26 Sep 2023
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi rau rangatira mā.
Ka nui te mihi kia koutou.
Kia ora, and thank you all for coming to this significant announcement from National that will, in time, make daily life easier for New Zealanders in many regions.
It will also help make businesses more efficient but, even more than that, it will help drive the prosperity that we need to lift the standard of living of all New Zealanders.
Before we delve into the details, let me put today’s announcement in a wider context.
I’ve always said that my motivation for coming to politics was, on the one hand, my frustration at seeing New Zealand going in the wrong direction.
That frustration is exacerbated by understanding just how much capacity there is for us, as a country, to do so much better.
I don’t just mean incremental improvements, though goodness knows some would be welcome after years of going backwards.
But I’m really talking about a vision of how New Zealand could look, feel and be, a few decades from now.
National’s vision is for New Zealand to become one of the world’s leading smaIl advanced economies.
Our vision is a smarter and more prosperous country; a country that’s confident in being open to the world because it knows it can compete; a country that has amongst the highest educational standards and with a higher standard of living for all of us.
There is no reason that New Zealand cannot be that country.
But right now, many New Zealanders are worried and despondent and are simply focused on getting by day to day, or from one mortgage or rent payment to the next.
Those who think that it shouldn’t be so hard for people to get ahead when they are doing the right thing by working hard, paying their bills and getting their kids to school on time, are right.
It shouldn’t be as hard as it is.
But you can wish things were different, or you can make them different. Making them different, is why I came to politics.
Making them different is why National will go into this election with arguably the most comprehensive manifesto of any party in recent times.
Drivers of Prosperity
Making things different is also why National will employ the five drivers of prosperity to get New Zealand where it needs to go.
Briefly, those five drivers are:
- Education & Skills – You’ll be aware of National’s policy to teach an hour a day of maths, reading and writing to every child, because that will set up our kids, and our country, well for the future.
- Technology, Capital and Innovation - because new and emerging technologies are transforming our lives at an unprecedented pace and New Zealanders need the tools to stay on top and to add higher value to the New Zealand products and services we sell to the world.
- Business - Next is the predictable and consistent regulatory environment needed for people to have the confidence to invest in new and existing businesses. It’s growing businesses that create job opportunities and higher wages that will help people get ahead.
- International Connections - New Zealand will only get rich by trading with the 8 billion people living in 195 countries on Earth. And as a small, isolated economy, we should be doing whatever it takes to attract investment to pay for the things we can’t afford to pay for ourselves. Instead, we have the most restrictive regime for foreign investment in the entire OECD.
- The fifth driver of prosperity – and the one that we’re focusing on today - is modern and reliable infrastructure.
National will not waste public money. Someone earned it and we’ll treat it with respect. But that doesn’t mean that a National government is not going to invest. We certainly will, and one area of significant investment will be to peg back New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit.
Modern well-maintained infrastructure will make all our lives easier, businesses more productive, logistics more efficient, and ultimately, make New Zealand more prosperous.
That in turn means we’ll be able to deliver more of the things that New Zealanders want, and expect the Government to provide. I mean things like better cancer drugs, better hospitals and more environmental protection.
I absolutely believe that New Zealand can be a stellar country, confident in itself, and world-leading in many fields.
I think that not just because I’m an optimistic person - although I am - but because, as a country, we have so much going for us.
But we have to make it happen.
So, there’s going to be a mindset change under National. We’re going to rediscover New Zealand’s mojo, ambition and aspiration.
As a government, we’re going to get things done. We’re going to be nation builders. We’re going to create a sense of momentum to take New Zealand forward.
Underpinning everything, and our top priority, is managing the economy well because that’s how we’ll bring the cost of living under control.
We’re going to restore law & order and a lot has been said on that recently.
And Ministers in a government I lead will have targets in health and in education and they’ll be accountable for achieving them.
National will make investments that have rewards in greater productivity.
For decades, New Zealand has had a productivity problem and one element of it relates to our transport networks and supply chains.
New Zealand has a relatively sparse population across a difficult topography. And we are not as wealthy a country as we could be. You don’t even have to get off State Highway 1 to see the problem. Many parts of State Highway 1 and other key regional roads are not dual carriageways and if you’re behind a logging truck approaching a big hill, you just sit tight and hope for a passing lane.
That’s not the only way our roading infrastructure deficit manifests itself.
There are chokepoints in various places. And the road maintenance is poor and National recently announced a new fund to improve that, if we become the government.
Most people want to live where good transport routes are easily accessible.
With a huge housing and roading deficit, it makes sense that where we can, we plan new housing areas and roading corridors together. I’m not talking about suburban streets, but highways that open up potential housing areas with smooth transport connections.
