The Transport Minister must swallow his pride and sit down with Wellington’s new mayor to hammer out a Let’s Get Wellington Moving deal that people actually want, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“It is difficult to see Andy Foster’s election defeat of Justin Lester as anything other than a rejection of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package Lester cooked up behind closed doors with Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter.
“It didn’t deliver what Wellingtonians want or need. They cancelled the second Terrace tunnel and trenching of SH1, then Julie Anne Genter’s now infamous secret letter killed off a second Mt Vic tunnel anytime soon.
“Justin Lester tried to spin it as the ‘best deal possible’ but angry and frustrated Wellingtonians saw through this. That’s why he started pushing for progress on the Mt Vic tunnel during the campaign.
“Phil Twyford is fond of saying the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package has unanimous support from councils across the Wellington region. That is no longer the case.
“He must now do four things. First, return to the negotiating table and deliver a transport package Wellingtonians want. Second, exclude Julie Anne Genter from the process.
“Third, he needs to be upfront with Wellingtonians about the secret letter she sent to him and release it forthwith.
“Fourth, he needs to keep Welllington’s regional mayors into the loop this time, rather than just announce projects after only giving them a few hours’ notice.
“Phil Twyford can deliver an effective and popular Let’s Get Wellington Moving package, but only if he heeds the call sent by Wellingtonians during the mayoral election.”
Shane Jones has been so preoccupied with parading around the country making loud announcements while wearing hi-vis, he’s failing to deliver on his promises to hard-working New Zealanders, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Feedback around the country is that the Minister is quick with a big announcement, but very slow with actual money. Many businesses will be wondering if they’re ever going to receive their funding, with only $274 million actually paid out, out of the $2.46 billion that’s been allocated.
“If Shane Jones is going to spend it all by this time next year, he’ll have to spend $7.5 million a day.
“From the money he has actually paid out, close to $50 million has been spent on business cases and feasibility studies. The Minister is continuing the theme of this Government of spending lots on working groups, but not a lot on anything tangible.
“All the Provincial Growth Fund is doing is creating more jobs for bureaucrats in Wellington who write glossy reports, rather than delivering for the regions who are crying out for solid economic policy.
“Shane Jones likes to say talk is cheap, money is real, but it’s clear the Minister is big on talk and nowhere to be seen when it comes to delivering the cash.
“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions is just politics and doesn’t help anyone.”
The Government’s decision to kill off the four-lane Ōtaki to Levin expressway shows Labour’s neglect of New Zealand’s state highways knows no bounds, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This is a gut-punch from the Transport Minister to the people of Horowhenua and the thousands of New Zealanders who want a safe and efficient State Highway 1.
“If Phil Twyford is so concerned about the crash rate along SH1 from Ōtaki to Levin then why won’t he upgrade it to the same world-leading standard as Transmission Gully and the Kāpiti expressway?
“The local community deserves the quality four-lane expressway it has been crying out for. But instead it has been let down by a Transport Minister who, remarkably, believes there has been an over-investment in roads and motorways in this country for decades.
“Having certainty about Ōtaki to Levin’s future is cold comfort when the news is that it’s been pegged back from an expressway to a two-lane road that won’t be built for ten years.
“As Transport Minister, Phil Twyford has milked an extra $1.7 billion out of motorists through fuel tax hikes and extra GST, and has plundered billions more from the state highways budget to pay for his light rail pet projects in Auckland and Wellington.
“As a result, $5 billion less will be available to build the safer, high-quality highways this country desperately needs over the next decade.
“Regional New Zealand deserves more respect than it is getting from this Labour-led Government, which – thanks to the Green thumb Twyford is under – is ideologically opposed to building highways.”
National has an open mind about shifting Auckland’s port activity long-term but is sceptical about the process underpinning a recently-released report on the idea, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This looks like a political play by Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones to succeed in the north, and the worry is that this process is heading towards a pre-determined outcome.
“These decisions need to be based on sound economic analysis of what is best for the economic future of the upper North Island, not what best suits NZ First’s needs.
“There should be a proper process in place for these decisions to be made through the new Infrastructure Commission.
“I also wonder if the left hand is talking to the right hand. If you’re going to divert shipping, freight and logistics to Northland then a four-lane motorway between Whangarei and Auckland will be needed to unlock Northland’s economic potential.
“But the Government won’t do this because of Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s aversion to road building and his determination to throw billions at a slow tram down Dominion Rd.
“Decisions of this scale shouldn’t be made during the two weeks of a coalition negotiation. New Zealand’s infrastructure should be geared toward economic growth and free from political meddling, as it would be under a National Government.”
Shane Jones has crossed the line, yet again, with his latest threat to carry out utu against those who cross him, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister said the Minister’s language needed to be ‘much tighter’ we have Shane Jones threatening utu against the people who blew the whistle on him using the Provincial Growth Fund to buy votes.
“Mr Jones knows he can get away with saying whatever he likes, to whoever he likes, whenever he likes. It’s extraordinary that a Cabinet Minister is essentially immune from facing any consequences from such inappropriate words and behaviour.
“As usual, the Prime Minister’s remarks had no effect on him whatsoever. She has been humiliated, yet again, and must now show some leadership and censure her Minister.
“New Zealand’s system of Cabinet government relies on political punishment for errant behaviour. Being told to brush up on the Cabinet Manual while on holiday is the political equivalent of being slapped with a wet bus ticket.”
The Associate Transport Minister needs to give at least a thousand New Zealanders a decent answer as to why their contributions to the car tax debate were dismissed as nothing more than spam, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Julie Anne Genter’s ministry has made a mockery of the feebate public consultation by blocking at least a thousand submissions that were lodged via a website set up by National.
