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Minister of Transport Speech To A.A. Conference

Hon Mark Gosche
Minister of Transport

A.A. Annual Conference
March 24 2000

Introduction

Kia Ora Koutou, Talofa Lava and Greetings to you all.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, it is a pleasure to be here to open your annual conference.

From my time as Minister of Transport and my past involvement with the Transport Select Committee I am well aware that yours is one of the most important transport organisations in New Zealand. You represent more than 840,000 motorists and I value the opportunity to be here today.

I would like to acknowledge your President, Tony Knight, and vice president Graeme Nind. And I understand the President and Executive Director of the Australian AA, Dr John Sangster and Lauchlan MacIntosh are also here today.

Much of my time toe date has been spent talking with community organisations and sector groups about the way forward for transport. Today I would like to look at some of the issues involved in finding that way forward.


Safety

I’ll begin with road safety because it is one of the most important transport issues for this government.


You will all be well aware that the last decade has seen improvements in New Zealand’s road safety performance – that means our road toll has gone down. But we cannot afford to be complacent – it is still not good enough.

New Zealand families buried more than 500 loved ones last year. Our road toll remains far too high – we must make our roads safer.


The challenge for us is to maintain the momentum of the last decade. Transport officials know that I want to see substantial progress made on road safety this year.

We are already working on a road safety strategy for the next decade and it includes thorough public consultation and debate.

This new government is going to make some tough decisions about where to direct road safety resources.

And developing the long-term road safety strategy will be a complex task.

We’ll have to decide what level of safety we should aim for in New Zealand. Currently about 13.4 New Zealanders out of every 100,000 die on the roads. The Swedes, who are currently world leaders, lose just 6.1 people per 100,000. Should we set our target to achieve that result in New Zealand by the year 2010?

Once we have set our targets then we need to agree the means. As you all know there are a variety of measures that we could employ ranging from compliance measures at one end of the spectrum to road engineering measures at the other.

There is also the question of education – many of you will already know that I strongly support more driver education.

Compliance measures don’t come cheap, but they tend to cost substantially less than engineering solutions, which are often extremely expensive.

But on the other hand compliance measures – whatever their relative efficiency – have their limits too: limits to do with how much people are prepared to allow their behaviour to be regulated and policed.

So I think the question of how we should position ourselves for the next decade – what sort of a mix of education, compliance and engineering solutions is best for us – is a topic that deserves very careful thought and debate. I think we need to be cautious about how much additional emphasis we place on compliance.

I believe we need to do much more to do on the driver and community education front.

I regard the AA as important participants in the debate, through its direct interest and wide membership. You have been so kind to offer me space in “Directions” to address your readership on these questions and I’m grateful for that offer. It is one I intend to take up.

Hidden Speed Cameras

While I am on the subject of compliance measures may I say I’ve benefited from conversations with your executive and with members of your Council on hidden speed cameras. I share many of their concerns.

The Government is about to make its decision on their future as part of the safety programme being developed for the next year.


Driver Licensing
Driver Licensing has seen huge changes over the past year and I would like to thank those of you involved in the consultation stages and implementation.

There are problems in the system and I am not going to rule out future change and modifications.

If we are going to get the safety gains we want – everything must be working smoothly and with the goodwill of New Zealand motorists.


Driver Testing

I would like to comment briefly on driver testing.

The new full licence test is based on international research and an analysis of New Zealand crashes. It is tough, but it’s tough for a reason. Too many people – particularly young people – are dying on our roads.

The new test focuses on young drivers’ ability to safely handle those driving situations that present the greatest crash risk to them on our roads. I believe that this is the first test to combine both vehicle control and higher order hazard perception tasks in an on-road environment.

Overseas jurisdictions are viewing it with interest. Indeed, British Columbia recently introduced an hour-long “exit” test covering vehicle control and hazard perception elements in different speed zones – based on advice and input from New Zealand.

It has to be acknowledged that the introduction of the new driver-testing regime has been problematic. I commend the work that the AA’s subsidiary organisation has done with the LTSA to reduce waiting times for driving tests, but I am still concerned that, despite this work, waiting times for practical tests remain unacceptably high in some areas. The appointment of additional testing officers has helped but we still have work to do.

