An aerial view of Ports of Auckland from the west.
SUPPLIED
An aerial view of Ports of Auckland from the west.

A rift has opened up between Auckland Council and the Government over how the future of the city’s port will be decided.

Mayor Phil Goff says there’s a risk that a Government-appointed working group looking at the upper North Island ports might have pre-determined whether Auckland’s council-owned port could move, and if so where.

Goff said he put a “robust” view to the working group’s chair, former Far North mayor Wayne Brown, in a private meeting last week.

A council commissioned study found shifting the vehicle import trade, could lose Auckland $1 billion
BEVAN READ/STUFF
A council commissioned study found shifting the vehicle import trade, could lose Auckland $1 billion

He said Brown’s public rejection of two potential locations identified by a council study didn’t give confidence, and the group didn’t appear to have enough time or resources to do a proper job.

The council on Tuesday approved a blunt letter to be sent to Brown, ahead of the council’s first formal meeting with the working group in just over a fortnight.

Goff favoured the eventual shift of the port from its current location on the downtown waterfront, but was unhappy with the approach being taken by the working group.

The council will tell the group that its priorities include protecting the value of Ports of Auckland, which last year paid it a $51.1 million dividend.

It is also telling the working group it wants a transparent, objective and evidence-based approach to reviewing the future of the ports in Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei.

Auckland Council has conducted the most detailed work so far on the future of its port.

Previous mayor Len Brown funded out of his office budget the Port Future Study, which in 2016 found the port might not outgrow its current site in 50 years, but that work should begin on identifying alternatives, in case it did.

Before the 2017 elections New Zealand First advocated an early shift of the vehicle-import trade from Auckland to Northland’s port.

The coalition government including New Zealand First took a bigger picture approach, setting up the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group, in line with a request from Auckland Council.

New Zealand First MP and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones who oversees the working group, has since been vocal on matters relating to the future of Auckland’s port.

At the start of November Jones said he would do all he could to head-off a planned multi-storey carpark building planned by Ports of Auckland, to house vehicles arriving in the port.

“Public statements have created the impression of pre-determination,” said the council in a letter to the chair of the working group Wayne Brown.

Brown has made public comment favouring a move to Northland, including an opinion column published in November 2017 before being appointed to chair the group.

“Imagine the Auckland waterfront without used cars getting the best views,” Brown wrote.

“Watch for self-justifying job-saving promises from Ports of Auckland to fend off any sensible moves like Sydney has made keeping the harbour just for cruise liners and sending cargo to Wollongong and Newcastle.”

The council’s letter pointed to comments by Brown.

“Indicating a strong preference for relocation of some or all of POAL activities to Northport prior to any analysis is unhelpful,” said the letter which Goff will sign.

“Any plans to move all or some of the Port’s functions requires the concurrence of its owners, the people of Auckland, through Auckland Council,” said the letter.

“I’ve already said to the chair, we’ve put a lot of work into two future options (Manukau Harbour and Firth of Thames) and you’ve dismissed this out of hand, which gives us no confidence,” Goff told today’s planning committee meeting.

The council has spelled out 10 areas it wants the working group to examine closely.

These include the feasible capacity of all upper North Island ports, as well as the climate change impacts of moving freight to and from the ports.

It wanted work done on the social and community impacts of any change, and how and when a future new port would be funded.

The council will have its first meeting with the government’s working group on December 13.

 

Locals unimpressed with fixes for ‘NZ’s Worst Intersection’ with 55 turn combinations

STEVE HATHAWAY

Residents are unimpressed with a government agency’s top three options for fixing an infamous north Auckland intersection.

Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection is one of the country’s worst and the community has been begging the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for a permanent fix for years.

The NZTA has now shortlisted three options for fixing the intersection, which has a reputation for creating driver confusion with its 55 different turning combinations.

The Fix Hill Street Now action group's billboard raises awareness around the Warkworth intersection.
FIX HILL STREET NOW ACTION GROUP
The Fix Hill Street Now action group’s billboard raises awareness around the Warkworth intersection.

In a statement, NZTA director of regional relationships Steve Mutton said the focus was to simplify traffic movements, improve congestion and cater for future traffic growth.

Two other nearby roading projects, one linking to Matakana and another major motorway upgrade north of Pūhoi, opening late in 2021, would also reduce traffic through Hill St.

