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Rugby World Cup Opening—Overcrowding and Transport Issues

Tuesday 13 September 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Goff2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Which Minister, if any, has responsibility for issues related to overcrowding in downtown Auckland and transport issues at last Friday’s Rugby World Cup opening?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) Link to this

Can I start by saying the Rugby World Cup got under way on Friday night with a spectacular opening ceremony, which I enjoyed at the game alongside the Leader of the Opposition—[ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I am on my feet. I am sure many people may feel exactly that, but the question asked which Minister, if any, has responsibility for certain issues, and the question should be answered.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I was getting there, Mr Speaker. Let me say this, then. There were problems with both the public transport network and the sheer volume of people who wished to be at the waterfront. On that basis, the Ministers who have responsibility for working with the Auckland authorities to ensure we do not see a repeat of those issues are the Minister for the Rugby World Cup and the Minister of Transport.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

As the Prime Minister, as he has just indicated, is very keen for the Government to claim credit for any success of the Rugby World Cup, why is it that the Minister in charge of the Rugby World Cup will turn up for photo opportunities but refused to front when it came to being held to account for the bad failures that occurred with transport and the dangerous situation on the waterfront?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Far from that, the Minister for the Rugby World Cup was down at the waterfront late on Friday night, and he fronted on The Nation on Saturday morning. We are in what is called question time and I do not see one single question from the Opposition to the Minister for the Rugby World Cup.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

The Prime Minister was the one claiming the credit—

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

—so he is being held responsible.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The Leader of the Opposition knows he cannot do that, and there was too much noise from the Government front bench, as well. It will settle down.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When the Minister for the Rugby World Cup promised on TV3 on 2 June, in relation to the transport arrangements in Auckland, that “we intend to make sure that we are ahead of the game”, what steps did he actually take to ensure that would be the case?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Literally hundreds of meetings have taken place in the course of the last 2 or 3 years. The delivery agent for transport services in Auckland is Auckland Transport, and that is the council in Auckland, in just the same way that Wellington Regional Council is responsible for the games that took place here in the weekend. What did happen on Friday night in Auckland was that it was a spectacular success. There were more people than anticipated on the network, and that did cause some problems, for which we have some regret.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Although there were obviously dozens of meetings—and I think 43 photographs, or something like that, at railway stations—what did he actually do to carry out his word that the Government would be ahead of its game in ensuring that those transport arrangements would work when he had been warned that they would not?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

For a start off, I think it is important to understand that the responsibility for them working is with Auckland Transport. They are ultimately the people who are responsible for that. A huge amount of energy and effort went in there by the authority in Auckland, but, clearly, it was not enough for the massive number of people who turned up on Friday night.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When Steven Joyce gave an assurance 20 months ago that the transport system would be OK when he had just received a report saying that this event is something we have never coped with before and there are real problems with it, and when he again, 3 months ago, said he was confident that contingency plans were in place to make sure it would work, what responsibility does he bear for the failure of that transport system?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

For a start off, if the member is referring to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority report from about 20 months ago, every single one of those recommendations, I understand, has been implemented. So the first thing is that he certainly takes responsibility for ensuring that that work was carried out, and it was carried out. In terms of the network, the network actually worked on Friday night in terms of the fact that there were no mechanical failures. What did happen was that there was a huge number of people on that network, far more than was expected, and there were some people who took action that actually stopped that network. But mechanically it worked.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When he as Prime Minister announced, launched, and, for 18 months, promoted Queen’s Wharf as party central, what consideration did he give to the ability of that venue and of the transport network to be able to cope with the 150,000 to 200,000 people he might have expected to come to it, and what responsibility does he therefore take?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 200,000 people would go to party central, nor did they. Interestingly enough, one good example of where the Government was the agent responsible for administration is party central, where it had joint responsibility. That worked absolutely perfectly in terms of the 12,000 people.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Why was it never in the Prime Minister’s wildest dreams that he could expect numbers like that when we had, first of all, the hype and excitement around the opening of the Rugby World Cup; secondly, a spectacular fireworks display; and, thirdly, a concert planned for the wharf when those sorts of things have attracted several hundred thousand people to the Domain at Christmas time; and why did he not have any foresight in that matter, and does he therefore accept any responsibility for the overloading of the transport network and the chaos that ensued downtown?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Because if 200,000 people were put on Queen’s Wharf, it would sink.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Is the Prime Minister saying that he washes his hands of any responsibility despite the fact that he promoted an event, consistently and repeatedly, that easily could have been expected to attract those sorts of numbers to the downtown area; and why does he not take responsibility instead of pointing the finger at everyone else?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Interestingly enough, I have not been the one pointing the finger. Actually, when the Leader of the Opposition was on the radio on Monday, trying to be cool with Radio Wammo, he also said that he was not interested in pointing the finger of responsibility—but that was with Wammo. Back here in reality, what actually happened was that where there was joint responsibility for administration at Queen’s Wharf, it worked absolutely perfectly; there were 12,000 people. The agent for other areas was the Auckland Council.