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Record GPS On Land Transport Welcome, But Outcomes Achievement Remains Uncertain

“The Government’s 10 year $55 billion transport commitment to address safety, freight, choice and climate change priorities sets a new investment benchmark, but the next Government will need to fully mobilise transport planning, funding and investment if New Zealand is to achieve, rather than just promote, transport outcomes,” says Hamish Glenn, Policy Director at Infrastructure New Zealand

“The newly released Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) allocates an average of $4.8 billion per annum over the next decade to Waka Kotahi – the NZ Transport Agency.

“When combined with the $6.8 billion NZ Upgrade Programme and other initiatives, transport investment in New Zealand will reach record levels.

“Pleasingly, the Government has responded quickly to industry calls for urgent maintenance work with an additional $500 million of funding for state highways.

“The Road to Zero safety campaign has also seen a major boost of over $400 million per year in annual funding since the last GPS. Significant increases also flow to the rail network.

“However, missing from this GPS are several key initiatives necessary to not just promote outcomes, but achieve them.

“The Government has committed to keeping road taxes at existing levels for three years, but still expects National Land Transport Fund revenues to rise from $4.4 billion to $5.1 billion over the coming decade.

“This suggests New Zealanders will not only keep driving conventionally powered vehicles, but they’ll drive them more.

“This GPS could, and arguably should, have signalled Government intentions to ‘flip the fleet’, support new transport energy infrastructure and rapidly expand electric and other renewably-powered vehicles.

“Transport remains New Zealand’s best opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and doesn’t need to just do its part, but must compensate for sectors like agriculture where renewable technologies are not yet mature.

“Major improvements to transport funding and financing are a strategic highlight of the GPS, but remain under-developed in practice.

“Road pricing needs to be progressed in the next term of Government or increasing fuel efficiency will begin to undermine revenue before an adequate solution can be put in place.

"It is also essential to optimise traffic flow, thereby reducing congestion and increasing productivity.

“Billions of dollars of real estate value is being created through investment in high quality rapid transit, but our willingness to ask beneficiaries to contribute remains disappointing.

"Failure to implement value capture policies penalises transport users and funders, many of whom, perversely, can no longer afford the inflated cost of housing near employment. It also incentivises property speculation, undermining housing affordability.

“An open mind to alternative financing is welcome, but with just $1.5 billion of debt against $4.5 billion of annual revenue, there is wide scope for Waka Kotahi to borrow more.

"A small amount of additional borrowing would be sufficient to address maintenance backlogs on both road and rail networks, improving reliability and safety.

“If transport and broader national outcomes really are the priority, all available tools need to be implemented, not just investigated.

“This GPS is a major step forward, but if the Government is serious about actually achieving, rather than just promoting, strategic transport priorities it is going to have to employ the full range of tools at its disposal,” Glenn says.

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