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Swain Speech Australasian Transport Research Forum

Paul Swain Speech: Australasian Transport Research Forum


Welcome to overseas guests attending the Australian Transport Research Forum.

This is an important meeting at a key time in transport policy development in New Zealand.

The Government has put in place a major strategy for all transport modes.

Now we are going to make it work.

Government goal

Our overall goal is to return New Zealand per capita income to the top half of the OECD and maintain that standing.

This does not mean that we will put social and environmental development on hold.

We have a commitment to sustainable development.

Managing growth and moving to sustainability will be an integrated process.

Future challenges

Economic change

New Zealand faces a range of challenges as our society and its economy changes.

The economy has grown at an overall rate of between 2 per cent - 4 per cent for the last three years.

Population has increased steadily, reaching 4 million in mid 2003.

The traditional pastoral agricultural economy is developing a strong focus on adding value through processing before export.

Horticulture, viticulture and marine farming are rapidly growing sectors, while the fishing industry is expanding steadily.

Forest industries, from timber to paper to kitset furniture, are already major exporters, and current plantings of trees mean that this industry is facing massive growth over the next 20 years.

A wide range of new export industries has developed, from educational publishing to information technology to aviation engineering to whiteware to fire safety equipment.

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Two million tourists now visit New Zealand each year, with a particular focus on the expanding eco-tourism business.

Pressures on the transport system

All of these structural and economic changes are generating consequent pressures on the transport system:

Road traffic is growing at 3.5 per cent a year, reflecting not just economic growth; but also a rate of car ownership second only to the United States; and steadily increasing personal mobility.

Changes in patterns of economic activity are putting significant pressure on parts of the transport networks that were designed for an earlier era.

The future development of the East Coast of the North Island, for example, is a major concern as the “wall of wood” for harvesting and processing after 2010 threatens to overwhelm the existing infrastructure without major transport investment.

Traffic congestion in New Zealand’s major cities is now becoming a serious issue, imposing additional costs on the economy; putting pressure on growing high value “just in time” freight flows; and significantly impeding personal access and mobility.

Auckland, which is home to nearly one third of New Zealand’s population, is facing major demands for extensive new road and passenger rail infrastructure, as it seeks to implement its future Growth Strategy to 2050.

Rail traffic has grown steadily in the last decade, and services have been restructured around a network of scheduled container shuttles and bulk trains.

However the serious financial problems of the rail network now raise major problems for any capacity enhancement.

Future port investment and development in New Zealand must take account of changes in international shipping patterns and technology. The development of air transport networks and alliances, and airport infrastructure, will also be a matter of key concern as our links with the rest of the world grow in importance.

For both the maritime and aviation sectors, the lessons learned from the September 11 terrorist attacks mean New Zealand must be a secure link in the chain of global transport networks – and we are.

We also need to understand how trends such as logistics will change the way we look at how transport systems will work together in future.

Society and transport

These issues arise at a time when the relationship between transport and the wider community is beginning to undergo an equally fundamental change:

There is a rapidly growing public concern at the environmental and health impacts of the transport system.

Our reliance on the use of fossil fuels means that the transport sector accounts for almost half of New Zealand’s total carbon dioxide emissions – a major greenhouse gas with climate change effects.

Air pollution has become a significant concern in Auckland and Christchurch, while a report in 2002 on the health impacts of road transport suggested that the “invisible” road toll from pollution was comparable to the “visible” road toll from crashes.

Noise impacts and the pollution of water runoff from roads and other transport systems are also becoming matters of growing public concern.

An early reaction to these concerns has been a substantially increased public desire to significantly mitigate the effects of new road projects.

Recent public calls for proposed major projects in Auckland to be put in tunnels reflect this concern.

Road safety remains an issue – while the road toll has already been reduced by 40 per cent since the late 1980’s, much remains to be done, especially to improve the safety and security of pedestrians and cyclists.

New Zealanders increasingly feel that the future transport system must be one that has a lower impact on the environment and society - at the same time that it maximises their accessibility to employment and recreation.

New Zealand Transport Strategy The New Zealand Transport Strategy is the key element of our future direction in the transport sector. It is designed to enable us to meet the challenges that I have described, and to move us on to the path to sustainable development.

The New Zealand Transport Strategy was released by the Government in December 2002, and sets a strategic direction for the transport system to 2010 and beyond.

The Strategy sets an overall goal that:

“By 2010 New Zealand will have an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable transport system”.

There are then five principle objectives, which will drive our policy framework.

I will now look at each of these objectives in turn, together with the specific polices that we are implementing.

i) Assisting economic development

While economic efficiency promoting trade remains a key aim of transport policy; “efficiency” has been given a wider meaning to focus on the way all modes can contribute to the total transport system in the most sustainable and cost-effective manner.