NZTA director of regional relationships Steve Mutton said the options were designed to eliminate confusion, improve congestion and cater for growth in the area.
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ
NZTA director of regional relationships Steve Mutton said the options were designed to eliminate confusion, improve congestion and cater for growth in the area.

“There may be a need to phase the improvements at the Hill St intersection to align with these projects, and when future development is completed,” Mutton said.

Residents feel so strongly they have set up an action group, dubbed “Fix Hill St Now”, going so far as printing t-shirts showing there are five intersections in 30 metres.

Campaign leader Grant McLachlan said the intersection was confusing for both locals and travellers: “There’s always someone who doesn’t know how to use the intersection.”

"FIx Hill St Now" campaign leader Grant McLachlan is not entirely happy with any of NZTA's three options.
CAROLINE WILLIAMS
“FIx Hill St Now” campaign leader Grant McLachlan is not entirely happy with any of NZTA’s three options.

Option A featured a large roundabout on the highway with five exits.

McLachlan was concerned the roundabout entry points were too close together, posing difficulty for buses, trucks and trucks with trailers.

“They need to take into account who will be using this [the intersection].”

St and SH1 intersection. Elizabeth St would become a one-way street leading into the Warkworth town centre and a new connection at Bank St would serve as a route back on to SH1.

McLachlan said this and option A both failed to deal with a problem at another nearby intersection where traffic often backed up on the busy roads leading to Matakana and Sandspit.

He was also concerned about a new signalled intersection on the highway leading into Warkworth, saying traffic would back up and could cause problems for the police station and a St John ambulance terminal.

Option A included a roundabout with exits to SH1, Hill St and Elizabeth St.
NEW ZEALAND TRANSPORT AGENCY
Option A included a roundabout with exits to SH1, Hill St and Elizabeth St.

“There’s going to be one hell of a queue to get to those lights.”

A variation of option B included a roundabout at Matakana and Sandspit Rds and made Elizabeth St available for left-turning traffic from Hill St only.

McLachlan said the group was disappointed in the three short-listed options.

Option B involved traffic lights at the Hill St and SH1 intersection and at a new connection from Bank St to SH1.
NEW ZEALAND TRANSPORT AGENCY
Option B involved traffic lights at the Hill St and SH1 intersection and at a new connection from Bank St to SH1.

“Each of these options are imperfect in their own unique way.”

When asked if the Hill St intersection garnered more collisions than other Warkworth intersections, Brendan Reid of Warkworth Collision Repairs said he “couldn’t say that was the case”.

“It’s a complicated intersection, but the complication of it slows traffic down.”

A variation of option B went on to include a roundabout where Matakana and Sandspit Rds split.
NEW ZEALAND TRANSPORT AGENCY
A variation of option B went on to include a roundabout where Matakana and Sandspit Rds split.

He believed the traffic lights and reduced speed caused by confusion made the chance of accidents less likely.

“But that doesn’t take away from how slow, dangerous, complicated, inappropriate that intersection is for motorists at all.”

Auckland Council Rodney councillor Greg Sayers said the announcement of the three shortlisted options was the beginning of what the community had been wanting desperately for many years.

The agency was seeking feedback from the public on the shortlisted options. Feedback could be submitted online or at the Warkworth Library by December 14.

Twyford reassures Kiwis on road safety after NZTA revelations

Transport Minister Phil Twyford made a ministerial statement in Parliament reassuring the public about the NZ Transport Agency and road safety, and revealing some more detail about investigations.

It comes after he announced last week that he was initiating a regulatory review of the agency which was set up 10 years ago to combine three functions as the transport funder and builder, and safety regulator.

Twyford said there had been systemic failures by the agency to properly check operators who certified vehicles as safe for the road – Stuff has reported on one death, cracked truck towbars, and suspension of certifiers.

Phil Twyford has been dealing with the crisis at the NZ Transport Agency.

ANDY JACKSON/STUFF
Phil Twyford has been dealing with the crisis at the NZ Transport Agency.

Out of the 850 “open files”, or unresolved safety problems, the worst had been resolved but there were still 28 that were being urgently investigated, Twyford said.

There had been 157 files considered high priority, 370 classed as “orange”, and 345 “yellow”.

Twyford said he has been assured the highest priority cases had been dealt with by formal compliance action either completed or under way.

“Injuries on our roads are not the price we pay to travel. They are unacceptable and preventable,” he said.

“I’m disappointed that NZTA has failed to carry out its regulatory functions.”

He had appointed the Ministry of Transport  to review those functions, and given what the public and Government now knew, it was appropriate to appoint external advice, he said.

Law firm Meredith Connell took up the job near the end of September to review the files and the agency was moving quickly to rectify lapses. The cost of engaging the law firm so far was $400,000

The agency had failed to properly check operators who certified vehicles or operators, as safe for the road, and when problems were identified there was often no follow up, Twyford said.

Staff had been redeployed with reduced focus on the regulatory role over the past decade with an emphasis on education and encouragement rather than enforcement, made worse in 2014 when it lost staff from its heavy vehicle compliance team.

Twyford said the systemic failure of one of the government’s most important agencies over several years was unacceptable

As previously reported, the failures of the agency have led to one fatality in a car, and cases of metal fatigue in truck towbars.

Interislander to get new, bigger Cook Strait ferries by 2022, report says

A Cook Strait ferry battles big waves out of Wellington.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF
A Cook Strait ferry battles big waves out of Wellington.

A date appears to have been set for Interislander to get new, bigger Cook Strait ferries – but it seems nobody told the ferry operator.

With passenger and freight expected to increase significantly in coming years, the ground-based work needed to accommodate the larger ferries has been outlined in a report to Greater Wellington Regional Council’s regional strategy committee.

At least one operator – Interislander – planned “to purchase and operate new larger vessels on the Cook Strait. These are scheduled to arrive in 2022,” the council report said.

“These new vessels will require new terminal facilities as well as additional infrastructure.”

But according to Interislander’s overseer KiwiRail, the process was not so far down the track.

It was only “looking at upgrading its ferries” and was still working through options, a spokeswoman said.

No timeline was set and no decisions had been made, she said.

Aratere had a $54m overhaul in 2011 but is now nearing the end of its life.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF
Aratere had a $54m overhaul in 2011 but is now nearing the end of its life.

Acting KiwiRail chief executive Todd Moyle said in October that all three of its ferries – Aratere, Kaiarahi, and Kaitaki – were nearing the end of their lives.

KiwiRail needed new ships “built for our specifications and requirements”, he wrote in a Stuff opinion piece.

“Our future freight and tourism needs will require bigger ships, and our ports at Wellington and Picton need to be able to handle them.”

One of the decisions still to be made was whether to have a train deck, which would allow a loaded train to roll on at the start of a journey and roll off at the other end, or whether to just transfer cargo from trains to trailers.

The Kaiarahi Interislander Ferry - now nearing the end of its life - recently had a refit in Singapore.
DEREK FLYNN/STUFF
The Kaiarahi Interislander Ferry – now nearing the end of its life – recently had a refit in Singapore.

“In the next couple of months the results of our investigations and consultation with our people, our union partners, customers and stakeholders will be known,” Moyle said.

“The size and number of ships in our new fleet, and the type best suited to our future freight and tourism needs, will be decided. Whatever the result, new ships will deliver more capacity, increased resilience, better fuel efficiency and greater reliability for our customers.”

The new ferries would have new facilities and would make for a better crossing.

“Once the decision is made we will embark on the next stage of our future fleet programme – building the new ships that will continue to unite New Zealand across that most tempestuous of barriers, Cook Strait.”

Cook Strait ferry Kaitaki, which is also nearing the end of its life.
Cook Strait ferry Kaitaki, which is also nearing the end of its life.

Greater Wellington is also leading a project to develop a new “multi-user” Cook Strait ferry terminal in Wellington, which will serve as the port for both Interislander and Bluebridge ferries.

The two sites being considered at Interislander’s current Kaiwharawhara site and Kings Wharf, near the existing Bluebridge operation and Wellington Railway Station.

“Forecasts of future demand indicate that substantial growth in both freight and passenger numbers is likely over the next 10-20 years,” the report said.

“However, the terminal infrastructure is a long-term investment, and so an understanding of demand over a 50-year timeframe should be considered when designing. By 2025 it is expected that annual passenger numbers will rise to 1.7 million.”

Passenger numbers were about 1 million in 2010.

COOK STRAIT FERRIES: A HISTORY

* 1875: A passenger service between Wellington and Picton begins with a weekly service till 1962 when the last ship in service, Tamahine, was withdrawn.

