Government addresses concerns of transport industry

Transport Minister Phil Twyford (file photo).

BRADEN FASTIER
Transport Minister Phil Twyford (file photo).

New and additional sources of funding are needed to help fix Auckland’s traffic congestion and growing pains, Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

But Twyford believes it is not fair for the rest of New Zealand to pay for its biggest city’s woes.

Rail and coastal shipping will be a focus for both Auckland and elsewhere, he said.

The newly named minister made the comments in his first address at the Road Transport Forum’s annual conference in Hamilton on Saturday. “If we had a decent passenger rail from Auckland to Hamilton paid for out of the Land Transport Fund, then I could have been here much earlier,” he joked, referring to what RTF Chief Executive Ken Shirley had said to him after arriving late to the conference, having got stuck in traffic.

During the conference at Claudelands Event Centre, Twyford outlined the government’s direction on the future of transport throughout the country.

Creating a “resilient and multi-modal transport system, reducing carbon emissions and fixing Auckland’s congestion” were the priorities.

“We know the transport system is about networks and productivity and changes to one mode can have flow-on consequences.”

Transport in New Zealand needs to be resilient in the face of shocks, such as the recent earthquakes that shut down the major north-south highway in the South Island.

To do this, changes to funding is required.

Roading is currently funded through the Land Transport Fund, from road user charges, petrol tax and vehicle registration, which generate $4 billion a year.

“We need to tackle the problem of new and additional funding sources and the challenge of dealing with Auckland’s growth pains is one of the pressures here.”

Decades of under-investment and congestion in Auckland is costing the city $1.3b a year in lost productivity, he said.

Aucklanders want it fixed, but Twyford said it will come at a cost.

“They understand that it costs money to do this.”

The Government is committed to a $15 million, 10-year programme that includes a rapid transport system in Auckland, which will join up with the road and highway system.

“We believe rapid transport should be funded in the same way as state highways and there are benefits for at least part-funding the rapid transport through the Land Transport Fund.

“We need to find additional sources of funding as well and we cannot ask the rest of New Zealand to pay the costs of Auckland’s growth.”

If asked, the Government will pass legislation to allow Auckland Council to levy a regional fuel tax, he said.

“We’ve talked about 10 cents a litre and that would generate about $150 million a year, about 10 per cent of the investment that is needed for the Auckland Transport Plan.

“Aucklanders have to be willing to chip in a bit extra.”

Income from targetted rates on what will be “massive increases” in the value of the land around the light rail network in Auckland could be reinvested in the rapid transport system, he said.

“The Government is going to continue to fund rail above and beyond the national transport fund, but what we want is to generate new and additional sources of revenue.

“In the long term, petrol excise will not be a sustainable way to fund the transport system.”

Previous governments had disproportionately invested the fund into motorway projects, leaving regional roads starved of funds, he said.

“Our coalition partner placed a very high premium on investment in the regions, so that will be a priority.”

Reducing carbon emissions

Another priority would be reducing carbon emissions from the transport industry, which make up 18 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Exploring coastal shipping is one way of doing this, he said.

“I believe if we level the playing field, coastal shipping can be a cost-effective way to move heavy bulk freight that is not time-dependent.”

He also addressed one of the biggest concerns from the industry – the shortage of top-class drivers.

Attendees said the driver-licensing system had become complicated and expensive.

Twyford said the government wanted to weave driver licensing into the school curriculum.

“When people don’t get their licence or never graduate to a full licence, it has downstream negative consequences for them to get jobs.”

He said stemming migrant numbers would not affect those in the transport industry.

“You’ll know the intention to change the immigration settings, as we believe the open door policy of immigration had quadrupled net migration.

“We think we can combat this by taking out the rorts and the scams in the education sector, where so-called education providers have been giving back-door visas.”

There are genuine skill shortages and regional skill lists will mean a particular regions can attract people in to live and work in that region, he said.

Transport weak link for doing business – ODT

Banked-up traffic near Milburn.

Banked-up traffic near Milburn.
A freight train near Wingatui, both south of Dunedin.

A freight train near Wingatui, both south of Dunedin.

New Zealand’s road and rail  transport networks have been found wanting. ODT senior business reporter Simon Hartley talks to Westpac’s new industry economist Paul Clark about the  country’s road and rail.

