Transport network plans laid out to support Auckland’s future development

The Supporting Growth programme has achieved a significant planning milestone with the publication of new indicative transport network maps for Auckland’s future growth areas.

The Indicative Strategic Transport Networkplans identify what transport projects are needed over the next 10-30 years to support the development of new communities, employment and industrial areas in Warkworth, north, northwest and south Auckland.

The plans are developed by Te Tupu Ngātahi (the Supporting Growth Alliance), a collaboration between Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency, with consultants Beca, AECOM, Bell Gully and Buddle Findlay, to plan ahead and provide certainty to the community and stakeholders about what transport networks will be developed over the next few decades, in line with Auckland Council’s land use planning.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Director of Regional Relationships Steve Mutton says the plans aim to provide safe, accessible and sustainable travel choices that connect these new areas to the rest of the region and promote a greater use of public transport.

“The plans set out a shared vision by central and local government for long-term investment in Auckland’s future growth areas. It shows their commitment to working together over the next few decades to plan, fund and deliver a well-integrated transport network.”

“Publication of these plans will provide certainty for communities, developers, Auckland Council and other Crown agencies as they plan ahead for the development of new housing and employment areas.”
Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says the Supporting Growth Alliance is a culmination of investigations and engagement with partners, stakeholders and communities over a number of years.

“Aucklanders have told us they’re looking for more public transport, walking and cycling connections and they’re integral in our long term planning.”

The programme is a key initiative under the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), which sets the strategic direction for Auckland’s transport network over the next 10 years and beyond. The Supporting Growth team’s next step is to undertake more detailed investigations and begin staged route protection processes across all areas over the next few years.

The Auckland Plan 2050 expects more than 130,000 new homes and 76,000 new jobs will be created in 15,000 hectares of land to be developed in the future urban growth areas of:

  • Warkworth
  • Silverdale, Wainui and Dairy Flat in north Auckland
  • Whenuapai, Redhills, Riverhead, Kumeu-Huapai in the north west
  • Pukekohe, Paerata, Drury and Takanini in the south. 

The Supporting Growth Alliance has partnered with Auckland Council, Mana whenua and KiwiRail to develop the indicative network plans. Key stakeholders and local communities have also been engaged throughout the development of the plans, and more opportunities for engagement are planned later this year and over the next few years, as projects within each area are progressed.

Most of the projects identified in the indicative networks are expected to be constructed over the longer term, in line with the anticipated rezoning and development of land by Auckland Council. The projects are yet to be prioritised for funding for delivery.

In the meantime, key projects that support growth in the short term are already funded and underway. These include:

  • Te Honohono ki Tai – Matakana Link Road in Warkworth 
  • The SH16 Safe Networks Programme project – Brigham Creek to Waimauku
  • Arterial connections in the North West (Redhills and Whenuapai)
  • Improvements to SH1 between Papakura and Drury, as part of the longer-term Papakura to Bombay Improvements project. 

Early estimates for the cost of transport improvements over the next 30 years to support the growth areas are in excess of $10bn, with funding to be secured from both public and private sources.

Further details about the Supporting Growth programme including detailed maps, project information and timelines is available at www.supportinggrowth.govt.nz

New Zealand public transport system ‘not good enough’ – infrastructure chief executive officer

New Zealand’s public transport is constantly improving but still has a long way to go says Infrastructure NZ’s chief executive officer.

“I don’t think it’s good enough from a user perspective,” said Stephen Selwood on Wednesday.

“We’re constantly having to improve the system but any system like public transport where you’re using one [train] line any disruption is going to cause problems,” he told The AM Show.

Last week the derailment of a train in Wellington caused chaos for 20,000 commuters, and in June an electrical fault left all Auckland train services stopped dead in their tracks.

On top of these problems, Wellington buses are still struggling to recover from the 2018 contract switch which threw a number of services into disarray.

He says New Zealand’s issues aren’t special and problems with public transport are global.

