Comment: Govt refuses business advice on infrastructure

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO


RTF is disheartened by the Government's refusal on recommendations to alleviate NZ's infrastructure deficit

I admit to being disheartened by the Government’s refusal of recent recommendations to alleviate New Zealand’s ‘infrastructure deficit’ through a comprehensive transport investment programme, including new four-lane motorways.

It was doubly disappointing because the recommendation had come from the Prime Minister’s own Business Advisory Council, made up of private sector business leaders, including HW Richardson’s Joc O’Donnell.

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The Council, in a letter to the Government, pointed out that New Zealand is at an "infrastructure crisis point" and strongly advocated for the 12 roading projects that are presently on hold, or under review, to proceed and be opened up to private investment.

"These projects are investment-ready, provide the beginnings of a pipeline of investable opportunities, and would be an effective use of the roading capability developed in New Zealand over the last 20 years," said the Council.

Unfortunately, the idea was rejected by Transport Minister Phil Twyford who claimed it was "really bad policy" and the 12 projects had low economic value. He suggested that none of the roads would have enough traffic to pay for them.

Just as well he wasn’t Transport Minister during the 1950s or we would never have got the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which had a benefit/cost ratio of just 0.8.

It’s frustrating to hear this attitude towards roading from a minister who’s presiding over investment in transport infrastructure that has historically failed to pay its own way. It’s also discouraging for those of us who understand that New Zealand needs better and safer highways to link our communities and help drive our economy.

In the livestock transport area, the Government’s proposed changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme also have RTF concerned. While we acknowledge the need to reform the scheme in light of poor uptake from farmers, to protect New Zealand’s biosecurity, we believe that responsibility for animals should lie with farmers.

If the rules go ahead as proposed, transporters would carry responsibility for carting untagged animals that do not have an exemption and would be subject to high-cost penalties attached to that.

RTF believes responsibility for animals lies with the people who are selling and buying them or the people at the animals’ end destination. Transporters are merely the middleman and should not be burdened with checking animals are tagged appropriately.

The Government is also suggesting that transport operators protect themselves by getting written assurance from farmers that all stock are tagged. RTF and the National Livestock Transport & Safety Group (NLTSG) are sceptical as to the practicality of this suggestion.

NLTSG Chair Don Wilson and RTF’s Mark Ngatuere have been holding a number of meetings around the country to gauge the views of the sector on the proposal and these will provide valuable feedback for us to take to Government.

RTF Conference

Finally, if you’re keen to attend the RTF Conference and the NZ Road Transport Industry Awards, it’s time to get your registration in. The Conference is being held at Wairakei Resort on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 September, with the NZ Road Transport Industry Awards gala dinner being held on the final night. Registration is still open at rtfconference.co.nz.

The early-bird special, which will save you up to $125 per registration, is still available. Accommodation bookings for Wairakei can also be made through the conference website. 

It’s also the last opportunity to submit nominations for the four NZ Road Transport Industry Awards:

  • VTNZ Supreme Contribution to NZ Road Transport
  • EROAD Outstanding Contribution to Health and Safety
  • Teletrac Navman Outstanding Contribution by a Woman in the Road Transport Industry
  • EROAD Young Driver of the Year (under 35).

Criteria can be found in the ‘events’ section of the RTF website.

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