And the money tree bears fruit

In The Last Mile, December 20205 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerJanuary 28, 2021

Any right-thinking person will have concluded by now that eventually the government is going to have to look at ways of repaying the money it has been splashing around recently. That same person will also realise that there are two main ways any government gets its money: taxes and fees for its services (fees also include penalty payments and fines). Perhaps then, the police‘s no-tolerance approach to vehicles exceeding the speed limit signals the start of the government‘s approach to repaying debt. Of course, the spin around this was that there was never a tolerance anyway, and this approach, together with research showing that reducing the mean average road speed results in a corresponding reduction in road crashes and their severity, is the right move.

I wonder how many meetings and PowerPoint presentations it took the spin doctors to come up with this? The same thinking people who have worked out the government is going to have to take action to repay its debt will also have worked out that to reduce the instances of speeding on the road you need to ramp up on-road enforcement, but I have not seen any mention of that happening yet. What I have read so far about this policy change suggests it will only apply to offences detected by the police on the road; nothing suggests it will apply to fixed or mobile speed cameras.

But surely this will happen, that is if we are to accept for one minute the spin about lowering the overall speed on our roads. Looking beyond the spin for a bit, we know that the operation of speed cameras, currently done by the police, is to be transferred to the NZ Transport Agency. We also know that provision exists for the NZTA to contract these services to outside organisations/contractors, so it would be pure speculation on my part to suggest a link between the changed approach to speed enforcement and the potential for private contractors to be employed in a detection role.

On top of this we cannot forget the absolutely irrational approach to reducing the speed limit by local bodies in some CBDs to make the streets more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, even at times of the day when there are few, if any, of these ‘vulnerable‘ road users about. Stick a fixed or mobile speed camera operated by a private contractor on the side of the road at 3am and watch the dollars arrive in the government‘s coffers. Then of course there is the potential for an increased revenue stream from the rural roads that because of their condition are unfit to be called a road, let alone a state highway, and have had their speed limit reduced accordingly.

Transmission Gully
I could not let the opportunity go by without comment on the shambles that is Transmission Gully. Of course the government line is that it is not their fault and they inherited the problem, but wait, who has been in power for the past three years? Why have the issues been allowed to get to the stage they are at, and which will now add another $208 million to the cost? Where has the management oversight of the project been during the past three years? Where is the accountability? A story I read linked to the completion of Transmission Gully is that NZTA has apparently told a local council that there will be a cut to its road funding over next three years despite the council taking over more roads linked to the project.

The reason cited for this cut by NZTA is the need to ‘recognise the limited funding available‘ to meet government spending priorities. The spending cuts proposed would see the NZTA‘s contribution to road works such as maintenance reduced to 52% from the current 56% (page A10, The Dominion Post, 29 August 2020). I suggest there is a pattern building here, but then we have been told time and time again to trust the government, so who am I to suggest otherwise? Perhaps somebody needs to remind the government that you cannot command somebody to trust you, you have to earn their trust.