Internationally, New Zealand’s roading network is ranked 40th out of 137 countries while the rail network comes in at 47th, the latter behind Poland and Hungary.

The data comes from the World Economic Forum’s recently published global competitiveness index report. It ranks New Zealand’s overall competitiveness as 13th out of the 137 countries.

However, Westpac’s industry economist Paul Clark said the data showed companies were ”dissatisfied” with the state of road and rail.

”The quality of our road and rail networks was identified as one of a number of weak spots in our overall competitiveness,” Mr Clark said.

New Zealand has 95,000km of road, including 11,000km of state highways. Rail is 4100km in length.

New Zealand has for more than a decade been spending $5billion a year in these areas, most of it on road and rail infrastructure.

Firms operating in New Zealand had for 2017-18 rated the quality of the country’s roads as the same as 2009-10, meaning ”no change in quality over the past eight years,” he said.

”This is not a one-off.

”For a number of years an inadequate supply of infrastructure has been seen by firms as being the biggest hurdle for doing business in New Zealand,” Mr Clark said.

He said the importance of having a high-quality land transport network could not be overstated, both for domestic use and getting exports to the rest of the world.

”When working well they can make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy . . . but when not, they can constrain the economy’s growth and prosperity,” Mr Clark said.

About 82% of New Zealand’s roads were open to ”high productivity vehicles”, or heavy commercial traffic. They have a capacity to carry from 44 tonnes to a maximum 62 tonnes.

”These vehicles help freight operators move more freight with fewer trucks, at lower cost,” Mr Clark said.

Unsurprisingly, those vehicles account for more than 30% of heavy commercial traffic, he said.

Mr Clark said the capacity of the road network against demand for travel had only ”edged higher” in recent years. The country’s relatively strong domestic economic performance had underpinned the growth in demand.

”Much of this [annual $5billion] spending has been focused on addressing an infrastructural deficit caused by chronic under-investment in the 1980s and 1990s,” Mr Clark said.

The spending had increased the road network capacity and helped to maintain it in ”tip-top” condition. But it had not always been enough to handle some of the large increases in traffic, at least without some deterioration in network performance.

While progress had been made on rail and road public transport, particularly in Auckland, there had only been ”limited progress” on freight – with almost 85% moved around the country by road.

”There’s good reason for this. Road is not only cheaper than rail, it also provides a convenient door-to-door service,” Mr Clark said.

By contrast, rail typically involved road-bridging freight to a public freight yard or container transfer facility, or investing in and servicing customer rail sidings.

”Either of these takes time, money and logistic effort.

”That’s not to say possibilities do not exist – the New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail, together with sector partners, are actively looking at ways to improve road and rail integration, but more needs to be done.”

Earlier this week, Port Otago floated the idea of eventually having State Highway 88, between Dunedin and Port Chalmers, truck-free, but rail would have to be embraced to achieve that end.

Mr Clark said ”the key is to improve the competitiveness of rail freight and until that happens the possibility of a fully integrated transport system seems quite far off.”

While neither the data nor Mr Clark delved into the political scene, whichever government is formed money will still need to be spent on national transport.

National has roads as its priority but Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First all favour upgrading New Zealand’s rail.

Coalition deals

As at 24/10 we have very little detailed information about the nature of the transport related items in the coalition deal Labour/NZ First, and the confidence and supply deal Labour/Greens.

So far the key points relate to:

• Rail: Significant investment in regional rail. – [We’re not sure exactly what this means]

• Auckland Port: Commissioning a feasibility study on moving the Ports of Auckland to Northport – [It’s hard to imagine this flying – Auckland won’t want to lose control of their own destiny in a port/shipping sense, and it’s hard to imagine the Greens being happy with an increase in carbon miles for the transport from Northport to Auckland.  Not to mention the absolutely massive cost to upgrade rail from Northland to Auckland]

• Transport: Investigate a Green Transport Card to reduce the cost of public transport for low-income people and welfare recipients, prioritise National Land Transport Fund towards rail infrastructure as well as cycling and walking, cancel Auckland’s East-West motorway link, work towards light rail from Auckland city to airport [The East-West cancellation is a shame, and we’re surprised that the NZ First preference for heavy rail to the airport wasn’t adopted in the Labour/Green deal]

Five-year wait for road too long: NZTA boss

Five years is far too long to wait for a new alternative route through the Manawatu Gorge, Ross I’Anson of the New Zealand Transport Agency told a meeting in Woodville.

About 300 people turned out for Tuesday night’s meeting to have their say on the 13 proposed options and Mr I’Anson, NZTA regional transport manager, said he wanted a three to four year time frame for the road.

“We are committed to building this in the quickest time possible,” he said.

“There are absolutely no winners at the moment and we are at the point now where we don’t have a road and we have to put something in place quickly.

Ross I'Anson, regional transport manager for the New Zealand Transport Agency answering questions in Woodville on Tuesday night.

Ross I’Anson, regional transport manager for the New Zealand Transport Agency answering questions in Woodville on Tuesday night.

“The process so far has taken just three months, normally it would take 18 months.”

Mr I’Anson also reassured people money wasn’t an issue.

“We’ve had the election and the money is still there,” he said.

“We want value for money, not the cheapest option, but the best option for economic development.

“We’re scrambling to get this done and we will have a short list of three to five preferred options ready for public open days on October 11 and 12 and plan to have the best-performing option by mid-December.”

Ashhurst residents Elizabeth, left in pink, and David Thompson were shocked to learn one of the gorge optional routes would go through their home of nine years. Photo / Christine McKay

Ashhurst residents Elizabeth, left in pink, and David Thompson were shocked to learn one of the gorge optional routes would go through their home of nine years. Photo / Christine McKay

However, at this stage Mr I’Anson said NZTA didn’t have pricing for any of the options.

When asked by the Dannevirke News if all people affected by the 13 options had been consulted, Mr I’Anson said his team had made phone calls, door-knocked or letter dropped to all owners on the property register.

However, before the meeting, Ashhurst resident Elizabeth Thompson said she and husband David were stunned to be told by neighbours on Tuesday that one option would go through their property – their home of nine years.

“It’s going to get hot in here in a moment in more ways than one,” she said.

The couple live in Wyndham St in Ashhurst and the first they knew of the option through their property was at lunchtime on Tuesday.

“At 1.30pm on Tuesday, a neighbour came to me and said my house is going to disappear, there were six or seven of us in our street who hadn’t been notified by NZTA,” Mr Thompson said.

Mr I’Anson agreed that was poor.

Woodville’s Murray Kirk, who lives on Old Gorge Rd, also told the Dannevirke News NZTA staff visited him and handed over a letter at 2pm on Tuesday.

“I was given the name of a communications person in NZTA and told to come to this meeting tonight,” he said.

As the business-case team, which includes Tararua District deputy mayor Allan Benbow, begin analysing the 13 options, Mr I’Anson said working at the fastest possible pace the team would come up with design, consenting and construction options for the preferred new route early next year.

With many people in the audience suggesting they wanted the short tunnel option first proposed by Mr Benbow, Mr I’Anson said the NZTA would need to work out where that tunnel would start and end.

“There are still slips at Barney’s Point and we need a resilient road,” he said.

Manawatu Gorge replacement

• 7500 vehicles used the gorge daily, with traffic growing, until it closed in April. Some 13 per cent were heavy vehicles.
• Four of the 13 options traverse the Ruahine Ranges, four cross the Tararua Ranges, two go through the existing gorge, there is also a viaduct and two tunnel options.
• Route distances range from 6km to 19km.
• Most options will require a bridge.
• Northern options have a gradient of between 6 and 7 per cent, and for southern options 8 per cent.
• Currently all options over the ranges will go through a windfarm.
• The NZTA is trying to develop an option which will bypass windfarms.

Huge viaduct one of 13 proposals for Manawatu Gorge

A huge viaduct going through the Manawatu Gorge is one of 13 proposals to open up the choked transit way once and for all.

An aerial view of the slip near Woodville.

An aerial view of a slip near Woodville that closed the Manawatu Gorge. Photo: NZTA

The gorge has been blocked by several slips over the years and was closed indefinitely after a huge landslide in April proved too dangerous to fix.

The gorge carries State Highway 3 and is a vital link between the eastern and western sides of the North Island.

Its closure has forced heavy trucks and other traffic into huge detours or over narrow country lanes unfit for heavy vehicles.

If built, the viaduct would have something in common with the Otira viaduct, which opened up the frequently shut-down Arthur’s Pass route to all-weather transit.

