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King: "Improving the Road Network" conference

Transport Minister Annette King delivers overview transport speech at "Improving the Road Network" conference in Napier.

Speech to: New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology and New Zealand Transport Agency. Napier, Oct 13th.

You have certainly chosen a fitting topic, Improving the Road Network, for your ninth annual conference.
It is an apt theme following a year of major change in the transport sectors, and it is, of course, also a fitting theme with an election now less than four weeks away.

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you today. I will be talking to you about some of the major changes that have occurred --- and I know that the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Ministry will be looking at specific issues in depth.
And in respect of your theme, and its relationship to the upcoming election, I will also have some brief comments to make later. In the past nine years the investment in improving our roading infrastructure has been immense, and it is vitally important for New Zealand that we don't run the risk of losing our momentum.

I want to acknowledge the New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology chief executive Willie Vance, and to thank him for his invitation to come here today. I would also like to acknowledge New Zealand Transport Agency General Manager Highway and Network Operations Colin Crampton, and, of course, Napier Deputy Mayor Kathy Furlong.

I've looked at your programme, and am very impressed at the breadth of workshops on offer. I only wish I could stay and attend a few of them, but, as you can imagine, my schedule seems to be becoming increasingly busy at the moment. If you invited me back next year, I would certainly like to spend a longer time with you.
As I said, this has been a big year for transport, particularly with the passing in July of the Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008. The changes proposed in the Act will fundamentally reform the way land transport planning and funding is managed in New Zealand.

In August I launched the New Zealand Transport Strategy 2008 (an update of the 2002 Strategy). The updated strategy will move us more positively toward our vision of achieving an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system for all New Zealanders.

The updated strategy also provides leadership and direction for the next 30 years --- aligning with the Government's sustainable development, energy and climate change agendas, while supporting New Zealand's economy.

It covers all aspects of transport -– moving people and freight on land, by air and sea. It also provides a framework for the activities of transport Crown entities and guidance for local authorities, and a long-term plan which will help the private sector to make investment decisions with greater confidence. I will have some more to say on that later as well.

The Strategy will see a new era for transport by setting out, for the first time, defined targets for the whole sector, and actions to achieve the targets.

We will see more hybrid and electric vehicles on our roads; more people walking, cycling and using public transport; and more movement of freight by rail and sea. We also aim for greater use of renewable fuels, more fuel efficient technology and improved operating practices. These measures will all help address the global problem of climate change and help achieve the strategy's goals of halving per capita greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2040.

Another goal, to make our roads safer places to travel on, will be achieved through road safety education, the enforcement of road safety rules, and improvements to road networks and vehicles. There has been a major reduction in road deaths since 1987, but we cannot be complacent. Our road toll is still higher than countries with world best road-safety records.

Better transport networks will also support and assist economic growth. Maintaining international links and our commitment to international standards for aviation and maritime security will be essential to supporting long-term economic progress.

On the domestic front, road congestion will continue to be tackled by better managing travel demand; providing improved public transport systems; and, again, encouraging more people to walk, cycle and use public transport. Journey times and journey time reliability will improve with a focus on investing in critical infrastructure in public transport as well as in roads.

As well as improving access and mobility, the strategy includes targets for protecting and promoting public health, such as reducing the number of people exposed to health-endangering noise levels and air pollution from transport.

Another key component of the strategy will be to promote more effective integration between land-use and transport planning, as well as between different forms of transport, so that we provide a more efficient overall transport system.

The shortage of skilled workers across all modes will also be addressed.

The strategy needs to be a living document, and that is why it contains a commitment to developing a comprehensive action plan by March next year with the intent of producing another updated version in two years. I look forward to input and feedback from stakeholders, as we refine and add to our targets and planned actions.

While the Strategy has a long-term outlook, the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport Funding sets out shorter-term targets, and provides direction for the allocation of funding over the next 10 years.

It describes what we want to achieve through funding to the land transport sector, how much funding will be provided to the sector, what areas of transport will be funded and how funding will be raised.

In the development of the GPS, we have aimed to achieve a balance between the need to invest in the land transport sector, with the burden that increasing fuel prices are having on New Zealanders. We need to invest in transport for the future, but it must remain affordable for everyone at the same time.

The Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008 also established the New Zealand Transport Agency, of course. This new Crown entity combines the expertise and functions of Land Transport New Zealand and Transit New Zealand. Having just one Crown entity involved in land transport planning will lead to more consistent and integrated decision making.

The Agency will help deliver key transport outcomes in collaboration with organisations across the sector. Its key outcomes are to:

• get people and freight using a wider range of transport modes
• make journeys safer
• achieve value for money
• make the funding process easier and more predictable
• build stronger partnerships.

Geoff Dangerfield, the Chief Executive for the New Zealand Transport Agency, has already made great progress setting up the new organisation which will work towards achieving these goals.

The Act also replaced Regional Land Transport Committees with Regional Transport Committees which now have enhanced functions. These committees will need to prioritise land transport activities for their regions, including State highways, but excluding activities like local road maintenance and other non-strategic projects.

