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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

(NCEA) History and the Declaration of Independence

1.1 Introduction

I'm a history student. In fact, I'm practically a history graduate. Just a BA but a formal qualification nonetheless. Even by the standards of unpopular English teachers, that's more than enough a starting point to talk about problems or issues with the curriculum. Even if the subject I want to discuss today and I haven't really done any of that since year thirteen (not strictly speaking by design, but this is the case). I speak of NZ History.

1.2 Context

As many people will know from school (hopefully from social studies when they studied the Treaty of Waitangi in year ten) New Zealand wasn't really a country until 1835. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, because countries are a construction of the early modern and modern eras... before then you can speak of polities and states but not really countries in the way we understand them. Secondly, because New Zealand wasn't a single state. I would characterise NZ's governing structure prior to 1840 as being very granular: existing on the level of what I'll lazily call the tribe. That's not a country because if we want to apply the word it's quite a few countries. Thirdly, New Zealand wasn't a country because it didn't have international recognition. Which is where I remember the Declaration of Independence coming in.

The basic idea was that you had a bunch of informal relationships going on between Europeans and Maori post-Cook. Many in the British establishment weren't happy with this so the British Resident (James Busby) was dispatched. He found/decided (a) that his supposed remit extended far beyond any capacity on his part and (b) that the French posed a serious threat as would-be colonisers (note: this was a time where the colonial game had taken a back foot and it wouldn't really start up again for another 50 years with the New Imperialism, i.e. the French probably wasn't the French govt. per se). Busby's solution to this latter issue was to get the Maori chiefs to make New Zealand a (legal) country (the third reason). Thus, the Declaration of Independence. I think this basically tracks with the version offered in the Spinoff by one Miriama Aoake:
Māori motivations to sign He Whakaputanga were, and still are, transparent. It was an alliance, a strategic investment into a working relationship with the Crown. It would affirm and enhance their mana, and ratify the covenant with King George and William IV. Should a threat from the French or the Americas arise, the Crown would pledge allegiance to the Māori cause. Māori did not need Pākehā. Pākehā needed Māori.
Notice how it says something rather different? This is the idea of multiple truths. You might have come across the layman's understanding which runs, "History is written by the victors," but that phrase usually involves an element of lies. Multiple truths, as the term suggests, doesn't. Perhaps a more reasonable lay version is "There are two sides to every story," but while this highlights the role of narrative in history it is still used too often in the context of lies/conspiracies. Multiple truths is how your reaction to the All Blacks winning in 2011 was different to mine. Even if you also didn't care about it as history the two emotional responses are different things. (This is problematic for historical research and writing, and it's why professional historians are usually PhD's.) But even though the concept is clearly real, in this case it's probably a good idea to affirm my memories with some quick research. To NZHistory.net!

The first thing to note is that either NZHistory.net has changed its name or I've been calling it something wrong in my head for a while. There are very strong reasons why I think it's the former: this is important. The second thing to notice is that there's nothing that really disagrees with either point of view. I'm not sure about Aoake's "Maori did not need Pakeha" is consistent with "the Crown would pledge allegiance" and nor am I convinced that Busby's somewhat maverick status in creating the Declaration stands up. You can also see that point (a) did matter to the Declaration: it was apparently partly part of a Busbian scheme to have British-Maori relations work the way he wanted.

The thing is, if you're thinking on that level you're probably thinking that we can easily see Busby as intending (regardless of whether he was able to) to create a formal relationship of nation-state to nation-state: that's a trivial explanation. What probably is confusing is why I talked about NZHistory.net's name. Hopefully, you're thinking putting NCEA in the title has something to do with it. You see, it's not Aoake's view of the Declaration that attracted my attention: that's a context. This stuff is all just prelude. The real issue Aoake raises is pedagogical.

2.1 Aoake's School History
I suggested that the government should consider dropping New Zealand history from the curriculum. If you have been privy to the syllabus offered by NCEA and its promulgation of mediocrity, you understand. New Zealand history is optional and at the discretion of the instructor for the course. It is not available as a topic until year 13. My teacher chose English history on our behalf. I chose to risk university entrance and dropped out of all her classes
2.2. Aoake versus NCEA

There is a serious but very common error of fact here: NCEA is not a curriculum or a syllabus... it's an assessment structure. Whether or not it promotes mediocrity is unclear. Motivation that really matters and is most rewarding is something that we should encourage: arbitrarily hitting 100% or whatever is an external motivation. With NCEA's relatively limited array of marks you have to really think about what you want. There's no wimping out and deciding that 79% is good enough: there's no room for that. And if you want some external motivation there are all those credits you can count. These points are actually more salient to Aoake's point than I think she's aware (because otherwise you wouldn't make the error). Basically, because NCEA is not a curriculum, you can't write things like "NZ History is not offered until year thirteen". There is no national prescription in NCEA and that is almost the point. Remember the plagiarism scandal?
Burnard, who is head of history at Whangaparaoa College, said memorising exemplars had become widespread since the curriculum was changed from prescribing content, such as specific historical events, to a "generic" system allowing each teacher to choose which topics to teach.
The change means that the questions in external exams for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) have also become generic.
Notice that it separates things out so it has the causal path "curriculum changed therefore NCEA changes"? (Yes I did kind of vaguely remember the line from several months ago.)