Along with the viaduct option, there are two proposals involving tunnels.

One tunnel would be 10.5 kilometres long and be slightly to the south of the gorge.

Another option would incorporate part of the existing gorge road, at the eastern end, and need a shorter tunnel, just 6km long.

Another dramatic option would be a straight road dug deep into a cutting running to the south of the gorge.

Other alternatives involve roads running though the hills to the north or to the south of the gorge.

To the south, there is a new 17km route, from Napier Road on State Highway 3 to SH2 near Woodville.

Three other routes go over the hills from one side of the divide to the other in the same area.

They are all near the existing Pahiatua Track.

Three other options involve connections built near the current Ashhurst Saddle Road, which is to the north of the existing highway through the gorge.

The last option would to upgrade the Saddle Road itself.

New Zealand Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Ross I’Anson said these options would now be presented to the people in the region.

“This is an important step towards finding the best performing option for an alternative route from the Manawatu to Hawke’s Bay, with the gorge route out of action because of slips and ongoing movement,” Mr l’Anson said.

“We know how keen people have been to see these options, and we’ve worked hard with our local partners to get to this point as quickly as possible.

“We’re now keen to hear from people about the options; what they like about particular alignments, what their concerns might be and any other feedback or suggestions they can provide.”

Mr I’Anson said once people had made their views known on the long list and further analysis had been completed, a short list of options would be produced by October along with cost estimates.

The final choice would be decided by December.

Brian Gaynor: Winston Peters’ port plan fails to make grade

One of the more intriguing aspects of the general election campaign is New Zealand First’s policy “to move all container operations from Ports of Auckland to Northport by the end of 2027”.

According to NZ First leader Winston Peters, “the days of the Ports of Auckland as a container port and as a car yard are numbered”.

He went on to say that “New Zealand First will bring forward legislation to move all operations from Auckland to Northport. This will start with vehicles on Captain Cook Wharf ahead of the America’s Cup. Aucklanders want their harbour back while Northlanders want the jobs and opportunities that would come from Northport’s transformation”.

Peters added that this policy “is a cast iron commitment from New Zealand First but it needs New Zealand First to be in a pivotal position to demand it”.

Not surprisingly, Peters hasn’t released any details on the costs of moving Ports of Auckland to Northport.

There are three ports involved in this proposal, directly or indirectly: Ports of Auckland; Port of Tauranga, which is 220km from Auckland; and Northport, which is 144km north of the main Auckland port.

Auckland

Ports of Auckland (POA) listed on the NZX in October 1993. This followed the sale of 39.8 million shares, or 20 per cent of the company, by the Waikato Regional Council at $1.60 a share. This gave Ports of Auckland a total sharemarket value of $318 million, with the Auckland Regional Services Trust retaining its 80 per cent stake.

In April 2005 Auckland Regional Holdings announced a takeover offer for POA at $8 a share, valuing the company at $848m. This compared with the pre-offer price of $6.44 a share and Grant Samuel’s value of between $7.69 and $8.55 a share.

The $8 a share bid was successful, POA delisted and is now 100 per cent owned by Auckland Council Investments.

POA has been a disappointment under 100 per cent Auckland Council ownership. In the 13 years since 2003-04, its revenue has increased by only 35 per cent, to $222.4m, and net profit after tax by 36 per cent to $60.3m.

Tauranga

Port of Tauranga (POT) was listed in 1992 after issuing 20 million new shares at $1.05 each and the Waikato Regional Council selling all its 12.6 million shares at the same price. After the initial public offering, the company had a sharemarket value of just $80m, based on its $1.05 issue price. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council had a 55.3 per cent holding.

POT, which now has a sharemarket value of $2,960m, has been one of the most successful listed companies over the past 25 years.

For example, since 2003-04 POT’s revenue has increased by 69 per cent to $255.9m, compared with POA’s 35 per cent rise, and POT’s net profit after tax has swelled 148 per cent to $83.4m, compared with POA’s more modest 36 per cent profit increase.

Northland

Northland Port also listed on the sharemarket in 1992, shortly after Port of Tauranga. This followed the sale of 10 million shares, representing 24.1 per cent of the company, for $1.25 a share. This gave Northland Port a sharemarket value of $52m at the $1.25 IPO price, just slightly below POT’s listing value.