So, for various reasons, New Zealand’s roading network needs a step change.
National will be the government that delivers it.
National has a strong legacy of delivering infrastructure that makes a difference. All of you here could tell me the benefits of the Waikato Expressway. I certainly heard it from a vet who said she can do a couple of extra jobs a day and get home to her kids at a reasonable hour, because of the Expressway.
When I led Air New Zealand, I saw the difference the Waterview Tunnel made because at Auckland Airport we needed part-time staff like baggage handlers at peak times. Once Waterview opened, it was far easier to get members of the team to the airport on time and, for Aucklanders, a job at the airport became more attractive.
So big roading projects make a real difference to the choices people make.
National is the party that delivers infrastructure. National gave New Zealanders ultra-fast broadband, we started the Auckland City Rail Link and we rebuilt Christchurch, including its motorways.
We get things done and a National government I lead, will pick up the momentum from where we left off.
Transport for the Future
That brings me to today’s announcement which is bold and comprehensive. It will have an impact for generations.
Our plan is called Transport for the Future.
It has three categories.
The first is Roads of National Significance. Yes, we’re bringing back the hugely successful programme started under the last National government that delivered some of New Zealand’s fastest and safest roads. Some of the next generation of Roads of National Significance will not only get Kiwis faster and more safely to where they want to go, but will unlock opportunities for tens of thousands of new houses.
The single most ambitious long-term project of Transport for the Future is our vision of a four-lane highway from Tauranga to Whangārei. Most of our imports and exports arrive and leave in the so-called “golden triangle” and a faster and safer road linking ports and cities will drive growth and efficiency in the upper North Island.
By the time that road is complete, I expect most of the vehicles using it will be electric or running on other clean fuels as we move to meet our climate change commitments by reducing emissions. But whatever the fuel or the vehicles of the future, the need for a resilient and safe roading network will be there.
Take a moment to imagine the choices you might make with a well-maintained, four-lane highway smoothly linking Tauranga, Hamilton, Auckland and Whangārei.
Secondly, we’re planning better public transport infrastructure, mostly in Auckland because the best returns for public transport are in cities with the greatest population density. We’ll welcome overseas partners to get it built.
Thirdly, today’s package is about rebuilding stressed regions and improving resilience, with plans for roads in areas of known vulnerability.
I’m now going to hand over to National’s Infrastructure and Housing spokesman Chris Bishop and Transport spokesman Simeon Brown to fill out some details of this multi-billion-dollar transformative transport plan.
I want to savour this moment because, in National, it’s a rare day that we get to announce major new spending but when we do, you know that we’ve put a lot of thought into ensuring it’s something that matters and something that will make a difference.
Infrastructure like roads, airports, schools and hospitals, certainly matter. It matters to National, and it matters to New Zealanders. Infrastructure that’s modern and well-maintained sets developed countries apart from developing countries.
Infrastructure is one of those things that when it’s working well, scarcely anyone notices but when it’s not working, everyone complains.
We’ve already announced our Local Water Done Well policy, which is our plan to replace Labour’s Three Waters policy debacle.
We’ve also announced our plan called Electrify NZ which aims to boost the supply of renewable energy by making it far easier to get those projects consented or, in some cases, removing altogether the requirement for consents.
With more renewable energy, we can all switch with confidence to electric cars and electric power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve also announced a 5-point plan to boost infrastructure in New Zealand for years to come. We’ll create a National Infrastructure Agency and its role will be connecting domestic and offshore investors with New Zealand infrastructure projects. This is something that, as Christopher mentioned, New Zealand currently does poorly. However, there is plenty of capital both at home and offshore looking for places to invest and New Zealand has been slow in leveraging the expertise of experienced global infrastructure investors.
We have a huge deficit of infrastructure, we can’t afford to build it all ourselves, so it makes sense to reduce the burden on taxpayers by using off-shore investment where we can.
So our plan includes innovative funding and financing tools and creating investment opportunities for ACC, the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver funds, as well as investors offshore.
We’ve already said there’ll be City and Regional Deals to partner with local government to create long-term pipelines of regional projects. We’ll also bring in a fast-track consents process to make it easier to build the infrastructure needed for the future, and a 30-year infrastructure pipeline to deliver long-term certainty, enable more effective planning, and reduce project costs.
On top of those earlier announcements, we’re today announcing $24 billion of investment in a modern world-class transport network using a variety of funding sources.
Many regions will benefit, and so will millions of New Zealanders and the supply chains that move imports and exports and the consumer goods we all rely on.
Just think back to the Great Covid Toilet Paper Crisis to be reminded of the importance of supply chains.
