Interislander ferries to be replaced with rail ready fleet


KiwiRail has confirmed plans to replace its three ageing Cook Strait ferries with two new, larger, purpose-built rail ferries.

The Aratere

The Aratere. Photo: RNZ

Interislander’s current fleet, comprising the Kaitaki, Kaiarahi and the Aratere, is due to be replaced by 2024.

KiwiRail’s decision follows a two-year consultation process which found rail-enabled ferries were the most cost effective, efficient and best in the long-term.

The new boats will be able to carry more people and freight, and be faster, making six return sailings a day, the maximum.

The decision represents a shift by KiwiRail, which in the past dismissed rail ferries as “very rare and really expensive”.

KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle said that was a different era, when KiwiRail was comparing the cost of second-hand ferries versus buying new ones.

But investigations found there was little difference in the price of a new rail ferry and a new non-rail ferry.

“They’re an inter-generational investment,” Mr Moyle said.

“These are going to be around for 30-odd years so we need to make the right decision to ensure that we’ve got that long term resilient outcome.

“We’re a rail company we want to grow rail, we see that as being really critical for New Zealand.”

Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson said KiwiRail’s decision represented a shift to sanity.

Only one existing ferry, the Aratere, can take rail. The other two rely on a system which involves loading containers off railway wagons onto rubber wheeled trailers, then driving the trailers onto the ferries.

This is a lengthier process, which Mr Butson said was also more labour intensive.

“Using rail ferries, you can have three people that load 1500 tonnes of freight onto the ferry. If you use road bridging you’ve got 30 people doing the loading and unloading.

“Safety issues around [the] interface between the passengers and the vehicles is significantly heightened.”

Mr Butson said in recent years KiwiRail had been dogged by short-term thinking, as shown by its decision to close workshops in Dunedin.

“We’re now all struggling with the difficulties that the closure of Hillside poses when you’re in a KiwiRail that’s trying to grow quickly to meet the needs of New Zealand, and also the wishes of the current government for increased wagons, carriages, locomotives.”

Mr Moyle said the new ferries would not come cheap, with Mr Moyle estimating they would cost more than $200 million each.

A more accurate estimate will be known later this year.

Any potential job losses could be dealt with by attrition

Mr Moyle denied the decision was dependent on the will of KiwiRail’s political masters, saying process began under National.

“The rail-enabled element is only one component of these ferries. We’ve had the largest tourism season on the Interislander and also commercial vehicles, trucks and other elements, so we’ve got the three bits that work on the ferry.

“We’ve had to make the decision based on all the elements.”

Both the union and KiwiRail said staff had welcomed the announcement even though it could signal job losses.

But Mr Moyle said reductions in staff numbers could be mostly dealt with by attrition given the new ferries were five years away.

The ships would likely to be built in Europe or Asia.

Mr Moyle said while the bulk of the ferries would be a standard design, there will be elements that are customised for Cook Strait like the lower decks and the passenger areas.

Mr Butson said designing the ferry from scratch had its advantages.

“There are now new hull configurations which are able to deal with the wake issue in terms of the [Marlborough] Sounds.”

CargoChain – NZ’s blockchain solution for global logistics

18 December 2018 – Jade Logistics Group, New Zealand’s leading port software company today announced a new business called CargoChain that it believes will revolutionise the way that cargo information is shared across the global supply chain.

The CargoChain platform was borne out of witnessing first-hand an inability to share supply chain information amongst multiple interested parties. David Lindsay, CargoChain CEO said “we observed this first with ports and then looked across the entire supply chain, and the problems were the same. Siloed, important information that supply-chain actors didn’t have, but needed, to make better decisions”.

Lindsay adds that following five years of R&D, CargoChain has created a cargo information sharing and innovation platform that supports the distribution of previously unavailable cargo information, as well as the development of third-party applications. “We believe that the collaborative and independent nature of the CargoChain platform is a first for the global industry.”

“The proposition is made even more powerful as today’s consumers are demanding trust while those involved in the supply chain require full transparency and visibility. We saw the need for a digital platform that provides this by sharing trusted information amongst all supply chain actors.

“CargoChain is one of the few supply chain solutions in the world that has blockchain as an integral working part of its platform to provide this trust.”

“Blockchain is currently right at the top of the technology hype cycle and most companies understand its importance but are really struggling to understand how they might use it in their business. CargoChain takes this pain away, as it already delivers a working blockchain solution for our customers”.

While blockchain is an important part of CargoChain, Lindsay notes that the platform itself provides significantly more to supply chain actors.

CargoChain’s ultimate vision is to empower the supply chain by providing its platform to application developer communities globally.

“We want to allow developers to solve the world’s supply chain problems for all logistics players, large or small.”

