Key uses tried and true formula

John Key has relied on a tried and true formula for setting the political agenda: if in doubt, announce a rail or road project, or preferably both. And just to be sure, re-announce a project or two.

Despite the modern realities of ultra-fast broadband and the imminent new virtual revolution that will transform our lives, the base attractions of trains, cars, graders and diggers are enduring.

They represent action and accomplishment, not to mention the prospect of an easier ride for drivers and passengers - Auckland Transport officials think 17 minutes will be knocked off a commuter journey from Henderson to central Auckland by the City Rail Link (CRL).

The news that the CRL would be brought forward by two years was leaked early in January, taking away much of the impact from Key's speech.

The newest part was the announcement that the East-West state highway connection in Auckland would get priority.

That should relieve the bottleneck of trucks between the industrial sector of Mt Wellington and Onehunga.

The reheated announcements were the four regional projects in Taranaki, Horowhenua, Northland and West Coast, originally part of a package announced by Key to kick-off the 2014 election campaign.

The one new part of that package is that the previous improvement of the road from Mt Messenger to Taranaki has been upgraded to a bypass of Mt Messenger, which will be welcome news to thousands of New Zealand children who associated the windy, dangerous road with car-sickness and fear.

Auckland mayor Len Brown will be celebrating about the rail link, a project he has clung to as though his life depended on it. He can leave office in October with a legacy other than tawdry headlines.

National, of course, made the decisions for its own benefit, not for his.

Key's last two so-called "state of the nation" speeches have been centred on controversial social policy. In 2014, Key announced what amounted to performance pay for top-tier school principals and a way to utilise their expertise beyond their own schools, to howls of protest.

Last year he focused on social housing policy, to howls of protest.

This year, tunnels, rail lines, asphalt and tar are the order of the day and even the Greens are having a party to celebrate.

By Audrey Young

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