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Land Transport Policy Needs Long-term Stability

Civil Contractors New Zealand welcomes an increased focus on maintenance and renewals in the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2024-34, but warns against the long-term dangers of an increasingly politicised work programme.

CCNZ Chief Executive Alan Pollard said the businesses responsible for the construction and maintenance of the country’s transport infrastructure networks had been eagerly awaiting detail on how the new government’s vision would be put into action.

“It’s great to see the details on how the new Government plans to shape our transport networks. The new Government Policy Statement on Land Transport contains some great initiatives that our members are looking forward to working on in years to come.”

He said post-election had been a difficult time for contractors, who had seen major gaps while the work ahead was reconsidered and were eagerly awaiting details on the coming work programme so they could ready the required skills and equipment to get the work done.

The focus on roading renewals was welcome, although the wording around pothole prevention was a misnomer, as the work required would centre around renewing sections of road that were at risk of deterioration, not filling potholes, Mr Pollard said.

“I do think it’s important we call a spade a spade, and when construction and maintenance of the network is properly funded, road renewals should have very little to do with potholes.

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“Investment in transport renewals and maintenance is particularly welcome. In recent times, day-to-day work has often fallen by the wayside in favour of glamour projects. Deterioration is the result, so it’s important we step up maintenance and renewals as soon as possible.”

Mr Pollard said other features of the GPS Land Transport to consider included focus on value for money rather than lowest cost, reducing the cost of bespoke planning and design, and how new funding and financing mechanisms would be put in place.

Particular attention was also needed on the interface between central and local government, as local government held responsibility for enabling infrastructure such as quarries and cleanfill sites as well as the construction and maintenance of local roads.

He said early contractor involvement would be a critical factor in ensuring designs were practical and could be achieved with the greatest efficiency possible, and CCNZ was looking forward to representation on the reinvigorated Roading Efficiency Group, which was originally formed following an industry submission on the GPS Land Transport 2011-21.

While there were positives in the proposed Land Transport Programme, Mr Pollard said there was ‘plenty in there that needed more work’, and warned increasing politicisation of the work programme could significantly disrupt progress.

“It is concerning to see increasing disruption to the work programme each time a new government is elected. What we really need is long-term vision to how we construct and maintain infrastructure, rather than spending half our time undoing what’s just been done.”

“Having a well-defined, committed, and funded programme of work is what gives the civil construction industry the confidence to invest in people and in new technologies. Taking a long-term view of infrastructure investment, de-politicising decision making and being innovative with infrastructure funding, need to be priorities for this government.”

He said the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission and its 30-year Infrastructure Strategy could play a critical role, for instance in relation to alternative funding mechanisms.

“The government seems to be relying on antiquated funding methods of petrol tax and road user charges, whereas pre-election they were bullish about private capital, PPPs, and tolls.

“While it’s understandable they need funding to get the programme up and running, it is surprising they are leaving NZTA to explore alternative funding sources. Funding is an issue that affects all infrastructure investment, including water. A research-driven approach using someone like the Infrastructure Commission would be a better way to advance this thinking.”

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