2.3 Place of New Zealand History in NCEA


In any case, Aoake is almost certainly being very misleading or very single-minded in terms of what she means by NZ History or too parochial/anecdotal. There may well be no national prescription any more but there certainly is national inertia/convention... and that's to have Tudor and Stuart England and/or New Zealand's 19th Century history as the year thirteen units. At my school we kind of did both. I say kind of because my teacher just stopped teaching part way through the unit. That sucked. I was very interested in it. But the truth is (as you saw above) basically all history standards in NZ have something like "of relevance to New Zealand" in them. That's why when I told a friend of mine I was doing Gallipoli for one standard he went, "That relevance to New Zealand, though". Other people had to contort the US Civil War or the Falklands into this paradigm. I think they passed so the prescription is flexible. Luckily it is possible to see which topics are conventionally studied and doing so makes it possible to see that surely Aoake means to say 19th Century NZ History.

2.3.1 Level One External Essay Standards Conventional Topics


Causes and Consequences

Other Essay

As you can see there is a decent mixture of different topics in here. Some of these are directly relevant to New Zealand and would be classed only as that kind of history (e.g. "Race Relations in New Zealand" or "Parihaka") whereas others are clearly NZ History and something else (e.g. "Origins of WWII" or "Battle of Paschendaele"). Some of these aren't NZ History at all... but only in the causes and consequences standard where we know there is no relevance criteria. And, damn, some of this stuff is 19th Century NZ History.

2.3.2 Level Two External Essay Standards Conventional Topics

Causes and Consequences

Other Essay

Once again we observe a myriad of subject areas. Not just in the sense of different national histories. We've got social and cultural history, classic political and military history topics and even some economic ones. And there are NZ History examples of each of these (respectively, "homosexual law reform," "establishment of Kingitanga" or "Rogernomics"). Whither Aoake's point? Or even my belief that we'd really only see 19th Century NZ History at the end (in level three's list)?

2.3.3. Level Three External Essay Standards Conventional Topics


Causes and Consequences

Trend Essay

There's not too much point in talking about this because I'll just repeat what I have already indicated but I will say four things at this point.

  • These are example lists which were only included in the original iterations of these standards. Subsequent years have not included them. This may mean these aren't exactly indicative lists, but I think we can use them to infer that NZ History is being taught at all sorts of levels. And that Aoake was too parochial in her thinking (with a little help from Hanlon's Razor).
  • As with English standards, we do see that the people who write the reports are concerned with inappropriate choice, "Some events selected were simply not significant enough to analyse and evaluate causes and consequences to the depth required for a level 3 standard." This isn't as significant a point in light of NZ History appearing in all sorts of ways at all three levels.
  • These points do raise the question of why a teacher (it's teacher Aoake, not instructor) chooses to offer one subject selection instead of another. It could well be that they're more interested. Maybe they shake things up a bit and alternate years, i.e. Aoake was simply in the wrong cohort. Maybe the teacher felt English history (presumably Tudor-Stuart England) would extend the class more (it doesn't appear until level three as a subject area). It's dishonest and more than a little mean for Aoake to reduce the teacher/school's choice of syllabus down to, "chose English history on our behalf."
  • When it comes down to it, all of these topics are optional in the sense that history is rarely in my experience a mandated subject. I can't think of anyone I've met who has been to such a school (my cousins, for reference, had to do PE in Y11 whereas we didn't).

tl;dr -- of the statements of "fact" in that quotation basically all of them were wrong and the ones that weren't were presented in dubious contexts, which still leaves the question of whether or not NZ History ought to have a place in the curriculum.

3.1 Aoake's Views on the Historical Method

History is a complicated discipline in many ways. It is plagued by several problems that don't affect many subjects and has all sorts of quirks that are relevant in other fields too. I think Aoake presents a very streamlined view of history. Which is why it's time to break out that Primo Levi quote on simplification:
This desire for simplification is justified, but the same does not always apply to simplification itself, which is a working hypothesis, useful as long as it is recognised as such and not mistaken for reality. 
I am suggesting that Aoake simplifies History far too much. She's willing to note areas that are problematic but is either unaware of or unwilling to talk about how the discipline actually engages with the issues she talks about. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have published a blog post doing that sort of thing without a disclaimer. I'm sure she should not have asked the Spinoff to publish without such a disclaimer. But anyway, the (Historical Method) According to Ginger Aoake.

3.1.1 Western Bias 
Historians themselves have been filtered through a Western paradigm of education, which disregards the oral traditions that seek to explain history from a Māori world view. 
This is basically true if you're a Western historian. Except part of this, provided you've been educated since the 1960s, is to look at oral histories. These are absolutely not something historians "disregard". They might be seen as being relatively less reliable because everyone's had their mind play tricks on them and because disentangling memory and history is an important task, but this is only relative to written texts people are sure haven't been altered. Historians who actually focus on oral histories would know a lot more about this than me, but I think I've given you the gist of the mainstream view.

