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Paul Swain Speech: Transfund & Transit 10Yr Plans

Hon Paul Swain Speech

Release of Transfund 10-year forecast, and Transit 10-year State Highway Plan

Good evening. Tonight is an historic occasion for land transport planning, because for the first time, a picture is emerging of how the sector will evolve over the next decade.

The story of how we got here involves those big infrastructural questions that have pre-occupied Governments since Bob Semple drove a tractor over the top of a wheelbarrow and shovel.

However it's taken almost 70 years since then to move planning and public thinking away from seeing roads as the only answer to our transport questions.

Addressing our infrastructure deficit is a crucial step to returning this country's living standards to the top half of the OECD. That is why I am so pleased to be at the release of the Transfund and Transit documents tonight.

In December last year I released the New Zealand Transport Strategy, which had five key objectives: -

* Assisting economic development
* Assisting safety and personal security
* Improving access and mobility
* Protecting and promoting public health
* Ensuring environmental sustainability

The Strategy spells out that if we are to move forward our infrastructure needs attention, after many years of under-investment and neglect.

However we cannot motorway our way out of our problems, and we need a multi-modal approach, with a mix of solutions involving road, rail, sea and air.

It is for this reason the Government has taken an interest in Air New Zealand, has made an offer for a stake in Tranz Rail, and will shortly be announcing the results of the Shipping Review.

But tonight we are concentrating on land transport, and I am thrilled at the work that has been put together by Transfund and Transit.

For the first time we have a big picture, showing work that is currently underway, road maintenance, new construction projects, passenger transport, alternatives to roading, and walking and cycling strategies.

The pieces of the transport jigsaw have come together, and I want to congratulate Transfund on its work.

It has been a challenge because the Government has demanded an holistic approach to land transport, which is a break with the past.

Transfund is allocating almost $1.2 billion this year, an increase of 8 percent. There has never been more funding available for transport.

In addition I want to congratulate the Transit Board, which has released its State Highway Plan today.

Transit has also faced the challenge of preparing a 10-year plan, after a lot of comment on its draft plan, released earlier this year.

The Government is shifting more funding to Auckland, which has missed out on its share in the past.

Helping Auckland to solve its problems is a priority, because of the cost of congestion on both the Auckland economy and New Zealand economy.

However the regions have indicated there is still much to be done in their areas to address the transport and roading deficits we have inherited.

Transit's announcement today finds the balance between central government and regional priorities. Both agencies are now preparing to start work on the review of major projects that was signalled in last year's Speech from the Throne, to ensure they fit the Government's transport objectives.

This will ensure that the decisions of Transit and Transfund are consistent with the Government's transport initiatives.

The review will focus on a handful of projects, greater than $20 million, with a 2003/04 construction start date, which have not yet been put out to tender.

Transit and Transfund will begin preparing for this work immediately and will finish the review before the end of the year.

We also recognise that Transfund and Transit are only able to work within the budget given to them by the Government.

Of course both agencies would like to do more, and of course I would like to give them more, but we are working with finite resources.

Their work has brought into sharp focus that transport, along with other infrastructure, has been underfunded for some time. Funding options are now my number one priority so that a multi-modal approach can be realised.

We have made significant progress. The 4.7-cent a litre excise duty increase last year was a great kick-start, and I want to thank the Green Party for supporting that measure.

It has enabled more spending on road maintenance, road construction, passenger transport, alternatives to roading, regional development, and promotion of walking and cycling.

And waiting in the wings is the Land Transport Management Bill, which will come back to Parliament for further debate in September. A lot of work is going into refining the alternative funding mechanisms it offers, including tolling and public private partnerships.

In addition, the Government has formed a joint working party with Auckland, and is considering issues raised by the Mayoral Forum.

These include: - additional government contributions; demand management of traffic; encouraging the use of public transport; tolling; regional petrol taxes; and debt financing.

However we are keeping the work general enough to ensure that the whole country could benefit from solutions we come up with.

It is important to develop a nationwide solution to transport infrastructure problems.

We are all working to address the demands on the networks, and with extra funding, even more could be done.

The Government is committed to improving the transport infrastructure, so we can achieve our goal of returning the country's living standards to the top half of the OECD.

I want to once again congratulate Transfund and Transit, and everyone here who is working to improve this most important part of our infrastructure.


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