TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT TO TODAY

Auckland Anniversary is nearly upon us. This means many Aucklanders will jump in their cars or take flight through our airport to escape the city looking for the summer that is yet to arrive. If we choose to take a road trip we expect congestion, just us we expect the sun to rise in the east, but we are also now expectant of being delayed at our airport. Great!

A quick geography lesson from an engineer. Auckland is located on an isthmus and as a result we can travel north or south if we plan to really escape the greater Auckland area. This means no matter how well our roads are designed at peak times of the year they will be busy as the city’s population grows, mainly because the roads are not designed for the public holiday peaks which will occur this coming weekend. They are designed for Monday to Friday commuter traffic, which makes sense.

As a former Auckland Airport employee let me also explain, that the airport is very similar in as much that it is an infrastructure asset that is designed for an Optimum Level of Service (LoS) criteria. The LoS is based on two key criteria – Space per Passenger and Maximum Waiting Time.

“Auckland Airport gridlock: ‘like third world country’.” Stuff Media reported in the lead up to Christmas. Pre and Post-Christmas congestion in and around Auckland Airport’s road network, and its congestion within the terminals became the newest Auckland growing pain for media to shout about.

The hits kept coming for Auckland Airport with the NZ Herald reporting on 6 January that they had come last on a list of Australasian airports with regards to On Time Performance (OTP), which is a key criteria and benchmark used by the airlines to measure their efficiencies when operating at an airport. Auckland sat at 78.74% while the (reasonably) newly reconfigured Christchurch Airport sat fifth in the table at an impressive 82%. The integrated domestic/international terminal at Christchurch helps their OTP. Auckland Airport’s masterplan shows ultimately an integrated terminal.

Following this Brian Gaynor wrote an article in the Herald on 21 January entitled “Why the chaos at Auckland Airport” in which he started to link shareholder impact to the congestion and lack of planning. This link will not be welcomed by either the Board or the Exec team.

Auckland’s road system and now its airport are struggling due to a lack of planning and under-investment. The NZ government forecasts Auckland’s population to grow from just under 1.5M in 2013 to 2.0M by 2033 and onto 2.2M by 2043. This points to our need as a city to change our thinking around what is happening to Auckland and its speed of growth. As a city we are in catch up mode with our infrastructure. You can see evidence now of investment in roads and public transport. TPG is acquiring land and rights for major projects in the Auckland region on behalf of our clients in preparation for infrastructure investment. And Auckland Airport in its defence is now spending “$1M a day” on expanding its key assets.

We need to not only build what we should have before, but plan for the 2.2M forecast in 2043. We cannot afford to take our eye of the ball, as we might be able to fix yesterday’s problems but in turn fail to plan for tomorrows. Auckland’s construction industry is booming and if we plan properly and design and build to allow for the estimated growth we should see further buoyancy across the Auckland economy for a while yet.

At TPG we are directly involved in this front end planning and preparation and are heartened that our clients are definitely looking towards the future.

So if you are stuck in traffic or delayed at the airport this weekend, be reassured that resolutions are underway, but let’s not be complacent - this planning has to be ongoing, tomorrow’s requirements will be different from today’s – we need to continually plan for it.