The solution is more money – even though $4.5 billion has been given to improve Auckland’s central rail link.

But fixing “decades of underinvestment,” isn’t easy says Selwood.

“We do have to be patient, we are constantly improving but much more investment is required,” he said.

Selwood says the option of private funding should be investigated for roads and public transport.

“The whole transport system needs investment and we should be open to all possibilities [of funding].” 

Newshub.

Government won’t budge on Business Council’s demand for roads: Twyford

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the Business Advisory Council's call to privately fund a dozen on-hold roads is
Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the Business Advisory Council’s call to privately fund a dozen on-hold roads is “bad policy”. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government and the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council see eye-to-eye on a lot when it comes to fixing the country’s infrastructure woes, Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

They are at an impasse when it comes to roads.

In a damning letter released to The Herald, the council said New Zealand was at an “infrastructure crisis point” and lacked a national master plan to fix the issue.

Chaired by outgoing Air New Zealand chief Christopher Luxon, the group excused the current Government, saying the issue was intergenerational and added there was “no overarching vision or leadership in New Zealand for infrastructure development”.

“This means there is no nation-building narrative upon which to build a strategic direction,” it said.

It also called for a financing mechanism that would allow for long-term, debt-funded or investable opportunities and said incentives between central and local government are misaligned.

Twyford said there was a lot the administration agreed with.

“The Government shares the view of the Business Advisory Council that it’s past time for us to really lift our game in the way we plan and fund and finance infrastructure,” he said.

He points to the Infrastructure New Zealand’s wish list and says almost every item is already being addressed, through projects such as the planning reform, the establishment of an infrastructure commission, ongoing work on a variety of new financing streams, including infrastructure bonds for urban growth.

But the agreement ends at roading.

The council has called on the Government to proceed with the 12 roading projects presently on hold or under review and to open them to private investment.

“These projects are investment ready, provide the beginnings of a pipeline of investable opportunities and would be an effective use of the roading capability developed in New Zealand over the last 20 years,” the letter said.

Twyford said the Government was looking for a more balanced approach to modes of transport.

“It would be really bad policy to do what they’re advocating in that particular area,” he said

“If we were to do what the Business Advisory Council was saying, it would mean spending a great deal of money, more than $12 billion, on projects that have very low economic value.”

Allowing private investment into the roads didn’t make sense either, he said.

“Borrowing money is not the problem here. It’s never been cheaper to borrow money than at the moment … It’s actually having the revenue to be able to service that debt.”

That money could only come from the National Land Transport Fund, or tolling, he said.

“None of those roads have enough traffic on them to generate anything like the kind of revenue you would need to pay for them, to service the debt. It’s just not realistic.”

The June 26 letter, signed by the Business Advisory Council chairman on behalf of the 13-strong council, raised a number of recommendations.

They include the establishing a Ministry of Cities, Urban Development and Population, a Prime Ministerial Taskforce or Commission of Inquiry should be established to undertake a comprehensive review of NZ’s planning laws and local government system, including the Resource Management Act, Local Government Act and Land Transport Act.

Comment: Our beautiful country New Zealand is caving in and breaking down

COMMENT:

We should all agree, New Zealand has seen better days.

The past month, our beautiful country has suffered, by either our failing public transport systems, waterways or weather.

Today, thousands of Wellington commuters have been warned not to travel as no trains would be running because of a derailment.

Southbound traffic on SH2 from the Petone off-ramp about 8.10am. Photo / NZTA Journey Planner
Southbound traffic on SH2 from the Petone off-ramp about 8.10am. Photo / NZTA Journey Planner

Oh, and also there’s not enough replacement buses.

But that didn’t stop Wellingtonians making their way into work, because not everyone can afford a day off. So, commuter chaos has ensued with an added 20,000 workers possibly driving to work, causing major delays on the motorway.

Of course, Auckland has suffered from many train cancellations and delays in the past month as well, adding traffic to our outdated motorway layouts.

