Chasing unicorns – Transporting New Zealand

In News6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 1, 2022

Some days it seems that the only road users the various levels of government care about are cyclists.

We are not anti-cyclists. We promote good health, exercise and wellbeing in our industry and offer training for truck drivers to be specifically aware of cyclists on the road and how to keep them safe around trucks.

But when you see the likes of Auckland Transport (AT) removing kerbside parking on 240km of roads over the next 10 years to get people out of their cars and on to bikes and public transport – as we read in the NZ Herald this week – it’s hard not to eye roll.

The Government and a number of city councils have some utopian view of cities without motor vehicles of any kind and with what can only be described as a unicorn in New Zealand, timely, efficient, and reliable public transport. In Wellington it would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. They are efficiently and effectively killing inner city businesses.

In these cities of the mind, no one needs to stop somewhere to deliver goods and services, trucks clearly do not exist, and families manage the logistics of life in some mysterious unspoken way. But it will cost them and of course the costs fall on those who can least afford them.

AT’s changes are contained in a draft parking strategy that includes plans to begin charging motorists $2 to $4 a day at park and ride stations. So your journey takes longer, involves a lot of changes, and it costs you more.

I guess we should be thankful for the small mercy that AT won’t remove parking without telling people or giving them a say – they tried for that. However, we are increasingly seeing that “consultation” is meaningless and the decisions have been made well before the submitters turn up with their well-researched, evidence-based suggestions.

AT has identified more than 1200km of roads that will be designated to progressively remove kerbside parking with about 240km prioritised in the next 10 years.

It has also become apparent that many politicians are no longer reading the room, or they just don’t care what a lot of people think. The comments from readers on the Herald article are worth a look. Aucklanders know the reality of getting around and it doesn’t always involve public transport, which doesn’t even exist in the newer housing areas. It’s also a sprawling city, so distances can be quite vast for all but the most athletic of cyclists.

Feedback on the draft strategy closes on 1 May. I’m sure AT will be listening.

We hope the opening of Transmission Gully this week will put some focus back on the value of roads for other users – those that keep the economy moving. It was great to go to the official opening with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minister Michael Wood.

There has to be a greater political priority on roads across New Zealand. We’ve got a 1960s transport network in many parts of the country. I believe Transmission Gully is going to show people that a safe, resilient, well built, well-engineered road makes a difference to people’s lives and to the economy and we’ve got to see that political priority occur more widely.

In opening Transmission Gully Prime Minister Ardern said: “This road represents the largest Government investment in New Zealand’s infrastructure in a generation.

“It is an example of modern infrastructure that features the highest safety measures, treads lightly through the environment and is future-proofed for generations to come.

“Projects like this will help New Zealand to bounce back better from Covid-19, which is why the Government is investing a record amount in infrastructure to reconnect New Zealanders, reduce emissions and support the economic recovery.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said Transmission Gully provides a safer and more reliable route to ensure Wellington remains connected in the event of an earthquake or major storm severing other transport routes.

“The new motorway will also have economic benefits with faster movement of freight and more resilience in our transport links,” he said.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said Transmission Gully is one of the most significant and complex new roading projects ever undertaken in New Zealand.

“The road spans 27 kilometres of very challenging terrain, requiring innovative environmental and construction techniques,” he said.

They certainly sounded impressed and like they could see the value of roads of significance. There is plenty more work to be done and we will be reminding them of this in the months ahead.

By Nick Leggett, CEO, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand