Government Policy Statement a win for industry

In News6 MinutesBy Dom KalasihMarch 8, 2024

In our briefing to incoming Transport Minister Simeon Brown, we sought eight priority actions.

The first was to rewrite the Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS24) to prioritise road maintenance, network resilience, and strategic roading investments.

The second was to confirm the start date and funding sources of the Government’s 13 new Roads of National Significance and four major public transport upgrades.

So, when the redrafted GPS, which has major implications for transport, was released earlier this week, we were very pleased.

Here’s why.

As I drove from Wellington to Palmerston North the morning after the announcement, I watched the southbound traffic making its way down Transmission Gully. There were some trucks but it was mostly commuters driving into the capital for work.

Many years ago, I used to do a similar commute from the Kapiti Coast and even then the congestion was bad. The time wasted sitting in traffic or crawling was a pain, but what I didn’t appreciate much at that time was the direct and opportunity costs, to me personally, and the economy.

Nowadays, I’m much more mindful of that, and as I watched the commuters travelling at free-flowing speeds on TG, I marvelled at the benefits this new road has brought – not only by being safer but equally importantly, by reducing so much wasted time. While it won’t impact trucks, I also thought that that road will be even better when the speed is raised to 110km/h, which it has been designed for.

Media interest was high in the GPS24. We were asked about the proposal to generate revenue via vehicle registration increases – $25 in January 2025 and a further $25 in January 2026.

I shared my view that I appreciated that those increases will hit many people hard. I also explained another way of looking at things: In essence, the proposal to raise revenue equates to about 50 cents per week over 2025, and about $1 per week over 2026 per vehicle owner.

The numbers we ran for the impact on the Brynderwyns closure showed that the additional time spent on the detour routes would cost an extra $80,000 per day. If all trucks had to take the longer detour, it would add $250,000 a day, based on about 1,100 truck trips a day.

Transmission Gully is typically used by close to 30,000 motorists daily, and all those people are benefiting hugely from not wasting time sitting in traffic. At one stage, a toll was considered to fund TG and I know I would pay more than $1 a day to escape the congestion we used to have, not to mention the additional resilience that the new route has brought.

We simply could not continue with a degrading and less reliable road network and tough calls are having to be made so it’s good to see that happening. We also agree with a significant amount being invested in public transport. Strategically, giving more travel choices to private commuters should help free up the network for goods and freight to get where it needs to go the only way it can.

The proposed allocation of some $7 billion to fix potholes on state highways and local roads indicates the sad rundown state the network is in. Its scale is not dissimilar to the $6b estimates I’ve heard it will cost to repair the network damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. We will be reviewing the GPS24 figures carefully to ensure enough funding has been allocated to address the long-term maintenance deficit.

The draft GPS signals several system reforms, including a shift to a 10-year National Land Transport Programme, which will bring considerably more certainty about investment in the infrastructure. None of the reforms are a surprise and our view is that it’s really refreshing to see serious consideration of new ways to fix the current problems. Continuing without major change is never going to make effective improvements.

We will be providing a formal submission on the draft GPS which our members will be consulted on in due course.

Another highlight of the week was a very constructive meeting with Waka Kotahi where it was agreed that more livestock operators be given the opportunity to use an alternative fatigue management system, and furthermore, that providing flexibility with rest breaks be considered in the logging sector.

– By Dom Kalasih, interim chief executive at Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand.