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Gosche Speech To Road Transport Forum Conference

Hon Mark Gosche

Speech To Road Transport Forum Conference Millennium Hotel Queenstown


Kia ora koutou, talofa lava, greetings to you all.

May I say particular greetings to the chair of your board, Calven Bonney, board members and your chief executive, Tony Friedlander.

Thank you for inviting me here today.

The Road Transport Forum plays a key role in the transport sector.

In my view an active and ongoing dialogue between government, local authorities and groups such as yours is vital to getting the development of New Zealand’s transport infrastructure right. That is why I value opportunities such as today.

Overview of Land Transport

I would like to begin by summarising this government’s thinking on roading. There are three main points I would like to make.

The first point is that there is now a broad consensus that New Zealand is facing major problems in the land transport area and these need to be urgently addressed.

The previous government spent nearly five years in debate on roading reform but at the end of the day failed to deliver any meaningful improvement.

This government does not see itself as having the luxury of such a leisurely time-scale.

We have to start applying practical solutions to fix New Zealand’s land transport problems.

A second key point is that any changes in land transport should be incremental and progressive rather than based on some sort of “big bang” approach. In devising solutions this government favours a pragmatic approach that draws on proven practice in New Zealand and elsewhere.

The third key point is that this government wants to build a sustainable transport system.

To achieve a sustainable transport system, we must carefully balance the interests of safety, customer needs, investment, the environment and social equity.

The government has begun that task.

Road infrastructure problems

You will all be very aware that our roads demonstrate daily that they are becoming inadequate for the task they are asked to do.

The underlying cause of this situation is not a mystery. During the last decade road traffic in New Zealand grew by 4% a year. At this rate traffic volumes will double in the next 18 years.

There are some very vivid examples of how serious the problems are. The most visible sign of inadequacy is the traffic congestion in our major cities. One study estimates that Auckland’s congestion alone costs New Zealanders, not just Aucklanders, some $800 million plus per year.

Nor are road infrastructure problems limited to metropolitan areas. You will be well aware that some regional networks are having difficulty keeping pace with the financial and operational demands of a growing and changing economy and society.

For example, dairying in Southland, forestry in Marlborough and tourism in Coromandel or Northland put pressures on our roads that local communities struggle to meet.

Growing Consensus

Certainly this government believes New Zealand cannot afford to allow the situation to drift.

Our manifesto set out a number of areas for road management and investment that we wanted to explore, and my discussions with interested individuals and sector groups have raised other issues.

I believe from those discussions that there is a general agreement that we need to change the way we manage and fund our land transport system. Many people believe that we need to find better ways of charging for road use, and that some changes to management structures are desirable.

There is now a growing consensus that we can make pragmatic progress this year in a number of areas:

 We need to work with our roading partners on systems to manage the external impacts of the road system. This needs to include improving safety and environmental management and our public transport system. In doing this, we need to make it clear that road corridors are for a wide variety of users, including pedestrians and cyclists. They, just as much as motorists, have a right to use road corridors in safety.

 Secondly, we need to examine, with our roading partners, the way in which we charge for roads. We also need to consider whether the present funding system can be made simpler, while retaining its basic principle of cost effectiveness.

 We also want to talk with the other stakeholders about whether our present management structures can be improved, without generating the upheavals that have characterised reforms in the past.

Improving the roading system is clearly not just a matter of dealing with a few high profile road projects or “hot spots”. We have to put systems in place which ensure real value for money and let us prioritise our investment. The rules need to be clear and fair. We want to take decisions without the constant air of impending crisis that too often seems to characterise land transport investment.

Funding for Roading

Having said that, clearly we certainly need some new roads as our economy grows and changes. Freight access to industry, ports and airports is particularly a priority .

Transfund announced recently that it has been able to increase its total land transport funding by 27 percent, compared to only four years ago.

Because of growth in the economy they will have about $940 million to spend on this year’s National Roading Programme.
About 22 percent of this – that’s about $170.8 million - will be devoted to Auckland’s needs, which acknowledges the region’s rapid growth and the ever increasing demands on its infrastructure.

The ongoing increases in spending is good news for the roading infrastructure – and I think it is excellent news for the trucking industry as well.


