On land and sea

In July 2024, Gavin Myers5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJuly 5, 2024

Budgets, pothole funds and speed reviews … It’s been a busy month for those interested in roads or transport.

By now, Finance Minister Nicola Willis’ Budget 2024 announcement on 30 May has been dissected to exhaustion. The industry has salivated at a full $1 billion for the accelerated delivery of the Roads of National Significance and major public transport projects, as well as a further $939.3 million to continue recovery works to roads damaged by last year’s severe weather events.

I commented on these and other notable allocations in my EDM editorial of 31 May, Bouncing around the billions. As good as the funding is for the industry and road users in general, I go back to my main concern outlined in that piece – support for Interislander remains conspicuous by its absence. I’ll save you the effort of seeking it out, because the point bears repeating …

Interislander is as much a part of the country’s transport infrastructure as any of the Roads of National Significance or any KiwiRail trunk line. Clearly, though, little thought has gone into replacing the ageing barges in the time since the new government axed the iReX project after coming into office.

Yes, other pressing commitments need their share of the pot. But it’s as much a transport issue as it is to do with infrastructure and resilience – so why not fund it in part from each of those budgets? And if needed, the argument could also be made for it being a climate-change initiative – new boats will doubtlessly be more efficient and environmentally friendly than the old clunkers that have each done about 100,000 trips across the Strait, according to Interislander.

It’s been said before, the longer this ferry-replacement debacle is kicked down the road, the greater the threat to safe and efficient passage between the islands becomes.

But what of safe and efficient passage within the islands? We’ve been told that the forthcoming 2024-2027 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) will deliver a record $2.07 billion for state highway pothole prevention and $1.9 billion for local roads – respective increases of 91% and 50% over the 2021-2024 NLTP. This appears to be in addition to the establishment of a $500 million Pothole Prevention Fund, as promised in National’s electioneering campaign – though, the announcements have come so thick and fast, how the funding all fits together is a little murky … I guess we’ll have to wait for the final Government Policy Statement and NLTP to reveal all.

Regardless, the key here is that this funding will be ringfenced for resealing, rehabilitation and drainage maintenance works. This is encouraging, considering Transport Minister Simeon Brown expects long-term maintenance outcomes of 2% of the state highway network renewed each year and 9% of it resealed each year … This with requirements that potholes will be fixed within 24 hours. I’m not sure how they’ll make that a reality, but this might just be the time to get into the roadworks game!

And we’ll need roads maintained to such a degree if the higher speed settings proposed in the new Land Transport Rule come to fruition. But I’ll reserve comment on that for another time.

Gavin Myers

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