National doesn’t just talk. We build things. In addition to some of the projects Christopher mentioned, National started Wellington’s Transmission Gully which has been transformative for people driving between the capital city and the Kapiti Coast.
I wear two hats as Infrastructure spokesperson and Housing spokesperson and I want to mention four specific highways we’re announcing today that will be built using a combination of Crown funding and innovative funding methods, to unlock areas of housing growth.
If New Zealand is to solve its housing affordability problems, thousands of extra homes are required, and greenfield housing developments must be part of the solution.
We will enable greater use of value capture and cost recovery tools, as happens regularly overseas, to fund major state highways planned specifically to unlock tens of thousands of new homes in growing cities.
Let me be more specific.
Those roads are, firstly, the 21km Southern Links project in Hamilton with the potential for up to 20,000 new homes in the Peacocke growth area.
Secondly, the Petone to Grenada Link between the Hutt Valley and Porirua with development opportunities for up to 5200 new homes, and a new interchange at the key bottleneck of Petone.
Third is the Tauriko West State Highway 29 in Tauranga which will eventually form part of the Whangārei to Tauranga Expressway, with up to 18,500 new homes alongside retail and industrial developments in Tauranga.
The fourth road is the North West Alternative State Highway in one of the fastest-growing areas of Auckland near Kumeū. The current roading network simply can’t match the projected growth of an additional 100,000 people.
All these roads are in the early stages of planning.
By partially funding the roads through revenue provided by the developers who ultimately benefit from those roads, we’ll be able to build projects earlier than if they had to wait for solely for Crown funding.
For example, the planned State Highway 29 upgrade at Tauriko in Western Tauranga would turn a current chokepoint into a four-lane expressway, with side road access to unlock the potential to build 18,500 new houses. That upgrade directly benefits housing developers so they should contribute to building the road that unlocks that value. By using growth to pay for growth, that road could go ahead sooner than the current plan, which won’t see a new road for decades.
National is serious about making journeys faster and safer for New Zealanders going about their daily lives. We’re serious about making businesses more efficient and productive, and we’re serious about unlocking housing growth.
As outlined, this is a comprehensive package of projects because New Zealand has an extensive infrastructure deficit so we’re committing significant new spending to help catch up and to set New Zealand up for the 21st Century.
We’re not going to be able to start all these transport projects in our first term because New Zealand simply doesn’t have the capacity for that. But it’s important to have intentions well signalled because it affects investment decisions not just in the projects themselves.
Construction companies and contractors need to see a pipeline of work to invest in the development of skills and expertise. Signalling investment also affects related projects like housing developments, or freight hubs, and many others.
As Christopher said, our long-term vision is a four-lane highway from Tauranga to Whangārei. This will be constructed in stages. In our first term we will start on the road between Whangārei and Port Marsden, creating an efficient four-lane corridor for freight to and from the port and for local traffic.
Up to 25,000 vehicles use this road each day and it has a terrifying safety record with 22 people having lost their lives and 73 people having been seriously injured in crashes along this stretch of highway in the past 10 years.
This investment is well overdue but Labour, for ideological reasons, preferred a rail spur, even though a good road will benefit more people. So, we’ll switch the focus to a road and get this highway under way in our first term.
As part of the new upper North Island connector highway, we are also planning a Warkworth to Wellsford Expressway and a Cambridge to Piarere Expressway – the next logical extension to the Waikato Expressway.
Along with the highway to Port Marsden, the three projects have a combined estimated cost of $4.2 billion to be paid for by re-prioritising spending from the National Land Transport Fund, and new Crown investment. A fourth part of the project is the Tauriko West State Highway 29 project in Tauranga that Chris Bishop mentioned.
We are planning the first stage of the proper Mill Road corridor between Manukau and Drury, which Labour committed to during the last election campaign in 2020, then backed out of a year later. Well, National is committing to it, right here, right now. And unlike Labour, we won’t be cancelling it this time next year.
The other priority project for Auckland is the East-West link between Onehunga and Mt Wellington, which will take significant pressure off Auckland’s motorway network and our freight supply chain which relies on efficient roads to move goods around the city.
In Tauranga we’ll do Stage Two of the Takitumu North Link, extending State Highway 2 from Te Puna to Omokoroa.
In Wellington, we’ll double the Mt Vic tunnel capacity, alongside upgrades around the cricketing world’s favourite roundabout – the Basin Reserve – to ease the flow of traffic at this notorious chokepoint and reduce travel times significantly between the Eastern Suburbs and Wellington CBD.
This will also include benefits for buses, cyclists and walkers with upgraded facilities in the new tunnel for walkers and cyclists.
