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Planning for the Future 10y State Highway Forecast

RAM ­ Residents Action Movement

SUBMISSION:  Planning for the Future      Draft - 10 year State Highway Forecast

by Elaine West, representing RAM - Residents Action Movement

Almost ninety-thousand Auckland citizens voted for Resident Action Movement (RAM) candidates at the previous local body elections resulting in a member winning a seat on the Auckland Regional Council.   Previous submissions detailing RAM's opposition to the commercialisation of New Zealand's roads were presented by the author to Transit and Consultation Hearing Panels regarding
Alpurt B2 (Orewa-Puhoi Motorway) which will be built as a tolled road,
 the Tolls Systems Project, and
the Tauranga Harbour Link Project, to be built as a free road following official compromise.

RAM contends that despite the majority-public objecting to placing tolls on New Zealand's roads for some years, successive governments and the Ministry of Transport are intent on reforming the public roading system.

A)   TOLLS - A Done Deal

Restructuring the nation's roads for private profit and government revenue is interpreted as a done deal.   The Done Deal has been officially negotiated mostly without public knowledge.

Direct Road User Charges (tolls, congestion fees etc) as a done deal is based on research covering
current and past government road pricing studies and reports,
intentions of local bodies,
 the disproportionate influence of an unofficial lobby group viz: the Auckland Mayoral Forum,
disclosure of information from the Ministry of Transport, the Minister of Transport and Transit under the Official Information Act,
disclosure of information which was initially refused by government officials.  RAM complained to the Office of the Ombudsmen who intervened on RAM's behalf,
and Transit's own Consultation Hearing Panel procedures and outcomes.

B)   The Public Will Resist

How do we know that the public will resist restructuring the nation's roads from public assets for public service into land transport assets operating exclusively for those who can afford the toll charge?  A report by the World Road Federation discusses public resistance to tolls and tolling off.  Tolling off occurs when commuters use the free alternative route rather than pay a toll charge.

a) Project K, the tolled road in Tauranga, lost more than $5million in revenue in its first year of operation because commuters were tolling off.  We understand that the Tauranga District Council is co-operating with Transit to resolve the tolling-off problem.

SH1 (Alpurt B2) The Nation's First Tolled Road under the Land Transport Management Act

John Law, Mayor of Rodney District Council, is working with Transit to make the alternative route an unattractive option to the tolled Orewa-Puhoi motorway (disclosed after the Ombudsman required access to information).

b)  Further public resistance can happen by voting pro-toll representatives OUT!  There was a massive turn-around within the Tauranga District Council after the turn of the millennium.  Those who promised to get rid of the toll charges on the Harbour Bridge won the day.

C)  How do we know that government and the Ministry of Transport are intent on toll roads?

- When key political leaders say so.

Helen Clark, the Prime Minister is understood to have told the media that NZ roads will be tolled.

Don Brash, the Leader of the Opposition, said that Road Reform and tolls are needed now.

By killing-off revenue competition.  For example, the systematic selling-off or running-down of public transportation options.  A public body using bus or train travel would effectively decrease potential road toll revenue.

By deliberately building private passenger vehicle numbers.  Increasing NZ's car capacity through the rapid importation of hundreds of thousands of cars has created tolling-viability.  Officials want a car-dependent NZ so tolls on new and existing roads, congestion charges etc, can be supported by the population.

By technological advancement.  Establishing E-tech to suit the NZ toll-charge situation.

By deliberately reducing expenditure on road maintenance or withholding funds for strategic road building to create public discontent.  The Please-Toll-Us-To-Get-It-Built Syndrome.

By Transit pledging support for changes in legislation to make toll charges permanent (disclosed to RAM following the Ombudsman's intervention).

By investigating overseas companies to manage NZ toll accounts in an effort to cut costs (disclosed to RAM following the Ombudsman's intervention).

C)   Roads used by the public are BIG BUSINESS and private investors want BIG PROFITS.
Research into public-private partnerships focusing on British roads reveals that government and businesses will avoid transparency and accountability by referring to 'commercial sensitivity' clauses.

While the British highway boards and public can see roads being built, the public are not told they are paying umpteen-times for the same tarmac with generous profits going to private investors.


