Contractor

Infrastructure and transport

The Labour-led government is looking forward to a busy year ahead, with new ideas and a fresh perspective on our transport system. By Hon Phil Twyford, Minister for Transport, Housing & Urban Development, NZ Government.

THIS GOVERNMENT HAS some clear goals to achieve more out of our transport networks while delivering the infrastructure New Zealand needs to keep moving.

We are focused on a resilient, low-carbon and balanced transport network that supports our country economically and socially.

Resilience

More than a year after the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, work to rebuild the shattered road and rail corridor is proceeding. This tremendous effort serves as a reminder of how critical transport networks can swiftly and catastrophically be affected by natural disaster. It also showcases the ability of our infrastructure community to come together in times of disruption to ensure our transport networks get back up and running as quickly as possible.

The Edgecumbe floods and the Auckland fuel pipeline disruption are two further examples that show the effects that natural and manmade incidents can have – disrupting transport for individual communities and the wider national economy.

Ensuring appropriate investment in a resilient transport network will be important. We need to be able to quickly anticipate and adapt to these types of events, understand what effects climate change will have, and what part technology could play. Part of this is ensuring investment in each of our transport modes and ensuring they play to their strengths.

A low emissions transport network

A move towards greater transport resilience is also an opportunity to look at reducing the environmental impact of the sector. We know that transport emissions make up 18 percent of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions and that 90 percent of these come from road transport.

Making better use of rail and coastal shipping has a part to play in helping to cut these emissions. In addition, actively investigating the role technology has to play is equally as important.

Electric vehicles (EVs) will continue to become more commonplace on our roads and this government is eager to support the uptake of EVs.

EVs make good use of our abundant renewable energy and are easily capable of meeting the distance requirements of many urban drivers. We are also seeing advances in shared user concepts and driverless vehicles, each of which has a part to play in contributing to a more diverse transport network that helps to improve choice, efficiency and resilience.

Funding

This government will be focused on ensuring that New Zealand enjoys a multi-modal, efficient, low-carbon transport system where all modes of transport are playing their part, and their potential contribution to the whole is realised.

To achieve our vision for transport, change is necessary. I am interested in how we can best use existing funding tools – like the National Land Transport Fund and the Government Policy Statement (GPS) – to support a more multi-modal approach.

The traditional way in which we finance and fund infrastructure needs to change if we are going to address the multiple challenges of urban growth, replacing ageing assets, meeting higher environmental standards and improving resilience. We believe we need to be smarter about how we use the government’s balance sheet.

Auckland

Auckland and the wider ‘golden triangle’ of the Bay of Plenty and Waikato is part of the country that we know will continue to grow rapidly over the coming decades from both a population and freight perspective.

This growth means that it faces significant transport infrastructure challenges that must be dealt with – for the welfare of residents and for the long-term productivity of New Zealand.

These challenges will not be solved solely by investment in the roading network. All modes can be complementary to each other.

For example, the government is committed to implementing a rapid transit system for Auckland, which will include light rail from the CBD to the airport and to west Auckland. Such an investment will not only make it easier for people to get around town, but it will also free up our roading network to improve freight efficiency.

As the largest economic hub of New Zealand, getting Auckland moving is critical to the success of our nation as a whole. However, this government recognises that to address significant transport challenges, Aucklanders need to help pay for vital infrastructure and services. This is why the government is committed to introducing a regional fuel tax for Auckland while also investigating whether some sort of charging for demand management is appropriate for Auckland.

We know that Auckland’s population will continue to grow, so it is only appropriate that we investigate all the levers available to support passenger transit and enable easier freight movement to and from the Ports of Auckland, the airport and other regions across the country.

The year ahead

This year will be a big year for transport, and we will be actively looking at transforming the transport sector.

We will see the production of a new GPS, and a review of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

We’ll investigate how we can better incorporate other modes of transport such as cycling and walking, and place a renewed focus on public transport and rail infrastructure in both our urban and regional areas.

We want to develop a balanced and resilient sector that plays to the strengths of all modes for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

This article first appeared in Contractor Perspectives 2018.

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