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Official ARTA Launch Speech

Thursday 10 February 2005

Official ARTA Launch Speech

Michael Lee, Chairman, Auckland Regional Council

Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Helen Clark, the Honourable Judith Tizard, Minister for Auckland Affairs and Associate Minister for Transport, His Worship, Dick Hubbard, Mayor of Auckland, Auckland Mayors, Councillors, distinguished guests - it is a pleasure to be here today to celebrate the official launch of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

The Government’s historic 12 December 2003 ‘Investing for Growth” package for Auckland, which included $1.6 billion in funding for the region, was a momentous event for the Auckland region and for the Auckland Regional Council.

The Government’s confidence in the ARC to deliver on integrated planning and delivery of transport in the Auckland region was extremely encouraging, and resulted in the establishment of two subsidiaries - Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and Auckland Regional Holdings or ARH - a successor to Infra-structure Auckland, which in turn succeeded the Auckland Regional Services Trust.

These organisations are key components of the ARC Group.

Today we mark a new beginning for public transport in the Auckland region with the official launch of ARTA.

The creation of ARTA, an organisation which is entirely focussed on the success of public transport, is a positive development and one which I am sure will be welcomed by commuters throughout the region. But whilst the structure for dealing with transport issues have changed, we must not underestimate the size and complexity of the problem that ARTA and the ARC now faces.

This region is already home to 1.3 million people, and it continues to grow by 107 people every day. This is disproportionately higher than population growth in the rest of the country, and, at present rates, the Auckland region will have 2 million people by 2050 (region total). A result of this growth is the significant increase in the number of motor vehicles on our roads. Currently the region has 695,000 cars and 95,000 heavy vehicles, and we are adding about 35 new vehicles every day.

Public transport – buses, trains and ferries - carry approximately 205,000 people each day, but the fact remains that approximately 87 per cent of people who commute to work, do so by car.

These figures go some way to illustrate why we can not underestimate the scale of the transport problem in the Auckland region, on the other hand, nor should we undervalue the work that has already gone into building transport networks and services.

ARTA is currently progressing a variety of sustainable transport initiatives to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

For rail, ARTA has completed the first stage of double tracking of the Western line, and next week it is introducing a new timetable to take advantage of the extra track capacity to ramp up services across the network. New trains are also coming on line to cater for the growing passenger numbers.

Reflecting the investment by the Auckland region in the rail network, rolling stock, services and stations. In the year to 30 June 2004, the number of people using Auckland’s passenger train service increased by a third to 3.2 million passenger boardings.

Improvements to the ferry network between the CBD and Gulf Harbour, Pine Harbour and Birkenhead will see more services to cater for this increasingly popular mode of transport.

And new bus contracts are being finalised for the North Shore. Southern bus services will soon be reviewed taking into account the need for better services for the Auckland International Airport.

ARTA has implemented the school bus services planned last year by the ARC, and the number of schools involved in the Walking School Bus programme has increased from 33 in 2002 to 52 in June 2004. Approximately 2000 children walk to school on a walking school bus each morning, resulting in around 750 fewer car trips to primary schools.

To succeed in the tasks which have been set for it, ARTA needs the right people and the right climate for going about its job.

The ARC has every confidence in the Board, staff and management of ARTA to take up the challenge that has been presented to them, and to excel. And can I say how appreciative we are in the ARC of the leadership of the Chairman of the ARTA Board, Brian Roche.

What we are very concerned about is ensuring that ARTA has the best possible conditions to operate in. Critical success factors include: The financial and political support of the ARC The success of ARH in maximising the returns on the capital that they hold The financial support of the Government through Land Transport New Zealand The right legislative and regulatory framework And finally, and very importantly, the support and co-operation of all of Auckland’s local authorities and Transit New Zealand.

I would like now to briefly touch on each of these critical success factors to outline the key changes that will be needed to ensure success.

I’ve already noted that ARTA enjoys the full confidence of the ARC, but I need to highlight the considerable financial challenge the ARC and its ratepayers face.

The financial cost of dealing with Auckland’s transport problems are substantial and even with the backing of the assets by Auckland Regional Holdings, the funds available to ARTA through the ARC are not adequate to meet all of the challenges.

On the Government’s side, we need an investment framework that delivers on passenger transport needs of the region. To this end, we would urge the Government to complete the urgent review of financial assistance rates and to review the patronage funding scheme.

We also need the Government to rework the procurement policies of Land Transport New Zealand so both central and regional government can achieve better value in purchasing passenger transport services for the public.

In addition to reviewing procurement policies, we would like to see changes to the Transport Services Licensing Act. This legislation which was a product of the political environment 15 years ago is in urgent need of updating.

The final success factor that I noted was that we need the full co-operation and support of all of the region’s local authorities, and Transit NZ if we are to achieve our vision. Each has a key role to play, each has specific responsibilities and accountabilities to their community, but unless we are able to pull together with ARTA, we will not make progress on transport problems.

Today is an important occasion and one we should enjoy. But we should not forget the challenges that ARTA faces going forward.

We wish ARTA all the best, and look forward to working with the organisation in the future.

ENDS

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