But don’t worry, a light rail to Auckland Airport should help ease traffic…

Public transport is not the only way New Zealand is breaking down, as the current weather has affected our country in many ways.

Even though the lack of rain has been nice, the downside is that Aucklanders are being warned of a looming water shortage.

Watercare is urging residents to use water wisely, the city’s total water storage is 59.2 per cent, which is 25 per cent less than normal for this time of year.

However, in Napier they have plenty of water to go around, but it is brown.

Just a selection of pictures posting on social media, detailing the water Napier residents are currently struggling with. Photo / Supplied
Just a selection of pictures posting on social media, detailing the water Napier residents are currently struggling with. Photo / Supplied

In the past year, photos of baths, sinks and buckets filled with the dirty water have been shared on local social media groups.

The substance that turns Napier’s water brown is biofilm, which is organic and inorganic, living and dead material which builds up in pipes.

But don’t worry, a Napier City Council spokesperson said it’s safe to drink … other experts disagreed.

Taupō residents are also having a crappy time after a huge discharge of raw sewage poured into Lake Taupō from a burst wastewater pipe.

Residents have been told not to flush their toilets, take showers, and any other unnecessary water use.

Taupo residents are being urged not to flush their toilets or use any unnecessary water following a water main and wastewater pipe break on Lake Terrace. Photo / Supplied
Taupo residents are being urged not to flush their toilets or use any unnecessary water following a water main and wastewater pipe break on Lake Terrace. Photo / Supplied

Looks like Aucklanders and Taupōers are in the same boat.

The lack of rain hasn’t only just affect Auckland’s waterways as because of the great weather, our country has a major rat problem.

Huge “cat-sized” rats have been spotted across the country, with an explosion in rat numbers in both forests and urban areas.

A mega mast means our native trees are fruiting really heavily, therefore rats are getting a mean feed.

A rat caught in a trap in Aro Valley, Wellington, about the size of a
A rat caught in a trap in Aro Valley, Wellington, about the size of a “small possum”. Photo / Forest & Bird

This is not only bad for Kiwis who are trying to keep the massive rodents away, but our native animals who might face local extinctions in forests as they are being attacked by rats.

If you think the act of God hasn’t broken our country enough, spare of thought for the Rotorua residents whose property is collapsing after a mud pool opened up last week.

The shed next to the mud pool has been taken down. Photo / Stephen Parker
The shed next to the mud pool has been taken down. Photo / Stephen Parker

The Government wants to provide discounts for importing cleaner cars to New Zealand

Seriously, why has this taken so long?

The Government is signalling its intention to slash the price of imported electric and hybrid vehicles by up to $8000 in a bid to make greener cars cheaper for Kiwis.

But it is also planning to slap a new fee of up to $3000 on the import of vehicles with the highest greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government has today opened a six-week consultation period before it introduces new legislation in Parliament later this year.

The plan, according to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, will get more Kiwis into cleaner vehicles by reducing some of the cost burden.

It would come into force in 2021.

“Most Kiwis want to buy a car that’s good for the environment, but tell us the upfront cost and limited choice makes it a challenge,” she said.

The Government is proposing discounts of up to $8000 for zero-emission new imported vehicles, such as electric vehicles (EVs).

That number would be $6800 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEVs) and $4800 for hybrids.

The level of the discount depends on the total net emissions of the vehicle.

For example, a new Hyundai Ioniq – which has an approximate retail value of just under $60,000 – would cost $52,000 after the full $8000 discount.

A Hyundai Ioniq battery electric vehicle (BEV). Cars like Hyundai's Loniq battery electric vehicle (BEV) are poised to become more common. Photo / Supplied
A Hyundai Ioniq battery electric vehicle (BEV). Cars like Hyundai’s Loniq battery electric vehicle (BEV) are poised to become more common. Photo / Supplied

A used Mazda Axela, which is one of New Zealand’s most popular imported vehicles, would cost $7200 after an $800 discount.