The Northland company provided ship handling services to the NZ Refining jetty at Marsden Point and at Port Whangarei.

In 2002 the port activities at Marsden Point and Port Whangarei were transferred to Northport, a 50/50 joint venture between Northland Port and Port of Tauranga. NZX-listed Northland Port subsequently changed its name to Marsden Marine Holdings.

Marsden Marine is now an investment company with a 50 per cent stake in Northport, valued at $46.1m, and investment properties valued at $66.4m. These include freehold land, a marina and a commercial complex adjacent to Northport.

Its largest shareholders are Northland Regional Council, with a 53.6 per cent holding, and Ports of Auckland, with 19.9 per cent stake.

Marsden Marine has been a disappointing listed company, with a sharemarket value of only $215m. The company’s directors received $198,000 for the June 2016 year, a large figure for an investment company with few employees.

Chairman Sir John Goulter, who is also chair of the hugely disappointing Metro Performance Glass, received director’s fees of $54,000 for the June 2016 year and an additional $40,000 as chairman of Northport.

The opportunity to rationalise the port sector, and reduce commercial shipping activity at the Auckland port, was missed when Ports of Auckland withdrew from merger talks with Port of Tauranga in March 2007.

The Mount Manganui based port was clearly disappointed and chief executive Mark Cairns had this to say: “The economic and financial modelling demonstrates that the merger would generate significant financial benefits to be shared with customers and shareholders alike.

“The merger would also generate substantial public benefits: reducing CO2 emissions; facilitating better opportunities for coastal shipping; and making a start on the inevitable port rationalisation that needs to occur in New Zealand in the future with the advent of larger, faster container vessels.”

He went on to say: “In a country with a population of approximately 4 million people (similar to Sydney) New Zealand’s tax base simply cannot sustain the funding of high quality road and rail infrastructure connections to all 13 ports.”

The proposed merger between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga made far more sense than the Ports of Auckland/Northport scheme. There are several reasons for this, including:

• The cost of building an extensive road and rail network from Marsden Point to Auckland would be prohibitive and take decades to complete. Coastal shipping could be an alternative, but these ships would continue to use Ports of Auckland

• Northport is small and would need substantial expenditure on its facilities, particularly container handling facilities

• The move from Ports of Auckland to Northport would put huge pressure on the Marsden Point facility. For example, 673 container ships visited Auckland in the June 2017 year compared with only 36 berthing at Northport. In addition, Auckland had 181 vehicle carrier visits while Marsden Point had none in the same 12-month period. Thus, if Ports of Auckland moved its container ship and vehicle carrier operations to Northland, the Marsden Point facility would have to facilitate 854 of these vessel arrivals every year instead of 36 at present

• There is a mismatch between Northport and Ports of Auckland because the former is a bulk port and the latter is predominantly a container port. Northport had export log volumes of 2,808,000 tonnes for the June 2017 year, representing 77 per cent of its total bulk exports, while Ports of Auckland container volumes were 952,331 TEU (one TEU equals one standard 20-foot container).

The obvious solution to the Ports of Auckland issue is the partial privatisation of the company and a listing on the NZX. There are two main reasons for this.

Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport have been great performers as listed companies and are paying large dividends to their council shareholders. By contrast, Ports of Auckland has been a disappointment since the Auckland Council acquired its 100 per cent holding.

Under a sharemarket listing, there is a far better chance of a merger, or a joint venture agreement, between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga. This is because local body politicians, who are usually opposed to these commercial agreements, would have a limited influence.

An Auckland/Tauranga agreement could lead to a sharp reduction in commercial ship visits to Auckland and enable Auckland importers and exporters to switch their business to a well governed and well managed port facility at Mount Manganui.

A merger between Ports of Auckland and Northport doesn’t make sense from a commercial or cost point of view.

• Brian Gaynor is an executive director of Milford Asset Management.

More needs to be done for transport infrastructure say CEOs

By James Penn

No doubt many CEOs were cheering on the opening of Auckland’s Waterview tunnel in June, but they say there is more to be done: Auckland’s congestion woes were ranked as the most impactful domestic factor for business confidence in New Zealand.

The adequacy of transport infrastructure was also chief among the concerns of business leaders.

Over half of Mood of the Boardroom survey respondents rated the issue an eight or above on a 10-point scale, ranging from no concern to extreme concern. An overall average concern rating of 7.4 tells the story.

