Maggie Barry: continuing the Melissa Lee legacy…

National likes to take female broadcasters and turn them into fresh-faced MPs that don’t look like Bill English. First Melissa Lee, now Maggie Barry. The two share a similar career progression, and now they seem to share a penchant for ill-informed outbursts about transport projects they know nothing about. Everybody remembers Ms Lee’s infamous “the Waterview Motorway will keep South Auckland criminals out of Mt Albert” line back in 2009. Now, after less than a week on the job, Ms Barry has put out some astounding lines of her own that smack of parochialism and populism in equal measure.

The first Maggie-ism refers to the priority given to the CBD rail link over a second harbour crossing in Auckland Council’s Spatial Plan:

“There will be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing over our dead bodies”.

Brilliant. Obviously no actual understanding of what each project means and who they benefit, but heck, one benefits the Shore, the other doesn’t, so that’s what the people of the Shore want to hear. Maggie is clearly a subscriber to the theory that the CBD rail link will only benefit the CBD when in fact it does benefit the North Shore in two ways – firstly, it allows fuller utilisation of existing rail infrastructure which will ease CBD bus congestion (tipped to triple without the CBD rail link), improving the standard of bus services to and from the Auckland CBD; and secondly, it allows for an eventual North Shore rail connection to be made. A second road crossing of the Waitemata on the other hand would amount to doubling the road space between two choke points, and is increasingly less needed as the Northern Busway takes an increasing proportion of people into town each morning – 40% at last count, allowing more people to cross the bridge while simultaneously reducing traffic volumes by 8,000 cars at peak since 2008.

The second Maggie-ism is even better, this time about the proposed Puhoi-to-Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway’…

“I refuse to use the H-word. It will be an umbilical cord for the far north and its economy. It is an arrogance for the critics to take money already set aside for this purpose and use it for something else”

Deary me. “It will be an umbilical cord for the far north and its economy”. Somebody show her a map. The proposed route is about 40km long between Puhoi and Wellsford – both towns that are within the Auckland Region. The proposed road doesn’t even touch the Northland Region, far less the Far North District. Wellsford is about halfway between Auckland and Whangarei. The Far North is another couple of hundred kays beyond Whangarei. If Maggie truly believes that Omaha and Mangawhai are in the far north, then perhaps the Holiday Highway label is justified. While I accept that the proposed road will take ten minutes off the journey from Whangarei to Auckland, it’ll hardly revolutionise the Northland economy, and it certainly doesn’t justify $1.7 billion on an entirely new road when $300 million of improvements to the existing road will fix 90% of its problems.

I think it’s incredibly audacious for Maggie to call critics of Steven Joyce “arrogant”. We live in a democracy. We have every right to question whether we’re getting good value for our petrol taxes. Most sensible people agree that spending $1.7 billion on a $300 million project is a waste of money. It’s not arrogant to demand that the government spends our money responsibly – it’s a democratic right.

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About Liam W

Urbanist, transport nerd, general curmudgeon.

Posted on November 30, 2011, in New Zealand Politics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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