But a new Land Rover Sports V8 would be slapped with a $3000 high-emissions fee.

A $22,000 Toyota Hiace would cost an extra $1400 after the fee was applied.

Genter said the policy would be cost neutral – meaning the money gained through the fees from higher emitting vehicles would offset the subsidies provided to the lower emission cars.

The plan, according to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, will get more Kiwis into cleaner vehicles by reducing some of the cost burden. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The plan, according to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, will get more Kiwis into cleaner vehicles by reducing some of the cost burden. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“This means people will still have choice, while contributing to the task of cleaning up the vehicles coming into New Zealand.”

The policy would only apply to new and used cars being imported into New Zealand, not to vehicles already registered in New Zealand when on-sold.

Some 74 per cent of annual vehicles sales are of vehicles already registered and these would not be affected, Genter said.

According to data from NZ Transport, there are more than 3.2 million petrol cars on New Zealand’s roads. That compares to almost 15,000 electric vehicles in New Zealand.

The Motor Industry Association’s chief executive David Crawford said the Government’s moves were sensible.

Although the industry doesn’t agree with all of the Government’s proposals, it was keen to ensure that it is successful in reducing CO2 emissions from the light vehicle fleet in New Zealand, Crawford said.

“Our view is that the best policies to achieve a reduction in emissions are those that influence purchasing decisions. Changes in models supplied to New Zealand will follow if the demand is altered.”

Greenpeace has welcomed the Government’s move as a “good first step”, but thinks the fee on higher emitting vehicles should be much higher.

“It’s disappointing to see the maximum fee for highly polluting vehicles capped at $3,000. Would this make someone buying a more than $100,000 gas guzzler reconsider?” said Greenpeace Energy Campaigner Amanda Larsson.

“In France, for example, the top penalty is more than three times greater than what the New Zealand Government is proposing.”

The Government is also looking to introduce new clean car standards, which would require vehicle importers to reduce the average emissions by meeting an annual emission target.

Emissions targets would be phased in gradually.

Genter said the economic evaluation shows the benefits of the clean car standard outweigh the costs by a factor of 3 to 1.

“The majority of the economic benefits are to motorists who will save $6800 per vehicle and $3.4 billion collectively over the lifetime of the vehicles affected.”

She said the policy is forecast to reduce emissions by 5.1 million tonnes.

“These policies are about making cleaner vehicles a realistic option for more New Zealand households and businesses.”

The consultation period will run from today through to August 20. Genter said a bill making these policies law will go before the House between September and November.

The move comes after the draft Independent Climate Change Committee’s (ICCC) report into how New Zealand can reach the 100 per cent renewable target, obtained by the Herald, revealed the committee recommended the Government prioritises getting more electric vehicles on the road over reaching 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035.

Why is Government dragging its wheels on electric cars?

Credits: Newshub Nation.

On the campaign trail, Jacinda Ardern claimed climate change was her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

But nearly two years on, her Government has yet to take one of the most obvious steps to cut New Zealand’s emissions.

“Electric vehicles [EVs] can reduce New Zealand’s emissions profile more than nearly anything else,” says Mark Gilbert, chair of lobby group Drive Electric.

“There have been promises made, dates quoted and not met. This is meant to be the delivery year and still nothing.”

The Productivity Commission has said 80 percent of car imports will need to be electric by 2030, and nearly all New Zealand’s fleet by 2050, if we’re to meet our climate targets.

In 2018 just 1.7 percent of imports were electric, and they currently make up just 0.3 percent of our fleet.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Climate Change Minister James Shaw, both from the Green Party, are responsible for developing the Government’s EV strategy. Both spent 2018 promising an EV strategy would be released by September of that year, but now they won’t even say if it will be released in 2019.

When asked by Newshub Nation whether the deadline could be met in months, or even next year, Shaw replied: “I couldn’t tell you.”

So, why the hold-up?

“There are things we could do pretty quickly, but they could have a negative effect on low-income households,” says Shaw.