Also, reliability is absolutely not the same as usefulness (just look at that NCEA report)... one major response is to ask different questions. Where the traditional military-political Big Man (or Big Woman as the case may be) top down History was really only ever interested in "what" (and we should note that while popular in popular histories, this hasn't been the academy's approach for basically 50 years so I'm getting this second hand) these days historians care about way more things. Even the what questions have changed, e.g. you might ask what people were wearing or some other incidental background thing people don't think about (although this specific example is arguably more of a problem in oral histories). Anyway, the point is that mentalities history or the history of world views is (a) now a thing and (b) is a really cool thing to boot.

3.1.2 The Limits of My Language Mean the Limits of My World
Many historians are not versed in te reo Māori, which limits their perspective and defines their bias. This has allowed for the circulation of one perspective, one agenda. 
I'm not sure what Wittgenstein actually meant when he said that. I kind of know the quote (I searched "Language is the Limit of My World") from a very simplistic introduction to philosophers ("The Young Person's Guide" or some such) and while I could read the many hits asking the question the meaning seems fairly obvious to me. Basically, if you can't articulate it, it's not really real to you... and how you articulate something is (a) both constrained by the words you know and (b) your specific language. I know this because it's sort of the point of the linguistic turn in history and we did two readings on that in History 300 last year. The example one of them used was the difference in "thing" between the French and English meaning of river, it's subtle but it's there (also, I don't remember it). Where the deconstructionists seem to go wrong of course is that even if I don't know to call a chair a chair, the chair can still (and invariably does) exist. We might think of language as a biased means of sampling from the pool of "things that are real".

Now, the simple reality is that what Aoake is saying is actually true of basically any historian. European history is littered with multi-lingual historians and in the US you apparently need three languages (or two languages and quantitative skills) in order to get a PhD in history (English and two others... unless it was one other, I forget). Even if you're an English historian you're going to have this issue. Chaucer's language and thus world is very different to ours, and the language of Beowulf may as well be Greek to me (also a lot of these cultures, polities and societies were oral ones... in other words, the Western Tradition of history basically started at oral societies, er, being looked down upon by literate ones: see, prehistory). The point is that I am sure the serious historians of New Zealand history read te reo.

To be honest, Aoake may not realise just how big this critique is. Even if an historian can't engage with the original source language they bloody better be able to engage with another's experience because that is the most simple way of saying what the discipline does, "imaginative reconstruction of past lives and experiences" (after Jonathan Scott). This isn't to say that historians are incapable of unconscious, sub-conscious or conscious bias because they very clearly are. It is to say that the Western tradition of historiography is produced in such a fashion as to signpost such things and to work to reduce it.

3.2 Aoake on the Application of the Historical Method

The last part of Aoake's piece reminds me of History 300. It basically seems to be a bunch of things that are now ingrained being treated as though they aren't and need establishing. This is quite likely true for many people. Aoake isn't wrong that certain views were established, and I think it's true they were put about... but I think mostly in the course of idea like "fatal impact" or as aspects of contemporary political matters not historiography. My impression of NZ is that we basically ignore anything between 1840 and 1915. That speaks to repetition of received notions more than any particular education programmes. But I am willing to believe they existed. All I know is that the "official" line has changed. I know because Aoake's view is much more similar to what I got at school. Looking at Aoake's profile picture attached to the article, she probably did too (although her Twitter feed is full of American Football so maybe she's not as exclusively embedded as I am in contemporary NZ society). But I think the biggest reason for my thinking Aoake is preaching to the choir is that I see the usual narrative of NZ's colonial past as having taken on a very simplistic pattern: British = bad. Man that sounds bad.

Look, I'm not saying that the colonial proceedings of New Zealand were something to look up to... none were. I'm saying things like how at some point we started treating the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi as the right one represent a broader trend. The reality is that there is no right version. The whole point of a treaty is that there is only one version which is agreed to by all parties. The Treaty of Waitangi isn't recognised as a proper treaty because of the substantial divergence. That doesn't mean it's not useful now or isn't the foundational document of the contemporary state because both are clearly true. What it is an example of is that we tend to look for goodies and baddies in history, and rather than seeing te Tiriti for what it was... a hastily constituted and barely discussed agreement... we presume a sinister (or, at least, cynical) ambition lay behind it. Why this has happened is unclear. It's probably because people are lazy. You get them to learn that the Waikato was invaded and suddenly everything else has to be read the worst way. That's not historiography. That's politics. Or maybe psychology. Not historiography.

Aoake doesn't really set up goodies and baddies in this sense. To the extent she does, it's talking about specific negative policies. Obviously, I think she's writing a general piece from the position that the good fight still needs fighting. As alluded to, I think the good fight has been won. Maybe because I remember our year ten Treaty of Waitangi module reasonably well, Maybe because we did actually do NZ History in Year Thirteen. Hell, it might even be because I think the Declaration of Independence is self-evidently important. I know I am very much in that camp that NZHistory.net* describes thusly, "Some historians suggest that the Declaration was only taken seriously by the British in 1840, when it proved to be an impediment to the annexation of New Zealand." Well, okay, I'd write, "The Declaration made it necessary to have a treaty," but I think that's the same point. And I might believe in that latter formulation because I've always found my year ten content knowledge sufficient (which reminds us of Primo Levi) and not dug deeper. Perhaps all I'm really saying is that part of my problem with the article is that I'm not the target audience.

