Gerry Brownlee, Making Stuff Up Again!
Gerry Brownlee has struggled to defend his $12 billion Roads of National Significance (RONS) when questioned by the Green Party's transport spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter. Time and time again Brownlee has been reduced to bluff and bluster when Julie Anne has demanded evidence and the economic rationale behind the motorway projects.
There was the memorable occasion when Julie Anne demanded that Gerry produce his evidence to support the RONS, when all data available from the NZTA show that traffic volumes are stagnant. Gerry was not able to produce any evidence other than that roads were important and people wanted them. When Julie Anne used a point of order to force him to properly address the question, Lockwood Smith (Speaker at the time) intervened to explain that the Minister was saying that the motorways were being built because HE thought they were a good idea.
On another occasion Julie Anne suggested that the $12 billion budgeted for motorway construction placed New Zealand in a similar position as Greece, where spending on motorway construction had contributed to its economic collapse. In response Gerry claimed it was actually big spending on rail that had caused the problem. This was widely reported by the media when it was actually a lie as Greece had spent little on rail but billions on a new motorway system.
Today revealed more deliberate misinformation from Gerry as he was recorded on National Radio claiming that the Greens were demanding strong cost/benefit ratios for motorways when the Auckland rail loop only provided a .8 return on investment. This figure is a total fabrication. The 2011 analysis of the project (p 13) produced a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 1.0 to 1.1 when related to immediate transport benefits and when wider economic benefits (WEBs) were taken into account the ratio increased to as much as 2.3. Given the increasing demand for public transport in Auckland this ratio is likely to be even better now. Gerry lied!
Brownlee never appears to be well informed and uses attack as a means of defense. His outburst against Labour MPs involved a later apology and backdown, but in most cases the media just accept and report what he says and rarely check the truth behind his statements.
I find it appalling that this country is comfortable with a government that bases its decisions and major spending on personal opinions and skewed data and that we have a media that is prepared to accept lies as fact.
Postscript: It is interesting to listen to today's exchange, where Brownlee claims that the Government does not rely on the 'bureaucratic' advice of the NZTA but base decisions on their own strategic analysis.
The Green Party's recently announced policy will have a far bigger impact on local communities and will provide a far greater BCR than the motorways.