The time to change investment in our roading infrastructure is now

As the election draws closer, we see politicians starting to put a stake in the ground on what their parties stand for. The role of National Road Carriers is to ensure trucking operators get the policy settings they need to enable efficient and safe movement of goods regardless of which party, or parties, are in Parliament after 14 October.

NRC is advocating for developing a 50-year roading infrastructure plan that delivers a safe, productive and resilient network and helps New Zealanders and businesses connect to each other and the world.

The task has its challenges. For decades, investment in New Zealand’s local and national roading infrastructure has lagged well behind what’s needed for a safe, productive, durable roading network. The lack of investment is increasingly visible across New Zealand’s roading network – from routes that are not resilient to weather events, to damaging potholes, to roads and lanes that are too narrow and unsafe.

Aside from the impact on truck drivers and the wider transport industry, the state of our roads is seriously affecting the country’s productivity. Investment in roading is easy for local and central governments to delay in the short term, often for legitimate reasons and without obvious consequences. But, as we see now, the impact when it occurs becomes increasingly expensive to fix. This approach is unsustainable and effectively pushes the cost of maintaining and improving today’s roads onto the next generation of New Zealanders.

In March, Waka Kotahi released a refreshed version of the 30-year plan for the land transport system. This is a key step towards getting the roading network we need. However, without reliable funding and governance to implement it, free from conflict with short-term government priorities or other interests, it is difficult for the trucking industry and the infrastructure businesses building our roads to plan and invest for the long term.

Any long-term plan needs to address the elephant in the room – we have a poor track record in delivering big infrastructure projects on time. It needs to meet New Zealand’s broader long-term economic, social and climate objectives, supported by a pathway that includes understanding what engineering and construction methods, labour and technology needs are anticipated over time, as well as attracting investment where necessary.

The funding model needs to consider the total value quality roading infrastructure provides to New Zealand, including the economic and social return on investment. NRC favours an investment-based funding model rather than the current consumption-based funding system.

And all of this must be underpinned by evidence and expertise. Quality long-term solutions must be based on modelling that reflects expected demand, technology evolution and climate change. Planning and maintenance decisions should draw on the experience of those using the road network – collaboration is key.

So, NRC’s commitment to the industry is clear, and we intend to hold the government accountable for these important issues. We have drawn a line in the sand on what the road transport sector needs to be safe, productive and resilient. The time for action is now.