* 1962: The first roll-on, roll-off ferry, Aramoana, enters service.

* 1983: New ferry Arahura arrives, while the Aramoana and Aranui were laid up two years later.

* 1994: Christchurch businessman Brooke McKenzie starts the Sea Shuttle fast ferry. It lasts the summer.

* 1995: The North by South Straitrunner starts a Paremata to Picton service but the company goes into receivership in May 1996.

* 1998: Mana Seacat starts a Paremata to Picton service in its Te Hukatai catamaran but the firm folds five months later.

* 1999: Fast Cat Ferries begins its short-lived TopCat service. It winds up in November 2000.

*  2005: The last Lynx service sails from Picton.

* 2011: Aratere refurbished for nearly $54 million, and its hull was lengthened by 30 metres. But that was followed by multiple issues including, in 2013, when it lost a propeller in Tory Channel

 

Automation and capacity update from Ports of Auckland

22 November 2018

Operational Update

Automation and Capacity Project – Update

Our project to transform Fergusson Terminal which will provide future capacity is well underway and visitors to the port will have seen a lot of activity and changes including civil works, construction workers and sections of tarmac undergoing renewal.  What has been happening recently:

A-Strads

Visitors will have seen the new blue “A Strads” now assembled on the north end of the terminal, undergoing a comprehensive range of testing in readiness for Go-Live next year.

 

 

 

 

Road Exchange

The work to upgrade the truck lanes has been completed and the next stage is installing the gates and fences required to keep truck drivers and A Strads separated.

Pre-gate Kiosk Screens

These have been updated. Drivers now need to complete some additional steps at the kiosk.  This means that when automation goes live, the drivers will already be familiar with the new system.

Reefer Gantries

The large shiny frames of the new reefer gantries at the southern end of the Fergusson terminal are now complete and sign-off for the reefer operation is expected before the end of this year.  In the meantime, we have been able to use the area as valuable stacking space for dry containers.

New Container Cranes

There was a lot of media interest and celebration with the arrival of our three new container cranes on the specialised delivery vessel Zhen Hua 25.

It was a great sight to see them sail into the harbour in the early morning. These cranes, which have quad-lift capacity (they can lift four containers at once), are now in place on Fergusson North Berth and will be commissioned early 2019, after a range of testing required to integrate them into our current systems.

 

Hatch Platforms have now been installed on all container cranes – these allow the ship’s hatch covers to be stored above the ground, freeing up space around the cranes for container handling.

Lash Platforms In a first for New Zealand, we’re installing lash platforms on all our cranes and our new cranes have them already fitted.  This will make stevedores’ job safer, as they can work above ground away from moving straddles.

Rail OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

A frame, fitted with multiple cameras, has been placed over the rail line to capture images and recognise container numbers arriving and leaving by rail. This system provides a high degree of accuracy and enables rail planners to quickly check on any “exceptions”.

Supply Chain Challenges

There are a range of challenges being experienced throughout the supply chain. We are automating Fergusson Terminal to increase capacity and productivity, whilst at the same time experiencing unprecedented volume demand. It is a bit like having heart surgery while playing rugby!

While we’re carrying out the automation work our terminal capacity is actually reduced, putting pressure on our operations especially during peak import season.

We are undertaking this transformation to ensure we are ready to accommodate Auckland’s rapid growth in freight demand.  We’ll be able to handle more containers on the same land, but it also means some changes in the way cargo owners and trucking companies interact with the port.

Greater planning and different ways of operating are needed throughout the freight supply chain. The port operates 24/7 and yet the wider supply chain largely works 24/5 at best, and often 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.

Extended operational hours are needed at distribution centres, empty depots and importers’ and exporters’ premises to maximise the capacity of the whole supply chain.  It is much the same as an internet connection – you’re currently on dial-up and want to upgrade to fibre, but you only get the best speed if you’ve got fibre end-to-end.

We have been engaging with importers, exporters, trucking companies and freight forwarders to discuss the changes and welcome you to make contact to discuss any issues you may have.

Further Progress

Our automation go-live date is late 2019.  There are a number of civil, operational, engineering and I.T. projects being undertaken, some of which need to be completed in a specific order and others are more flexible.  This means that we are continually adjusting the timing of work.  We will keep you updated on progress and changes.

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss any ideas or concerns, at any stage.