The third and fourth ranked factors were “growth pressures in Auckland” and “housing unaffordability” respectively – both coming in at above 7 on the scale – speaking to concerns about a city that many consider to be bulging at its seams.

For Anthony Healy, CEO of BNZ, housing affordability was the top issue facing the nation. Healy had a wide variety of policy prescriptions for the issue: “Increase supply, RMA reform, more thoughtful immigration policy, overhaul local government funding model, incentivise regional migration and development, and increase infrastructure investment.”

As one leader sitting on the boards of a number of organisations headquartered outside Auckland explained, “Although Auckland issues are not so concerning, we are all interlinked and there are impacts and consequences direct or indirect.”

Craig Stobo, chair of the Local Government Funding Agency, said “the shortage of labour skills and pressures on growth city infrastructure” were constraints to further growth.

“Central government needs to rethink immigration policy and to share revenues with local government to incentivise them to invest in infrastructure,” he suggested.

The latter of those suggestions, in the form of a policy sharing GST on construction costs, has been proposed by Act this election, and rated highly among CEOs – 3.47/5, on average.

“ACT is right on the button,” said Stobo. “Sharing central government tax revenues with local government will incentivise local infrastructure investment currently constrained by Council’s debt to revenue ceilings.”

Stephen Selwood, chief executive of Infrastructure New Zealand, wants even broader reform: “We need to rethink how local government is structured and funded, in parallel with RMA and planning law reform.”

“This requires some powers being aggregated at a regional level – economic development and infrastructure planning and delivery – and others powers devolved to communities – social issues and local amenities in particular.”

Ross Buckley, Executive Chairman at KPMG, says much of the work is finally being done, but it’s the timing that matters: “Recent investment in Auckland infrastructure (such as Waterveiw) is making a positive difference and paying dividends – it just always arrives 10 years late.”

Other leaders point out the funds for these investments requires economic growth, and New Zealand’s productivity has been flagging.

This reality was reflected in a rating of 6.3 on the concern scale for the labour productivity factor.

Indeed, after housing affordability Healy’s next top issue facing the nation was productivity. “Incentivise investment in R&D, develop and grow ICT sector, encourage more VC and start up capital funds,” suggested Healy.

Michele Embling’s Top Three Issues

Infrastructure pressures in Auckland including housing and transport: the Government needs to step in.

 The future of work has the ability to increase inequity in our society: Direct intervention from Government in partnership with the private sector is needed to equip the next generation to be resilient. We can’t leave this to the teaching profession alone.

 Clean and Green. We need to lead the world on environmental issues but must address our own shortcomings.

The Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2017 Election Survey attracted participation from 118 respondents. The results were debated this morning by shadow finance spokesman Grant Robertson and National’s Finance Minister Steven Joyce.

Transport system for a growing New Zealand

National Party media release

 

Transport system for a growing New Zealand

National is committed to building the infrastructure and transport system New Zealand needs to ensure our ongoing economic prosperity is secured, National Party Transport Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“In Auckland, the commercial capital of New Zealand, we are bringing a number of transport projects online. The latest project, the Waterview Tunnel, has transformed the way people and freight move around our biggest city,” Mr Bridges says.

“We know more needs to be done. That’s why National is committed to ensuring Auckland’s transport needs are met.”

National will:

· Declare the $955 million Mill Road project as a State Highway, removing the responsibility from Auckland Council. This will provide funding certainty for this important project through the National Land Transport Fund and free up capital for Auckland Council to reinvest in other high priority transport projects.

· Work with Auckland Council to accelerate the AMETI Eastern Busway and associated Reeves Road flyover.

· Work with Auckland Council on a mass transit solution between the CBD and Auckland Airport and complete route protection.

· Continue construction of the $3.4 billion City Rail Link project on the fastest possible timeline.

· Start construction on the new East-West Link State Highway.

· Accelerate construction on the: Northwestern Busway; State Highway 16 and 18 interchange; Penlink; Southern Motorway widening between Papakura and Drury; widen State Highway 20B to improve eastern access to Auckland Airport; and add Airport-Manukau bus priority lanes on State Highway 20, including Puhinui interchange.

· Build the Third Main Rail Line and extend electrification to Pukekohe.