4.1 Conclusion

I really do think that it's firmly established that there was a struggle for sovereignty in NZ. That Maori exercised agency. That this "struggle" involved invasions. That confiscations of land happened in ways they shouldn't have.** And critically that it's long since been time to look at Peter Read's little truths of NZ's colonial past, e.g. whether or not both kupapa and Queenite are inappropriate terms for the "friendly Maoris" (which brings us back to Wittgenstein). That I have read "Clio or Janus?" might be the problem, though. Maybe I know too much to have the same contextual view as Aoake without knowing enough to fake having that by being truly aware of all the issues, especially the state of the oft derided popular histories. Or maybe I just know the wrong things and/or don't have an open enough mind. But I don't think whatever quibbles we have about Aoake's purpose and accuracy excuse her handling of History as a discipline or situating of the subject within a specifically NZ history starved college system. The reality is that history is a neglected child, both in syllabuses and in Aoake's piece.


*I forgot to use anecdotes to explain why NZ history is clearly part of history before year thirteen... every year we always used NZHistory.net a lot when doing our research internal. So great was our use of it, I am convinced it used to be NZHistory.net. Also, when I typed that in I was directed immediately, a la Greater Auckland and transportblog.co.nz.

**Confiscation didn't restrict itself to the Maori groups "Crown" (i.e. colonial govt.) armies were fighting... they sometimes happened to allies or neutral parties (and by sometimes I mean some of the time, I have no idea how frequently this was but I'd back higher rates... the government was cash starved and funded itself through land sales). However, where I seem to diverge from a lot of commentary is that I think confiscating land from enemies is something I think victorious armies are allowed/expected to do.*** Look at the Napoleonic Wars or the 1871 Franco-Prussian War or WWI... they might not use confiscation, but that's what is going on. What my younger self never grasped was that these confiscations were Treaty of Versailles like, i.e. too harsh, unjust, unfair (whether or not I still think Versailles should have been so problematic is complicated, but this was the analogy to convince my pre-year thirteen self). 

***Also, I went from Chess to Age of... to Total War games... there's an article out there on the internet somewhere that I nearly read once that makes the case that the way to do best on these kinds of games is to be unfeeling, cold and socio/psychopathic in play-style. All I know is that territorial exchange is the whole point (or in the case of chess a major abstraction of what is going on).

Monday, 30 October 2017

Housing & Transport : Auckland Under the New Government

In the run up to the election there was, for a time, no party that I considered voting for. Sure, Mana and Maori might have had policies I liked when I heard them but for whatever reason I never seriously investigated them. This was probably because this was months before the election. And when James Shaw apologised for the Greens' immoral and economically unsound immigration announcement electoral inertia took over (I voted Greens in 2014 too; since I live in a safe seat my electorate vote is irrelevant... I chose in the booth and don't recall for whom). I have a longer post on this theme that I'd like to finish one day, but I'll will tell you now that the Labour government has done basically what I expected it to and also what I hoped it would. (Aside: I intended this to be a brief thought... I failed in that ambition.)

What I Expected : Housing

Obviously I have a lot of different expectations about Labour. For instance, I am firmly in the camp that says Labour's way of engaging with immigration (and house prices) is racist, but even if it wasn't its approach is just wrong. economically and morally. However, what exactly this government is going to do with immigration is currently unclear. Rather, my brief expected thought deals with housing. Remember this?
The problem is that building houses always requires a where. For Labour, that's beyond the current urban limits of Auckland. [...] We should emulate that and build out on pain of death... because that's ultimately what sprawling means.
It seems that this is basically the avenue Ardern, Peters and co. are going to take. More specifically they appear to be putting about the idea that Paerata/Wesley College is the place to do it. I don't know if you've ever been there. Aside from where the houses already are it's fields and fields and fields being put to use. Which is true of basically everywhere either side of the road (whether you take the Great South Rd. or the motorway) when you travel from Drury to Pukekohe.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford told the Herald today he is very interested in work being done by Infrastructure New Zealand for a satellite city centred round the small settlement of Paerata, just north of Pukekohe.
Infrastructure New Zealand are one of those groups that equates infrastructure with roads solely. And while Paerata is one of the many very rural areas that you pass through on the Pukekohe shuttle (comfiest seats in Auckland's land-based transit, but also smelliest and noisiest ride given it uses what I have always referred to as the really old diesels) using a rail line to justify more sprawl is not the thing at all. Old School Labour gets this, even if Phil "Chinese Sounding Names" Twyford doesn't. Hence Phil Goff's comments:
He said there were already substantial plans for 23,000 new homes in the future urban zone from Paerata through to Drury, but was wary of building outside the urban limits and was keen to protect sensitive environmental areas, like the elite vegetable growing soils at Pukekohe.
"It's about what works best for the city, what is affordable, doesn't put extra pressure on your infrastructure and what areas you prioritise," Goff said.
And, yes, people are talking about how this land is undeveloped when I think the better way of framing it is, "Not Being Used for Housing already." Now, some of this land is already in line to be developed by Wesley College and at least part of that land is farmland right now too, but that isn't an excuse to go all in. We need agricultural land, especially those bits of it that are particularly fertile. We don't need to create another place to commute from, we don't need the environmental impacts and we don't need this kind of development. Even if they do as right as possible, there's no way that this land (which is well over 30 minutes by car from the CBD by the way; Wesley College is apparently more than 30min from Manukau) is better used for housing people than onions. The people can live in Takanini if you build those Addison properties differently. They can live in Ormiston if you build flats. They can live in the existing urban boundary built flats, if you redevelop with density in mind or if you take places like I've just mentioned and help the developers do different stuff. That's what should be happening. The onions, eventually, will have to be imported. And, guess what, people want to live in other countries too.