In New Zealand, big business wants a foot in the toll door.   For instance, Jim McLay is the Executive Chairman of Macquarie New Zealand Ltd (a BIG bank).  In 1997 Mr McLay chaired the Roading Advisory Group (RAG) who set out Road Reform proposals to the government.   RAG proposed restructuring the public roading system, introducing direct road user charges and setting up Road Companies to hold shares in public roads.                                                

Road users were classified as vehicle users, pedestrians, cyclists and utility providers (utilities that parallel roads eg.electricity wires, water pipes, and gas pipes).   Mr McLay as Chair, advised government that New Zealand could lead the world in Road Reform.   In recent years, the Macquarie group tendered to build New Zealand's first private road as a toll road (Penlink) before tenders opened to the public.  The government has since put Penlink (Whangaporoa) on the back burner until further notice.

      It is worth recalling at this point that Dr Robin Dunlop, the current CEO of the Ministry of         Transport and Secretary of Transport, was CEO of Transit and a member of RAG.

D)   Government Responsibility

RAM contends that central Government, the Ministry of Transport, the Auckland Mayoral Forum, Auckland's local authorities and Government Controlled Organisations such as Transit ­


have grossly misrepresented the public body to the point of negligence.  Certain information only became available to the author after persistent questioning under the Official Information Act.  Further, when officials refused vital information, the Office of the Ombudsmen had to intervene to get such information into the public arena.
Under the Land Transport Management Act disclosure of relevant information in a form suitable for general public scrutiny is a Consultation Principle requisite.  Officials have not acted in accordance to the Act.   Information that remains undisclosed includes -

a)   Which roads (new and existing) will be tolled in the next ten years?

b)  How much each toll will cost the user? 

c)  What are the private-public contracts terms and conditions? 

d)  What are the terms of contract for alternative 'free' routes? 

e)  How much public money will fund toll-expenditure? 

f)  How much of the toll profit will go to private investors? For how long? 

g)  Where information on personal toll accounts will be processed (which country - company)? 

h)  Why the Secretary of the MoT, Dr Robin Dunlop, is cutting funding to Transit? What services will go? 

i) What provisions have been made to alleviate social and economic costs of tolls on road users, especially with reference to those who to travel to work who are already living on low incomes, and those with moderate incomes and high overheads, for families, students, the elderly, and the physically challenged?

j) The expected increase in the cost of living as business entities pass on toll charges to consumers (food stuff, housing, clothing, school transport etc). 

E) Results of Official Research

Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy 2003, the Joint Officials Group (Nov 2003) and the Auckland Road Pricing Study  (17 March 2006) reason that road tolls will likely have a negative socio-economic impact on many NZ citizens.    

The above critical statement is underplayed by officials and exists without remedy    Therefore, a case against government introducing direct road user charges (tolls) that would negatively impact a wide range of New Zealanders social and economic rights could be made in accordance to the Human Rights Charter.

F)   Public Speak

Official representatives, reports and studies state that the public should use public transport and alternative routes if they wish to avoid a tolled road.  Such statements are grossly misleading and sit on the point of absurdity.  

G)   Immediate Solution to Congestion Problems without the Need to Toll

Dr Robin Dunlop, CEO of the Ministry of Transport mentioned in an article in 2004: "It is interesting to see how other countries have approached the issues of congestion and shortage of road funding. Ottawa, Canada invested in an efficient bus system to bring people from outlying areas into the centre of town.   Nearly 70% of people working in Ottawa travel to work on commuter buses, and the system carries 71.8 million passengers annually."

 RAM has initiated a fare-free bus campaign that is supported by thousands of citizens across Auckland, by the Mayor of Manukau City Council, Sir Barry Curtis, and by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority.   Further, the Auckland Regional Council intends to implement a feasibility study with regard to fare-free buses.

Summary

RAM, Residents Action Movement argues

- that tolls are not needed nor wanted as a revenue-raising device to build strategic roads,

- that motorways will be congested as quickly as they are built.  For example, when  the Auckland Harbour Bridge got extra lanes to deal with congestion in the mid-60s the traffic re-congested after ten days, and

- that for a fraction of the cost of road construction, an efficient bus and train network would have an immediate and positive impact on citizen transportation thereby


reducing pollution and subsequent health problems,
reducing global warming risk,
reducing traffic volume,
reducing the need for excessive funds for road building,
increasing efficiency in getting workers to places of employment,
propping GDP,  and
ensuring that New Zealand's roads remain open at all times to users no matter what their economic status and social status.

 
RAM opposes direct road user charges, tolls, congestion charges and other such road pricing schemes.  Building strategic roads and maintaining existing roads is an important factor to consider. 

However, we propose that transport funds be weighted towards a universal public transport network and service.  Further, RAM contends that our public roads must remain in public hands and be free and available to serve the public good at all times.

ENDS

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