The Government must confirm whether it plans to entrust Greater Wellington Regional Council with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build a light rail network following the bus network shambles, National’s Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Today’s news of an impending strike by bus drivers underscores the mess the Regional Council has made of designing and implementing the city’s new bus network.
“The services are causing constant headaches for residents right across the city and have been since July. All the while industrial action has been underway, culminating in today’s vote to strike indefinitely.
“Faith in the Regional Council has been severely undermined, yet the Government is expected to soon announce it will write the Regional Council a taxpayer cheque for hundreds of millions of dollars to design and build a light rail network.
“How could the Government trust the Regional Council with so much money and responsibility when it continues to prove it can’t manage the city’s existing public transport?
“The Government has proven it will forge ahead with bad priorities even when it’s clear it should change tack. They’ve already announced they’ve pulled $5 billion out of state highways to fund pet rail projects of abysmal cost effectiveness.
“Taxpayers deserve value for money and the analysis is clear that the business case for light rail doesn’t stack up. Bus rapid transit is a much more cost effective solution and would secure a route that could be used for light rail in the future is the business case works – provided of course it could be competently managed.
“The Government must reassure the public it is not going to make a bad decision even worse.”
The decision to allow Clare Curran to retain any of her Ministerial portfolios after being dumped from Cabinet is a sign of weakness in the Government, National’s Government Digital Services spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“It’s almost comical that Ms Curran, who until today held the Associate State Services (Open Government) portfolio has failed not once but twice to answer Written Parliamentary Questions accurately.
“Her punishment is a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. She keeps her Ministerial salary and the all the perks that come with that despite demonstrating that she’s not capable of being a Minister.
“It’s not good enough that it took Ms Curran five and a half months to correct her answer to a written question and to finally acknowledge she met with Derek Handley, who had expressed interest in the Chief Technology Officer role created by the Minister.
“From a Minister who promised that this would be the most open and transparent Government in New Zealand’s history, this is a staggering failure of process.
“Ms Curran’s first indiscretion, the much publicised breakfast meeting with Carol Hirschfeld in December suggested Ms Curran was out of her depth, but this latest failure removes any doubt.
“So that makes the Prime Minister’s decision to allow Ms Curran to retain her Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Associate ACC portfolios all the more confusing.”
The Government must come clean on what its new transport plan and its focus on building a new tram in Auckland at the expense of regional roads means for the future of the important Petone to Grenada Link Road, National’s Chris Bishop and Brett Hudson say.
“The New Zealand Transport Agency has issued a project newsletter this week titled ‘Shift in government transport priorities prompts fresh look at P2G’ which confirms this important project is under serious threat, yet the Government has kept quiet on this,” Mr Bishop says.
“This is because the Government’s cuts to state highway funding to fund trams along Dominion Road in Auckland are now starting to bite, with residents of Ōhāriu and the Hutt first to be hurt.
“The Petone to Grenada Link Road would significantly add to regional roading resilience in Wellington, while unlocking productivity and commercial opportunities for the Hutt Valley. It would also ease congestion for residents of Ōhāriu and the Hutt traveling to and from Wellington.”
“It’s been estimated up to 20,000 vehicle movements per day could be transferred from State Highway 1 to the P2G link road,” Mr Hudson says.
“That would have a major impact on congestion along State Highway 1 from Tawa south to Ngauranga Gorge, benefiting the bulk of the population of Ōhāriu and freeing up traffic movements across the wider city.
“It needs to go ahead. P2G is a vital project and should be developed along with the Cross Valley Link road in the Hutt which would link to the east of the Hutt Valley where heavy industry is located, making it easier to do business and to get around.
“Now this vital project is under serious threat because of Labour’s new transport policy settings. The Government promised New Zealanders the balance wouldn’t be tipped too far in favour of Aucklanders at the expense of the rest of the country. That promise is looking increasingly hollow and they need to front up.”
The coalition Government is showing itself unwilling to listen to suggestions on improving the performance of regulators including the Commerce Commission, National Party Commerce and Consumer Affairs Spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The New Zealand Initiative has released a thoughtful report ‘Who Guards the Guards?’ based on responses from businesses. This follows on from recent Productivity Commission work on the same subject,” Mr Hudson says.
“The least Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi could do is read and consider the New Zealand Initiative’s work, rather than ignoring it as he has done.
“It questions whether or not the structure and governance of our large regulators are appropriate for the business environment of today, and includes a comprehensive survey of businesses and proposed changes.
“Instead of receiving the report as a constructive critique, Kris Faafoi in a recent interview has dismissed it out of hand.
“This need not be a highly partisan political subject. We are all interested in improving these organisations. Why is Mr Faafoi being so closed to positive change?
“Our regulators have important roles in protecting our markets, competition and consumers’ interests.
“How they are perceived to exercise their powers is important to their effectiveness and the performance of our markets.
“A Government focused on supporting the creation of jobs and lifting incomes would welcome feedback from all quarters, including businesses, on how to make our economy work more productively and how to support the economic growth that delivers jobs and incomes.
“It is unsurprising that business confidence is struggling in an environment where the Commerce Minister dismisses the ideas of business leaders as self-serving and unworthy of listening to.
“This is not the response of a Government which views businesses as partners in lifting jobs, incomes and prospects for New Zealanders. It is the response of a Government with a closed mind.”
Associate Transport Minister and Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter should explain why she doesn’t think roadside drug testing is a good way to reduce the road toll, National’s Associate Transport Spokesperson Brett Hudson and Police Spokesperson Chris Bishop say.
