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PM Speech at Transit NZ State Highway Update

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Transit NZ 2005/05 State Highway Forecast Update and Announcement

Sky City Convention Centre
Federal Street, Auckland

10.15 am

Thursday 19 May 2005

In June, the government announced an extra half billion dollar investment into land transport over the next four years, on top of the already substantial allocation in the May Budget. As a result, Transit New Zealand is able to spend $390 million more over the next four years on state highways.

The extra funding is the latest in a series of significant investments in the land transport infrastructure made by the government over our two terms in office.

One of the areas of greatest concern to us in 1999 was the state of New Zealand’s land transport infrastructure. Nowhere were the problems more obvious than in Auckland.

Auckland’s problems were due to a number of factors, some specific to the region and some nationwide:

- There was no coherent strategy for transport in the region.

- Auckland’s transport governance structures were particularly poor, with little co-ordination and co-operation between central government agencies and with local authorities.

- The regulatory process was cumbersome and time consuming.

- Public transport had suffered particular neglect.

- There was significant historical underinvestment in Auckland’s land transport infrastructure which had not kept pace with growth in the local population and economy.

The culmination of these factors had produced a congested city with severe bottlenecks which are costly for motorists, for business, and for the environment.

Over the past two terms, my government has worked very closely with local government, business interests, and central government agencies not just to turn the tide, but to take a quantum leap forward in resolving Auckland’s transport problems. We are making considerable progress in Auckland, as we are nationally.

An important early step was the development of the New Zealand Transport Strategy. Previously, too much emphasis had been given to a narrow benefit-cost analysis approach to transport investment which led to distortions. For example, the emphasis on safety discriminated against investment in motorways, as congested motorways are quite safe in a strict road transport sense. The fact that the resultant air pollution from slow moving cars damages people’s health and causes premature death wasn’t taken into account.

A more coherent approach was developed in the New Zealand Transport Strategy (2002) and legislated for in the Land Transport Management Act (2003).

Transport planning is now a more integrated exercise than it was, and takes account of a variety of economic, social, and environmental considerations. We developed a ten-year planning horizon to give local government and the construction industry greater certainty.

Backlogs at the Environment Court meant considerable delays for many projects. We have put more resources into the Environment Court, so that what was often a two year or more wait is now significantly reduced. We have also made improvements to the Resource Management Act. The latest round of amendments to it passed through Parliament last week, and we have worked with local government to improve the Act’s implementation.

Auckland had a particular problem with its lack of effective transport governance and poor co-ordination between the local authorities in the region. In 2003, we announced that we would, with the agreement of Auckland’s local bodies, establish the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, which would be accountable for delivering a sustainable transport system consistent with Auckland’s strategic transport plans. That announcement in December 2003 was accompanied by a level of central government engagement and collaboration with Auckland local government which was unprecedented, and which continues to this day.

But perhaps the biggest change of all has been in the scale of the investment now being made in Auckland’s land transport system.

An analysis of large Auckland projects is particularly revealing. In 1999/00, as we came into office, the major works underway or recently completed in Auckland had a value totalling $130 million. In the year just finished, 2004/05, using exactly the same criterion, the figure is a little over $1.3 billion. That is a ten-fold increase.

Across the country, we have vastly stepped up central government’s investment in land transport, across road and rail, and in public transport. In 1999/00, the funding available through the National Land Transport Fund was $939.8 million. In 2005/06, the funding available through the National Land Transport Fund is $1.7 billion, an eighty per cent increase. That figure does not include any of the extra $500 million that we are talking about today, nor the funding packages for Wellington and the Bay of Plenty announced in recent weeks, nor any package being worked on for the Waikato.

Today, we are hearing from Transit New Zealand on its updated State Highway Forecast, taking into account the extra $390 million it has to spend on state highways over the next four years.

This funding injection is especially significant for Auckland. An extra $280 million over and above the previously announced funding, has been allocated for Auckland over the next four years for its state highways. This will help advance projects for the Western Ring Route which links Albany to Manukau via an alternative to State Highway 1.

The precise timetable of this work will depend on the willingness of Aucklanders to accept some tolling, in the same way as was determined by affected communities for the State Highway 1 re-routing from Orewa to Puhoi. Some sections of State Highway 20 pass through suburbs and parkland, and Transit is obliged to build with an acceptably low footprint, bearing in mind the impact on communities. I have long believed that tunnelling or cut and cover through sensitive areas will be required.

Auckland rail transport is also a major beneficiary of the extra half billion dollar funding. Of the $110 million available for projects other than state highways, another $50 million goes to commuter rail projects in Auckland. More and better integrated public transport has to be an essential element of keeping people moving in Auckland.

I acknowledge the role of our partners in Auckland local government and in the Auckland Regional Transport Authority in helping lift public transport patronage. Had patronage stayed at its level of six years ago, Auckland would be far more seriously congested than it is now.

Across New Zealand, government spending on public transport is up more than six fold in the past six years, from $40 million to $250 million.

Outside Auckland, work on projects in the Waikato is being advanced by today’s announcement, including on the Te Rapa and Ngaruawahia by passes, which are key components of the Waikato Expressway. Work on a major link in Wellington, the State Highway 2 Dowse to Petone Interchange, will now start this year instead of next.

Around the country, an extra $10 million will be spent in 2005/06 on 14 additional small and medium-sized projects with a construction cost of under $3 million. The additional smaller projects to be started this year with the special funds are in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu and Wanganui, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago.

Significant progress has been made on land transport since 2000, and it presents a stark contrast with the slow progress of the 1990s. Our government is proud of both the significant new levels of investment and of the improvements to structures and processes.

I now invite Rick van Barneveld from Transit New Zealand to outline the plans in more detail.


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