And, while I am on this subject, I want to congratulate the Hawke's Bay Regional Transport Committee for its very positive approach to its new role.

The Act also requires full dedication of all revenue from road user chargers, petrol excise duty and motor vehicle registrations to the National Land Transport Fund for transport purposes, and it allows for the raising of regional fuel levies in order to bring forward high priority transport projects that cannot otherwise reasonably be funded from any other source in the timeframe desired by the region.

As you know, the levy is not compulsory and will only be introduced when needed and at a level that is appropriate for the region's requirements. I was very pleased to announce the first such levy last week in Auckland --- and it will be used principally to fund the electrification of rail and upgrading of rail facilities and stations in our largest city, and to build the new Penlink road in Rodney.

The phased-in levy will bring about vast improvements in Auckland transport infrastructure, and I will wait with interest to see if there are applications from other regions as well.

I'd now like to talk more on some areas I touched on earlier when talking about targets in the NZ Transport Strategy.

One of these is safety. The Government is determined to bring down the road toll and to reduce the number of serious injuries on our roads, with their related health and social costs.

Road deaths are the leading cause of death for children aged one to 14 years, and aside from the obvious tragic personal consequences of road trauma, we know that deaths and injuries on the road also have a major social and economic impact.

The Ministry of Transport has released its annual update of the Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries report, which looks at the total cost of road crashes to the nation. This includes loss of life and life quality, loss of productivity, medical, legal, court and property damage costs.

The report shows that the total cost of all motor vehicle crashes in 2007 has increased by about five percent since 2006, to $4.5 billion. More specifically, the cost of crashes causing fatalities has risen by 8.6 percent.

Targets in the Strategy --- to reduce road deaths to no more than 200 per annum, and serious injuries to no more than 1,500 per annum, both by 2040 --- represent a major improvement on current rates. The targets are equivalent to current world best road-safety levels and consistent with historic rates of progress in New Zealand.

Another key area for achieving the transport vision focuses on sustainability. Currently, transport is responsible for 19 percent of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions. That's the second biggest contributor, and the fastest growing, and emissions will only keep increasing if we don't introduce measures to tackle the problem.

The key challenge is to reduce emissions while ensuring that transport systems continue to support a strong, competitive economy and high quality of life.

The Government's approach focuses on managing demand for travel, shifting to transport that produces less emissions, improving the fuel efficiency of vehicle fleets and transport networks, and developing and adopting alternative fuels.

As well as the obvious environmental benefits of these measures, more and more people are asking for transportation that leaves a smaller carbon footprint and we need to meet this demand.

Of course, we cannot achieve what we want to achieve without a good and skilled workforce. You may be aware of the growing shortage of suitably trained and skilled workers across the transport sector. From road construction to aviation and maritime, it's getting harder to recruit and retain the people we need to keep progressing.
Current initiatives to improve skills in the existing workforce and attract new people into the industry need to be stepped up. This will require a focus on increasing capability within the industry, and within central and local government.
On this note, I'd like to congratulate your Institute on providing quality programmes based on industry needs. I know there are many people who benefit from these courses, with their focus on current industry practice and latest advances in technology.
I said at the start today that I would have a couple of points to make in respect of the way your theme relates to the upcoming elections.

In terms of public transport, total government investment in public transport in 2008/09 will be more than 15 times higher than we entered government --- up from $41 million, a static figure throughout the 1990s, to about $640 million. That is a remarkable increase, and absolutely vital to reduce congestion in our big cities.

You will no doubt have seen last week, however, that the National Party, which earlier this year proposed a $4.5 billion spend on infrastructure over the next six years, is now planning to cut that spend by $800 million because of the economic situation. Roads and other transport projects will clearly take the biggest hit under National's changed approach.

That's a real worry, and it is no surprise that organisations like the Contractors' Federation are so concerned. Infrastructure development is a cornerstone of our economy, and we cannot afford to start going backward to the bad old days of the 1990s.

There have been equally concerning messages coming out from the National Party last week on research and development, on investment in innovation and on workforce up-skilling.

Our Government is committed to actively supporting research and development, actively supporting investment in innovation, and actively supporting workforce up-skilling.

Yesterday Helen Clark made a number of important announcements;

Labour will increase the number of modern apprentices in training by 1000 a year so that by December 2011 we will have 17,000 in modern apprentice training.

We will continue to increase industry training volumes so that by 2011, ten percent of the New Zealand workforce – or 230,000 Kiwis – are involved in some form of recognised industry training.

There is a vast difference between a government being active and a government being passive.

Tougher economic times are not the times when "no government" is "good government". In tougher times, active government is good government.

This is the time, if necessary, to bring forward planned infrastructure spending - on rail, roads, school properties etc – to support employment and the economy.

You no doubt saw an announcement a week ago that supported that approach with the bringing forward of the $190m Newmarket Viaduct Project in Auckland.

There are challenging times ahead. We will need to plan strategically to take on the issues, but I know we can do it and I look forward to improved transport systems for ourselves and future generations.
Once again, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today, and I hope you enjoy the workshops and events throughout the rest of this conference. Thank you.


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