For more information contact

Customer Service

P: +64 9 348 5100 Ext. 1

E: customerservice@poal.co.nz

 

For VBS queries contact

Transport Co-ordinators

P: +64 9 348 5100 Ext.2

E: driversassist@poal.co.nz

 

 

Ports of Auckland have joined the Climate Leaders Coalitiona collection of business leaders who have each committed to act on climate change.

Ports of Auckland is the first port in the world to make this commitment and the first port in New Zealand to be CEMARS® certified. Joining the coalition contributes to the ports promise to become zero emissions by 2040.

More information on the Climate Leaders Coalition can be found here. Read the CEO Climate Change Statement here.

 

Auckland’s supply chain complications

Media release – POAL and NRC 14/11/19

Auckland’s supply chain complications

National Road Carriers Association and the Ports of Auckland are combining forces to promote change in the supply chain to improve delivery times and prevent delays.

This initiative has come about because of supply chain capacity issues which were highlighted following an accident at Ports of Auckland in August. Imported freight has taken longer to deliver and exporters have encountered delays getting their goods away, leading to frustration all round.

“The supply chain is running at capacity, so unexpected problems can have a domino effect,” says David Aitken, National Road Carriers CEO.
“At its heart, the problem is Auckland’s growth. The supply chain needs to evolve and we’re all going to have to change the way we work to prevent future problems. Better planning and coordination are the key.”

“We’re letting stakeholders know what causes hold-ups and we’re working with partners to improve our end-to-end processes,” he added.
Situations contributing to delays can arise at any stage in the supply chain, sometimes occurring thousands of kilometres away from New Zealand.
“In the last 12 months over half of all container ships arrived at Auckland late (often as a result of bad weather), causing congestion,” says Craig Sain, Ports of Auckland’s General Manager Commercial Relationships. “This makes it hard for us to staff the terminal properly, causing delays.”

Labour scheduling issues at the port are made worse by a shortage of labour in Auckland, which also affects the trucking industry.

The port is currently installing an automated container handling system to address this problem, but the work required to install the system has reduced terminal capacity by about 20%, adding to congestion. This situation will remain until late 2019 when the project will be completed.
“With reduced space in the terminal and more containers coming in due to growing Auckland demand for freight, it is taking us longer to service trucks visiting the port,” says Mr Sain.

Another problem is that getting containers off the port can be delayed because there is nowhere for the containers to go. The port works 24/7 and has capacity at nights and weekends, but often distribution centres, importers warehouses and empty container depots are closed at these times.
“In the past working 9-5, Monday to Friday was fine, but now Auckland has over 1.5 million people it is no longer feasible,” says Mr Sain. “The whole industry needs to be able to work 24/7, not just the port and carriers, and this means distribution centres and importers need to be open nights and weekends to receive imports.”

The road freight transport industry is caught in the middle says David Aitken.  “Importers don’t want to pay for weekend or afterhours work but they also don’t want to pay to hold containers at the port or container depots as a result of their limited business hours.”

“We are storing containers at freight hubs longer, which adds costs for double handling, or are delivering goods later than originally expected because of holdups. We’re also facing higher costs because of Auckland’s congestion, costs which could be avoided by working 24/7,” he added.

The solution is going to come through a combination of technology, greater co-ordination and a move to 24/7 working throughout the supply chain.
As well as investing in automated container handling, Ports of Auckland is working with National Road Carriers Association to update its processes and business rules to minimise manual intervention and incentivise off-peak container movements. Last minute freight moves will become a thing of the past, with all movements having to be planned in advance.

“As a port we have a key role to play and we are trying to educate other players in the supply chain so that they understand the need for change and what they can do to make the process more efficient,” said Craig Sain. “Ultimately, these changes will benefit New Zealand through the fast, efficient and cost-effective delivery of freight.”

8 November

National MPs from all over the country have lined up at Parliament this morning to submit ‘save the highways’ petitions signed by thousands of their constituents.

National MP Amy Adams announces she will stand for National Party leader.

Selwyn MP Amy Adams said more than 1000 people signed her petition for the State Highway 1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton to go ahead. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

They are concerned that major roading projects National announced are being canned by this government in favour of more public transport options or “minimal” safety upgrades of existing roads.

Examples include the Auckland east-west link, the Napier to Hastings expressway and the construction of a four-lane state highway one link between Christchurch and Ashburton.

