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Maurice Williamson Speech: Time to act on roads

Maurice Williamson Speech: It's time to act on roads

Speech notes for address to the National Party Annual Conference, Duxton Hotel, Wellington.

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• Until 1985, New Zealand was spending around the OECD average of 1.3% of GDP on roading. For whatever reason, in 1985 it took a more than 30% dive and dropped below 1%. It has stayed at or around that 1% mark for the last 20 years. It is a significant drop in spending, and sets us well behind comparable countries like Australia and the United States. It puts us near the bottom of the OECD table.

• Labour would have you believe they made a huge difference but the graph shows differently.

• The cumulative effect of this under-funding has meant that all the worst measures of roading - for example, congestion and safety - have dramatically deteriorated over this time. Congestion in Auckland is now worse than Sydney or Melbourne, and our level of deaths per 100 million kilometres driven is now 20% worse than Australia, 30% worse than the US, and nearly 50% worse than the United Kingdom.

• Currently, major new roads like Auckland's Western Ring route (SH20 from Hillsborough through Mt Roskill, Avondale, and connecting to the North Western Motorway), the Maramarua Expressway, the Tauranga Strategic Roading Network, the Waikato Expressway, Wellington's Transmission Gully, and an additional Auckland Harbour crossing still remain well outside the funding levels available.

• New Zealand will not see them completed within 10 years under Labour's spending regime. In fact, things are so desperate that some of us will have died of old age before these vital projects are completed.

• Don Brash has already committed to completing within 10 years the State Highway arterial network that has been so long planned for Auckland.

• The road carnage being experienced on certain sections of our roading network is simply disgraceful. SH2 Maramarua and the Centennial Highway route into Wellington now have appalling fatality records that can't be allowed to continue.

• Worse still have been the continuous rounds of delay and postponements. Take SH20 Mt Roskill Extension as a case in point. In 2000, Transit put out a media release saying construction would start in 2001. On 31 October 2001, Transit released a document saying "Transit proposes to begin construction in September 2002. Construction will take around three years, with completion expected by May 2005." In August of 2004 it distributed a large, glossy brochure to every household in Auckland. That brochure said construction would start later that year. It is now June 2005 and construction has still not started.

• Don Brash has committed to completing the planned network within 10 years of our election.

• Resource consents for the Albany-Puhoi Motorway took more than seven years. According to Transit's own advice to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee, it now takes considerably longer to get consents for a major roading project than it does to build it. We should learn from Labour governments in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and just get on with the huge backlog of major projects.

• Sydney's $2 billion M7 Westlink project and Melbourne's $4 billion Connect East project are being delivered through public-private partnerships within five years from start to finish. We should be doing the same thing here.

• Not only do we need to dramatically reform the Resource Management Act and the Land Transport Management Act, a huge investment in roading infrastructure over the next decade is desperately needed. The problem has reached national crisis levels.

• One of the reasons for under-investing in roading is the fact that every year $600 million of petrol tax is siphoned off and allocated to the Crown Account. It is then used to fund hip-hop tours, prisoner compo, twilight golf, sing-along courses, taniwha, more bureaucrats, Treaty lawyers, welfare bribes, NCEA inquiries, etc.

• That's why National has announced, as our major policy for transport, the moving, over time, of all the petrol tax that currently goes to the Crown Account, to the Road Fund. That will mean an extra $4.5 billion will be available for roading over the next decade. That's extra, in addition to, on top of, what's currently planned.

• In the past, government accounts have been so often in deficit and it's been difficult to justify extra spending on roads. That's no longer true. Government surpluses are currently running at about $7 billion, and there's never been a better time to put road funding on a sound, sustainable funding track.

• The Waikato Expressway is desperately needed but is not currently funded in the next 10-year plan. The total cost of the Expressway is $750 million but currently there is only $230 million allocated to the project. That means there's a shortfall of $520 million. The increased funding by National will allow the Expressway to be fully completed within 10 years. Don Brash has made that commitment already.

• Public transport can do a bit to help but, in general, buses will be the main solution and buses run on roads. It's time to act - the time has come to just get the bulldozer engines started and get on with building the much needed roading network.


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