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The draft 2018 government policy statement (GPS) on land transport prioritises safety, access to a wider range of transport options, the environment and value for money

Government releases draft GPS on land transport

The draft 2018 government policy statement (GPS) on land transport released on 3 April is an important step towards making New Zealand’s roads safer so the country’s appalling number of road deaths can be reduced, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

WEB EXCLUSIVE

The GPS helps guide investment in transport by providing a longer-term strategic view of what is prioritised and why. The draft GPS 2018 prioritises safety, access to a wider range of transport options, the environment and value for money. The government is seeking feedback from local government, the transport sector and community groups on this proposal.

“With road deaths increasing every year since 2013, this government is prioritising safety improvements. We’re going to invest in what makes the most difference – regional and local roads, and targeted improvements to the state highway network,” says Mr Twyford.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford: “We are proposing increases to most activity classes, with specific focus on regional roading improvements, state highway maintenance and public transport”

“The previous government did not spend enough on road safety, and instead wasted funds on a few low-value motorway projects. This has created an imbalance in what is funded, with a few roads benefitting at the expense of other areas. 

“This new approach requires a shift in transport investment. We are proposing increases to most activity classes, with specific focus on regional roading improvements, state highway maintenance and public transport, along with new investment in rapid transit and rail. This will help us create a resilient, efficient, safe and responsible transport system.”

Expenditure targets

The GPS 2018 covers the period 2018/19 to 2027/28 and sets out the government’s priorities for land transport. It proposes an expenditure target of $3.95 billion for the 2018/19 financial year, and allocates a total of $12.65 billion over the first three years (2018/19 to 2020/21) from the National Land Transport Fund. Engagement on the draft GPS closes at 5pm on 2 May.

These expenditure targets assume increases to fuel excise duty and road user charges. The government is considering increasing petrol excise duty by 3 to 4 cents per litre each year for the next three years (2018, 2019 and 2020). Revenue from road user charges will increase by an equivalent amount each year, but the exact rates for 2018/19 are yet to be confirmed. Changes to petrol excise duty and road user charges would likely take effect on 1 September this year, subject to government agreement.

The draft GPS 2018 continues to support critical transport connections that support economic growth and productivity by making the best use of the current network (through maintenance, resilience and demand management and mode shift), increasing network capacity to support planned growth, considering rail as part of an integrated last transport system, and increasing funding for local and regional road improvements and maintenance.

Fuel taxes have consequences

National Road Carriers Association, the nation’s leading road transport organisation, wants to see the benefits of the government’s proposed nationwide fuel tax, but warns it will have consequences. 

“We realise more investment is needed in transport infrastructure, but it is a case of what the priorities are,” says CEO David Aitken. “Our members may be prepared to pay an extra tax, but want to see tangible freight benefits. As the population grows and our big cities expand, there is going to be more demand for freight to be moved, and much of it can only be moved by truck. And more trucks need better, safer and less congested roads.”

National Road Carriers CEO, David Aitken: “Any increase in fuel taxes will ultimately be passed onto the end consumer”

While improving public and active transport is important, says Mr Aitken, the growth in road freight in the next 20–30 years will require more spending on roads, not less. “The current infrastructure is not coping – particularly in Auckland – and it is only getting worse. The proposals in the GPS offer little to improve the movement of freight – the life blood required to keep a city functioning.”

Mr Aitken says it’s not just the freight transport sector which will grow. “Look at all the tradesmen and courier vehicles on our roads. There are going to be more of them too. The civil engineering; commercial and residential building industries also create a lot of heavy transport movements, which are also increasing.”

Mr Aitken says that whatever the government finally decides to do, any increase in fuel taxes will ultimately be passed onto the end consumer, together with any increased administration costs. “The cost of just about everything a household consumes will go up,” he says. “Because most of it has a trucking component, the fuel tax will become a tax on freight.”


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