· Continue investigations for the introduction of road pricing.

“National’s transport policy will continue to see record levels of investment in Auckland to support the city’s growing transport needs. We have a track record of delivering world-class projects on time and on budget,” Mr Bridges says.

“We are today releasing our transport policy that delivers for all New Zealanders and will provide the country with the transport system it needs.

“Our plan demonstrates that we are committed to building the world-class infrastructure the country needs. We will keep people and freight moving, while supporting our strong economic and population growth,” Mr Bridges says.

National’s transport policy will:

· Deliver the $10.5 billion next generation of Roads of National Significance. These are nation-building, lead infrastructure projects which will encourage future economic growth, rather than waiting until the strain on the network becomes a handbrake on progress.

· Accelerate Regional Roading projects that are important for regional development and growth faster than otherwise planned.

· Complete our $600 million investment in fixing the worst 90 black spots around the country, reducing deaths and serious injuries by 900 over 10 years.

· Continue to invest at record levels in public transport including an additional $267 million investment in commuter rail in Auckland and Wellington.

· Grow our air links with other countries to bring on more flights and cheaper airfares.

· Continue with the $333 million Urban Cycleways Programme that will see 54 cycleway projects built in 15 centres across the country, marking the single biggest investment in cycling in New Zealand’s history.

· Accelerate the uptake of Electric Vehicles, with the Government to lead by example with 1 in 3 vehicles in the Government fleet being electric by 2021.

“National is committed to building the infrastructure and transport system New Zealand needs to ensure our ongoing economic prosperity is secured,” Mr Bridges says.

“We also know that strong transport connections are critical for our growing regions and that’s why we are investing strongly to support their growth.

“National’s plan integrates roads, railways, ports, industrial hubs and air services, ensuring that we have a coherent and balanced approach to New Zealand’s transport needs.”

Northwestern Motorway ‘positively begs’ for a higher speed limit

West Auckland driver Bevan Gracie was disappointed to learn he could only drive up to 80kmh on the upgraded, four-lane ...
DAVID WHITE/STUFF
West Auckland driver Bevan Gracie was disappointed to learn he could only drive up to 80kmh on the upgraded, four-lane Northwestern Motorway.

Amidst calls to slash the speed limit on many New Zealand roads, fuming West Aucklanders are campaigning to go faster on one of theirs.

They’ve set up an online petition to get the four lane Northwestern Highway’s speed limit back up to 100kmh, where it was before the billion dollar roadworks for the Waterview Tunnel began.

Construction has been completed but an 80kmh speed limit, considered by many to be temporary, was made permanent — a decision drivers of the sleek new road have deemed a “ludicrous” recipe for road rage.

Much of one of Auckland's newly upgraded motorways is too slow for many motorists.

JILL ROBB/STUFF
Much of one of Auckland’s newly upgraded motorways is too slow for many motorists.  Especially as motorists further south are poised to legally drive 110kmh for the first time.

 

In April, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) announced that 80kmh would be the permanent speed limit for the 8km stretch of highway between Rosebank Rd and Spaghetti Junction, spanning the Waterview Tunnel’s entrance.

West Auckland's Saten Sharma, 50, says the 80kmh speed limit on the northwestern motorway is "frustrating".

CALLUM MCGILLIVRAY/STUFF
West Auckland’s Saten Sharma, 50, says the 80kmh speed limit on the northwestern motorway is “frustrating”.

Long time Westie Bevan Gracie said driving down the Northwestern left him fed up now, and that he was sceptical the lower limit would improve safety.

“I think the frustration you feel going so slowly on that road makes it more dangerous,” he said.

His fellow West Auckland motorist Saten Sharma, who signed the petition, said driving 80kmh on the newly-upgraded road “feels like you’re not even moving”.

The Great North Rd interchange heading west along the VSL causeway should be 100kmh, Graham Wakefield says.

JASON DORDAY/STUFF
The Great North Rd interchange heading west along the VSL causeway should be 100kmh, Graham Wakefield says.

“On weekends, the most frustrating thing is it’s empty, and you’re still doing 80kmh,” he said.

“Are we saying our drivers are so unqualified they can’t drive close to 100kmh on the motorway?”

The petition to raise the new speed, which had more than 10,000 signatures to date and would get submitted to NZTA if it reached 15,000, posed the question of why a “brand new four lane motorway” could not handle a higher speed limit.

