Speech: Transport and distribution in the 21st C
Minister of Transport
Wednesday 21 June 2000
New Zealand transport and distribution in the 21st century
Kia Ora Koutou, Talofa Lava and Greetings to you all.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
When I became Minister of Transport, I decided I would use my first few months in office to talk to as many people in the transport and distribution sector as I could.
I wanted to understand what the industry, user groups and those affected by the transport system thought were their major problems.
I wanted to see what the Government could do to help them, and ensure that the transport industry supports the well being of every New Zealander.
Many people of widely varying backgrounds and interests have taken great pains to share with me their views on the future of their sector. I have been impressed at the way in which people in this sector think about the future, and how they are deeply concerned to see that the transport and distribution sector plays an active and positive role in New Zealand’s future development.
The Government shares those concerns.
Today I want to speak about how we are beginning to put in place the building blocks that will support a world class transport and distribution system in the future.
Government transport policy
This Government wants to build a sustainable transport system.
What do we mean by sustainability?
A sustainable transport system is one in which passengers, workers and those coming into contact with transport operations can expect a high level of personal safety.
A sustainable transport system is one that meets the needs of its customers, in a timely and cost effective manner.
A sustainable transport system is one in which investors and shareholders can expect a reasonable return on their investments, through providing innovative services and infrastructure in the right place at the right time at the right price, while providing rewarding employment for their employees.
A sustainable transport system is one that carefully manages its impacts on our air, water and land resources.
And a sustainable transport system is one that provides both mobility and accessibility opportunities to all those who live in the society in which it operates.
None of these goals can exist in isolation.
A transport business that makes money through cutting corners on safety or through devastating the physical environment is not sustainable.
A transport business that minimises its impact on the environment but cannot earn sufficient returns to support future investment in infrastructure is not sustainable.
To reach our goal of a sustainable transport system, we must carefully balance the interests of safety, customer needs, investment, the environment and social equity.
The Government has begun that task.
Transport safety is a high priority goal for this Government.
Our most immediate task is to continue to improve our road safety record. Over the last decade, the road toll has been substantially reduced, but we are still well below the best results achieved by similar countries.
The Government has now made a series of decisions that will enable us to make substantial immediate improvements in road safety, while we develop a more strategic approach.
From early 2001, 225 extra police officers will be working exclusively on road safety on the State Highways. These officers will staff the new Highway Patrol, which is designed to provide a high profile police presence on the most highly used part of the road system
We have almost doubled the amount of money going to community road safety education with particular emphasis on initiatives coming from the Maori and Pacific Island communities.
Additional police resources will be put into breath testing campaigns, especially in rural areas.
The police will tighten the tolerances used in speed limit enforcement, and pay especial attention to the wearing of seat belts.
New Zealand will join the Australian road vehicle crash test programme, so that consumers can have a better understanding of the safety record of vehicles they buy.
Hidden cameras trial
At the same time, the Government has decided not to proceed any further with the trial of hidden speed cameras that has been run in the Waikato for the last two years.
I believe that a higher and more visible police presence on the road network, together with the education measures that I mentioned earlier, will be a more effective way – and a more publically acceptable way - to make a substantial and rapid reduction in the road toll.
Safety strategy to 2010
The Government is also considering a long term road safety strategy for the next ten years to 2010, which I plan to release for discussion in the near future. This is a crucially important decision affecting every one of us, and I am concerned that all interested parties give it the attention it deserves.
Over the last three years a wide variety of government and community organisations have worked together on this strategy, and the result does them credit.
The first key question in that strategy will be: How far can we push the road toll down over the next ten years?
If we adopt world best practice as our goal, then we are looking at a reduction in our road toll from just over 500 deaths per year to 280 per year. That is no mean target when we also expect substantial growth in traffic over the same period.
The second key question will be: How do we achieve our chosen road safety goal?
There is a wide range of possible options ranging from substantial increases in enforcement standards and activity through enhanced and improved education programmes to a massive programme of road rebuilding and improved ways of managing road infrastructure.
Each option has its costs, both social and financial, and I will be seeking wide community input into these issues before the Government sets a long term direction later this year.
If this road safety target setting process proves successful, then it is my intention to use the same analytical and consultative approach to set long term safety targets for other modes of transport, such as shipping, aviation and railways.
