National announces plans for infrastructure and transport

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Dec 2019, 4:45PM
Roads of significant importance will get an funding boost. (Photo / NZ Herald)

National announces plans for infrastructure and transport

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Dec 2019, 4:45PM

Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has promised that National will be the "party of infrastructure" if it wins power in next year's election.

He made the promise at the release of the party's infrastructure, transport and housing discussion documents in Auckland this afternoon.

Bridges has proposed that if he was Prime Minister, he would spend more on new roading projects across the country, establish new transport watchdogs in Wellington and Canterbury and to create a new Water Infrastructure fund.

National also wants to introduce a new congestion tax which, it says, would manage traffic flow.

In his speech this afternoon, Bridges admitted past Governments, including National, had not done enough when it comes to infrastructure.

"We've been too conservative as a country in the past in this area."

But he said that under this Government, infrastructure funding has stalled.

Bridges said that next year, National will unveil a full pipeline of infrastructure projects, but today it was just outlining a "sense of our ideas".

This comes after National was critical of the Government for failing to outline details of its planned $12 billion spend until next year, with Bridges calling it an election-year bribe.

Although supportive of more infrastructure investment, National has said borrowing more money to pay for it – the Government's scheme – is flawed.

Instead, National would use private capital and public-private partnerships to get the money to fund the projects.

But the centre-piece of National's transport proposal was a new set of roading projects.

In addition to completing the roads of national significance, which National began when it was in Government, it has proposed a "second generation" of roading projects.

National wants to upgrade 10 major roads to four-lane expressways across the country.

These include:

  • Whangārei to Warkworth
    • East West Link in Auckland
    • Cambridge to Tirau
    • Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai Ranges
    • Tauranga to Katikati, including the Tauranga Northern Link
    • Napier to Hastings
    • Levin to Sanson
    • Manawatū Gorge
    • Christchurch to Ashburton
    • Christchurch Northern Motorway: Belfast to Pegasus

National also wants to take another look at the way speed cameras operate.

"Many New Zealanders view random speed cameras as unfair and mere revenue gathering," the discussion document said.

National has proposed decreasing the use of random speed cameras, but increasing the number of speed cameras at high-risk areas.

When it comes to housing, the party has renewed its calls to repeal and replace the Resource Management Act (RMA), and to scrap KiwiBuild.

National has also thrown its support behind a rent-to-buy scheme – similar to the one proposed by the Greens.

The party also plans to introduce a dollar-for-dollar scheme with homeless shelters to either improve or expand their facilities and services.

National is also proposing regional transport authorities for both Wellington and Canterbury.

The authorities would operate along the lines of Auckland Transport, but potentially with more accountability following growing frustrations by Aucklanders at the behaviour of council controlled organisations, and AT in particular.

To do this the party is also considering the idea of a performance auditor, a body run by the council, to demand accountability from AT.

The idea for a regional transport authority has previously been called a show of no confidence in Greater Wellington Regional Council's ability to deliver transport measures.

"The bus fiasco in Wellington has indicated that the shared responsibility and the divided responsibility and accountability lines has not really worked," National's transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

"The city council blaming the regional council, the regional council blaming the city council and when that kind of expired they all put up their hands and blamed the New Zealand Transport Agency, and that's just not tenable."

It's not the first time the idea has been mooted for the capital following the tumultuous bus fiasco.
Former mayor Justin Lester tested the waters in the lead up to the campaign trail.

"I think everyone would agree the current transport model is not perfect, it's far from perfect, and we've seen that with the rollout of the bus changes over the course of the last year.

"It's also been very frustrating as mayor when you've got a whole lot of people relying on public transport, but you've got no direct involvement in the running of the bus services, only the ability to advocate."

Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Daran Ponter called for caution around the reasons for pursuing an authority.

The bus fiasco itself did not warrant the change, he said.

\"It's very easy to make mileage out of the very unfortunate situation the Wellington region found itself in relation to the new bus system last year- that system has largely come right."

Ponter said to some extent it didn't matter how the deck chairs were rearranged.

"Providing a single authority is not fundamentally going to get away from the fact that transport is a difficult area to provide for, there are many trade-offs to make."

AT had similar issues to Wellington around finding bus drivers and balancing demand and supply across the network, Ponter said.

He acknowledged the public was right to be sceptical of the regional council's ability to deliver in the wake of the past 18 months, but said the reality was it managed many other projects on behalf of the community well.

"We will rebuild trust in terms of how we manage public transport."