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Swain Outlines Transport Vision

Swain Outlines Transport Vision

Minister of Transport Paul Swain outlined the Government’s vision for New Zealand’s transport system over the next decade, as he opened the Road Transport Forum’s annual conference in Nelson this morning.

In his first major speech as Transport Minister Mr Swain said that the vision was that “by 2010, New Zealand will have an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system.

“In order to achieve this there are a couple of critical items on the work agenda. These are the New Zealand Transport Strategy and the Land Transport Management Bill.

“The New Zealand Transport Strategy, which we intend releasing before Christmas, takes a very broad perspective in looking at transport and its contribution to New Zealand’s future. The strategy represents a fundamental change in thinking and is the first time all the modes of transport will be looked at as a whole and in an integrated way.”

Mr Swain said that he intended to introduce the Land Transport Management Bill into Parliament before the end of the year. “This legislation will represent the biggest change to the way land transport projects are funded since the current system was introduced in the late 1980s.

“The bill will allow Transfund NZ to fund a wider range of public organisations involved in providing land transport, provide a framework for a generic tolling regime and allow for public private partnerships.”

Mr Swain said that rail has an important part to play in New Zealand’s transport system, especially in relation to long haul freight. “The Government is currently developing a national rail policy to ensure that the rail system is able to play an appropriate role in providing affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport solutions,” he said. “It is also considering how to address the provision of quality commuter rail services in Auckland and Wellington.

“The role of rail will be accomodated in the Land Transport Management Bill with a greater role for regional councils.

“The Government has also recently commissioned a detailed study into the costs and benefits associated with the road and rail system across New Zealand,” said Mr Swain. This study will build on the Land Transport Pricing Study - several studies on land transport undertaken in the mid 1990s.

“This Government wants to continue the work started by the pricing study and expand its scope to include rail. We’ve instructed the Ministry of Transport to commission a detailed investigation into the socio-economic and environmental benefits, costs and charges associated with the road and rail system across New Zealand.

Mr Swain also announced the first steps in a move toward using the latest electronic technology to revamp the road user charges (RUC) system.

The RUC system collects revenue for roading costs from owners of diesel vehicles, based on the vehicle weight and the distance travelled.

“The Government has asked the Ministry of Transport to develop a design and business case, for collecting road user charges electronically,” said Mr Swain. “This will inform future policy decisions regarding the possible adoption of such a system.

Mr Swain re-iterated the importance of transport to achieving economic growth. “Ensuring that transport assists economic growth is crucial to the success of the Growth and Innovation Strategy released by government earlier this year. This Government has set itself the goal of lifting New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD and transport will have a huge role to play in achieving that. However it’s important that this growth be sustainable. Growth at any cost is not the answer, and we must ensure that the decisions we make today do not impose costs on, or reduce opportunities for, the future.

Mr Swain said he valued the input from the Road Transport Forum and looked forward to working with the forum over the next few months as the Government progresses these major initiatives.

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