The Government wants to see a commercial transport and distribution sector that is innovative in delivering products and services.
We want to see a sector that is responsive to its clients.
We want a transport sector that is competitive both within New Zealand and in the wider global transport system.
We want to see a transport and distribution sector that invests in its future, to support the future growth of New Zealand.
We believe that much of the New Zealand transport sector already meets these goals.
The aviation, maritime, rail and road freight sectors, together with the storage and distribution sector are an important element in economic growth.
This Government wants to support their success.
Road infrastructure problems
However it is a different story when we look at the state of our road infrastructure.
Our roads daily demonstrate that they are becoming inadequate for the task they are asked to do. The most visible sign of this inadequacy is the traffic congestion in our major cities – one study estimates that Auckland’s congestion alone costs New Zealanders, not just Aucklanders, some $800 million plus per year.
During the last decade road traffic in New Zealand grew by 4% a year. At the present rate of growth traffic volumes will double in the next 18 years.
Road infrastructure problems are not limited to our cities. Some regional networks are having difficulty keeping pace with the financial and operational demands of a growing and changing economy and society – dairying in Southland, forestry in Marlborough and tourism in Coromandel or Northland put pressures on our roads that local communities struggle to meet.
The need to upgrade and enlarge our road system is evident.
Yet, at the same time, some of our systems for road charging may be starting to reach their limits.
A recent issue of the AA Directions magazine made it very clear that alternative power systems such as hybrids and fuel cells are no longer science fiction. The resultant gains in fuel efficiency could, over time, make the current petrol tax system an unreliable way of paying for road use.
Road infrastructure solutions
The Government’s manifesto set out a number of areas for road management and investment that we wanted to explore, and my discussions with sector groups raised a number of other issues.
I believe from my discussions with a wide range of interested individuals and groups that there is a general consensus that we need to change the way we manage and fund our land transport system. Many people believe that we need to find better ways of charging for road use, and that some changes to management structures are desirable.
The last Government spent five years debating the issues but we did not reach a practical solution to our road problems.
I believe there is now a growing consensus that we can make pragmatic progress this year in three main areas:
We need to work with our roading partners on systems to manage the external impacts of the road system, including improving safety and environmental management and our public transport system. In doing this, we need to make it clear that road corridors are for a wide variety of users, including pedestrians and cyclists. They, just as much as motorists, have a right to use road corridors in safety.
Secondly, we need to examine, with our roading partners, the way in which we charge for roads. New technology now enables us to consider new methods of payment and charging within the existing Road User Charges system. For example, we can look to measure more precisely the loads that heavy vehicles are carrying. We also need to consider whether the present funding system can be made simpler, while retaining its basic principle of cost effectiveness.
We want to talk with the other stakeholders about whether our present management structures can be improved in a gradual way, without generating any more of the upheavals that have characterised reforms in the past.
The road system has to be improved.
It is not just a matter of dealing with a few high profile road projects. We have to put systems in place which ensure real value for money and let us prioritise our investment. The rules need to be clear and fair. We want to take decisions without the constant air of impending crisis that too often seems to characterise land transport investment.
I believe that we have an excellent opportunity to do that this year, and I look forward to working with sector groups to achieve that goal.
New Zealand relies heavily on its “clean green” image to market itself in a world that is increasingly concerned about the environment.
Improving the reality of our environment to match the marketing image is a high priority for this Government, and the transport sector will play an important part in that task.
We need to improve the emission performance of the vehicle fleet. Before the end of this year, the Government expects to put in place new emission standards for all vehicles arriving in New Zealand for the first time.
We are moving to improve public passenger transport in our major cities, recognising that an important benefit of such an improvement can be a reduction in vehicle emissions.
I also believe that we need to review those sections of the Resource Management Act that deal with land transport. I can see no valid reason why roads and railways should be exempt from the air emissions requirements of that Act. I strongly believe that new road and rail projects would greatly benefit from public evaluation and monitoring of their impacts, as part of the wider community overview of the environment. We will be talking with stakeholders about this.
Indeed, the Ministry of Transport has been working closely with local authorities in Auckland and Christchurch to develop the systems for such evaluation and monitoring, and the results of that co-operation will be made widely available in the near future.