The process of project analysis in the renamed National Land Transport Fund (formerly the National Roads Fund) is being revamped so that it takes into account the New Zealand Transport Strategy, which includes incorporating the wider social and environmental impacts of individual projects.

The purpose of the legislation that establishes the framework for the funding of land transport in New Zealand, and the objectives of Transit New Zealand and Transfund New Zealand are being modified accordingly.

These changes are being pursued through the Land Transport Management Bill, which should be enacted before the end of the year.

Significant additional resources have been made available for public transport, walking, cycling, alternatives to roads, and the development of regional transport networks in growth areas, as well as making a start on the substantial main road investment backlog.

The Land Transport Management Bill will allow public private partnerships in the road infrastructure sector, and tolls will be allowed for new roads. Development of an option to pay Road User Charges through an electronic charging system has been approved in principle, and detailed work on a business case is now under way.

Such a system would be available for all vehicles that pay Road User Charges (the distance and weight based charge that currently applies for road use) that is, all heavy vehicles and all light diesel vehicles.

Such a system could provide benefits including: reduced compliance costs; reduced evasion and better targeted enforcement; more opportunities for the provision of new intelligent transport systems that heavy vehicle owners in particular may be interested in, like electronic log books; and the option for a greater range of charging options in the longer term.

New Zealand is not the only country interested in a modern distance based road charging system.

Switzerland already has such a system for heavy vehicles, and Germany will be switching on its system, for the autobahns by the end of the year.

Britain is also proceeding with a system for heavy vehicles that will apply across the roading network.

The options, both technically and from a policy perspective, for introducing eRUC are being examined now as part of the business case and I will be receiving a report on the outcome of the business case before the end of the year.

Decisions on whether eRUC will proceed are expected to be made early next year.

The problems of Auckland are a major concern.

While additional funding has been made available for addressing severe congestion such as that faced in Auckland, the Government has also repurchased Auckland’s urban rail passenger system from the private sector.

In May 2003, Ministers attending the Auckland Mayoral Forum agreed to establish a joint working party with Auckland called the Joint Officials Group (JOG).

This Group is to further consider Auckland’s land transport needs and develop options for meeting these needs over the long term, including the feasibility of congestion pricing.

The options have been broken down into seven work streams: debt financing; network completion; interim funding; travel demand management – both pricing and non-pricing; mitigation and consents; and social and economic impacts.

Central government officials from a variety of agencies are now working with their Auckland counterparts on these issues.

With progress already made in Auckland, and with the work that is currently underway, the long term planning of the urban transport system to support the Auckland Growth Strategy is well underway.

Most fundamentally of all, a major study (Surface Transport Costs and Charges Study) is in process to evaluate the total costs imposed by road and rail transport on society, and the way in which these charges are met.

The result of this study, due later this year, is likely to be a key factor in the Government’s stated desire to promote sustainability by maximising rail’s share of land freight transport.

ii) Assisting safety and personal security

The second objective of the New Zealand Transport Strategy means that transport safety continues to be a priority.

Long-term safety strategies are being developed for each mode, and the road transport sector has already been set the goal of a 35 per cent reduction in fatalities by 2010.

New safety legislation is planned to raise rail safety performance.

Since September 11 2001, the international community has developed a number of significant measures to improve security.

In New Zealand considerable work has been, and is currently being, undertaken to improve transport security.

In aviation this has included the introduction of domestic screening.

In the maritime sector measures to enhance port and ship security are being put in place.

As you will appreciate, these measures not only contribute to the objective of assisting personal safety and security, but also assist economic development through reducing the risk of a terrorist attack and ensuring continued confidence in New Zealand transport infrastructure among trading partners and tourists.

Road safety is a key concern of mine – especially as this year's road toll is running approximately 40 higher than the same time last year.

Last year’s toll of 404 road deaths was the lowest since 1963, however this year's trend shows we cannot be complacent.

The final version of the Road Safety to 2010 strategy is very close to release.

The first steps in the strategy, announced last year, were the setting of goals.

We set ourselves the goal of no more than 300 fatalities and 4,500 hospitalisations a year by 2010, with an interim step of no more than 400 fatalities and 5,870 hospitalisations annually, by 2004.

The Strategy is built around the Three E's – Engineering, Education and Enforcement.

The first major announcement from a package of measures around the three E's will be announced shortly.

(iii) Improving access and mobility

Our third objective is to ensure that New Zealanders have access to a wide range of social and economic opportunities.

Support for public transport systems has already risen substantially, by paying Regional Councils (who manage passenger transport contracts) for the number of passenger-kilometres actually travelled, and providing seed (or “kickstart”) funding for new services.

The government has provided strong financial incentives for regional councils to attract more public transport users, resulting in increased services and patronage.

The latest figures from the funding agency Transfund show the total number of journeys on ferries, buses and rail has increased by 27.7% between 1999/2000 and 2002/2003.

