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National can be greener and win votes

28 October 2006

Media Release

National can be greener and win votes says Business Council

Speaking at National's Northern Region Conference today, The Business Council's Chief Executive, Peter Neilson, said that National can be greener and win votes.

"For far too long the debate in New Zealand about our future has been dominated by the 5% who believe only the economy matters and the opposing 5% who believe only the environment matters. Whilst these two constituencies have been throwing rocks at each other the vast bulk of New Zealanders want both economic growth and a better environment. National's Blue Green's vision sits well with New Zealanders aspirations."

Mr Neilson also took the opportunity to urge the region's MP's and councillors to think seriously about considering road pricing as a congestion management tool to get Aucklanders back on the move again.

"The public just want to be able to get from A to B without the stress of bumper to bumper traffic. Business wants it solved because it's costing the community somewhere in the vicinity of $1 billion. Again the public debate has been polarized by those saying just build more roads or those demanding more public transport."

'"Neither approach on its own will cure the problem. We need a portfolio approach that includes completing the road network and creating a world class public transport system suitable for a city with low population density. The funding gap for putting in place an Auckland rail network which would take us from 5 million passengers per year to 19 million is $350 million over 10 years."

"However building more roads or supplying more trains won't be enough on their own to manage our peak demand for roads. We also need to see the full roll out of measures such as toll lanes, the schools' walking bus programme, high occupancy vehicles being able to use bus only lanes, measures to move tertiary related travel to off peak hours and staggering school start times to lower the peak."

"Within a decade technology is likely to make management of road congestion much more precise. The Business Council in the medium term sees road pricing as a useful tool because it can directly address the peak loading problem. Most industries have a time based pricing structure; for example it costs less to go to the movies during the day and airlines and hotels have peak, shoulder and off peak prices. No society has ever been wealthy enough to build roads to the point where peak use does not create some congestion."

"The type of corridor pricing muted earlier this year for Auckland is not road pricing. Road pricing is a congestion management tool not a revenue raising instrument indeed the two policy objectives are in conflict because more revenue comes from having more cars on the road! A regional petrol tax is a much better source of general revenue to pay for roading."

Mr Neilson encouraged National to take the great leadership required to overcome the historic mindset that roads are free as well as the economic legacy created by decades of under pricing of private transport provision.

"Taking a decision to introduce road charges would be a political leap of faith. Such initiatives are rarely welcomed before hand but the general trend is for approval after it is implemented and traffic frees up"

"Let's put what's required in perspective. The business community believes that a reduction in congestion by about 15% to school holiday levels will achieve most of what we need. Road pricing may just be the circuit breaker to break the pattern of road use."

"Moreover we need to move beyond seeing this as just a transport issue. It's not traffic is influenced by how and where we work, where we live and why we choose to live there. Traffic is undoubtedly affected by the education system. People drive their children to schools outside their local area because they are not happy with the local school. If we put more effort into improving parental satisfaction with their local schools, it will help address the traffic problem.

Mr Neilson also asked MP's to think beyond the three year election cycle to envisage Auckland in the 2020's. From 1.3 million today projections suggest anything up to 2 million people could be living in the region in 20 years time.

"Where will the additional 700,000 people come from? What are we doing to address the thorny issue of what migrants we want to come here and for what types of jobs. None of this will be easy but doing the right thing for the long term is, according to 70% of New Zealanders, a no-brainer."

A full version of Peter Neilson's speech is available online at http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?id=696


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