Initial CargoChain applications are already in development for a number of Australian and New Zealand customers, along with pilots for other significant supply chain projects. In New Zealand there is also significant interest from major food exporters, driven by the need to prove complete provenance with an emphasis on food trust and safety.

Maritime New Zealand Chair appointed

Hon Phil Twyford
Minister of Transport

MEDIA STATEMENT

17 December 2018

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford today announced the appointment of Jo Brosnahan as Chair of the Maritime New Zealand Board.

Jo Brosnahan has been appointed for a three year term to 30 June 2021.

Phil Twyford says Jo Brosnahan is a very experienced board member with strong governance and leadership skills.

“She brings a good understanding of the maritime sector and has broad experience working with ports and harbours as the former CEO of Auckland Regional Council and Northland Regional Councils.

Maritime NZ’s core roles are to regulate the maritime sector, promote safety and maintain safety infrastructure, and respond to environmental incidents and emergencies at sea.

“Our Government is rebalancing the transport system toward better safety, access and value for money. We are creating a more modern, sustainable transport network.

“Maritime NZ has an important role to play in keeping New Zealanders safe on the water and protecting our environment. Jo Brosnahan will be great leader for the maritime community and will help support them to ensure our seas are safe, secure and clean.

“I’d like to acknowledge the work of the previous chair Blair O’Keeffe and thank him for his commitment during his two years on the Board,” Phil Twyford said.

ends

Will new rail freight hub attract $200m in new business?

A freight train stops traffic at a level crossing.

A new freight centre in Palmerston North is expected to provide spinoffs for Manawatū, bringing more business to the region.

The Provincial Growth Fund’s $40 million investment in KiwiRail for planning and buying land for the freight centre might be just the beginning, unlocking growth.

Spearhead Manawatū chief Craig Nash said the development would attract another $200m in investment into the facility, and create new business opportunities.

“It will have four times the productivity of the current site.

“The goal is to be the fastest and lowest-cost freight hub in New Zealand, that meets or exceeds best-in-the-world standards.”

A more efficient transport network, including a planned ring road around Palmerston North and replacement for the closed Manawatū Gorge route, would tie in with the freight centre as part of a broader transport hub.

Palmerston North's railway yards, viewed from the Milson Line overbridge.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF
Palmerston North’s railway yards, viewed from the Milson Line overbridge.

There are already about 12,000 freight train services operating to, from, or through Palmerston North each year.

They carry a variety of freight, with pulp and timber accounting for 24 per cent of the 2.5 million tonnes that pass through.

Finished dairy products account for 19 per cent of the tonnage, with bulk wine, milk, meat and other produce making up the balance.

​KiwiRail’s sales and commercial group manager Alan Piper said freight volumes were expected to increase by 60 per cent over the next three decades, and KiwiRail wants to secure or improve its share of the market.

Rail was two-thirds more fuel-efficient than road, with every wagon on the rails meaning one less long-distance truck on the roads.

But Piper said KiwiRail would work with the trucking firms on the project, as freight arriving or being loaded on the railway still needed to be delivered by road.

“We are not competing with trucks. It’s about how we work with road transport to create the most efficient distribution centre we can.”

Palmerston North's rail freight yards are expected to move to land near the airport.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF
Palmerston North’s rail freight yards are expected to move to land near the airport.

Piper said moving from Tremaine Ave to a location near the airport would create new opportunities for businesses and industries that relied on a quick and efficient network for moving goods around New Zealand, and the lower North Island in particular.

The northeast industrial area was ideal as it was on the main trunk railway line and near the airport.

He said the Government’s injection would pay for planning and buying land.

“And then it’s up to us. Although it might not be us paying for the buildings.”

Palmerston North's rail freight yards are on the move.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF
Palmerston North’s rail freight yards are on the move.

Nash said having KiwiRail and the New Zealand Transport Agency working together on distribution plans was vital to ensuring the planned regional freight ring road connected well to the new site.

It would make Palmerston North more attractive for a range of industries and manufacturers.

“It will be a major change for central New Zealand, and will unlock potential for companies to move here. It will be bringing the world closer to where we are.”

 

Ports of Auckland to build hydrogen production and refuelling facility

In a first for Auckland, Ports of Auckland has committed to build a hydrogen production and refuelling facility at its Waitemata port. The company, and project partners Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail, will invest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles including port equipment, buses and cars as part of the project.

Ports of Auckland Chief Executive Tony Gibson said “We have an ambitious target to be a zero emission port by 2040. In order to meet that target we need a new renewable and resilient power source for heavy equipment like tugs and straddle carriers, which are difficult to power with batteries. Hydrogen could be the solution for us as it can be produced and stored on site, allows rapid refuelling, and provides greater range than batteries.”

