VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future IX

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The eighth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Transport’. Again Seymour opens with another Auckland-based anecdote. One wonders if he’s ever been outside of Auckland except for flights to Wellington. His story is about sitting stuck in traffic, not moving, and realising that Auckland had a traffic problem (the focus on stories like this makes it easy to understand why ACT gets so few votes from outside of Auckland).

Auckland’s traffic woes and the effect that congestion has on economic efficiency is discussed at length. Seymour quips that “Auckland gridlock is the same phenomenon as Russians queuing for bread in the Soviet Union.” Again the obsessional Auckland focus seems strange – why devote so much space to a subject that has no relevance to 60% of the New Zealand population?

The Auckland Council needs another $12 billion, Seymour tells us. Light rail is mentioned in the context of Auckland’s pipe dream to be a world-class city, but his first proposal is for the Government to get out of the way of ride-sharing. Keeping with the ACT them of reducing regulation wherever possible, he suggests that Uber drivers shouldn’t have to get licenced as if they were taxis before they begin operating.

Seymour’s best point here is not so much about Auckland transport but about the fact that Baby Boomer Members of Parliament are not qualified or even suited to understand new technology, such as Uber. Most of them get ferried around by a Parliamentary limousine service, and ride-sharing technology is simply something from another world. ACT’s proposal to streamline the approval of ride-sharing applications seems like a good one here.

Hilariously, Seymour complains about a “prejudice against market forces” in New Zealand, as if we weren’t already such die-hard fans of neoliberalism that we raise the refugee quota in the midst of our worst ever housing crisis, one that has working families living in cars. This is written in the context of the Government getting out of the way of people trying to use ride-sharing services.

Another solution to congestion is electronic tolls in areas that are known to be congested. Seymour doesn’t debate the obvious criticism that such tolls are effectively another tax on road users, preferring to use the example of Singapore. It seems very odd that the supposed proponent of small government wants a system where every road user is tracked by GPS and charged a fee for going into a government-designated congestion zone.

True to his neoliberal roots, Seymour completely omits any mention of how the recent flood of immigrants might have led to increased congestion in Auckland. The New Zealand population increased from 4.2 million to 4.8 million during the term of the Fifth National Government, and most of those moved to Auckland, but Seymour will not mention this because mass immigration serves not only the major money interests to which he is beholden but also pumped up the house prices of his Epsom electorate.


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