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Launch of National Land Transport Programme

27 June 2002 Hon Judith Tizard
Speech Notes

Launch of National Land Transport Programme

Greetings to you all, including Transfund chair Michael Gross chief executive Martin Gummer, Transfund and Transit board members, Mayors Kerry Prendergast and John Terris and Parliamentary colleagues.

It is heartening to see so many of you here tonight because this year’s launch of the National Land Transport Programme is particularly special.

For a start, this year we have the largest annual injection of funding into roading and land transport ever seen in New Zealand. No less than $1.1 billion will be allocated to land transport this year. This represents an increase of $150 million over last year.

Second, what was the National Roading Programme now has a new name – the National Land Transport Programme.

Both these changes reflect the major changes for land transport the government announced in our “Moving Forward” package in February. That package recognised that a funding boost was vital if key projects were to proceed and included an extra $227 million in funding over 16 months. The increased allocations announced tonight are the result of that package.

But we went much further than just increasing funding, by signalling a clear policy shift in how we viewed land transport.

We said we wanted to widen the focus of the current land transport funding and management system beyond roads alone. To improve the efficiency of our roading network we need to encourage alternatives to cars. Yet those alternatives - rail, buses, walking and cycling - have all previously struggled to get funding. While the major focus of land transport funding will always be roading, we are looking for a more balanced mix.

In February we also announced five key government priorities for land transport. We want to reduce severe congestion, improve passenger transport, promote walking and cycling, help regional development and improve road safety.

With this year’s programme, Transfund has recognised the government’s wish for balance, and has applied these priorities as much as it can under its existing legislation. I thank them for that.

As a result not only is the amount of funding available for roading at an all time high this year, but so is the funding for land transport other than roading.

I will talk more about roading shortly, but first I want to say a little more about the alternatives being funded this year.

This year about 11% of the total land transport programme will go on these alternatives. That is about double the proportion of only three years ago.

Passenger transport will get $85 million this year, as a result of the government’s highly successful patronage funding system. I am proud to report that public transport funding is now double what it was when we became government.

Other changes in the programme this year reflecting the government’s more balanced approach include a new allocation to encourage regional development. There is $26.7 million available this year to help those regions where better transport infrastructure is needed for economic development. A range of roading projects and alternatives to roading, such as rail and barging, could be funded from this allocation.

Another new allocation is $3.7 million for promoting walking and cycling. This will enable key strategy studies to be done, along with the construction of cycleways and pedestrian facilities.

While the “Alternatives to Roading” category of funding has been around before, this year it gets a major boost with $29 million allocated, up from only $8 million last year. Projects as diverse as the electrification of the commuter line between Paraparaumu and Waikanae, and the refurbishment of rolling stock in Auckland could be funded from this category in the coming year.

But as I said earlier, while the government wants a more balanced approach to land transport, the core funding will always be for roading.

I am sure that we all agree that our current roading system is not up to scratch.

Congestion is a major issue for Auckland, creating a financial burden all New Zealanders share, while in the regions development is hindered by the poor state of many roads.

Tackling those problems is a huge job, but this government is trying to do exactly that and this year’s programme will help us along in that task.

I greatly welcome the allocation of almost $349 million for construction of new roads – an increase of $34 million on last year.

Given my other Ministerial hat, and my passion for Auckland, it will come as no surprise to you that I am particularly pleased that nearly $178 million will go on new roading projects in Auckland this year.

These projects are likely to include improvements to the central motorway junction, or what most of us know as Spaghetti Junction, at a total cost of $156.5 million. There is also an upgrade of the interchange at Esmonde Road planned for this year, and work on a second upper harbour bridge between Hobonsville and Greenhithe.
In total, including maintenance, construction, passenger transport and so forth, about $320 million of this year’s national allocation is to go on Auckland projects. That’s a third of the total national allocation, and is a recognition of the urgent need to tackle that region’s severe congestion.

This funding also recognises that what will benefit Auckland will benefit all New Zealand. While I might be accused of being parochial, there is no doubt that fixing the problems in Auckland will help the entire country. I know it has become bit of a mantra but let me say it again – Auckland’s traffic woes are costing this country hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Elsewhere in the country, a lot of excellent work has already been done to fix trouble spots. For instance, Route J in Tauranga, the Napier to Hastings Expressway, Candy’s Bend near Arthur’s Pass on the West Coast, Fairfield Bypass in Dunedin, Stoke Bypass in Nelson, and the Otira Viaduct.

This good work will be added to in the next year with some key projects likely to go ahead as a result of tonight’s announcement. For example, here in Wellington, we are likely to see the widening of State Highway One between Plimmerton and Mana, and the realignment of State Highway Two north of Upper Hutt between Kaitoke and Te Marua. In Christchurch the Main North Road will be made into four lanes.

Having looked at what the National Land Transport Programme holds in store for us in the coming year, I would like to remind you of other changes still to come for land transport.

While Transfund has done an excellent job in reflecting the government's priorities within the confines of their existing legislation, we intend to take these changes one step further by legislating to increase the flexibility of the funding system, for example by changing Transfund’s statutory objectives to give it a wider focus.

Another change on our agenda is to allow tolling to be used as a means to fund new roading infrastructure. At the moment, toll roads require individual legislation before they can be built. Our intention is to provide a generic frame-work which would cover all toll roads.

Similarly, we propose allowing Transit and local authorities to enter partnerships with the private sector to develop large-scale roading projects. Such public/private partnerships would spread the cost of the project over its life, rather than just over the years of construction.

There are other improvements in the pipeline. For instance we want to see regional councils have the opportunity to fund and both own and operate transport infrastructure, under agreed conditions.

We also want to simplify and combine the various road management powers in a single statute. Co-ordinating the management of interconnecting road networks makes very good sense.

It also makes sense to get the various players working together more closely. Our local roads are managed by 74 territorial local authorities while Transit manages the state highways. Co-operation among all these groups would offer huge benefits, not the least of which would be economies of scale in construction and maintenance.

If my wish is granted and we again have a Labour government after the election, we will waste no time in introducing legislation to put all this into effect.

Another change I would like to see considered is how we can further improve the patronage funding system. The system has been hugely successful. As a result public transport use has increased by 12 per cent around the country and as much as 22 per cent in Canterbury.

Now that patronage funding has been around for a while I think it is time that we looked at whether we should broaden the criteria for allocating public transport funding.

Also on the horizon post-election is New Zealand’s first Transport Strategy which recognises all modes and users of transport. This will provide the transport sector with strong, long-term strategic leadership.

The objectives of this strategy are straightforward. Transport must assist economic development. It must ensure safety and personal security. It must provide access and mobility to all. It must protect and promote public health. And it must ensure environmental sustainability.

In all these changes the focus must continue to be on people. The effectiveness of any transport system will ultimately depend on the answer to one question – does it meet the needs of the people, their present needs but also the needs of future generations?

That is the challenge for all of us.

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. I congratulate the Transfund team on another excellent year’s work. I have enjoyed working with you all over the last few years and I look forward to being around to work with you for another three years.


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