Pissing away the transport funding

Local government doesn’t always attract the intellectual superstars – although there are always exceptions, of course – but a group of councillors at the Wellington City Council bellied up to the bar and effortlessly downed a whole bucket of stupid last week, pretty much proving that raw intelligence is not a prerequisite to being elected.

We’re talking, of course, about the Gang of Nine who are trying to back the Wellington council into a corner over funding for local motorways. This came about because the Empire (in the form of the NZ Transport Agency) demanded obeisance from the council and required that they resolve to support the roading plans before the designs have even been released.

You’d think that any councillor with an actual spine would have told the Transport Agency to get on their bikes (or back in their stretched-limo BMWs) and clear off. Apparently that didn’t even occur to this group of “rebel” numpties. But hey, we’re the Economic Illiteracy Support Group, not the Spineless Dickhead Preservation Society, so our interest was only piqued when we looked at what they were apparently supporting.

Yes folks, it’s that giant cup of cold economic sick called the Roads of National Significance, Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s gift to the country. It’s the largest, stupidest and least cost-effective capital project the country has seen since Rob Muldoon stopped Thinking Big, a $10.7 billion hole in the country’s pocketbook.

And the Gang of Numpties are trying to get $2.4 billion allocated to the Wellington region when it’s a money-losing dog from end-to-end. It’s a spectacularly bad investment, wasting money at a rate that would make the directors of South Canterbury Finance look like superior economic managers.

Take just one roading component – the bit between the Basin Reserve and Wellington airport, which apparently requires a tunnel and widened roads. Even using the fully Bernie Madoff-compliant cost/benefit approach of the NZ Transport Agency, this particular piece of wisdom has a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.4. So for every dollar “invested” in this scheme, there’s just 40 cents of payback. You’d think that even a city councillor would be bright enough to figure out that this is a lousy deal, but apparently not.

Looked at as a whole, the entire Levin to the Airport saga pisses away something like a billion dollars in economic value, and that’s only if you believe the fairy-tale benefits from the Transport Agency and ignore any cost blowouts. It’s likely to be much worse in the real world, if this white elephant is ever built.

So we can only hope that this soap opera of economic incompetence being played out at the Wellington council has some kind of political motivation, because it would be truly depressing to discover these councillors were genuinely so stupid they thought that hosing a billion dollars of taxpayer money against the wall was a smart move. And seriously, what were Wellington voters thinking when they ticked the ballot paper for this collection of intellectual pygmies?

However never one to duck any challenge, the Economic Illiteracy Support Group is intervening and we’ll be sending support packs to some of the Gang of Numpties this week. Stay tuned for the media release.

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