The government is also determined to carefully manage the environmental effects of our transport systems

Before the end of this year, the government expects to have out for consultation a discussion paper on new emission standards for all vehicles arriving in New Zealand for the first time. We need to make sure that all imported vehicles – whether new or used – meet the best international practice for air emissions.

I also believe that we need to review those sections of the Resource Management Act that deal with land transport. I can see no valid reason why roads and railways should be exempt from the air emissions requirements of that Act.

We are also working on new rules to govern smoky road vehicles. While the intent of the current law is a good one, its administration is unreasonably complex, and plans for a simpler approach to dealing with smoky vehicles are well advanced.

In addition the government has decided to accede to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in the second half of 2002.

This means that we will be making a commitment that by 2008 we will have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions to no more than they were in 1990.

This is no small task.

Currently the transport sector generates about 15% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of those emissions are CO2 generated by the burning of fossil fuel on our roads.

This means that we are going to have to make a serious effort to improve road vehicle fuel efficiency.

Making progress on climate change is a high priority for the Government, and I plan to work closely with transport sector groups and local government. If we work together in a pragmatic way, I believe that we can both meet our environmental goals, while making more efficient use of our transport system.

Safety strategy to 2010

Transport safety is another high priority goal for this government.

Our most immediate task is to continue to improve our road safety record. Over the last decade, the road toll has been substantially reduced, but we are still well below the best results achieved by similar countries.

The government has now made a series of decisions that will enable us to make substantial immediate improvements in road safety, while we develop a more strategic approach.

These decisions included funding 225 extra police officers to work exclusively on road safety on the State Highways, the most highly used part of the road system.

In addition we have almost doubled the amount of money going to community driver education initiatives, with particular emphasis on initiatives coming from the Maori and Pacific Island communities.

The government is now considering a long term road safety strategy for the next ten years to 2010, which we plan to release for discussion in the near future.

Over the last three years a wide variety of government and community organisations have worked together on this strategy, and the result does them credit.

The first key question in that strategy will be: how far can we push the road toll down over the next ten years?

If we adopt current world best practice as our goal, then we are looking at a reduction in our road toll from just over 500 deaths per year to 280 per year. That is no mean target when we also expect substantial growth in traffic over the same period.

The second key question will be: how do we achieve our chosen road safety goal?

There is a wide range of possible options ranging from substantial increases in enforcement standards and activity through enhanced and improved education programmes to a massive programme of road rebuilding and improved ways of managing road infrastructure.

Each option has its costs, both social and financial, and I will be seeking wide community input into these issues before the government sets a long term direction later this year.

If this road safety target setting process proves successful, then it is my intention to use the same analytical and consultative approach to set long term safety targets for other modes of transport, such as shipping, aviation and railways.

I hope that your association will give the 2010 discussion document careful consideration. I would value your input on this issue.

Heavy Vehicle Safety

I could not leave any discussion of safety without making some comment on the heavy vehicle accident rate.

The heavy vehicle fleet is about 4% of the total motor vehicle fleet, but is involved in about 22% of fatal crashes and 7.5% of injury crashes. Heavy vehicles cover proportionally more kilometres than other vehicles, but the distance travelled is not sufficient to warrant such a heavy involvement in fatal crashes. Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) statistics indicate that for all collisions involving heavy vehicles, truck drivers are primarily responsible for 32% of serious accidents and 43% of minor injury accidents. This record is poor when we consider these are professional drivers.

Logging Trucks

Within these heavy vehicle accident statistics logging trucks are over represented.

The Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit database shows that from a 47 month period the crash rate for logging trucks was three times greater than the average crash rate for all combination vehicles.

I am told that the number of logging truck crashes is about two per week when an allowance for under reporting has been made. When you consider that there are about 935 logging trucks on the road, this means the ratio of logging truck crashes every year is very high. While the crash rate is better than the previous few years, I still don’t think it’s good enough.

The main cause of logging truck crashes is cornering speed and unstable loads, causing rollover crashes.

A recent LTSA survey showed 94% of logging trucks exceeding their open road speed limit. A logging truck speed survey also by the LTSA revealed that many drivers were still not following guidelines on safe cornering speeds. At two of the three survey sites, every logging truck exceeded the recommended safe cornering speed by up to twenty kilometres per hour.