I trust that these problems can be addressed and a more responsive testing system can emerge. We are now nearly at the end of the first year of the new system. Now that the transition year is nearly over it is timely that we look at improvements that could be made in future years. I’m sure that the AA will have views on what those improvements should be.

Land Transport Network

Our road infrastructure daily demonstrates that it is becoming inadequate for the task that it is asked to do. The most visible of these issues is the congestion in our major cities – one study estimates that Auckland’s congestion alone costs New Zealanders, not just Aucklanders, some $850 million per year.

Yet, at the same time we have an alternative – passenger transport, which is underutilised.

Infrastructure problems are not limited to the cities. Some State Highway and rural roading networks are having difficulty keeping pace with the demands of a growing and changing economy and society.

During the 1990s traffic volumes, grew by 4 percent per year. At the present rate of growth traffic volumes will double in 18 years.

Growth in traffic volumes has created demands for new roads, and upgrades and maintenance on existing roads. The number of road projects “in the queue” for funding has grown to the extent that now projects can only be funded if they are expected to generate benefits which are at least four times as great as the expected cost. So some worthy projects have to wait for funding.

And while demands for funding continue to grow, charging systems are reaching their limits. The latest edition of your Directions magazine reminds us that alternative propulsion technology is no longer just the stuff of science fiction. It is here and now. That technology, and gains in fuel efficiency , will make fuel excise an increasingly unreliable source of revenue.

In addition, some local authorities are increasingly unable to fund the “local share” of road projects.

So there are problems and issues. What is the Government’s response?

In our manifesto we set out a number of ideas for roading that we want to explore including:
Different ways to fund roads.
The possibility of regional clustering of road responsibilities and
The possibility of different solutions for different parts of the country such as Marlborough, Rotorua and community roads.

We want to explore these ideas further. I want pragmatic solutions that give us value for money and support a growing economy that are at the same time good for the environment, for safety and for communities.

However there are some things I can definitely tell you.

Firstly, this Government will not proceed with the commercialisation of New Zealand Roads and we have ended the previous government's Better Transport Better Roads proposal.

This does not mean the process is “back to square one”. I do not wish to embark on another five years debate and I think that a lot of useful material came out of the consultations and analysis.

I believe from the discussions that I have had with a very wide range of people that there is a general consensus for change to the way we manage and fund our land transport system.

The Government wishes to move forward on the transport issue, taking all the key stakeholders (road users, local government, and the public) with us as we go. I want to widen the consensus to not only agreeing that there is “a problem” but to reaching some consensus on what the desired “solutions” might be.

Another thing I am certain of is that we need to look at road transport systems as a whole, not just at roading. Public transport has a key role to play in addressing the transport needs of our cities. We have continued to build roads while valuable urban passenger transport corridors, such as railways, are substantially underused.

Passenger transport funding is a key area I wish to focus on.


Bringing it all together

Of course, the main task for this next year or so is to arrive at a longer-term solution to our transport problems.

There are no quick fixes.

We are now paying the price of past approaches – and we haven’t finished paying.

In the next three years, this Government is going to set a coordinated strategic course that will enable us to tackle our nation's huge transport challenges.

We need a flexible, pragmatic and progressive approach.

We have to deal with transport problems in the wider context of social, environmental and economic problems.

We want a transport strategy that promotes efficiency, accessibility and sustainability.

At the same time we want to safeguard community values and aspirations while keeping the door open for pragmatic innovation.

This will mean spending more money, and that will mean that someone has to pay for that investment. Money is constrained. We must get value for the money that we spend, and we want users to recognise that even though they might be paying more, they are getting a better quality transport system.

We cannot solve these problems alone, and we want to involve a wide range of people and community groups in developing those solutions. The AA is an important part of this process, and I look forward to working with you in seeking those solutions.

I want to thank you or inviting me to address this opening of your conference. You have chosen a wonderful part of the country to hold it in. I greet the Mayor Paul Matheson and thank him in advance for his welcome.

ENDS

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