So, if Twyford and his masters keep pushing this nonsense or, even, if they keep encouraging Infrastructure New Zealand and its ilk, we will end up in a bad place. We need much more radical change than simply sprawling, except this time by train.

What I Hoped For : Transport

What I hoped for is something that's being much more done than the above. That was really a discussion of an affirmation of expectations more than an "analysis" of a proposed policy. Indeed, it's probably fair to say that I am over-selling what is actually going on: for the most part it is just talk about massively ramping up something locals have known about for years. Labour's announcements of the LRT Mangere-Airport line and the subsequent confirmation of the Northwest LRT line? They're real... even if they are also kind of talk.

You might think it strange that I was only hoping the government would go ahead with these projects given that both Labour and the Greens have essentially just lifted Greater Auckland's congestion free network ideas wholesale from their website. That's two out of the three government parties. The problem was Winston. As far as I know, Winston Peters was pro-heavy rail. That would have sucked for anyone looking forward to improved frequencies once the CRL is finished. Why? Because the CRL just increases capacity, it doesn't give unlimited capacity. Thus, to run trains to the Airport would necessarily reduce frequencies to the other terminal stations. Uncool. And there would be terrible frequencies for anyone using the Onehunga-Airport proposal (c.f. a spur) because Onehunga is currently allocated terrible frequencies post-CRL. Also, uncool.

There were other reasons to be worried about Winston's involvement. I mean, you've noticed how I talk about the Mangere-Airport line, right? The reason for that is the LRT option provides tens of thousands of people access to rapid transit. At the moment, South West Auckland has the worst public transport service of anywhere in urban Auckland. It's also a fairly poor area.* None of the heavy rail options for going to the Airport are as good at doing this. Spurs or doglegs from the main trunk completely miss South West Auckland or involve demolishing a bunch of houses they should be serving. The Onehunga variant has fewer stations, worse catchments and, as mentioned, can't provide a decent level of service. And having a separate LRT network means you'll introduce more robustness to the system through their independence. Basically, if you live in Onehunga, say, you can catch the LRT if the Onehunga Line is down and vice versa. And this applies for everyone too, just not as directly (usually). Which is a lot of words to explain that Winston Peters' influence was a scary proposition.

(It's also worth noting that substituting road obsessives with train obsessives isn't quite what is needed. I would argue that latter are always better to have, but they can still cause stations to be built in the wrong place, the wrong projects to get funding and the wrong mode to be prioritised. Life and cities and transport are systems: that means every part matters every time. There was a concern that Winston Peters might be a train fan. I am too, when it comes to it, but I'm not a decision maker. Also, train obsessives are sometimes confused with train spotters. Crudely put the difference is that while train spotters may or may not be obsessed with trains we're talking about stubborn advocates of train investment here, not "people who know things about locomotives".)

Anyway, the point is, good news, they're going ahead with both projects. (The Northwest one was up in the air a bit more because it hasn't captured the imagination rather than concerns about Winston. I reflect this reality by relegating further discussion of it to a parenthetical remark.) In fact, they've announced they're doing more. They're going to use buses to link the Southern/Eastern line with the Airport at Puhinui... a crucial first step in the Light Rail L. They're cancelling the current version of the East-West Link. They're funding the third main. And because they're electrifying from Pukekohe to Papakura that makes a trifecta of things I didn't know about until I read the above article:
He said the Government was proceeding with several public transport projects in South Auckland, including a third rail line from Otahuhu to Wiri, electrifying rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and providing rapid buses from Puhinui to the airport.
All of these moves are really good ones to make and they reflect the kind of radical rethink that we need in Auckland. These decisions stand in stark contrast to the pro-sprawl thinking evident in Twyford's response to Infrastructure New Zealand's fevered dreams. One might wonder if this is because Twyford ultimately sees the housing problem as one of house prices and of demand. That would make sense. But I should point out that Labour is doing some sensible stuff when it comes to housing, even if I ultimately don't think this troubles a "Twyford is a problematic housing minister narrative". Make up your own mind (use their link to help in doing so): it's not relevant today. Rather, let's have some brief thoughts on all these policies so I can at least pretend to have some analysis.

