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Swain addresses AA wish list

Swain addresses AA wish list

Speaking at the New Zealand Automobile Association’s Annual Conference this morning, Transport Minister Paul Swain congratulated the Association on its 100th birthday, and said that the government is addressing the AA’s three birthday wishes.

Mr Swain said the AA were wanting to see roading infrastructure progress, for government to have a greater commitment to road safety, and to ensure that the freedom the car has brought to society be maintained.

“As the debate about land transport funding continues the fact is that the government has significantly increased investment in the transport sector,” said Mr Swain.

“Total land transport expenditure funding has increased from $866 million in 1998/99 to an allocated $1.1 billion for 2002/03. The National Land Transport Fund invests almost $1.6 billion in national land transport and safety funding. Regional and territorial authorities invest a further $400 million, mainly funded from rates.

“The recent release of Transit NZ’s draft 10-year state highways programme has generated a useful debate around the country,” said Mr Swain.

“It has highlighted the problem that demand for more roading projects will always outstrip our ability to pay. In addition as car engines become more efficient there is a reduction in the petrol tax collected which compounds the funding problems. This is why the government is considering alternative funding options such as public private partnerships, tolling as well as proposals from regions for regional funding solutions.

“Transit is consulting with regions over its draft programme. Regional priorities, where they can be matched with national ones, need to play a part in programme determination. I am certain we will see some changes to the funding programme being made, before final announcements are made in July.

“Soon, I will be altering the government’s Performance Agreements with Transfund and Transit, to ensure that roading programmes and projects reflect the objectives of the NZ Transport Strategy. It will also ensure that future funding decisions, whilst recognising congestion in Auckland, take account of other priorities, such as economic development and safety.

However Mr Swain said that roads were not the only answer to the country’s transport problems. The New Zealand Transport Strategy, which now guides government decision-making on transport, takes a multi-modal approach, looking at road, sea, air and rail.

Mr Swain said road safety is a major priority for this government and would continue to be so. “The government has set itself the goal of reducing the road toll to no more than 300 by 2010.

“We are making good progress, with the 404 road deaths last year being the lowest in almost 40 years. However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We are considering measures aimed at recidivist offenders such as alcohol interlocks on vehicles, expanding the use of vehicle impoundment as a penalty for drink driving and other sanctions aimed at repeat offenders.

“I’m also advised that lowering the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit and the introduction of demerit points for speed camera offences could have an important impact on reducing road deaths and injuries.

“At some stage I will be taking some options to cabinet. I can assure the AA that it will be consulted.”

“Over the last century cars have revolutionised the way we live, giving ordinary people the freedom of movement only dreamed about in previous centuries. Cars get us to work during the week and to the beach or the mountains during the weekend. They take us to the hospital when we are sick and enable us to drop off the kids at sport or music.

“On the flip side increased use of cars causes a number of problems. Road safety concerns funding pressures and the impact of the environment are some of the more obvious ones. I am keen to work in partnership with the AA on solving these issues”, said Mr Swain.

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