What Shaw is referring to is a feebate scheme where a levy on petrol and diesel vehicles is used to subsidise electric vehicles.

“You can imagine, for example, a poor Mangere family without great public transport options, quite a long way out of town, really does rely on their petrol vehicle and doesn’t have the money to go electric because the up-front purchase cost is so high,” he says.

“They’re in a position where they’re going to be buying a cheap second-hand car and at the moment their only option is a combustion engine vehicle.

“So we’re mindful that any transition has to be of equal or greater benefit for people who are in those circumstances, as well as urban middle-class families with choices.”

Other countries like Norway use tax incentives to encourage EV uptake. Drive Electric has suggested that adjusting the Fringe Benefit Tax or GST could boost the number of EVs in company fleets.

“Companies roll their fleets every two to three years so these vehicles will quickly end up in the second-hand market, which will make them more accessible,” says Gilbert.

However, the 2019 budget put no money toward encouraging electric car uptake, and with the Productivity Commission’s first target 10 years away, it raises the question of whether New Zealand is in line to miss its targets.

“I think it is achievable,” says Shaw, “but in a non-linear way.”

“The uptake of electric vehicles has actually been exponential and that will steepen over time.”

Some businesses are ploughing ahead regardless: Meridian Energy has already transitioned half of its fleet to electric and will hit 75 percent by July.

“We want to have a fully electrified fleet across all of our sites and assets at the latest by 2030, I think we’ll easily get there by 2025,” says Nick Robilliard, Meridian’s fleet manager.

“The best thing the Government can do is continue working on different incentives.

“Certainly a feebate system and scheme, introduced in a modest way and progressively managed over time I think is a sensible, fiscally responsible sort of way that they could do it.”

Auckland EV owner Russell Baillie is the proud owner of a Nissan Leaf.

“It’s the best car I’ve ever owned,” he says.

The Baillie family has gone all-out to improve its environmental footprint. Their house is incredibly energy-efficient, designed to capture heat during the day and retain it at night, with no heating required during the winter.

It is also powered by solar panels and has its own battery storage and even a green roof.

But it’s the electric car making the biggest difference to the Baillies’ emissions profile, and with the Government dragging its wheels, more people like them are going to have to lead the way.

Newshub Nation.

NZTA ends period with no permanent leadership as Sir Brian Roche appointed board chair

NZTA's new board chair Sir Brian Roche previously headed up NZ Post.
KEVIN STENT/STUFFNZTA’s new board chair Sir Brian Roche previously headed up NZ Post.

The Government has appointed Sir Brian Roche as the new chairman of the troubled New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), ending a period in which the agency had no permanent leadership.

The NZTA has gone through an extremely rough patch after it was revealed in 2018 the agency had been failing to properly check up on the companies who certify vehicle safety and give out licenses.

Law firm Meredith Connell were brought in to help complete a backlog of 850 open compliance files. A separate inquiry into the failure to properly regulate is expected to report back soon.

The appointment ends a period in which NZTA had no permanent board chair or chief executive.

NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie resigned in December of 2018 and has not yet been permanently replaced.

In April, NZTA chair Michael Stiassny announced his resignation following the completion of the compliance review, saying his work shaking up the agency was complete.

Roche will serve for a three year term from June 2019. He previously served as board chair of NZTA in 2010.

As a condition of the job Roche resigned from a post at Wellington Gateway Partnership, a grouping of contractors who have significant business with NZTA. 

He will remain on the board of City Rail Link Limited in Auckland, but told Stuff he would manage any conflict-of-interest issues with that project if they arose. At this stage none were foreseen.

Roche told Stuff NZTA had gone through a significant period of instability and he would be looking to right that as soon as possible.

“I think it is critical that any agency have stable leadership. NZTA is an incredibly important government agency, it has a significant influence on how the how country operates,” Roche said.

“One of the tasks ahead of me is to get that stability at a governance level and management level.”

