Road Transport Forum News

 
Our political parties’ plans for road transport

Our political parties’ plans for road transport

Road Transport Forum News

 August 2020    RTF News

The 2020 election is fast approaching and, in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown and ongoing economic crisis, could be one of the most influential in recent times. 

RTF wrote to the transport spokespeople of the five political parties currently represented in Parliament asking them a series of questions of interest to road transport operators. 

We have presented the responses in their entirety and without any commentary. New Zealand Truck & Driver readers can judge for themselves the merits of each answer and take those into account as they head to the polls on September 19. 

Thanks to Labour's Phil Twyford, National's Chris Bishop, Julie Anne Genter of the Green Party and ACT's David Seymour for taking part. Unfortunately, NZ First declined the opportunity. 

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The 2020 election is fast approaching and, in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown and ongoing economic crisis, could be one of the most influential in recent times. 
RTF wrote to the transport spokespeople of the five political parties currently represented in Parliament asking them a series of questions of interest to road transport operators. 
We have presented the responses in their entirety and without any commentary. New Zealand Truck & Driver readers can judge for themselves the merits of each answer and take those into account as they head to the polls on September 19. 
Thanks to Labour's Phil Twyford, National's Chris Bishop, Julie Anne Genter of the Green Party and ACT's David Seymour for taking part. Unfortunately, NZ First declined the opportunity. 

Road transport operators have faced multiple increases in Road User Charges (RUC) over the last few years, including on July 1, 2020. These add significant fixed costs for operators on already extremely tight margins.
What plans does your party have with regard to further RUC increases and are you willing to consider a reduction in RUC and fuel excise duty in the wake of COVID-19? If not, why not?

Labour

Our policy is there will be no increases to RUC or fuel excise duty for the next three years. We've made good gains with the increases this term and they will help fund increased road maintenance and crucial infrastructure projects across the country, like the Manawatū Gorge replacement highway. We have to keep building infrastructure and creating jobs and we need the revenue from this term's increases to maintain our record infrastructure pipeline.

National

We opposed all of the recent RUC and fuel excise increases, alongside the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax. We will repeal the Regional Fuel Tax when in office; and we have committed to not increasing fuel excise in our first term. 

Green

The Green Party policy is to ensure that pricing of transport services and infrastructure promotes the development and use of sustainable transport. We do think that there could be merit in a review of the RUC system, but do support appropriately pricing the externalities involved in the road transport industry.

Act


ACT believes in user pays. The problem is road users have been paying for non-road projects they do not use. Taking your money for one purpose and using it for another you didn't choose is not only economically inefficient, it is insulting. Slapping on a RUC increase while the Government was borrowing and hosing money and all sorts of other dubious projects to “stimulate the economy” just added insult to injury. As David Seymour said to parliament at the beginning of the COVID crisis, the Government should “first do no harm” and that means holding back on revenue increases before going on a spending spree.

Mode neutrality used to be an important principle in transport policy making. With a significant proportion of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) now being diverted to support rail and other transport modes that do not pay into it, what assurances can you give transport operators that the NLTF will return to a “user-pays” model for the benefit of road users?

Labour

Mode neutrality underpins our transport policy and successive governments have been using NLTF funds for more than just roads for over a decade. We want the most efficient way to carry passengers or freight for any given task, and for the first time under our Government, all modes will be considered alongside each other. Road users benefit from every investment made from the NLTF, for example from safety upgrades, new roads, or investments that give people real transport choices which frees the roads up for those that have to drive. We also plan to introduce track user chargers for rail users so they contribute to the fund as well.

National


As a general principle we believe transport modes should be funded by those who use them. We are concerned about the government's move to allow rail to access even more of the NLTF than it already does, which will mean road users will end up subsidising a competing mode while investment in roads diminishes.

Green

The Green Party strongly supports mode neutrality and that is why we have long advocated for a more balanced investment by the Government in a mix of road, rail, cycling and walking infrastructure. The majority of congestion on our state highway is caused by sole occupants travelling in cars. By investing in faster, more frequent urban and inter regional public transport we'll have fewer people driving at peak times. This frees up more space on the road and improves travel time reliability for high value trips like moving freight.

Act

As above, ACT is committed to user pays.

Now, more than ever, it is critical that NZ's economy is focused on supporting our export sector, and a big part of that is getting goods to market as efficiently as we can.
Is your party committed to the necessary state highway upgrades and improvements to help make that happen, given that the roads will continue to carry the majority of NZ's exports to port?