MPs for the electorates north of Auckland hope to save the ‘four-lanes to Whangarei’ project, with Rodney MP Mark Mitchell saying the uncertainty was having a huge impact on people’s well-being.

“The cancellation of these projects not only reduces road safety, do not only take away the economic opportunities they would create, but it’s also creating a lot of stress.

“There’s a human toll to the people who actually live on these designated routes and have a lot of uncertainty created from very poor decisions, I feel, at central government level,” Mr Mitchell said.

An image of the completed East West roading project.

The proposed east-west motorway link in Auckland was scrapped by the government last year. Graphic: Supplied / NZTA

Eight petitions have been delivered, with thousands of signatures from the MPs constituents.

Amy Adams, the MP for Selwyn, said the State Highway 1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton must go ahead.

“The volume of traffic on those roads is making them not only more dangerous, but more and more congested, obviously effecting productivity,” she said.

Ms Adams said she had more than a thousand people sign up in a short time.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson submitted on the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane link, which it announced in 2017 and said Labour must commit to.

They want a grade separated connection from Omokoroa onto State Highway 2 and a Katikati bypass.

Few questions were asked by the government MPs who sit on the transport committee, however National MP Paul Goldsmith asked a number of questions about the impact of the regional fuel tax on the MPs’ communities.

He said there was little thought for people outside of Auckland who would never benefit from the expensive public transport projects the government was funding in the city.

Green light for Tauranga Northern Link, more SH2 safety improvements

The Tauranga Northern Link has been taken off the chopping block, with the NZ Transport Agency confirming it will build the highway – albeit in a different form – after months of speculation.

The new state highway between Tauriko and Te Puna will have two lanes rather than the four initially proposed, but the agency was looking at adding extra lanes for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles.

Critics have welcomed the decision but also expressed frustration and noted the continued lack of a timeline for when construction of the highway, and other State Highway 2 improvements, would start.

SH2 safety improvements. Image / SuppliedSH2 safety improvements. Image / Supplied

The northern link was one of four major roading projects between Tauranga and Waihi that have been in limbo for months as the agency re-evaluated to see how they fitted with the coalition Government’s transport priorities.

Te outcomes of those re-evaluations were announced yesterday.

Agency spokesman Brett Gliddon said it would speed up and extend its plan for safety improvements on SH2 between Waihi and Te Puna, one of New Zealand’s deadliest stretches of highway.

Previously-announced funding of $101 million was ringfenced for improvements between Waihī and Ōmokoroa over the next five years, including 26 intersection upgrades, wider centrelines, flexible median barriers and protections against other hazards.

The agency wanted to roll those out faster and start designing and finding funding for similar improvements, to be constructed simultaneously, for the stretch between Ōmokoroa and Te Puna.

The agency would also progress with a major Omokoroa Rd intersection upgrade. What form that would take was still to be decided but Gliddon said a roundabout would make sense.

“We want to get on to this as quickly as we can.”

Gliddon said the long-planned Katikati bypass, however, would not happen any time soon.

The agency would keep the land designations but he said the project was not as high a priority as others.

Stuart Crosby, chairman of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s transport committee, said the Katikati community would be disappointed to see the bypass put on the backburner.

Katch Katikati promotions manager Jacqui Knight said the lack of a bypass was stifling the development of the town.

“It doesn’t have to be a four-lane highway, there just needs to be an alternative route.”

Gliddon said the agency hoped to have more news about the timelines and funding for projects in December, after it completed the re-evaluations of several other projects around New Zealand and weighed the priorities.

He said $216m of previously ringfenced funding for the northern link was still secure, but more was needed before construction could start.

National MPs have claimed the Government had cancelled the Tauranga Northern Link.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller was unrepentant yesterday, saying the tender for his government’s proposed northern link – which would have seen construction starting last month – had been cancelled, criticising the new plan as “half-baked”.

Reactions

Transport Minister Phil Twyford. Photo / FileTransport Minister Phil Twyford. Photo / File

Phil Twyford, Transport Minister, Labour

“NZTA is prioritising urgent safety improvements to these roads to make them more forgiving of human error. Drivers will always make mistakes and the government’s job is to stop those mistakes turning into tragedies.

Responding to Muller he said: “If the TNL was so desperately needed five years ago, why didn’t Todd Muller’s government and former transport minister Simon Bridges build it?”

