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Peters: There Will Always Be a Place for Rail

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
13 July 2014

EMBARGOED TILL DELIVERY

New Zealand First’s Transport Policy Announcement
Sunday 13 July, 2pm
Henry Lawson Field Theatre, 15 Fitzherbert St, Gisborne

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A PLACE FOR RAIL

It is again a pleasure to be here in Gisborne today.

Mind, however, those of you who were watching the Nation on TV3 yesterday would have been alarmed to hear an economist talk about cities like Gisborne being in decline.

What was serious was that he did not have any real idea as to why it was happening.

Of course you would not expect certain economists who favour the present monetary system to grasp how damaging it is to provinces, which are the heart of this country’s export record.

These provinces are being hammered by an outdated monetary policy, a seriously overvalued dollar and artificially inflated interest rates.

Every percentage point our dollar has risen has been an harbinger for further losses of wealth to the provinces.

In addition, of course, you are paying high interest rates here in some vain attempt to counter the Auckland housing inflation bubble.

The provinces of this country once were thriving.

They were the backbone of the country.

Many of these provinces are being currently crucified on a cross of mad monetarism and one party understands that - that party is New Zealand First.

We have plans to turn around this discriminatory neglect against the provinces.

We would like to use this opportunity to talk about New Zealand First’s transport policy.

Transport is vital as it is fundamental both for a well-functioning society and a thriving economy.

In transport, like so many sectors, there has been no vision, strategy, or plan for the past six years.

In contrast, New Zealand First’s transport policy provides a comprehensive strategy for transport in New Zealand.

The objective is clear – creating a cost effective, efficient, safe, secure and future proofed, transport infrastructure and services.

Our policy will guide transport planning and investment, with the goal of building an integrated transport system.

Today will outline the main features of our transport policy – visit the New Zealand First website where there will be full policy manifesto details.

ROADS

Let us begin with roading.

Maintenance of the national roading network is fundamental and must not be compromised.

The whole road network must be properly maintained so that all users are served.

But we will balance the roading needs of rural New Zealand and the main centers with the need to reduce dependence on cars.

So we will maintain and build roads that are necessary.

We are calling for a thorough review of National’s bloated and hugely expensive “RONS” programme which is massively extravagant given all the other areas of necessary spending that are being cut to fund it.

On road transport funding we will ensure that all the funds raised through fuel excise taxes and Road User Charges go into the National Land Transport Programme.

In addition, we will replace Road User Charges with a diesel excise tax for all light diesel vehicles less than 12 tonnes, to be added at the pump in the same manner as for petrol.

RAIL

You can tell a great deal about a Government by its attitude to railways.

It is plain to see that the National Government is deeply, ideologically averse to rail transport.

That’s why they sold a then profitable NZ Rail on 20 July 1993 for a pittance.

That’s why again they are running railways down.

It appears their vision is of a New Zealand without railways – and for the past six years they have closed railway workshops in Dunedin, closed the Gisborne-Napier line and generally starved rail of investment.

Then we could just build endless motorways unfettered by any possible alternative.

National are antagonistic to rail for three reasons:

1. Rail is a long term activity – it takes long term thinking to plan, build and maintain a rail network.

2. Rail is a collective activity – it is shared infrastructure that serves the nation as a whole.

3. Rail is a rational form of transport for a world where oil is rising in cost and we are facing climate change.

And of course KiwiRail is collectively owned so it is not likely to be donating to National party coffers - unlike the road building and road haulage industries!

The National Government’s agenda is to let rail in New Zealand die.

They are starving rail to death.

Our transport policy will give rail a real and valued role in the total transport mix.

For this reason, New Zealand First will develop a programme of Railways of National Importance (RONI).

RONI will be a long term – 10 year programme.

RONI will ensure better use of our railway network and services are achieved, with improvements and extensions where there is opportunity to significantly reduce dependence on the roading network.

This will apply especially to heavy and bulk freight services, but also where passenger services can be redeveloped to attract sufficient demand over time.

Funding for the Railways of National Importance (RONI) Programme will be fiscally neutral and will be met by diverting money from National’s RONS programme – an initial allocation of $300 million will be made.

Among the first projects funded under RONI will be the restoration of the Gisborne-Napier line.

This line should never have been closed on the flimsy pretext of a washout.

Would any major road ever be closed because of a washout? No, of course not!

National was looking for an excuse to close down another bit of the rail network and jumped on the excuse that the washout provided.

The Napier-Gisborne line will be back in business with New Zealand First.
Other RONI projects will include electrification of the Auckland suburban rail network south to Pukekohe.

We will also investigate extension of the Wellington suburban network to Levin and into the Wairarapa.

In Canterbury where Rangiora is absorbing thousands of refugees from Christchurch's red zone, causing massive congestion on the northern motorway, the existing railway line could be used for an express commuter service at minimal cost.
In short, New Zealand First believes that there has always been a serious role for railways in New Zealand and, for the foreseeable future, there always will be.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

New Zealand First’s priority will be excellent quality public transport for people in all major population centres, and in regional areas where there is a need.

It is extraordinary that public transport services have hardly been mentioned in the Christchurch rebuild.

We will encourage the greatest possible use of public transport, especially at peak times, for people to commute to work, to school, to hospitals, and to meet their other transport needs.

We will also make greater use of the Land Transport Fund and other sources of revenue to ensure that public transport is well resourced.

Every major new urban roading project will be subject to a requirement that it must be rigorously tested to see if its transport objectives cannot better be achieved partly or wholly through an alternative public transport option.

We support construction of the vitally important Auckland City Rail work at the earliest appropriate time – but no later than 2016.

In concluding this talk, we will briefly mention where we stand on road safety, shipping and civil aviation.

ROAD SAFETY

We want to see significant improvements in road safety.

New Zealand First will put strong emphasis on driver competence, so that the right to use our roads will be conditional on a higher standard of licensing to be achieved through better driver education and testing, and a good driving record.

SHIPPING

New Zealand First is committed to the expansion of the role of coastal shipping.

We will provide a favourable fiscal regime for coastal shipping provided the companies are New Zealand resident, register their vessels here, employ New Zealanders, and commit to officer training. As an island country it is absurd not to make greater use of coastal shipping.

CIVIL AVIATION

New Zealand First will retain the crown investment in Air New Zealand.

To stop airports exploiting their monopoly power, we will also put in place a clear and transparent process for airport pricing by airport companies, and ensure that they maintain a pricing regime which recovers no more than a fair rate of return.

As outlined today, New Zealand First has an excellent and well thought out transport policy.

What we are presenting in the 2014 campaign is a practical, sound and sustainable transport policy.

On September 20 help us turn this transport policy into a reality for Gisborne and New Zealand.

ENDS

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