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Automobile Association Annual Conference - Gosche

Hon Mark Gosche
30 March, 2001 Speech Notes

Speech to Automobile Association Annual Conference


Kia ora, talofa lava, greetings to you all.

Thank you for inviting me here this morning to open your annual conference. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the President of the Australian Automobile Association Dr. Max Lay, the Executive Director of Australian AA, Mr Lauchlan McIntosh, the Mayor of Wellington City, Mr Mark Blumsky, and of course New Zealand AA President Tony Knight.

I am very pleased to be here this morning to talk to you about what the government has been doing to address many of the issues that I know concern the AA.

We need to work together to develop solutions for making our roading network more efficient, effective and safer for everyone.

This morning I want to talk about various issues including:

„h Funding and management of roading
„h The New Zealand Transport Strategy
„h Road Safety Strategy to 2010 and
„h Driver Licensing Review

Land Transport Issues

Since becoming Minister of Transport I have met with groups such as your organisation to discuss New Zealand¡¦s land transport system and how our roading network is funded and managed.

In July last year, I started a process of formal consultation to assist me to develop new policies for the sector. Many of you would have seen papers produced by the Ministry of Transport.

Today, I would like to talk about what I have taken from that consultation with road user groups, local government and other interested parties.

The government has yet to make its decisions on the future shape of the land transport system. I plan to take a suite of papers to Cabinet over the next few months, with the expectation of introducing legislation towards the middle of the year. Until I have worked through this material with my Cabinet colleagues, there is a limit to what I can say.

However, the changes we introduce will be pragmatic and incremental, and will have sufficient flexibility to allow for the needs of different communities and regions. They will not be based on the assumption that what is good for Invercargill is necessarily good for Auckland or vice versa, or that all communities¡¦ issues have to be dealt with the same way.

The New Zealand Transport Strategy

As we approach our task, we need a sense of strategic direction. We flagged the notion of sustainable transport in one of the earliest discussion papers: a transport policy framework that integrates environmental, economic, safety and social goals.

This suggests that we need a formal document ¡V a New Zealand Transport Strategy. This would set out key objectives and targets, and link these to the way in which public funding is spent. I envisage a living document, able to be changed and updated as our knowledge increases, and one that would draw on work which has been done on this topic in the past. It would be based on the notion of sustainability and keyed into the broader work the Government is doing on that topic.

Funding Transport Infrastructure

Next let me turn to the current funding system. Investment is not keeping pace with all our infrastructure needs. Congestion in Auckland ¡V nearly a billion dollar a year problem ¡V and changing patterns of economic activity, like Southland¡¦s shift from sheep to dairy, come to mind. The current system does not support long-term, forward looking investment. A year on year pay-go system does not spread the cost of new infrastructure between present and future users, and there are issues around the trade-offs being made between capital and maintenance. And there are limited avenues for raising more money.

I am exploring a number of methods of generating additional funding, or ways of spreading the funding load over time. These include a greater recourse to borrowing, alternative funding arrangements such as Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (known as BOOT) which draw in private sector money and whether there is a place for tolling to pay for new roads.

Many local authorities find it difficult to meet their share of local roading projects, and this means some necessary projects do not advance. We are working on ways this problem could be addressed. This is an important issue in the context of the government¡¦s commitment to regional development.
Allocation of Funding

The current cost/benefit system has drawbacks. It tends to focus on particular projects, and it is administered from the centre. I would like to give more weight to the views and wishes of communities, and there is ongoing concern about advancing projects that are seen to have strategic value.

We are examining more flexible methods of funding but any funding regime needs to ensure value for money for the spending of tax revenue, of course.

In patronage based funding for public transport, we have devised a funding mechanism which suggests a shift to funding outputs rather than inputs, and is predicated on achieving results.

The current way we charge for our roads is problematic. Cars are becoming more and more efficient, and the new generation of hybrid cars, for example, almost literally travel on the smell of an oily rag. They will very soon be readily available. In the future this will make it increasingly difficult to use petrol tax to raise revenue to pay for roads.

