UFTI: What was it and should it return?

Remember UFTI (the Urban Form and Transport Initiative)?

It was a collaborative project led by SmartGrowth and Waka Kotahi, and involved Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, iwi and community leaders.

UFTI focussed on supporting liveable community outcomes – finding answers for housing capacity, intensification, multi-modal transport (such as public transport and cycleways) and network capacity.

Mark Haseley is a Principal Transport Planner with CKL, and was involved in UFTI and SmartGrowth during the 2010s. He worked for Waka Kotahi to help set up UFTI, and contributed to several of its workstreams.

In this article, Mark reflects on the work done, where it could have gone and opens up the question around the value of a single, amalgamated entity for progress in cities such as Tauranga.  

UFTI (the Urban Form and Transport Initiative) was a partnership initiative to develop a programme of land use development and transport investment for Tauranga.

After many months of work, it recommended the ‘Connected Centres’ long-term programme for the city – updating previous transport strategies, studies and programmes that had already been prepared by the SmartGrowth partnership throughout the 2010s.

And that’s where it ends, apart from monitoring and updating the programme to keep it current.

UFTI could have been much more though. It could have been the first step towards the creation of a single land use/transport agency for Tauranga – similar to Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), but made permanent. It could have replaced the many entities that currently have a stake in the city’s transport system – two Councils managing local roads, another managing public transport, another managing State Highways and co-funding other stuff, and another operating the rail network – with one. It could also have been set up to do more than just planning – the same, single agency delivering improvements and operating the transport system on a daily basis.

So, is replacing many agencies with one still a good idea for Tauranga? If so, is the opportunity lost? And, is this something that should happen nationwide?

Replacing many entities with one is still a good idea. A single organisation with one set of objectives and one management layer will always be more efficient than the current state, where complex negotiations between local partners are often needed before things get done. That’s the easy part, though. How it would work with other parts of central and regional government is harder, which leads me to the second and third question.

 

Mark Haseley - CKL

The opportunity is not lost; in fact it’s here now. Central government proposals for reforming local government will include how transport is managed nationwide and RMA reform means that many, small District Plans will be replaced by fewer, larger Regional Spatial Plans, designed to deliver the outcomes sought by central government on a range of matters, including land use and transport.

Regional boundaries are yet to be determined, though, and if the Three Waters and health board reforms are anything to go by, significant change to these can also be expected.

The work of UFTI and SmartGrowth already presents a compelling case for a single Regional Spatial Plan (including a transport programme) for the Western Bay of Plenty, and the opportunity under the current reform programme is to have one developed and delivered by a single Western Bay of Plenty Regional Agency. The same lean model should also apply to other tier 1 centres, if the pace of investment into complex transport systems is to match the pace of growth.

If you’d like to discuss this article with Mark, or are looking for strategic advice on land use and transport planning matters for your business, you can call him on 027 880 5440, or e-mail him at mark.haseley@ckl.co.nz

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