We are also working on new rules to govern smoky road vehicles. While the intent of the current law is a good one, its administration is unreasonably complex, and plans for a simpler, approach to dealing with smoky vehicles are well advanced.
Scientific research into the impacts of land transport on water runoff is also well underway, as is research into the impacts of noise on communities.
The Government has decided to accede to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in the second half of 2002.
This means that we will be making a commitment that by 2008 we will have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions to no more than they were in 1990.
This is no small task.
Currently the transport sector generates about 15% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of those emissions are CO2 generated by the burning of fossil fuel on our roads.
This means that we are going to have to make a serious effort to improve road vehicle fuel efficiency.
We will need to ensure that our vehicle fleet reflects the latest propulsion technologies – such as hybrid systems and fuel cells - as soon as they are available. The new vehicle standards I mentioned earlier will encourage this.
We will also have to make a major effort to reduce traffic congestion in our major cities.
If we reduce congestion we not only get a more efficient economy – we also reduce the emission impacts on the environment and cut the production of greenhouse gases.
Making progress on climate change is a high priority for the Government, and I plan to work closely with the key groups in the sector. If we work together in a pragmatic way, I believe that we can both meet our environmental goals, while making more efficient use of our transport system.
Transport is not just about mobility. It is also about accessibility.
If the design of a transport system excludes significant numbers of New Zealanders from access to social and economic opportunities, then the transport system cannot be sustainable.
While our freight transport system generally provides a good quality of appropriate service throughout New Zealand, that is certainly not yet the case for passenger transport.
We have to have a better public transport system.
As part of the Budget, I have already announced a series of immediate measures to begin the improvement of public transport in New Zealand..
The artificial limits on public transport spending imposed by the last Government have been abolished.
From October this year, we will put in place a new system of funding that pays extra money to Regional Councils in direct proportion to the number of passengers using public transport in their region.
Transfund New Zealand is reviewing the rate at which financial assistance is given to Regional Councils, with a view to increasing the share of funding from the National Roads Fund, thereby releasing additional regional funds for further passenger transport service improvements.
Current requirements for cost effective expenditure will be kept in place.
We estimate that if Regional Councils seize these opportunities, as we expect they will, passenger transport funding from the National Roads Fund could rise from $46 million last year to $93 million in 2003, with large benefits in terms of accessibility in our major cities.
This total includes the major share of the funding for the North Shore Busway, currently the largest single passenger transport project in New Zealand, which will provide greatly improved passenger transport services across the Auckland region.
The Government is also reviewing the future of other elements of passenger transport funding, including the future management and funding of the Total Mobility scheme.
In conducting this review, I am particularly concerned that we focus on the actual needs of people in society.
While our mass transit systems clearly need development, I am also concerned that we have tended to overlook the importance of those services that provide door to door service.
Taxis and shuttles provide a crucial level of service to many in our community who do not have access to cars, in a way that buses, trains and ferries will never be able to do. I want to ensure that we make better use of them.
Bringing it all together
If the transport sector is to support a positive future for New Zealand, then we have to work towards a sustainable transport system.
Uniting all the elements that I have discussed into a comprehensive package that sets a clear path for the whole transport sector is a complex exercise, but one to which we are committed.
The Government intends to develop, with stakeholders, a New Zealand Transport Strategy to bring together all the issues I have discussed today into a comprehensive package that will give certainty for future investment and development.
The New Zealand Transport Strategy will have to set long term directions in terms of safety, environmental performance and accessibility. It will emphasise that the core issues of investment and innovation will depend on a commercially focussed transport and distribution sector that will thrive by providing high quality service to all its users.
I said at the start of my speech that I spent the first few months of my time as Minister of Transport talking to a wide variety of groups in the transport and distribution sector and in the community at large.
While I believe that we can now move forward to tackle the key problems that face us, you should not take my desire to get things done as a statement that I no longer want to talk to people!
As is evident from the range of issues that I have covered in this speech, there is a lot to do. This Government wants to work with the key interest groups to make progress in transport, and that means that we have to talk to each other.
I firmly believe that change is necessary in a number of key areas in the transport sector. I also believe that any change must be progressive rather than an upheaval, and that evolutionary change can only work if people talk to each other to find pragmatic solutions.
This conference is an important part of that process of change through evolution, and I thank the Chartered Institute of Transport and the Logistics Institute of New Zealand for inviting me here today.