Mangere-Airport Line

It's a little known fact that my grandfather worked on the Auckland Harbour bridge when they built it. I asked him one day if he remembered Auckland's tram network. I can't remember what he said. (I think he may have arrived just as they were ripping them out.) I mention this because The Mangere Airport Line (MAL) is an extension of the earlier Dominion Road proposal. Those big isthmus roads, it turns out, were what Urban Geographers call tram suburbs and had once been catered to by trams. Even now, Auckland is nowhere near the per capita ridership of the tram days (i.e. before we went nutso with motorways). The point is, that part of the line makes a lot sense: it's a traditional distance.

The thing is the MAL won't be a tram network: it's going to be light rail. To be quite honest, I'm not sure what the difference is between light and heavy rail: the units look very similar. The idea I have in my head is that light rail can (a) run in the road and (b) hack steeper gradients. That former character causes a lot of handwringing among the ill informed but the route that is proposed will see the trains largely not do that. Rather, they'll mostly run along dedicated thoroughfares and go at a decent clip. So fast will they be that their Airport-CBD times are very comparable to heavy rail proposals. The difference is in these graphics (station placement is where difference (b) comes into it). Or, in other words, the MAL is needed and fit for purpose (remembering the Airport is just the thing on the end, who it is for is everyone in between the terminal stops).




Oh, and of course I want the MAL so I can have the Light Rail L. (Attachment 8) (Airport-Botany Route)

Northwestern LRT 

I was a bit dishonest before, I put the discussion of this in brackets mostly because I don't care very much about it. I generally trust reports, so I believe that there is demand in the area. And, apparently, the demand for this is more than what exists in the Botany-Airport part of the Light Rail L. Also, apparently, there will be massive time savings relative to the current busses. At least, this is what I have pieced together from reading Greater Auckland. And, in some sense, this is enough. I am not GA, I am not a proper media site and this is meant to be brief thoughts. I do, however, feel like I've let the reader down a bit so to quote GA's Congestion Free Network Version II:
To facilitate the massive growth planned in existing and future urban areas, as well as providing congestion free travel for existing residents, we have decided on a light-rail route [...]
Light rail was chosen due to its ability to provide long-term capacity for the Northwest while removing high numbers of future buses from the city centre, freeing up capacity for more isthmus and Onewa services. The route also helps address the possible imbalance between the North Shore and Dominion Rd/South-west/Airport demand, by splitting North Shore services between two routes
Hey, it's the Busageddon idea, which strictly speaking is kind of a justification for the MAL, except more just the Dominion Road section. But public transport isn't just about getting people from the city to somewhere else, or the reverse.

Airport-Puhinui Rapid Busses 

This could be seen as a key part of the Light Rail L idea. After all, it is a key section of that route (all sections are key). The thing is, I'm not sure exactly how extensive it is. One hopes it is a bus version of what one day might be light rail rather than just an improved connector between the Southern/Eastern line and the Airport over the 380. I say that because the reality is that people who work at the Airport and surrounds love to live east of the Airport. Well, if not love, they certainly do:



Personally, this is almost as exciting as the MAL simply because it's something I could see myself using. You see, we might be going on a flight next year (the last three flights I caught were in 2008, 2011 and 2017) so getting to the Airport is an immediate concern. How exactly this bus service would work is not discernible from the Paerata housing article. And, as I said, it is the only place I have read about this as a thing that is happening. So, again, we'll turn to GA's CFN2 to flesh out "my" "analysis":
A new busway standard connection will be provided between Howick and the Airport, via Botany, Flat Bush, Manukau and a connection with the southern line at Puhinui. This connection will provide access to Manukau and the Airport - two major employment areas - from the south.
Likely passenger demand levels and fewer constraints at either end of the route means high-quality buses are likely to be an adequate mode choice for the foreseeable future, with the potential for an upgrade to light rail in the longer term
[...]
the CFN proposes a route connecting Howick, Botany, Flat Bush, Manukau, Puhinui (for Southern Line trains) and the Airport. This route provides an important cross-town connection, linking three key regions delivering a best practice grid network and thinking beyond the just the City Centre. 
So, another theoretically sound policy. The final pieces the puzzle are too (hah, pun!) but they say something interesting about the previous government and evidence and theoretical need.

Southern Line Rail Improvements

To be honest, I'm getting a bit bored (and hungry) here so this will be quite quick. Which is appropriate because you really do have to wonder how much thought Key's National put into these areas. I rather suspect what you're about to read exceeds that.

Not cancelling Auckland's massive jump backwards to the 1800s with the electrification of of the network everywhere but from Pukekohe to Drury has been proclaimed one of National's greatest urban achievements. That language is deliberate. When electrification was first pushed forwards it would have been relatively simple to use all the gear and labour to finish the job. They didn't. For whatever reason it was decided that it was better to just stop a few hundred metres south of Papakura Train station. Maybe it was because there were more bridges to raise. Maybe it was simply because a party that professes to believe in a rural/urban divide wanted to have some fuel for the fire a few elections down the track. Maybe there is some real explanation. Either way, the electrification was needed then and is needed now. It's really a bit farcical how AT has handled the Pukekohe shuttle. It's late, it leaves too soon, it's cancelled, the connecting train has gone etc. etc. Back in the day, the Pukekohe trains were always more full than the normal Southern line trains: people want to go there.

tl;dr -- If you build it, people really do come. If you don't build it, you can pretend they won't. But they do: the shuttles are going strong.