Labour

Yes, which is why we are funding the Manawatū Gorge replacement highway, completing the Waikato Expressway and Christchurch motorways, as well as investing $5.3billion on roads through the NZ Upgrade Programme. These include a new 22km four-lane corridor from Whangārei to Port Marsden, a four-lane corridor from Omokoroa to Tauranga, and improvements on SH76 to support a more reliable freight route to Lyttelton Port. We're also looking to make improving freight connections a key strategic priority for transport investments next term.

National

Absolutely. At time of writing our full plan is yet to be released but NZers can have confidence in National's track record of delivering the Roads of National Significance programme during the last government. Projects like the Waikato Expressway, Waterview, and the Christchurch Motorway projects speak to our deep commitment to making it easier to move people and freight around our great country.

Green

As Associate Minister of Transport with a delegation of road safety, I have been responsible for significant investment in upgrades to roads that had been neglected by the last National Government. We substantially increased the budget for local roads, and for maintenance and renewals of state highways and local roads in the Government Policy Statement on Transport. This has already led to thousands of additional kilometres of roads being renewed than was able to be during the last National Government's last term in office.

Act

Our country is spread out and mountainous. As such we will continue to be overwhelmingly reliant on road transport. ACT's Alternative Budget is a 5-point plan that includes putting the State Highway network into a new Infrastructure Commission that can enter into public private partnerships to get roads built, and is required to meet targets for minimum traffic speeds.

Large parts of NZ's roading network critical to our economy are, from a safety point of view, not suitable for heavy vehicles. What plans does your party have to improve the safety of our roads, particularly rural roads?

Labour

There are two main ways we plan to bring our roads up to scratch. One is through properly funding road maintenance. Road maintenance expenditure flatlined under the last government, while the cost of labour and materials grew by 12% and traffic grew by 15%. With councils we have increased funding by around $500million this term and NZTA is on track to deliver 60% more state highway renewals compared to under the previous government – that's around 350kms more a year. We are proposing to go further next term and up funding by another 11% to step up the pace of renewals. The other way we are bringing our roads up to scratch is by upgrading 3300kms of high risk roads with lifesaving upgrades. We have already engineered up over 2500kms of roads so far with commonsense upgrades that make a real difference, like rumble strips and safety barriers. We are looking to go further and looking to invest $10billion in our strategy to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the road by 40%.

National

The safest roads in NZ are National's Roads of National Significance. Just one person has died on a RON since they were opened. This government has cut state highway funding by $5billion, and diverted the funds into failed projects like light rail. Rural roads are hugely important in NZ and our policies around upgrades will reflect that.

Green

As discussed in the answer above, the Green Party will continue to push for safety upgrades and improvements, and increased maintenance of local roads and state highways.

Act


Rural roads are largely a council responsibility. The critical issue for councils is funding, they simply cannot raise the necessary revenue or rates and have limited other sources of funds. A secondary issue is that their capability varies by council. ACT would pursue City and Regional Partnerships promoted by Infrastructure NZ. These partnerships give longterm central Government funding in return for oversight and accountability of Council spending on infrastructure.

The upcoming recreational cannabis referendum is of major concern to the road transport industry. How will a government that your party is part of manage road and workplace safety, given that roadside saliva testing has yet to be proven and there will be inevitable consequences for health and safety in safety-sensitive industries like road transport?


Labour


If the referendum is successful, I would expect the Government to introduce random roadside drug testing before any changes to the laws are made. Driving while impaired will still remain a crime and the main purpose of the proposed rules is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families and communities. I'd expect also NZTA and Police to work with firms to ensure they have modern workplaces policies and take a zero-tolerance approach to drug driving.

National

The number of people being killed by drug impaired drivers on NZ roads is higher than those killed by drivers above the legal alcohol limit. Ultimately everyone will get a say at the referendum, but we are concerned that the government has not properly considered the impact on the road transport industry of legalisation, if it occurs.

Green


The decision at the referendum will be whether we want to continue the widespread use of illegal cannabis in NZ, or have a strongly regulated market. Having potency limits on cannabis products, which the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill would do, will help prevent issues in workplace health and safety and on our roads. Regardless though, of whether the proposed law is supported by a majority of NZers, this Government is taking action on drug driving laws. I have been leading work on a new drug driving law that is scheduled to be introduced to Parliament before the election. This will strengthen the rules on all impairing drugs so that we apply a similar standard to drug driving as we do to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Act

We acknowledge the problem, but we'd point out that it exists now with illegal use. No Government can control whether saliva testing that works is invented. ACT's commitment is to the health and safety of people going about their lawful business, so where there is doubt, we believe employment law should favour the rights of the employer and other employees over anyone who may be using drugs.