The level of passenger transport service funding has also increased; in 2002/03 funding was almost double the funding provided in 1999.

Transfund is also reviewing the Total Mobility scheme, with the aim of providing a more consistent, portable and secure system.

The Total Mobility Scheme is a taxi voucher programme available to people with disabilities, and is provided through regional government, with funding assistance from central government

Transfund completed a survey of stakeholders involved with the Total Mobility scheme earlier this year, and recently released a report on the findings.

A consultation paper on the scheme is also due for release in October and a workshop is planned. It is expected that decisions on a revised scheme will be made early 2004.

iv) Protecting and promoting public health

The New Zealand Government has placed a new emphasis on dealing with community health problems, including the growing impact of the transport system on our communities.

Following a major report on the Health Impacts of Road Vehicle Emissions, which identified the “invisible” road toll from vehicle emissions as being similar to the “visible” road toll, major initiatives are underway to reduce vehicle emissions.

New specifications for vehicle fuel will be in force by the start of 2006, while plans for vehicle emission standards and testing are under advanced development.

Other initiatives are being progressed to manage water run off from roads and the impacts of transport noise on communities.

Fuel quality, engine technology and emissions control technology are integrally linked and several initiatives are underway to reduce vehicle emissions.

The Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule 2003, coming into force from 1 January 2004, requires that all motor vehicles entering the New Zealand fleet for the first time have been 'manufactured' to applicable emissions standards.

As well as the new specifications for fuel coming into force in 2006, there are plans for “at the border” and in-service screening of vehicle emission standards, such as at Warrant of Fitness time, and public education campaigns are under advanced development.

Closely linked to this work, the removal of barriers for the introduction of ethanol/petrol blend fuels and biodiesel facilitates a progressive transition to the use of renewable transport fuels.

Active promotion of the health and transport benefits of walking and cycling is underway, with a special focus on the 30 per cent of current car trips that are under 2km.

This is because achieving the New Zealand Transport Strategy's objectives requires getting the best from all modes of transport.

New Zealanders undertake over a billion trips a year on foot, and over 100 million by cycle.

But, as is the case in most western countries, their use for day to day transport is declining. In line with this, last year the government undertook two 'firsts' for walking and cycling.

For the first time it identified transport funding specifically for these modes.

And, it began development of New Zealand's first national strategy for walking and cycling.

A draft of this strategy is about to be released for consultation.

Stakeholders have already identified the need for more research in this area.

v) Ensuring environmental sustainability

The long-term goal of transport policy is focussing to an ever-greater degree on the implications of sustainability for managing the total transport task.

It is increasingly recognised that growth in transport demand does not automatically have to follow economic growth, and that there are substantial opportunities for reducing the negative impacts of transport systems.

However our understanding about how changes in transport behaviour will impact on economic growth is still very limited.

One of the papers to be given at this conference will be covering our initial work in this area.

New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in 2002, and a range of related measures are under development, including vehicle fuel efficiency labelling and the future role of carbon taxes.

Transport sector emissions now amount to almost 45 per cent of our total carbon dioxide emissions and they are the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions.

The majority of these emissions are from road transport.

The government is progressing the design and implementation of a raft of domestic policy measures to achieve real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

These include specific climate change measures such as the proposed introduction of an emissions charge on emissions from energy, and a projects scheme where organisations can bid for ‘carbon credits’ for projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The first tender round for projects has just been launched.

And for the record, despite the way comments from Russia on Kyoto have been reported this week, Russia has said many times it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

We never expected President Putin would announce a date for this at the climate change conference being held in Moscow, although clearly some NGOs did.

Policies being implemented that will help to reduce transport emissions include the promotion of more energy efficient modes such as walking, cycling and public transport.

Other key polices are the proposed introduction of measures to reduce emissions from vehicles and vehicle fuel consumption labelling.

The labelling will mean that cars entering New Zealand will have a label that allows purchasers to compare the car’s fuel consumption with others, so they are able to buy the most fuel efficient vehicle for their needs.

Regional and local transport planning systems are under review, as is a fundamental study of the way in which transport can contribute to sustainable settlements.

The Sustainable Development Programme of Action identifies sustainable cities as a key issue the government wants to see progress on.

Over 85 per cent of New Zealanders live in towns and cities – this makes cities an essential focus for action.

Transport is an important component - it is a major part of our urban infrastructure and is a vital service provider.

We need to better understand the role of transport within our towns and cities to ensure it provides the outcomes we want.


The New Zealand Transport Strategy is the cornerstone of our transport policy for the next decade.

We are promoting economic growth, but we are also concerned to ensure that New Zealand becomes a more sustainable society and economy.

Achieving our overall goals and the specific objectives that I have outlined will be a major challenge. But it is one that I am confident that we can meet.

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