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Take Back the Track petition - Speech Notes

Hon. Jim Anderton
17 October 2001 Speech Notes

Take Back the Track petition

Presentation of Rail & Maritime Union ‘Take back the Track’ petition

Parliament steps.

1.45PM Wednesday, 17 October 2001


I welcome the effort that the rail and maritime Union has put into this petition.

In recent months New Zealanders have strongly expressed their support for public ownership of strategic assets.

There is growing recognition that the state asset sales of the eighties and nineties failed.

Air New Zealand was one example.

It became obvious that New Zealand simply could not afford to lose our national airline.

Its importance for our tourism industry and for thousands of fresh produce exporters is difficult to overstate.

The Government has also made a decision to allow New Zealand Post to establish a publicly-owned New Zealand bank.

The sale of publicly-owned banks led to virtually our entire financial system being owned overseas…along with branch closures, rising fees and declining service.

It is now clear that the privatisation of rail was equally botched.

Recently the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TranzRail.

It will mean that we take back control of the track in Auckland.

The decision secures for Auckland the possibility of developing a comfortable, high-speed passenger rail service to ease Auckland’s congestion problems.

Some critics say that not enough people travel by train to make it worthwhile.

That misses the point.

The issue is not how many people travel on the run-down service that exists today.

The issue is how many people will potentially use a modern, efficient service designed to serve the interests of Auckland.

Concern over the future of rail services is not confined to Auckland.

There are concerns in many other parts of the country – Gisborne-Napier, Northland and the Southerner service to name just a few.

In the South Island the Government has reached agreement with TranzRail and local authorities.

We will subsidise the Southerner passenger rail service for four months while we carry out a study on its long-term viability.

The Ministry of Economic Development is working in partnership with local communities in other parts of New Zealand to try to avoid the loss of further services.

These initiatives demonstrate this Government’s commitment to rail.

I am sympathetic to the aims of this petition, and I can assure you that the Government will consider the issues carefully.

Our rail tracks are an essential national lifeline.

More rail means less congestion on our roads.

Rail is an essential infrastructural link.

It is much better for the environment than alternative forms of transport.

I urge you to keep up your campaign.

The issue of asset sales is far from settled.

Only last Friday the new leader of the National party told the National Business Review: ‘Some assets will be sold.’

The list of assets he speculated on included:

The electricity firms, the Met Service, the CRIs, Air NZ, the Superannuation Fund, the People’s Bank and even the universities.

That is an extraordinary policy at a time when this Government has to clean up the mess in all sorts of sectors from the last round of asset sales.

In forestry, electricity, telecommunications, airlines, banks and railways.

The Labour-Alliance Coalition Government is working hard to fix the mess left after the New Right said all the problems would go away if the assets were sold.

New Zealanders face a choice.

Either we can go back to those failed ‘hands-off’ policies of the past.

Or we can go forward with modern policies of partnership in the interests of all New Zealanders.

I congratulate you on the work you have put into this campaign and I look forward to working with you on these issues in the future.

ENDS

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