Ports of Auckland will fund the construction of a facility which will produce hydrogen from tap water. The process uses electrolysis to split water into hydrogen (which is then stored for later use) and oxygen, which is released into the air. Demonstration vehicles will be able to fill up with hydrogen at the facility, which will be just like filling up a car with CNG or LPG. Hydrogen is used in the fuel cell to create electricity which powers the car. The only by-product of the process is water.

“If this trial is successful”, said Mr Gibson, “the technology would have a very wide application. It could help Auckland and New Zealand towards energy self-sufficiency and our emission reduction goals. Trucks, trains and ferries could also run on hydrogen – something which is already being done overseas – which would be a significant benefit for the community. Hydrogen powered vehicles are quieter and emit nothing more than clean water.”

The project partners will provide technical support and will purchase hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the project. Global hydrogen experts Arup are also helping support this project through the development, design and delivery phases.

Mayor Phil Goff said, “I welcome this trial. It is a first for New Zealand and shows Auckland’s desire to lead on climate change action and meet our ambitious emissions reduction targets.

“With 40 per cent of emissions in Auckland coming from our transport system, alternative energy sources to power vehicles, such as electric and hydrogen, are critical to meeting the target of global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“With infrastructure in place, hydrogen has the potential to power our buses and other parts of our vehicle fleet both reducing global emissions and cutting back on air pollution in Auckland such as in Queen Street where carbon levels are very high,” says Mayor Phil Goff.

Auckland Council’s Chief Executive, Stephen Town, says, “We’re proud to collaborate with the Ports of Auckland, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail on this innovative hydrogen project – a first for New Zealand. It is important for organisations like ours, as signatories to the Climate Leaders Coalition, to continue leading on climate change action; it’s also important for us to push the boundaries with ambitious projects that demonstrate leadership here in Auckland. Trialling new technology to reduce emissions and signalling a smarter economic future is important for our city’s people, places and prosperity.”

KiwiRail Acting CEO Todd Moyle says KiwiRail is delighted to be part of this ground-breaking project. “KiwiRail is committed to a sustainable future and has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. While rail is an inherently sustainable form of transport with 66% fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight, new fuel sources like hydrogen have enormous potential for the future of transport in New Zealand.

“Just weeks ago, two hydrogen-powered trains with a range of 1000km per tank began operating commercial services in Germany. If successful with passengers, there is no reason why the next development could not be hydrogen-powered freight trains.

“Joining forces with Ports of Auckland in this project will allow us to explore how KiwiRail could use this new technology as we deliver stronger connections for New Zealand.”

Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says AT is committed to clean technology and is very interested in the possibilities of hydrogen power. “This could be part of the answer for our fleet of buses and harbour ferries. The idea of a vehicle which only produces water as a by-product is very exciting.”

The project is currently in the planning phase, and Ports of Auckland is about to start stakeholder engagement before applying for resource consent in early 2019. The facility is planned to be operational by the end of 2019.

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.

 

Witness: Truck driver’s licences for bribes – no need to turn up for test

Daryl Govender and Mohammed Feroz are charged with taking bribes in exchange for driver's licences and are on trial at the Manukau District Court
JASON DORDAY/STUFF
Daryl Govender and Mohammed Feroz are charged with taking bribes in exchange for driver’s licences and are on trial at the Manukau District Court

A witness says corrupt testing officers would charge bad drivers extra but still issue them with a full driver’s licence.

Lovepreet Brar has admitted one representative charge of obtaining by deception in relation to the Auckland case and is now a Crown witness.

He gave evidence on Tuesday at the Manukau District Court where Mohammed Feroz has denied 73 charges of obtaining by deception and Daryl Pregasen Govender has denied 17 charges.

Brar said bad drivers would pay an extra $50 to $150 on top of their bribe payment if they were a particularly bad driver or if there was a fault with their car, for example a faulty brake light.

Other extra charges would be demanded if the applicant didn’t turn up to their test and corrupt testing officers had to complete the paperwork themselves.

Brar said he was recruited into the scheme in late 2014 while he worked in customer service at the AA Meadowlands branch.

He would send text messages out to friends and associates, alerting them to when the corrupt testing officers would be available.

Brar would act as the intermediary – taking money from the applicants in cash and deposits into his bank account.

The typical cost for a full drivers licence was around $300 but a heavy truck licence could cost as much as $2500.

Brar said Feroz would sometimes ask him to tell the bribe-paying truck licence applicants to turn up to the AA office in a vest to make it look like they were legitimate truck drivers.

“Because it’s a truck licence, they said it’s a big risk for them and they’re passing the person without the person even coming to the test … and they just charge more.”

There were also extra charges if the applicant didn’t turn up for the test.

Brar said testing officers would sometimes complete the paperwork, including applicant signatures in the staff toilets.

Crown prosecutor David Stevens took Brar through various transactions that showed money going into Brar’s bank account shortly before they sat a test and sometimes extra payments were made afterwards.

In some cases the transactions weren’t even disguised on bank records and merely referenced as “car money”.

One of the transactions related to a person who lived with a cousin of Brar’s in Wellington. The applicant didn’t have to leave their home in the capital but were given a driver’s licence.

Brar said Feroz was flexible in his pricing, charging Brar’s friends as little as $200 but Govender was different.

“Govender never do it for free or less money. Feroz sometimes did it for less but Govender is quite strict he is like: ‘Rule is rule, you have to pay this much’.”

He also gave evidence of the cut he would take.

“Daryl [Govender] always want me to keep $50 or $100. With Feroz it was alright. Sometimes he give me more or less. Govender was quite strict, he was like: ‘Bro, I pass the client, you keep your $50’.”

​Earlier Brar told the court how he had been recruited into the scheme.

He said he was working at the AA Meadowlands branch as a customer services representative in 2014 when a friend told him what was going on.

“He said: ‘Bro, you know you can get a licence here for $80’?”

His friend identified Feroz as the man behind the scheme, Brar said. Feroz was working out of the same AA branch office as a driving testing officer.

Brar said he told his friend “bro, this is wrong”.

He approached Feroz a short time later and the pair met at a mall food court close-by to talk.

“He explained he’s been doing it for quite a while.”

Brar said Feroz told him he had been caught once and NZTA had investigated but nothing had happened.

“He said if you bring your [Punjabi] community people, we’ll pass them.”

Brar said Feroz offered him a third of the bribe payment for every applicant he introduced to the scheme and gave an example where the bribe would cost $300 and he would receive $100.

Brar also recalled Feroz approaching him, telling him he had “good news” and that Govender had joined the scheme.

Soon after there was a meeting between the three in Feroz’s van, parked at the back of the AA branch. Govender convinced them to raise their prices.

The group would communicate by phone apps – Viber and Whatsapp – to avoid being caught, he said.

Brar said he would often leave money for Feroz under a cup in the staff room but Govender was a lot more cautions.

He said he sometimes gave Govender his cut in the staff toilets but also often drove to his home in south Auckland in the evenings to hand the money over in person.

The Crown’s case is that the bribes for car licences were typically $350 but more money was demanded if the applicant didn’t want to turn up to the test or they wanted a heavy vehicle licence.

Most applicants had failed at least once but in some cases the applicants had failed five times.

Often the applicants lived a long way from the AA Meadowlands branch and would sit their tests early, to increase their chances of getting a corrupt testing officer.

The trial, before Judge Mina Wharepouri, is in its second week.

Stuff

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.

Transport Agency not fit to regulate rail – lawyer

A health and safety lawyer believes the Transport Agency has been too cosy with the rail operators it is required to regulate for safety and wants change.

no caption

Since a 2000 inquiry into the deaths of rail workers in the 1990s, health and safety in rail has been covered by two pieces of legislation – the Railways Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act, and overseen by the Transport Agency and WorkSafe when it was established in December 2013.

Now a report from the Rail and Maritime Transport Union has laid out the case for urgent reform.

In 2012, 10 KiwiRail workers were overcome with gas while working in the country’s longest tunnel, the near nine kilometre long Kaimai Tunnel.

The workers lacked emergency evacuation equipment and did not have any procedures in place and there was no ability to communicate between the teams working in the tunnel.

In November 2013, there was a similar incident in Otira Tunnel near Authur’s Pass.

Health and safety lawyer and author of the report, Hazel Armstrong, investigated these cases for the Rail and Maritime Transport Union.

She said the Transport Agency did not use its power to improve tunnel safety, but that the then newly-formed WorkSafe was prepared to issue improvement notices and enforce standards.

“NZTA had oversight for many years and did not, so, we had to rely on WorkSafe to issue the improvement notices and the prohibition notices, because NZTA wouldn’t.”

Ms Armstrong said the rail operators have been allowed to write their own rules as part of a light-handed approach to regulation and she had no confidence in the Transport Agency.

“We have seen many years of an approach or a culture within NZTA that is not robust around health and safety.”

The union’s general secretary, Wayne Butson, said it commissioned the report as part of an ongoing struggle to get rational health and safety regulations into the rail industry since the Railway Act came into force.

He said since that piece of legislation came in in 2005 not one rule had been written by the Transport Agency.

Mr Butson said the agency did not have a culture of regulation, “what they have is a culture of trying to encourage and educate and work with employers to see how they can improve safety”.

“I think using the carrot without the stick just does not work.”

Wayne Butson and Hazel Armstrong said rail safety and regulation needs to be completely taken out of the agency’s hands and fall under WorkSafe.

The Transport Agency is under scrutiny for its oversight of other parts of the transport industry and it is now subject to an external review.

In a statement, the Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, said he is asking for advice on what changes to the regulatory function are required and expects that rail safety will be looked at as part of that work.

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.