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King: Public Transport Management Bill

Annette King

4 September, 2008
Second reading: Public Transport Management Bill

Madam Speaker, I move that the Public Transport Management Bill be read a second time.

I would like to thank members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for their work on this Bill, and I fully support the changes that have been made to improve its workability.

If we want New Zealanders to move towards more sustainable transport, we must create a public transport system that is a realistic alternative to private car use. It is therefore essential that New Zealand’s public transport services are affordable, integrated and accessible, safe, responsive to change and – above all – economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

With the requirement to reduce our carbon emissions and high oil prices there is a need to increase public transport provision. We are already seeing a rise in the number of people using public transport with around 32 percent more trips taken on public transport in 2006/07 than 2000/01.

This Bill will empower regional councils to better plan and manage public transport services. It will give them the tools to do what is needed, when it is needed, where it is needed.

More than 80 percent of services are contracted and subsidised by ratepayers and taxpayers. Councils set standards for these services, but cannot do so for the 20 percent of services run commercially, at the operator’s initiative, without a contract. The Bill calls these non-contracted services ‘commercial services’. The Bill would empower regional councils to impose controls on all commercial services.

The current lack of control over and information about commercial services is hindering the ability of regional councils to achieve best value for money and effectively plan and manage public transport services. It is critical that public transport services are effectively planned and managed to ensure value for money from the $909 million of rate payers and tax payers’ money forecast to be spent on public transport services in 2008/09.

A wide range of submissions on the Bill were received and a number of changes have been made in response. The most significant is the inclusion of an oversight mechanism to allow existing commercial public transport operators the right to appeal to the Environment Court against controls imposed by regional councils. A number of criteria for adopting controls and appealing against them have been added to the Bill. This will help to ensure that any controls set are justified.

The Bill also defines the transport disadvantaged more clearly, not by listing groups that may be transport disadvantaged, but by focussing on what it means to be transport disadvantaged. It has been made clear that accessibility standards, for example, requiring super low floor buses, may also be set.

Accessibility standards for public transport services have been defined so that it is plain that accessibility is not just about being able to get onto a bus or ferry, but also about having access to information, identifying the correct service, getting to and using seating and being able to get off the service in the right place.

A number of provisions have been clarified and improved including setting out the development and content of regional public transport plans, who must be consulted and when. New criteria for determining when the bundling of services is justified have been added.

This Bill will enable regional councils to set fair notice periods for commencing, varying and withdrawing commercial public transport services. The timing and process for decisions regarding registrations and deregistrations of services has been improved so notice periods can be extended, while allowing Operators a clear right to be heard.

At present commercial services can be registered, varied or withdrawn in 21 days. Operators can register some services as commercial if their tender for a contract is not successful, or while tenders are still being sought, or register part of a timetable of services as commercial. This can inhibit competition for contracted services and give an operator a financial advantage for the contract of remaining non-commercial services in the timetable.

This Bill will give regional councils more time to respond to changes in commercial services and ensure continued delivery of services to their communities. The Bill will enable regional councils to access more information from commercial public transport services, such as detailed patronage information. This will assist in better planning.

Monitoring powers have been added so regional councils can ensure commercial services are meeting the standards set in their region. Requirements for providing information about commercial services have been improved, so regional councils can use this information for developing plans now, rather than having to go through a complete planning process before being able to access this information.

Where information is commercially sensitive, requirements governing its release have been tightened so that such information will be protected unless there is an over-riding reason not to do so.

Regional councils will be able to set quality and performance standards. Quality standards have been defined and regional councils will be able to require the use of lower-emission buses, and specify standards for such matters as accessibility, comfort and customer service training. Performance standards will help to ensure that services are reliable and run on time.

This Bill will enable the integration of services, ticketing and fares across a region. If regional councils choose to use this provision, services can be scheduled to connect with each other; all operators will be required to accept the same tickets and travelling on public transport will become much simpler.

I would like to take this opportunity to signal my intention to introduce a Supplementary Order Paper. Given the recent passage of the Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008, a number of minor and technical amendments are needed to align this Bill with that Act.

Once again, I would like to thank the Committee for the work they have done on this Bill and emphasise the importance of this legislation in enabling regional councils to effectively plan and manage public transport and respond to rising demand.

Madam Speaker, I move that the Public Transport Management Bill 2007 be read a second time.


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