He hoped to have a new chief executive in place within the next three months and to halt what was currently a high level of staff turnover.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said Roche brought the track record needed to the job.

“He brings a wealth of experience and a steady hand to transport sector governance, having previously chaired the Transport Agency and the Auckland Regional Transport Agency and is currently the chair of City Rail Link Limited,” Twyford said.

“The Transport Agency has a crucial role to play in creating a modern and sustainable transport network and I’m pleased to appoint someone of Sir Brian’s calibre to lead this work.

“There is currently a review of the Transport Agency’s regulatory functions underway, which the Government expects to receive shortly. A key focus for Sir Brian will be implementing the direction signalled from that review, and I am confident in Sir Brian’s ability to make that happen.”

“I’d like to thank interim chair Nick Rogers and acknowledge the work of the previous chair Michael Stiassny who uncovered and led the fixing of the Agency’s regulatory issues.”

Roche has a long track record in the public and private sector with roles at PWC, Housing NZ, NZ Post, several iwi, and the department of prime minister and cabinet. 

National’s transport spokesman said he thought Roche would do a “good job” and after a period of “chaos” it was important NZTA had strong leadership.

“The critical thing is getting NZTA working effectively. Because it is a big part of the fact that they have been making extremely slow progress on major transport projects in the last 18 months,” Goldsmith said.

He hoped that an NZTA chief executive would be appointed “smartly” and that the agency stop the “revolving-door” of leadership.

Mike Lee – City Rail Link billion dollar blow-out: Twyford & Goff asleep at the switch

I don’t often include any personal comment with our news items, and to be honest I haven’t always been a fan of Mike Lee, but as an Auckland resident since the mid ’90’s, and a fan of rail for public transport, I thought the guest blog comment below was worth including. The stupid fixation by the two Phils on trams to the airport instead of the logical extension of our heavy rail network really is beyond belief. Phil Twyford is showing as much nous with the transport portfolio as he is with housing. Time to hand it to someone who actually understands how things work, and with some vision.

That’s my rant for today. Mike Lee’s guest blog post follows.

Dave Anderson

Who us?

The announcement of a billion dollar cost blow-out for the City Rail Link (CRL), 3 years after start of construction, is deeply troubling. At $3.4b, that is $1b per km, the CRL was already going to be one of the most expensive rail tunnels in the world. Now the price has shot up to $4.4b ($2.2b from ratepayers) with completion pushed back to 2024. Troubling also, given Auckland Council’s level of debt which is approaching $8.5b, close to the borrowing limits recommended by the international credit agencies.

Furthermore $4.4b is an estimate – there is no guarantee that the price will not go even higher. One insider suggested to me the final cost could, as he put it “have 5 or 6” in front of it. He was talking billions of dollars course.

Council bureaucrats have responded to the increase by recommending the sale of city car parking buildings (parking earned Auckland Transport $50m last year).  As most Aucklanders know, selling income-earning assets to plug a hole in the budget is a foolish strategy. Apart from the likelihood of monopoly control of city parking, it should also be borne in mind that the CRL won’t be cheap to operate.  If Auckland Council sells its income earning assets, as it did last year with the ARC Diversified Investment Asset portfolio, which earned ratepayers on average $23m per annum, where will the extra money come from to pay the operating costs?

In 2016 the Key National Government after agreeing to back the City Rail Link had its assessors review the project. They recommended that the CRL build should be taken off Auckland Transport and that the two parties funding the project, that is the NZ Government and Auckland Council, should directly oversee it.  A sensible idea in principle. A Crown entity was duly set up, CRL Ltd, under the chairmanship of Wellington-based Brian Roche (now Sir Brian), former PwC partner and most recently CEO of NZ Post, along with a board of largely anonymous directors.