The government is determined to address the logging truck safety issue.

I am pleased that the Road Transport Forum and the Logging Truck Safety Council are working with us, and the police and the LTSA in efforts to change driver behaviour. I welcome this approach.

In particular may I take this opportunity to thank the Forum for the package of policy proposals it recently gave me. I have not yet had the opportunity to consider the proposals in depth, but I will certainly do so.

I shall not comment on them in depth here, except to say that in putting forward this package the RTF has displayed a commendable commitment to reversing the trend and improving the roading network for all road users. I hope we can build on it.

One initiative the RTF has already been closely involved in is the “three strikes and you’re out” policy developed by the RTF, the LTSA, the Logging Truck Safety Council and police. Those drivers persistently ignoring advisory speeds will have their truck stood down from operation for 24 hours. I understand that this has already resulted in one operator getting “three strikes”. Such initiatives show the industry is responsible and serious about addressing the problem. I will be monitoring progress.

Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule

Other measures to improve poor performance of heavy motor vehicles will be included in the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule. This Rule recognises that heavy vehicle maneuverability and stability is a major safety issue. It contains a proposal that combination vehicles must meet or exceed a performance measure relating to stability to operate on public roads.

The draft rule does not propose any increases in dimension or mass limits. However Transit New Zealand is currently working on mass and dimensions limits to coincide with the early discussion phase of the draft Rule. This work is being done in partnership with the industry and local government. While no increases are proposed at this stage, if Transit can demonstrate that increases are merited and safety concerns can be addressed, proposed changes could go out for public consultation in the next draft of the rule. That draft is likely to be released early next year.

While I will not prejudge the matter, I would have to be confident that the industry can demonstrate to the public that any increased limits can be well managed. That issue of public confidence is a vital one, I believe.

Operator Safety Rating

The RTF and the LTSA are also working together on the Operator Safety Rating, which aims to focus enforcement where it is most needed. One way to achieve this is to identify and target specific operators. People or vehicles that perform poorly in terms of compliance with transport safety regulations could be targeted the way they are in similar schemes already operating in the United States and Canada. This is an important element in the package of safety proposals that Tony Friedlander sent me last week.

This proposal is still in its early stages, and there are a lot of implementation issues to be worked through yet, but it sounds a sensible approach to me, and I hope we will be able to make progress on it.

Logbook Review

I know your organisation has concerns about the logbook and driving hours provisions of the Transport Act. I have recently written to the Director of Land Transport Safety acknowledging the indicative timetable that he has produced for the Driving Hours and Logbooks Review. You can be assured that this review will be progressed with some urgency, with the aim of having any changes included in a transport bill toward the end of next year.

Before I leave the topic of heavy vehicle safety let me repeat that I am very encouraged to see the industry working with the LTSA and Police to improve heavy motor vehicle safety. You have already significantly contributed to some solutions. I am sure that you will be able to come up with more.
Bringing it all together

If the transport sector in its wider sense is to support a positive future for New Zealand, then we have to work towards an integrated and sustainable transport system.

Uniting all the elements in that system into a comprehensive package that sets a clear path for the whole transport sector is a complex and challenging exercise, but one to which we are committed.

The government intends to develop, with stakeholders, a New Zealand Transport Strategy to bring together all the issues I have discussed today into a comprehensive package that will give certainty for future investment and development.

The government intends to develop a New Zealand Transport Strategy to set long term directions in terms of accessibility, safety, and environmental performance. It will emphasise that the core issues of investment and innovation will depend on a transport system that will thrive by providing high quality service to all its users. This work will be part of the three stage package of measures that I mentioned earlier.

It will be a guide for all who use the transport system, invest in it, or ensure that transport is a vital part of our communities.


There is a lot to do. That is evident from the range of issues that I have covered in this speech. This government wants to continue to work with key interest groups such as yourselves to make progress in transport. That means that we have to keep talking to each other. Dialogue with groups such as the Road Transport Forum must be on-going.

As my speech has indicated I firmly believe that change is necessary in a number of key areas in the transport sector. I also believe that any change must be progressive rather than an upheaval, and that evolutionary change can only work if people talk to each other to find pragmatic solutions.

I look forward to working with you to make that change happen.

Ia Manuia.

© Scoop Media

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