Despite the impact of COVID-19 the road transport industry still faces a longterm workforce shortage. What will you do to support the industry's initiatives to address this issue, incentivise the uptake of qualifications and training and reduce the bureaucratic difficulties that operators have in hiring drivers from overseas?

Labour


The road transport industry will be vital in our economic recovery and training up more workers is a priority. We know as a result of COVID-19, many NZers will be looking to retrain and employers in key sectors will need more skilled people. That's why we've made courses and training in road transport and other essential areas free for the next two-and-a-half years. Our border restrictions are necessary to help keep out COVID-19 as much as possible. I expect these will be around for some time, and I'm keen to keep working with the RTF and others to get more fresh talent into the sector through a variety of means.

National

Freight is critical to our way of life and the next National-led government will work closely with industry to address our longterm workforce shortages.

Green


The Green Party support the Government's investments in training and in the apprenticeship support programme.  In the foreseeable future it is NZ workers rather than overseas workers that will need to be supported into jobs, particularly given border closures.

Act


ACT promotes low flat taxes, quality infrastructure spending, and a fair regulatory regime.


What plans do you have to make sure that the NZ Transport Agency has the right experience to improve its regulatory performance and what plans do you have to reduce unnecessary compliance and associated costs to the industry?

Labour

The NZTA has massively stepped up its regulatory performance under our Government. An independent review found NZTA failed to properly regulate the transport sector under the previous government. I've refocused the Agency on safety following that review, they are now properly resourcing their regulatory teams and the Board has been bolstered by Catherine Taylor who is an experienced regulator. My expectation is that NZTA will treat firms fairly and if the industry has some proposals to help cut red tape, I'm happy to receive them.

National


Governance of the NZTA has been a mess under the current government, with multiple changes at senior levels and the Board being basically sacked by the Minister. NZTA has been a high performing agency in the past and it needs to be again for NZ's future. Under National it will be. We are committed to reducing red tape in government and will look forward to talking to the industry about sensible changes we can make in this area.


Green


The Government only directly appoints the Board of NZTA, but we will continue to push for people to be on the Board who have a range of transport expertise.

Act


ACT's Regulatory Constitution is designed to force politicians and bureaucrats to ask the right questions when regulating. What problem are we trying to solve here? What are the costs and benefits of the proposed solution, to who? Too often, these questions are not even asked. Improving the quality of people is more difficult, but we believe in appointment on merit rather than political affiliation as we've seen under the recent Governments.

The road transport industry is frequently criticised as a significant carbon emitter despite major improvements in environmental performance over the last 20 years. What does your party plan to do to support the development of new low-carbon heavy transport technologies and support transport operators in the uptake of those technologies?

Labour


Our Government initiated the Green Freight project to investigate the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road freight in NZ. We're looking at different fuels – electricity, green hydrogen and biofuels – and the role they could play in reducing emissions. But I know that a “one size fits all” approach is unlikely to work and it will need a mix of Government intervention through things like building supporting infrastructure and industry collaboration to transition to a low-carbon sector. I'm committed to working with the RTF and others to decarbonise the fleet and making progress on this will be a priority over the next three years.

National


We're interested in exploring ways to partner with industry to accelerate the development of low-carbon heavy transport technology. There's no doubt electrification of our vehicle fleet is a good way to reduce our emissions – both for light vehicles, and in time, heavy vehicles.

Green

Unfortunately, improvements in environmental performance over the last 20 years have not reduced carbon emissions from transport (including heavy freight), and they will need to reduce in 10 years if we are going to meet our commitments under the Paris agreement, and contribute our fair share to a liveable climate (which is necessary for a functioning economy). The Green Party pushed for and got a $100million Green Investment Fund that aims to accelerate investment that reduces emissions. NZ Green Investment Finance Ltd, which oversees the fund, recently announced their first investment into Wellington's port. We would encourage companies to work with this organisation to finance low-carbon technologies. We are working on a Green Freight policy with the industry that will see new options for transitioning to cleaner fuel as well as supporting mode shift for long haul freight in order to enable goods to move around the country with less pollution.

Act

It's not the job of Government to “support” you running your business. ACT promotes low flat taxes, quality infrastructure spending, and a fair regulatory regime. The rest is up to you. If you would like to be bribed with your own money, there are many other parties who can help.  


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