We will need to think about how to address this problem. Technology is moving forward, including through the availability of GPS. There are privacy issues to be taken care of, of course, but perhaps a start may be made on some modernisation of our RUC system. For example, heavy vehicles could be given the option of electronic charging systems, which could allow electronic payment and credit.

Beyond the questions of how people pay for their roads, there is of course the question of what they pay. As you know, the advocates of passenger transport rail and coastal shipping argue that road use is not fully priced, and that their modes suffer as a consequence. We shall need to keep these pricing questions in our minds, even if some of the solutions are likely to be long term.

Public Transport

An important goal for this government is improving public transport. I believe there are benefits for all motorists in having a strong public transport system. I am pleased to report that patronage funding is already proving successful.

As I suggested earlier the need to ensure good quality spending for passenger transport lies behind the patronage funding approach announced at the last budget. Regional Councils must generate more passengers to get additional funding from this source. In five months Transfund New Zealand has already approved $2.05 million in new and improved passenger services throughout the country with a total approval of $6.46 million over three years. The amount will increase as new applications are received.

I know your Association is concerned about public transport diverting motor vehicle generated funds from necessary investment in the roading infrastructure. I should leave you in no doubt that I believe roading is critical to New Zealand¡¦s economic and social growth, and there must be a continued investment in roading infrastructure. I am pleased to see that Transit has released a strategy for the future development of Auckland¡¦s state highway system.

Road Safety Strategy to 2010

Not only do we need to make sure that there is adequate investment in the roading network, and viable alternatives to the private car. We also need to ensure that we reduce the level of trauma on our roads.

Already we are making progress. Last year New Zealand had its lowest 12-month rolling road toll since 1964, 465 people were killed and around 11,500 injured. This is down from a peak of 795 fatalities in 1987. But, despite this reduction, New Zealand is still behind countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom in achieving safer roads. And I am very aware that the toll so far this year is higher than it should be.

This government is therefore considering a long-term goal for road safety. The proposed Road Safety Strategy to 2010 builds on our current success while also incorporating new approaches and targets.

The proposed Strategy was released in October 2000 for public consultation, and proposed reducing the annual level of road trauma to no more than 295 deaths and 1940 serious injuries, in line with current world¡¦s best practice. This could be achieved through three broad approaches: enforcement or engineering, or a mix of those two. Underlying each is the need for road safety education.

Consultation with the public on the proposed strategy included 15 public meetings, 14 hui and four fono, as well as receiving about 850 written submissions, including one from the Association. Meetings were also held with specific interest groups and nine focus groups to gain further insight into public opinion on the strategy.

Consultation finished just before Christmas, and preliminary analysis of the feedback indicates strong broad-based support for a reduction in the level of road trauma by 2010 equal to current world¡¦s best practice.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the AA for its submission on the Road Safety Strategy to 2010. The submission addressed a number of key road safety issues, and will help the Strategy to identify and deliver proposals in accordance with the needs of the community. I can assure you that the AA will continue to have a key role in developing the Strategy, through its membership of the Road Safety Advisory Group.

Submissions on the Strategy are currently being analysed and officials will report to government on this in a couple of months.

As a result of the consultation process, the Strategy is currently in the process of being modified. Initial feedback from the public indicates a need for a visible focus on road safety education alongside enforcement and targeted engineering to improve the safety of New Zealand roads.

I won¡¦t say any more on this issue as I know that David Wright, Director of Land Transport Safety and Steve Fitzgerald, National Road Safety Manager for the New Zealand Police will be speaking to you in greater detail about the 2010 Strategy.

The government, however, is not waiting for the Strategy to be finalised before implementing measures to improve road safety. Extra funding has been granted as part of a safety administration programme announced by the government last year. As part of this safety administration programme, the government committed $11.2 million for community road safety projects, with an additional $3.9 million allocated to road safety initiatives for Maori and Pacific Island communities.