“Fix the Bloody Road” campaigner Matthew Farrell. Photo / George Novak

Matthew Farrell, Fix the Bloody Road campaign spokesman

“Overall, I think we have got to be happy that a road that had its tender process cancelled is now going to be built, albeit in a new form.

While there may be some disappointment it’s not a four-lane road, you have to see it as a win that this project still has more than $200 million in ring-fenced funding and will be going ahead, unlike some other projects elsewhere in New Zealand.”

Taxes add to $600 million transport surplus

The Transport fund financed by fuel taxes posted a $634 million surplus, adding fire to the debate around the role of tax in high fuel prices.

Four months before the Government’s 3.5 cent fuel excise increase kicked in, Transport Minister Phil Twyford was given a pleasant surprise — an expected $634 million surplus in the National Land Transport Fund, the pot of money funded by fuel taxes.

Documents obtained by Newsroom under the Official Information Act show the NLTF was expected to post a $634 million surplus for the years 2015-18. The document, a May briefing to Minister Twyford, shows that higher than expected revenue and lower than forecast expenditure would generate the surplus.

The period covered was before the Government increased fuel excise by 3.5 cents in September and does not include the Regional Fuel Tax, which raises revenue for Auckland Council.

“Unjustified” but already budgeted for

National Party Transport Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith told Newsroom the surplus showed the Government’s fuel taxes were “unjustified”.

“The surplus is enough to cover 57 per cent of the tax the Government is trying to source – more than the first two fuel tax increase are expected to raise over the next three years,” Goldsmith said.

“The NLTF is expected to have $634 million in surplus that has been carried over from 2015-2018 and the Government is planning to raise $1.124 billion in new national fuel excise increases over the next three years,” he said.

The documents said the surplus would be carried forward into the next round of NLTF spending. A spokesperson for Minister Twyford said the funding will contribute to new projects going forward, in addition to the revenue raised from fuel taxes.

National Party Leader Simon Bridges, who was Transport Minister during most of the period in which the fund posted surpluses, launched a petition on Friday to have the regional fuel tax and the increase in fuel taxes repealed.

“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year and in Auckland that figure is $324,” Bridges said.

The briefing noted that in spite of posting big surpluses, the future of the fund was far from secure.

Changing economic conditions and the rise of more fuel efficient or electric vehicles would put pressure on the sustainability of the fund.

Where does the money come from? 

The NLTF is a Government fund administered by New Zealand Transport Authority, which funds roads and other transport related projects throughout the country.

Every three years, the Government draws up a Government Policy Statement for transport, which roughly directs how the money will be divided up and the level of funding that will be given to the NLTF. The most recent GPS, for example, emphasised local roading projects and safety over highways.

The GPS uses Treasury forecasts of economic growth to estimate the revenue that will flow into the fund, which helps it to estimate the amount of money it has to spent.

The surplus comes from revenue consistently exceeding those forecasts, due to faster-than-expected population growth and increased road use. In 2015/16 the fund raised $3.5 billion, rather than the $3.3 billion forecast.

These surpluses continued until the 2017/18 year, when the fund was forecast to raise $357 million or 3.4 percent above its forecast. The briefing was drawn up in March, when the financial year still had three months to run so it’s final figures were estimates.

“Expenditure should be as close to target as possible” 

On the other side of the ledger, NZTA consistently underspent on transport projects over the three years.

At March 2018, expenditure was 88 percent of the three year budget, although the fund had targeted to spend just 91 percent of the budget.

This means the fund had revenues roughly three percent higher than forecast and expenditure roughly three percent lower.

The briefing said NZTA aimed to have expenditure run as close as possible to target.

“Although expenditure for the NLTP can be underspent for a variety of reasons, expenditure should be as close to target as possible,” it said.

“Any NLTF surplus will carry over into the next financial year and GPS 2018.

…but a surplus doesn’t mean an end to taxes 

The Ministry of Transport warned Twyford that the fund’s golden run was likely to run. As worsening economic conditions and changing vehicle user habits depleted revenue.

The Ministry uses the latest Treasury figures to forecast what revenue is likely to be in the future.

It said that lower than previously forecasted real GDP, which is correlated with vehicle kilometres travelled impacted upon the forecast.

Lower migration would also impact the fund, as it flowed-on to fewer new cars on the road.