ROAD TRANSPORT FORUM – Roading investment should have happened years ago

7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 4, 2020

Speaking of elections, RTF is organising an election summit to probe political parties on their transport plans and you can be sure that the East-West Link and roading infrastructure will be a major part of that debate.

Finally, the Government has decided to invest in some roads. For two and a half years RTF and other industry and business advocates have lobbied, begged and pleaded for something to be done about our creaking roading infrastructure. For two and a half years we have been dismissed as environmental pariahs and largely ignored. Now with an election looming and mounting accusations of under-delivery across a number of portfolios, the Government has found that a good enough reason to open the chequebook on a suite of practical transport projects. Of the $6.8 billion allocated specifically for transport, $2.2 billion is going to Auckland roads, $3.5 billion for roads outside Auckland, and the rest on much-needed commuter rail upgrades in Auckland and Wellington, including a third main rail line between Wiri and Westfield. The Auckland roading projects include Penlink, upgrading Mill Road to four lanes, and widening State Highway 1 from Papakura to Drury. Outside of Auckland the Tauranga Northern Link is to go ahead, upgrades will be made to State Highway 2 to Omokoroa, and a new interchange is to be built at Melling in the Hutt Valley. There is also a commitment to four-lane SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin, extending the Kapiti Expressway. This will make a big difference for freight coming in and out of Wellington.

Unfortunately, one desperately needed project that didn‘t make the cut was the East-West Link, which was initiated and consented under the previous Government to relieve congestion around the Onehunga-Penrose freight hub. It is an absolutely critical piece of infrastructure, not only for the road transport industry, but also for the whole New Zealand economy. Some estimates I have seen put the value of freight coming and going from that part of Auckland as being upwards of $10 billion per year. What is particularly disappointing is that at the 2018 RTF conference Minister of Transport Phil Twyford told delegates that the Government was engaged in redesigning the East- West Link. $800 million was being set aside for the project, officials were being constantly hassled for progress, and all consents and notices remained in place and were ready to go. The industry had every right then to hold out some hope. Eighteen months on and we have heard nothing more. The project is still officially at the ‘re-evaluation stage‘ and any hope that we did have has long since evaporated. RTF will continue to lobby for the revival of the project, but it may take another election to motivate the Government enough to do it.

Speaking of elections, RTF is organising an election summit to probe political parties on their transport plans and you can be sure that the East-West Link and roading infrastructure will be a major part of that debate. I look forward to having the politicians put on the spot over their party‘s records in front of a room full of people involved in the New Zealand transport and logistics industries. The summit will take place at Te Papa in Wellington on Tuesday 30 June. A website with more information and registration details will be online within the next few weeks. Moving on, I‘d like to acknowledge Tom Cloke, who has decided to step down from his role as an area executive in the Taranaki. Tom has been a staunch advocate for the industry both nationally and at a local Taranaki level for nearly 30 years. Tom has been fundamental to projects such as the Mount Messenger Bypass, promoting the interests of ground spreaders, and of course as secretary and founding member of the National Livestock Transport & Safety Group (NLTSG).

The NLTSG, under Tom‘s stewardship, has developed into an extremely strong voice for the livestock transport sector. Just last year the group managed to convince Government to back down over plans to impose liability on livestock transporters for moving untagged animals under the new NAIT legislation. Tom, as usual, played a critical role in gaining this result for the industry. Tom‘s knowledge and experience will be sorely missed, but I wish him well as he will no doubt continue as a strong advocate for the industry in his role on the Taranaki Regional Council. Finally, if you are in the Christchurch area on 20 and 21 March, the 2020 TMC Trailers Trucking Industry Show is being held at the Canterbury Agricultural Park. The show, which is held biennially, is one of the biggest shows of its type in the country, and with the addition of events like the TR Group New Zealand Truck Driving Championships, will be bigger and better than ever this year. The UDC Show & Shine is the centrepiece of the weekend and I‘m told there will be 400 to 500 trucks on display. There will also be a classic trucks showcase, a careers expo, and a dinner and awards night. I will be there for one of the days so if you see me around, come and have a chat.