On the face of it, this should have enabled transparency and clear accountability lines back to the funders.  That was the plan, but with the departure of CRL champion Mayor Len Brown and his replacement by Phil Goff, the CRL went off the political radar.  Newly-elected Goff had his own trophy project to push, light rail to the airport. But then with the election of the Labour-NZ First government, no doubt to Goff’s relief, responsibility for this poorly conceived scheme (three years on and still no business case) was famously adopted by his former colleague, Transport Minister Phil Twyford – who for good measure added another, light rail to Kumeu, which together Twyford boasted would be ‘the biggest transport project in New Zealand’s history’. (Think KiwiBuild on wobbly wheels.)

Any way, call it what you like, ‘eyes off the ball’, ‘asleep at the switch’, the CRL project from that time on has been drawn virtually zero political interest, from those at the top, let alone oversight.

Whatever the talents and experience of Sir Brian and his directors in building rail tunnels, what has been missing here has been the active oversight of the shareholders, the government and the council, meaning the people who represent the public who are paying for it. I have only seen Sir Brian twice at the council since his appointment in 2016 before he appeared again last month to ask for another half a billion dollars from Auckland ratepayers.

Meanwhile the CRL first stage ‘cut and cover’ making its painfully slow way up the first 400 metres of Albert Street a year behind schedule, is still not finished, to the consternation of Albert Street retailers, the Stamford Plaza hotel and commuters in that part of the city.  Despite this, a few weeks ago Minister Twyford announced that the NZ Superannuation Fund as part of his ‘City Centre to Māngere Light Rail’ scheme was investigating a parallel tram tunnel up Queen Street just 150m away. I am not making this up. In Mr Twyford we clearly have a transport minister who really doesn’t understand or care much for rail, given his obstinate refusal to even consider a 7km rail extension to Auckland Airport, and his opposition to the extension of train services on the existing line to Kumeu.

Because of the totally deficient amount of financial information given to councillors, I declined to vote for the extra half billion dollars. Instead I won support for an amendment calling on the government as the lead agency to increase its contribution to the proportion it funds projects in Wellington.

Let me be clear, from my time as chairman of the ARC, I have been a leading proponent of the CRL which I believe to be vital strategic infrastructure for Auckland. However its construction should not be seen as an opportunity for the ratepayers and taxpayers to be ripped off by the usual suspects.  Well behind schedule, and well over budget the City Rail Link project is symptomatic of what is wrong with Auckland – poor leadership at the top. Auckland deserves better than this.

Fear of fire sparks call for stricter policing of dangerous goods on inter island ferries

Trucks carrying dangerous goods on inter island ferries can expect more scrutiny following complaints from the Shipping Federation about sloppy safety practices.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF Trucks carrying dangerous goods on inter island ferries can expect more scrutiny following complaints from the Shipping Federation about sloppy safety practices.

Fears that dangerous goods could cause fires on inter island ferries have prompted the Shipping Federation to lobby for stricter policing of transport operators. 

Federation chief executive Annabel Young said ferry companies were concerned about trucks carrying undeclared or incorrectly labelled dangerous goods.

Some truckies were caught attempting to take undisclosed dangerous goods on regular sailings, instead of catching early morning freight runs which carry fewer passengers, but allow cargo deemed higher risk. 

Young said ferry operators came across problems with dangerous goods by chance and were worried about what else they were missing through lack of pre-boarding inspections. 

“We’ve complained about it for years, finally it was getting to the point where we’re thinking that this is really serious and we’re sick of being brushed off, so we’ve escalated it.”

The Shipping Federation is concerned trucks carting dangerous goods have attempted to board regular sailings instead of special early morning freight runs which carry few passengers.
ALAN O’BRIEN/STUFF The Shipping Federation is concerned trucks carting dangerous goods have attempted to board regular sailings instead of special early morning freight runs which carry few passengers.

Following recent meetings with the NZ Transport Agency, Maritime New Zealand, WorkSafe and the Environmental Protection Agency, Young said KiwiRail, which runs InterIslander services, and Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries agreed to report any dangerous goods issues to the agencies. 

She was aware of at least half a dozen reports over the past month – “enough incidents to be severely troubled” – and it appeared some dispatchers were not properly trained in dangerous goods documentation. 

“The ship’s master has the right to rely on the shipping documents provided by the trucking company.

“Some things have to be on the top deck because they cannot be in an enclosed space, some things can’t be put next to each other. 

“A simple example is a trailer load of hay which can spontaneously combust, so you don’t want to put that next to volatile gases.”

Inter island ferries have limits on dangerous goods such as corrosives, flammable liquids and solids, gases and toxic substances.
SUPPLIED Inter island ferries have limits on dangerous goods such as corrosives, flammable liquids and solids, gases and toxic substances.

Local ferry operators were also mindful of the number of fires on roll-on roll-off ferry vehicle decks overseas, said Young. 

In a recent article on its website, international transport industry insurer TT CLub said it was estimated that a major container ship fire at sea occurred on average every 60 days, and there had already been four major cargo-related fires this year.

TT Club said its records indicated that 66 per cent of incidents related to cargo damage could be attributed to poor practice in the overall packing process, including cargo identification, declaration, and documentation. 

Interislander general manager operations Mark Thompson said KiwiRail staff checked paperwork before loading to ensure it matched what was declared when the booking was made.

“If discrepancies are found by our terminal staff or ship crew, we will not carry the freight until it is corrected and we’re satisfied that it complies. This means that on occasion, we do reject cargo from sailings.”

KiwiRail decided about a year ago that it would no longer carry class one explosives on rail or its ships –  with the exception of small ammunition –  because restrictions around transport of these items made it costly and disruptive, and the amount being carried was steadily declining, said Thompson.

He was unaware of any serious incident in recent history resulting from carriage of dangerous goods on InterIslander vessels, but said he would support any move to improve enforcement of the regulations. 

Police acting national manager road policing inspector Peter McKennie said that as a result of concerns raised, police were paying additional attention to the transporting of dangerous goods which posed potential safety risks on the ferries and on the road network in general.

“Police have always carried out random safety checks on commercial vehicles, including  dangerous goods carriage compliance. This is conducted anywhere on the road network, not just at ferry terminals. We do not have a permanent presence at ferry terminals.”

Following an approach from the Shipping Federation, the Transport Forum reminded its members that drivers needed appropriate dangerous goods endorsements on their licences, and chief executive Nick Leggett said they also had to ensure their paperwork was in order. 

“Our message to our members is that  [spot checks] are very likely to happen more frequently and that they should comply with the law and do what is right.”

Mainfreight​ group managing director Don Braid said their Chemcouriers​ business moved a lot of dangerous goods and he had no concerns about increased inspections before trucks embarked on ferries.

“If it catches out those that are disobeying the laws, then so be it.”

Rail-centric view does Northland no favours

“The Upper North Island Supply Chain Study has focussed solely on rail and this does Northland no favours,” says Annabel Young, Executive Director of the NZ Shipping Federation, talking about the Interim Progress Report of the study group. “Their rail-centric view has blinded them to the opportunities available to Northport that are not dependent on rail.”

A dry dock in Whangarei would be a win-win for both the city and New Zealand as a whole; but in the interim report it gets a scant one-line mention. The lack of a dry dock is hurting this country due to the environmental and financial costs that have to be incurred when our coastal shipping operators are required to dry dock their vessels off-shore in Singapore or Australia. There are already cases where overseas ships are avoiding New Zealand due to the toxic combination of high biosecurity cleanliness requirements for a vessels hull and secondly, the inability to clean a ship in a dock that does not fit in the Devonport dry dock.

We note that the interim study assumes that cargo landed in Northport would need to be moved by rail which ignores the obvious possibility of movement by sea, as is done now in many other parts of the world using smaller domestic coastal ships and barges.

This first report sets up a paradigm where rail is deemed to be the only answer. The Federation believes it may be asking the wrong questions.

Notes

The New Zealand Shipping Federation began in 1906 and is the key representative body for New Zealand’s coastal ship operators.