

  • Christchurch City Council seen as ‘villains’ over disgraceful transport prioritiesthis was part of the reporting from the first meeting of the PTJC. Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel says she can’t understand why new bus lounges in Riccarton and Northlands were prioritised while eastern residents stood in the rain at “disgraceful” bus stops. “Where people wait in New Brighton is disgraceful. Where people wait outside The Palms is disgraceful. I don’t understand why Riccarton and Northlands were regarded as a priority for bus shelters over Linwood, Shirley, and New Brighton,” she said.  She said her council had been vilified for transport decisions it didn’t control and hadn’t necessarily agreed with. And yet the CCC has failed to materially improve the bus stops at places like Eastgate and Palms. Another example of hypocrisy and shallow self seeking politicking on this issue.

  • Council under fire for not backing bus plansEcan criticised CCC for failing to provide funding for sufficient infrastructure for PT after the hub-spokes reorganisation of routes in 2013. The draft Three Year Plan (TYP) released by the council includes only a small budgetary provision for public transport infrastructure over the next three years. In a hard-hitting submission on the TYP, ECan chairwoman Dame Margaret Bazley said ECan was unhappy with the level of funding from the council and believed it should be contributing about $18 million a year, for the next three years. Christchurch City Council environment and infrastructure committee chairwoman Cr Claudia Reid said “The spoke and hub transport system is unproven. It’s effectively experimental. We would prefer to see evidence it is working and really getting some traction with passengers before putting in that level of funding,” Reid said. This one is more conciliatory from the CCC and did not attack the governance model.

  • Christchurch bus stops slip between cracks of public transport battlethe JPTC took a look at Christchurch’s bus stops. It quotes the same comments from the Mayor as above regarding bus lounges in Riccarton and Northlands, which are pathetic politicking. Philip Haythornthwaite, of the Disabled Persons Assembly, said the city council needed to take responsibility for bus stops, which in some cases were an “absolute mess”. The city council should not request control of the bus service when it had not done enough to maintain its infrastructure, Haythornthwaite said. “They have had plenty of time to make these bus routes in our city famous, to make them top class. There have been difficulties post-earthquake, but the city council knows full well where every bus goes.

  •  Editorial: Time for leadership over failing Canterbury bus servicesa Press editorial.  The suggestion of forming a new committee – comprising ECan, the city council and the Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils – to sort out this shambles and determine future responsibilities is unlikely to be an efficient way to resolve differences over bus routes and infrastructure. To get  proper traction on public transport a single agency with responsibility for public transport across Christchurch and surrounding districts is needed.

We can see from these articles that the most dominant theme in Press reporting over the past seven years on local PT governance, has been the campaign by CCC politicians to take over the operation of the city’s PT network. There is a little bit of reporting on concerns from the Ecan commissioners, and one editorial from the Press which suggests a unitary transport authority is a likely outcome. The clearest theme that can be seen throughout is that the takeover campaign has very much been a personal ambition of Dalziel and her supporters, such as Vicki Buck. This assumption was far less prominent or absent under the leadership of Bob Parker, even if he supported sacking the elected regional council by the National government.

The latest of course is the joint letter – and that letter again reiterates that the solution is a CCC takeover.

My next post will look in more detail into the options for a unitary transport authority, or whether Ecan should be given more powers under the current model as I have already suggested.