“For a Minister who claims to be serious about reducing New Zealand’s road toll to zero in just eighteen months’ time, why won’t Julie Anne Genter accept the advice of her own officials that roadside drug testing will reduce fatalities each year?” Mr Hudson says.
“Ms Genter says she doesn’t think roadside drug testing is the best investment of money to reduce impaired and dangerous driving, and reduce serious injuries and deaths.
“This is despite advice from officials at the Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Police that it would act as a deterrent and reduce the number of fatalities on our roads. What exactly makes Ms Genter think that she knows better than these experts?
“The technology previously wasn’t available to make roadside drug testing practicable in New Zealand. But there have been major advances and now is the right time to introduce it. That’s why Alastair Scott lodged a Member’s Bill to establish random roadside drug testing.”
Mr Bishop says frontline Police have seen the impact that drug drivers have and have told Ms Genter they need random roadside drug testing to keep our roads safer.
“But Ms Genter’s rebuff that Police should stop pushing for roadside drug tests and instead focus on more alcohol testing undermines and even discredits Police.
“Recognising and responding to the harm of drink driving doesn’t need to come at the expense of recognising the danger posed by drug driving. Police are more than capable of focusing on both.
“Roadside drug testing is a measure that will help save lives but Ms Genter appears to be putting her own ideology ahead of doing the right thing.”
Plans for light rail in Wellington at the expense of better regional roads are misguided at best, National Party Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Following the release of the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS), which strips billions of dollars out of regional roading funding, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester was quick to play up the prospects of light rail for Wellington.
“But this ignores the fact that while the GPS does show an increase in funding for mass transit at the expense of hugely important regional roads, this funding decreases over time. So much so it would be surprising if there was much left for rail after the Government’s pet Auckland tram project is fully funded.
“The business case for trams in Wellington is also weak.
“The Greater Wellington Region Council says light rail for Wellington would cost close to billion dollars and return as little as $47m in benefits.
“That’s why we need to focus on solutions that are actually going to help get Wellington moving, like the currently under construction northern routes and the planned investments in our southern corridor. But we don’t even know whether all of these will still go ahead.
“Bus Rapid Transit is also a lower cost alternative. That could be implemented now and route designations secured for light rail in the future, when the business case makes sense.
“Wellington needs investment to unlock its potential and to make the movement of people and goods more efficient. The Get Wellington Moving initiative initiated by the previous Government has identified opportunities for major improvements across all modes of transport around Wellington.
“It’s a once in a generation opportunity and it’s vital we get it right. If we’re going to ask taxpayers across New Zealand to contribute to Wellington’s transport, we owe it to them to make sure those investments return genuine economic benefits.”
National is seeking Government support for a law change that would see benefits cut to offenders who don’t comply with court-ordered community service, MP Brett Hudson says.
Mr Hudson currently has a Private Member’s Bill in front of the Social Services and Community Select Committee that seeks to provide the Department of Corrections with the option to request an offender on community service have their benefit reduced for non-compliance.
“We’re very surprised NZ First isn’t backing this Bill,” Mr Hudson says.
“New Zealanders expect people to comply with their sentences and it’s right that they would expect Parliament to support that.
“It’s disappointing that Government members cannot see the benefit in having a way to respond to a person’s failure to meet those obligations other than locking them up.
“Community sentences offer opportunities to offenders other than jail time. With those opportunities come responsibilities.
National Party Social Development Spokesperson Louise Upston says the Bill offers a very simple measure to ensure offenders comply with their community sentence.
“It’s consistent with the previous National led Government approach to welfare reforms, which places social obligations on those being supported by hard working taxpayers.
“It’s effectively another tool in the toolbox for Corrections. By offering an alternative management tool, this Bill would mean not subjecting offenders to the stigma of further prosecution.
“Community sentences are an important part of the justice system, however there is an expectation from the public that those who are sentenced, they will serve their sentence,” Ms Upston says.
My role as a Member of Parliament's Commerce Select Committee sometimes gives me a chance to visit places I'd not normally get to see up close and personal.
I was recently invited to visit Ngawha geothermal power station outside of Kaikohe, operated by Top Energy, a significant generator in the Far North. The plant generates about 70 per cent of electricity consumed in the region. Top Energy is also a lines company, providing transmission capability across the region.
We discussed its operations and historical regulation; for some time after the regulatory changes in the 90s, Top Energy was unusual in being both a generator and a lines company. It is concerned that proposed changes to the way transmission pricing is calculated will unreasonably increase its transmission connection costs. It also hopes to be allowed to beef up its generation capacity, capped at the moment because the company is both a generator and a lines company.
Interestingly, Top Energy is open to using its its infrastructure to provide better broadband coverage to rural Northland. My select committee is, at present, considering telecommunications legislation and has now called for public submissions on a proposal to allow the use of existing power poles and associated easements to install fibre across rural areas, providing connection capability to each property the lines cross.
From my point of view, the timing of my meeting with Top Energy couldn't have been better.
While in Northland, I was also able to meet Kerikeri honey producers Manuka Mountain Ltd. It's expanding as it's very bullish about its prospects. At present, it's a wholesale supplier, shipping large barrels of honey to packers for domestic consumption and for export.
The firm will shortly build a new factory and storage facility on its current site and plans to go into the honey-packing business at the same time, selling its own brand of retail honey goods.
Top Energy and Manuka Mountain weren't the only enterprises I was able to call on while in the north. I had time to visit Mt Pokaka Timber -- a sawmill, also in Kerikeri. The firm deals in rough-sawn timber products. The chief financial officer gave me a helpful hint: build houses with rough-sawn timber and save a fortune. I must tell Housing Minister Nick Smith ...
It was a wonderful trip up North and I thank Phil Walker, local MP Support, for organising the agenda.