Another one of the issues with the Southern Line is that it shares a lot of its track. Obviously it shares from Puhinui to what used to be Westfield with the Eastern line, but what a lot of people don't get is that this is also where the electric trains live (at Wiri) and where the freight trains have to run. As far as railways go, it's a pretty congested set of track. And building a third rail line anywhere along it is both (a) immensely useful in this respect and (b) pretty cheap for what is a major improvement... just a few dozen million. Which really begs the question how did National not fast-track this (ah, punny)? Especially when some (admittedly slightly dodgy) ways of looking at it suggest a fourth main should be built!

Re-Examination of the East-West Link

The East-West Link is an infrastructure project that is neither immensely useful nor cheap. In fact, the version National let NZTA go ahead with was just about as expensive as it could be ($2 billion ish) and not even the most beneficial of like six or seven different options (there were quite a few, not sure how many exactly). Not sure what they were thinking really. The wasted money** will go towards LRT and hopefully something better will emerge viz the roads.

But that's actually the real kicker to this story. Sure, we might say that the extra money is going to LRT but if you're reading that table, it's only $350-600 million. Except you know it's not. You know subsequent to the table's construction estimates ballooned to $2 billion-ish, even though that's more than the projected benefits. Why wasn't the project stopped then? Shouldn't something have been done at that point in time? Or even earlier when the costs increased by a $100 million between the indicative and full business cases? (The BCR stayed the same, but unless that full version cost $100 million itself, when you know there were more attractive looking versions in the indicative case surely it's worth getting a full report done for them just in case they save you even that extra $100m?) What the hell was going on? We didn't know then and we don't know now.

I guess the positive to take away here is that this was the previous government. The same government that tried to suppress the studies regarding the third main. The same government that told us it was into evidence. They showed absolutely no guts when it came to transport, housing or basically any issue over the last nine years. They showed no signs of having a credible plan for tomorrow. They showed a very, very limited understanding of really basic economics. They showed a disregard for democratic proceedings time and time again. The new government is already showing that when it's defeated at the polls (whenever that may be) at least not all of these criticisms will be true of them. (Clearly they're not showing guts when it comes to housing.)


*The next worse served area is South East Auckland (Botany and the like) but the people that way are (a) generally wealthier and (b) somewhat catered to by the Eastern Line trains. They're not much better off, but they are. And, of course, for every former driver using the LRT that's one less vehicle in the road system, which ultimately feeds through to everyone. It's the butterfly effect.

Think about John, Paul, George and Ringo. If Ringo confuses John thirty minutes ago somewhere else with bad driving delaying him just enough that John scoots through traffic lights he shouldn't really and this affects a whole bunch of George's, one of whom causes a traffic jam through tailgating that affects Paul as he enters the motorway. This happens everyday. And it is why speeding and other traffic infringements aren't revenue collecting. If you think they are, you're stupid. No ifs, no buts, that's the case. (Whether they are arbitrarily enforced is a another matter, and whether the punishments are appropriate is too.)

**That is to say, any money over and above what is sufficient for a justifiable development.

Friday, 6 October 2017

EPL Take Two, or Does Arsenal Want Mesut Özil?

I've been really busy lately... I had a very demanding programme of procrastination... so I wasn't able to follow up on my predictions earlier. I had sort of decided to do an overview after 5 games because that's a nice round number but, to be honest, we don't really know anything real this early on. I'm not sure how many games would have to be played to get a handle on what was really going on. I mean, Tottenham's Wembley Wobbles may or may not be real, right now. Well, we can know some things.

Obviously we already know which teams can finish the season unbeaten. And because performances aren't independent, we do have some information. For instance at this point we know that it is unlikely, say, Arsenal are going to lose very few games because they've already lost two, which indicates they're not performing at a very high level. However, I think there are too many moving parts for this kind of "back of the envelope" process to be worth while. In fact, I'll talk about a more systematic procedure being run by 538 soon, but right now I want to talk about Arsenal.

Here's an interesting set of results for you. This is Arsenal's performance last season/this season against the teams it has played so far, assuming that we can use Middlesbrough to represent Brighton, which is dubious. (I've put the underlying figures in an appendix at the end of this post.)

13/13 Points 11/11 Goals For 8/8 Goals Against

If we exclude the Brighton/Middlesbrough results it looks like this

12/10 Points 11/9 Goals For 8/8 Goals Against

Which, I think, is still showing us pretty much the same thing: Arsenal are in much the same place they were last season.

However, there are some subtleties here. The first is that Arsenal still haven't scored a goal away... although I personally think they were robbed at Stoke and against Chelsea they were terribly unlucky.

The second subtlety, as the title suggests, is what is happening with Mesut Özil? Frankly, the dude's utility seems to have dropped off a cliff lately. Back when Arsenal were chasing Leicester, his problem was that he was providing assists as long as Giroud was scoring... but Giroud was practically the only one who was scoring and the team sort of fell apart when it wasn't able to help Giroud out of his funk. These days Özil's form doesn't seem to be the question. He's out of the side due to injuries (we're told) and when he was in it Arsenal were playing all sorts of players behind him in the wrong way. So, what would happen if/when Özil returns to the side?

