Miss Sustainability

Here’s a few extracts from the Prime Minister’s speech to the German Council for Sustainable Development yesterday:

…New Zealand enjoys a priceless reputation as a nation with a pristine environment, which is clean and green, nuclear free, and, as our tourism promotions proclaim, one hundred per cent pure.

…These considerations, along with great concern about the impact of climate change on our planet, were very much on the mind of my government when we moved to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2002.

…Perhaps at that time, we were a little ahead of public opinion in New Zealand, where there was still a tendency by many to focus on the costs of becoming more sustainable, rather than on the opportunities and on the importance of being part of the solution to a global problem.

…The strength of the scientific consensus about the damage we human beings collectively are doing to our planet can no longer be ignored.

…This concern now ranges from how to prevent the loss of precious biodiversity to how to prevent catastrophic economic impacts as well.

…That is why I have issued a challenge to New Zealand – that we could become the world’s first truly sustainable nation, and that we could even aspire to be a carbon neutral nation.

…The following year we passed new land transport legislation with its central purpose being to achieve “an integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable land transport system.”

…There was also a fund established for projects to reduce emissions, available to incentivise electricity generation from sources like wind, or methane from rubbish dumps, which would otherwise have been uneconomic.

12 Comments Posted

  1. Careful Kevyn. Don’t mention improving rural roading. Thats just not done. You might improve the NZ economy!!
    Ten years or so ago a report was done on the benefits of a big upgrade to a mud track (council call it a road) near me. Done by a UK academic on an exchange so he didn’t know the rules.
    The payback period was just over three years from increased economic activity. The council said ‘yeah right’ and circular filed it.
    The ‘increased economic activity’ was converting beef farms to dairy farms so sometimes gormlessness has a positive outcome.

  2. Unlike the press release criticising Labour’s infrastructure bond’s. There is nothing wrong with making the people who will actually use the new roads pay for them. That’s how we payed for our railways, power stations and water and sewage systems until the 1970s.

    What’s really wrong with Labour’s road building is that its only happening in Labour’s traditional urban strongholds, whereas the LTSA and treasury have both urged greater spending on rural roads. The LTSA because this is where the greatest amount of human tragedy occurs, Treasury because this is where poor quality roads are actually stunting economic productivity. Labour never admits that three-quarters of the cost of congestion in Auckland is simply the value of the time commuters spend away from friends and family. That’s not a financial cost, it’s a social cost. One that Aucklander’s seem happy to pay. It’s certainly not a cost on the national economy although the other one-quarter of the congestion cost is because it has a financial impact on businesses.

    The statement “It is well known among international transport planners that building more roads encourages people to drive further and reduces the incentive to take public transport or live closer to work.” is slightly misleading. The best available research has quantified the relationship between more roads and more travel as being less than one-third.

    Less than one-third of the extra traffic that appears on new roads is due solely to the presence of the new road. The other two-thirds is due to land use changes and other policies that encourage sprawl development.

    For instance during 1950s and 1960s US federal housing policy providing mortgage assistance for new home buyers but not for buyers of existing homes. Consequently the demand for new subdivisions created traffic growth that demanded urban freeways be built. If it had been federal policy to preserve farmland as farmland instead of encouraging it’s rezoning as residential or commercial/industrial the freeways would not have been needed as traffic growth would only one-third of what was actually experienced. New Zealand made many of the same mistakes in pursuit of the quarter acre paradise and an industrial economy.

    Recent British studies of new road projects has found a similar problem. Local authorities push for new roads to attract new businesses and hence new jobs. What they actually get is existing businesses relocating to greenfield sites remote from public transport. This can double traffic over a significant part of the local road network defeating the original purpose of the bypass and stripping the heart out of town centres in the process. The only new economic activity is the construction of the business parks. Once that is done nobody is any better off.

    The evidence used to arrive at this one-third contribution to induced traffic growth comes from studies of road eliminations or reductions and from studies that have compared road building and land use changes with traffic growth on different portions of the road network in many cities over many decades. The rapid doubling in traffic definitely happens, but only on and close to the improved or new road. When the amount of land use change in the vicinity of the new road is compared with similar land use changes where no new roads were built it is typically found that traffic increases by more than 50% on the existing roads. Thus it resonable to assume that less than half the induced traffic is the result of new roads.

    It is also worth noting that the freeway/subdivision boom of the 50s and 60s actually did move middle class workers further away from the CBD where most of them worked, thus increasing average commute distances. Since the 1970s there has been a trend for businesses to relocate or establish in clusters on the outskirts of the suburbs, thereby stabilising commute distances. However the proportion of the population in employment has increased dramatically in recent decades compounding the problems caused by the subdivision/freeway binge. The mass retirement of baby boomers in the coming decades could reverse these traffic trends, in fact there is already evidence of shift back to downtown condo’s amongst both the baby boomers and the DINKs.

    Jeanette is right that less congested roads reduce the incentive to take public transport. The very nature of public transport makes it slower than anything other than badly congested roads. That really is a problem inherent in PT rather than being caused by roads. Segregating local services and expess services is the simplest solution to this time problem for commuter services. Peak commuter services really need to be suburb to CBD, not suburb to suburb to suburb to CBD. Despite it’s huge investment in light rail Portland’s most popular PT services are the peak period express buses which use the freeways to travel from suburbs to CBD. By eliminating unwanted stops these buses can travel faster on congested freeway than the light rail can on it’s exclusive roights of way. Find out what existing and potential PT users want, work out how to deliver it at the lowest acceptable operating cost, building in a realistic margin for delays so your passengers arrive early or on time instead of on time or late and you will draw commuters away from their cars.

    Congestion researchers have found there is one thing drivers hate more than congestion. It’s unpredictable congestion. It’s a fair bet the same is true for PT commuters. Which makes realistic, regularly achieveable schedules at least as important as faster journeys. Especially if the shorter journey is only shorter on the timetable and not on the road.

  3. Hi Kevin, that’s an interesting question – whether the greens think climate change is the worst thing – I’d have thought that we would recognise that peak everything, excessive consumption, resource wars, overfishing, poverty, etc will be devestating too and that everything is inter-connected.

    So I have to ask: which of frogs links do you take to be evidence of the greens still thinking climate change will get us first?

  4. Sorry I misinterpreted your post frog, I see by the next post your engagement to the Maori party is still on!

    Yes the first paragraph is inflamatory but at least the big spenders in gov can still dine out on this BS while it lasts.

    I was mainly thinking of the humans buggering up the planet paragraph – I see by your link the greens still think climate change will get us first whereas it is really a minor player in how much harm humans have done and certainly won’t be our downfall.

  5. Thats quite right Nick, it is simply another sign of the arrogance of Clark and shows a lack of respect for our Queen

  6. Well frog you should probably remember that you aren’t always preaching to the converted.

    I suppose a link to “the opportunities’ would’ve been good, but maybe thats for another post.

  7. Its just Helen Clark saying saying the usual vague political rhetoric, whats to debunk? If anything I think the Greens would be a little critical of the first paragraph, as NZ really doesnt have a prisitine environment, nor is it 100% pure.

Comments are closed.