In the South Island, we’ll build the Hope by-pass to reduce congestion in Richmond, near Nelson, and, in Christchurch, the Belfast to Pegasus Motorway, including the Woodend Bypass.
The second part of our plan is to deliver better public transport, mostly in Auckland where the benefits will be greatest. We’re scrapping Labour’s phantom Light Rail project and replacing it with a comprehensive Auckland Rapid Transit network to increase public transport choices, unlock housing growth and connect to the City Rail Link.
The rapid transit network will comprise a Northwestern Rapid Transit Corridor, an Airport to Botany Busway and completion of the full Eastern Busway. All will reduce the number of private cars on the roads, and therefore lower greenhouse gas emissions from transport.
We’ll use our new National Infrastructure Agency to seek and assess proposals from global investors to build, own and operate the Northwestern Rapid Transit system with the mode and specific route to be determined through the tender process.
I note that today in Montreal, the first section of their brand new REM system opens. It’s metro rail that has been built using private equity – mostly from a Canadian pension fund – and the first section, with six stations, have been delivered in five years – less time than Labour has talked about light rail for Auckland and delivered nothing.
In exchange for providing the upfront construction costs, Canada’s backers of the Montreal project get the revenue generated from operating it. These are the kinds of models we will look at for Auckland.
These types of investments are popular with overseas pension funds looking for reliable long-term returns. We should be open to exploring this funding model here in New Zealand.
The rail part of our public transport package features a range of upgrades to the lower North Island rail network, including new rolling stock, and infrastructure upgrades in Wellington, Manawatu and Wairarapa.
The third part of our announcement today is signalling new investment to rebuild regions and improve resilience in areas impacted by recent weather events, including Cyclone Gabrielle.
These use the $6 billion allocated in this year’s Budget for reconstruction of transport infrastructure in affected regions, but with no detail about which transport projects will get the go ahead.
National will honour the commitments the Government has made to rebuild infrastructure in the regions hit by Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year. But with storms expected to increase in frequency and intensity because of climate change, we should also take this opportunity to invest in greater resilience, while also working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Our North Island priorities are 4 laning the Hawkes Bay Expressway which became effectively the only main road through Hawkes Bay post cyclone, a Brynderwyn replacement road, and upgrades to both the Napier/Taupō and Napier/Gisborne highways to make them safer and more resilient in the face of future weather events.
In the South Island, we’ve already announced our commitment to a new Ashburton Bridge, and today we’re announcing that we’re setting aside $100 million for roading priorities in the fast-growing Queenstown area where infrastructure is not keeping pace with growth. A further $100 million is being allocated for bridge replacements in Otago and Southland.
On top of these announcements, we’re reconfirming our commitment to many existing projects for which funding has already been allocated. You can see them in more detail on the big map.
In addition, there are a range of transport projects around the country that have not yet been fully investigated by NZTA.
The most noteworthy is a second Waitematā Harbour crossing in Auckland. We agree it should be started by the end of this decade and we await NZTA findings on options. In government, National will ask the National Infrastructure Agency to identify options for private funding to reduce the upfront cost to taxpayers.
A National government will task NZTA with looking into a number of other potential projects including removing level crossings on Auckland’s rail network to improve traffic flows and safety, a third bridge over Waikato river, safety improvements on SH1 between Taupō and Waiouru and an expressway between Christchurch and Ashburton.
In total, the new projects we’ve talked about today will require a total investment of around $24 billion over 10 years.
To pay for this forward-looking and substantial package we will use a range of funding sources including allocations over 10 years from the National Land Transport Fund and reallocations from three existing New Zealand Upgrade Progamme projects as well as leveraging private funding through new models like equity financing with value capture and cost recovery, tolls and congestion charging.
It's a privilege to be sharing in the announcement of such a significant package.
After years of inaction by Labour, a National government is going to get things done, and infrastructure that benefits individuals, families, businesses and the whole economy, is an absolute priority.
One of National’s principles in infrastructure is that it’s long-term investment for long-term gains. We need to be talking about these projects well ahead of time so people have an early understanding of what’s being planned.
We’re also telling New Zealanders today that a National government will be serious about enhancing the roading and public transport networks that, one way or another, we all depend on.
I said at the beginning that I came to politics to make my contribution to help turnaround New Zealand. I want to get it moving in the right direction with investment, positivity, and an unwavering belief that we can be and will be a wealthier, more confident, more successful country.
Infrastructure is a tool to unlocking growth and prosperity. It’s also a practical improvement that makes New Zealanders’ daily lives easier and, finally, it’s a symbol of cities, regions and nations that are successful, confident and ambitious.
That’s the New Zealand we all want to be part of and this comprehensive plan we’ve announced today, will help achieve it.
Thank you all.