This community education funding is being targeted at the local level, and will help support those road safety professionals working with community groups as well as funding new initiatives for community road safety programmes.

Also as part of this safety administration programme, the new Highway Patrol was launched in December 2000 and will continue to be introduced throughout the country over the next few months. It will provide a visible Police presence on our main roads to discourage behaviours such as drink-driving and speeding.

I hope that this package will enable us to make substantial immediate improvements in road safety consolidate the downward trend in accidents and fatalities.

Vehicle Safety

Initiatives to improve safety through education, engineering and enforcement, as outlined in the proposed Road Safety Strategy, however, are long-term measures. They need to work alongside the measures to make the vehicles on our roads safer as well.

The government is committed to ensuring that any vehicle being operated on New Zealand roads meets approved and prescribed international standards.

In light of this, New Zealand has signed up with the Australian New Car Assessment Programme, otherwise known as ANCAP. As you will know, this tests the crashworthiness of a variety of popular cars in Australia, many of which are similar to those imported here. The public is therefore provided with the safety information it needs to make meaningful decisions about which car to buy.

The Land Transport Safety Authority is also developing a Land Transport Road User Rule, which will cover road user behaviour provisions currently contained in the Traffic Regulations. In developing this rule we will also look to improve the way in which traffic currently operates.

The Rule will examine issues such as:

„h Give way rules at intersections
„h The use of cell phones in cars and
„h Using lanes and signal indication at roundabouts

The LTSA will be consulting on these issues shortly. The outcome of this consultation will be included in the public draft of the Road User Rule.

Safety Systems

The Government¡¦s road safety initiatives in recent years have concentrated on the driver and the vehicle. It is now a good time to consider whether more can be done about road infrastructure. One approach is through road controlling authorities adopting safety management systems. Safety management systems are a form of quality assurance and are used elsewhere in the transport sector. Such systems assist an organisation to identify and manage its own safety risks, while striving for continual improvement of safety performance.

Currently, there is no requirement for road controlling authorities to have safety management systems in place although Transit has one, and a number of local authorities are developing their own. A more formal regime could ensure all the bases are covered. I believe that such an initiative has good support from the sector, provided it¡¦s affordable.

Driver Licensing Review

You will all be very well aware that the ¡§new¡¨ driver licensing regime is now nearly two years old. It introduced a more effective and rigorous regime for novice drivers, and incorporated a variety of improvements to the previous driver licensing system, including a new photo licence and new licence tests and types of licence classes.

In June last year I commissioned an independent review of the costs and management of the driver licensing system, which was undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers. This review was intended to address many of the issues raised by the public since the new driver licensing system was introduced. These included the policy and costs relating to older drivers, novice drivers (with particular regard to driver education) and professional drivers.

I hope to release the report soon. I will save my detailed comments then. Suffice to say at the moment that I am very aware of your organisation¡¦s views on the current fee structure.

Many of the driver licensing issues are sensitive. The government¡¦s response has to be one that suits New Zealanders and our driving environment. It is clear that there is unfinished business, and there is a need for the government to continue working through these areas of concern to find the best solution.

Many of these issues are also addressed in the Road Safety Strategy to 2010, such as driver training and education for young drivers. I am interested in the current Austroad project, which is examining competency based assessments for older drivers. This may provide a more flexible approach towards licensing older drivers on our roads and the government will be looking at the results of the study. Of course, you will appreciate that any modifications to the system are not without a cost, and that cost is a factor which we have to take in to account.

The government is committed to ensuring that our roading network continues to enable businesses and communities to meet their needs. This involves, amongst other things, developing a Road Safety Strategy to 2010 that will reduce the impact of road trauma in our lives.

It also involves developing a formal New Zealand Transport Strategy, to influence where transport in our country is heading, and promote a long-term vision of a sustainable transport network.

The government is committed to a viable public transport system, and a continuing investment in roads to ensure we can access economic and social opportunities.

I look forward to working with the AA in the future, as in the past.

Thank you.


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