Sharma says the motorway 80kmh is just 10kmh more than some residential areas and the motorway was not one.

CALLUM MCGILLIVRAY/STUFF
Sharma says the motorway 80kmh is just 10kmh more than some residential areas and the motorway was not one.

NZTA’s system design manager Brett Gliddon justified it as “worldwide best practice” to have 80kmh on approaches to tunnels, to reduce the risk of crashes.

He said the agency had been “monitoring the operational and safety performance” of the network since the tunnel opened. However, he couldn’t comment on whether the petition might impact change.

MOTORWAY SPEEDS GOING UP ELSEWHERE

Last month Associate Transport Minister Tim Macindoe​ announced that speed limits on some of the country’s motorways would be raised by the end of the year.

The Tauranga Eastern Link and parts of the Waikato Expressway would be the first roads that motorists can travel on at 110kmh.

Macindoe said higher speed limits would be “both safe and appropriate” on roads with at least two lanes in each direction, a median barrier, no significant curves, and no access to neighbouring properties.

The variable speed limit on SH16, in green, has a maximum limit of 80kmh, as does the blue.

NZTA
The variable speed limit on SH16, in green, has a maximum limit of 80kmh, as does the blue.

HORSES FOR COURSES

However, calls for speed reductions on many New Zealand roads remain.

Earlier this year, police advocated for the speed limit on the Coromandel’s State Highway 25A to be lowered from 100kmh to 80kmh. Thames roading sergeant Jim Corbett said annual crash tallies of 70 or more were not uncommon on the road, and that high speeds were a contributing factor.

NZTA's system design manager Brett Gliddon says the agency takes on all customer feedback.

SUPPLIED
NZTA’s system design manager Brett Gliddon says the agency takes on all customer feedback.

Residents associations in Canterbury have also called for the same speed reduction on some rural roads in their area, citing safety concerns. Last year, Christchurch City Council cut its inner city speed limit down to 30kmh for most streets.

Cantabrian mother of two Lucinda Rees has been campaigning for speed limits outside schools to be lowered to 40kmh “nationally, across the board” for the last ten years.

She said she was against speed limits being raised on any New Zealand road — including four lane motorways — because the “education and standard of Kiwi drivers just isn’t up to it”.

“I think raising speed limit will just make the road toll even higher,” she said.

But West Auckland driver Graham Wakefield said the “ludicrous” 80kmh section of the Northwestern needed to be moved back up to 100kmh.

“The quality of construction and the number of lanes each way positively begs for it,” he said.​

Iwi at odds over East West Link

Auckland hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has lashed out at Hauraki tribal support for the East West Link in Auckland.

An image of the completed East West roading project.

An image of the completed East West Link roading project, which would include a four-lane road, cycleway and walkway, between Penrose and Onehunga. Graphic: Supplied / NZTA

The Environmental Protection Authority has been holding a board of inquiry hearing over the past 10 weeks to hear public submissions on the NZ Transport Agency’s plan to build the four-lane highway between Penrose and Onehunga in Auckland.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei spokesperson Ngarimu Blair said he was encouraged Manukau Harbour iwi were united in their fight to protect the Manukau and Te Hopua a Rangi from further destruction.

He said the project would destroy 25 hectares of habitat for rare and endangered species along the Mangere inlet.

“It angers us … that Hauraki-based iwi such as Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa who are not ahi kaa here submitted in support or remained neutral on the motorway.

“This is the problem when boundaries are not respected as NZTA conveniently give equal weight to the korero of iwi who do not live here.

“Those iwi should simply leave this to us as we are the ones left dealing with the consequences of this roading.”

Ngāti Maru spokesperson Paul Majurey said Mr Blair was attacking NZTA for engaging with all mana whenua on the roading project.

“It is a matter of record that Ngāti Maru lodged a neutral submission on the project given there are outstanding issues over the protection of spiritual and cultural values and wahi tapu.”

Mr Majurey said Ngāti Maru was one of the 13 iwi of the Tāmaki Collective that are recognised in the collective settlement deed and collective settlement legislation with outstanding claims in relation to the Manukau Harbour.

He said there were also Tāmaki tribes who lodged submissions in support of the roading project, such as Ngāti Tamaoho.

The hearing is due to end on 15 September.