One way of looking at Özil is that the problem wasn't him. The problem was that Oxlade-Chamberlain was being shoehorned into the side in a desperate attempt to get him to sign a new contract. It didn't work. Not in games where it meant the back five were not being played right and behind the scenes it failed too: the Ox now plies his trade at Liverpool. Why is this relevant to Özil? Well, the theory is that you can't let Özil play unless you stick him in a well oiled machine. A team with a relatively unfamiliar formation and a makeshift backline is not a well oiled machine. It isn't really any kind of machine. If you follow this theory Özil will come back and play properly now that things seem kind of stable. You might even see Özil become the assist king again.

The other way to look at Özil is that he was the problem. Maybe you hold that he doesn't work hard enough. Maybe you hold that with Arsenal's current players/midfield-engine you need the forwards to work defensively in a way that Özil isn't meant to. That seems more realistic. I kind of said it before and I'll say it now: Arsenal look a much much stronger team when they play Cazorla-ball. Ramsey/Xhaka looked for a few games like it might work with the new formation, but lately it doesn't seem to be doing the job right. Sure, Arsenal aren't losing but they should've done more against Brighton and should've imposed themselves on Chelsea in both halves. Similarly, when Giroud comes on, the set-up falls apart... Arsenal are currently playing Lacazette-ball and I personally don't think it works for Özil, or Giroud. When they come on, maybe it needs to involve a formation change at the back...

The third subtlety is as follows: Arsenal's summary versus its theoretical rivals (i.e. Liverpool and Chelsea):

0/1 2/0 6/4

Which is to say, Arsenal might not be scoring away but they have actually managed to do better against the teams pundits say they're meant to paying the most attention to. Admittedly this is because of the result against Chelsea who I think (a) are worse than they were last season and (b) seem be developing a problem playing against Arsenal... not just in terms of the red cards either (since Conte has taken over, Chelsea have beaten Arsenal once).

So, where does that leave what I wrote before:
Expect Arsenal to be about as good as they were this season: better than Manchester United and a "lucky" result or two (either for or against) away from Manchester City and Liverpool.
Now, the thing to notice about this is that Manchester United have really done a lot better than I think anyone had a right to expect them to be doing on 30 June. Consider that Lukaku was signed about 10 July for instance... and it looks like maybe their primary problem last year was that their strikeforce was either too slow or not physical enough. Manchester City? Woah, well, "Manchester City are more varied than the others because luck is hard to fix" isn't wrong. It could well be that City are going to be forced back to their normal level what with Mendy and Aguero's injuries. Liverpool I got spot on.

The less convincing parts of what I wrote previously concern Tottenham and Chelsea. In hindsight, I had a much more negative analysis of Chelsea ("difficulty staying where they are") than my prediction of 1-3 suggests (n.b. I did put City at 2-5) while Tottenham? It seems I neglected Spurs somewhat. "Spurs have probably topped out and will ultimately look better and/or worse dependent on how well the other teams play... they have to be favourites," sounds good but it's not really talking about them. But it has turned out to be right, simply because Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have not convinced and the Manchester clubs seem to have gone up a level whereas Spurs have "topped out" although why I thought that is not clear.

Hmm... new predictions!

Manchester United (1-3)
Manchester City (1-4)
Spurs (1-4)
Chelsea (3-5)
Arsenal (3-5)
Liverpool (3-6)

I think Liverpool will be the team that ends up in sixth because the truth is that, with the evidence available right now, they're not really scoring. Sure, everyone goes on about how they can rip teams apart but the fact of the matter is they're not. They did it to Arsenal and it has been downhill since then. City without Aguero look to be in a similar boat but they have a better team. Spurs continue to not be masters of their own fate whereas Chelsea look to be playing at Arsenal's level. It is somewhat concerning that I predict only Liverpool, of this lot, to be sixth... realistically Arsenal and Chelsea could end up there too but my gut is stopping me from altering the prediction.

So, let's compare to 538... (credibility of victory as a percent) (credibility of top four as a percent)

Manchester City (57) (97)
Manchester United (26) (89)
Chelsea (7) (72)
Spurs (6) (66)
Arsenal (2) (38)
Liverpool (1) (32)

Definite similarities, but look at what they thought was going on before the season began...

Manchester City
Chelsea
Manchester United
Spurs
Arsenal
Liverpool

Not so similar. I leant Liverpool above Arsenal, had United down lower, Spurs as favourite and City lower too.



























Appendix (not in a table because I am lazy)

Arsenal's goals always on the right, other numbers represent Points, Goals For and Goals Against in a last season/this season pattern

Bournmeouth Home 3/3 3/3 1/0
3-1/3-0

Brighton/Middlesbrough (promoted to EPL same way) Home 1/3 0/2 0/0

0-0/2-0

Leicester Home 3/3 1/4 0/3

1-0/4-3

WBA Home 3/3 1/2 0/0

1-0/2-0

Chelsea Away 0/1 1/0 3/0

1-3/0-0

Liverpool Away 0/0 1/0 3/4

1-3/0-4

Stoke Away 3/0 4/0 1/1

4-1/0-1