“A total of 1594 people made formal submissions through National’s website – many of them opposed to Labour’s car tax – and it appears only 500 or so got through before the Transport Ministry blocked the remainder because it considered them spam.
“We can’t have any confidence now that the views of all New Zealanders have been properly considered after the Ministry recorded those 500 submissions as one, completely skewing the public feedback.
“There was a real, unique, right-thinking person behind every one of those submissions, and for the Ministry to dismiss them because they echoed a similar message is disrespectful and disgraceful.
“Julie Anne Genter must fix this now by reopening public consultation on the feebate so that all New Zealanders can have their voices heard on this issue.
“If she doesn’t then the only conclusion we can draw is that she is incapable of listening to anyone who disagrees with her.”
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ reported comments to a forestry awards ceremony are constitutionally outrageous and deserve censure from the Prime Minister, National’s Regional Development Spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Mr Jones reportedly told the forestry industry they needed to vote for him or miss out on money from the Provincial Growth Fund.
“One person said Mr Jones’ comments during the course of the evening were an inducement to “bribery”, another thought he was “buying votes”, one said he had “hijacked” the evening looking for votes, and it was “pretty disgusting.”
“Yet again Shane Jones has conflated the advancement of his own political career (and the future of the NZ First Party) with his constitutional duties as a Minister of the Crown, who should act in the public interest.
“It is crass and inappropriate for Ministers to say things like “This is reciprocity. If you want it, back it.”
“This latest incident comes after Defence Minister Ron Mark told the No Duff Charity, who he had secured money for, “If all the Defence Force family threw us their party vote we’d probably be at 15 or 17 percent. The reality is I could be a bum in the next election.”
“NZ First seems to think the purpose of them being in Government is to extract money from the Cabinet and then shower it around the country like confetti to people who they think might vote for them. They have zero understanding of the public interest, and total understanding of New Zealand First’s interests.
“As Mr Jones is discovering, the two frequently do not collide.
“Sadly we know all too well from the last regrettable two years, the Prime Minister will do nothing about Mr Jones’ comments. He seems able to say whatever he likes, to whoever he likes, whenever he likes, with no sanction whatsoever.”
Phil Twyford needs to be honest about the fact that the Melling Interchange is still no closer to being built by his Government, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop says.
“The Minister’s comment in Parliament that the interchange has been ‘brought forward’ is comically depressing and shows how out of touch his Government is on transport in Hutt Valley.
“Earlier this year, National Party Leader Simon Bridges stood on the roadside at Melling and committed to starting construction of Melling in National’s first term if elected in 2020.
“There has been no such promise from Phil Twyford. All his Government has done is cut $5 billion from the state highway budget to pay for light rail in Auckland, pushing back Melling’s construction as a result.
“Funding Melling’s resource consent doesn't solve the problem of there being no commitment from the Government to fund its construction until 2029 at the earliest.
“Hutt Valley residents are rightly furious about that as the face the prospect of another 12 years, at least, of stewing in gridlock.
“In Parliament, I asked the Minister why the $313 million recently reallocated by NZTA from light rail into state highways had not gone towards projects that were scrapped or stalled by the Government, such as Melling, Ōtaki to Levin, the Tauranga Northern Link and others.
“Despite there being plenty of money in the kitty now because of Labour’s failure to deliver on its light rail promise, not one cent of reallocated money will go towards these projects.
“Phil Twyford has previously described these projects as having ‘very low economic value’. The people of Lower Hutt do not think Melling is of low value, and I will be campaigning hard to bring forward its construction.”
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
This is my second major speech as National’s new spokesperson for Transport, so what I’d like to today is outline our general approach to transport and infrastructure, and I’m very happy to take your questions.
National will be releasing a discussion document on transport and infrastructure soon. This will be the fifth discussion document we’ve released this year and comes after our very well-received document on the economy.
Not all the proposals in the documents will become policy. We’re deliberately putting some provocative and edgy ideas out there to see what people think of them.
As a party, we’re determined to do the work in Opposition now so that we can hit the ground running if we have the privilege of being elected to the Treasury benches
I think it’s now well accepted that this Government didn’t do that work in Opposition, and sadly New Zealand is now paying the price.
National is the party of infrastructure and we are proud of our record on transport investment. The last National government invested more in transport than any other government in New Zealand history.
We spent $12 billion on the first seven Roads of National Significance – transformational projects to connect our regions and unlock the potential of our cities, towns and provinces.
Nobody who has travelled through Auckland recently would get rid of the Waterview Tunnel. That’s National’s transport legacy to Auckland, alongside the Pūhoi to Wellsford project, the Western Ring Route, and Victoria Park Tunnel.
Down the road, the Waikato Expressway has created a much better and more efficient connection between our largest city and Hamilton.
The Tauranga Eastern Link has helped drive growth in one of our fastest growing regions.
And after fifty years of talk, National got on with the job of building Transmission Gully as part of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance. My prediction is that when it opens next year, everyone will wonder why it wasn’t done 50 years ago.
Our opponents say that National is just the party of roads. That rhetoric belies the reality.
A record $2 billion was invested in public transport under National from 2015 to 2017, and now public transport use is at record levels.
In June 2019 we hit a great milestone; Aucklanders made 100 million public transport trips in the past year, making it the biggest year for buses, trains and ferries in the city since 1951.
It was National, in fact Simon Bridges as Transport Minister, which got the City Rail Link in Auckland underway.
The CRL will be a transformational project for Auckland; and will spur further increase in train patronage alongside urban regeneration.
Likewise in Wellington, the rail network reached a new annual patronage high of 14.3 million passengers in June 2019.
It was under National that the new Matangi trains were bought for the Wellington commuter network. I care deeply about rail in Wellington. Ten thousand people from the Hutt, my electorate, get on a train to get to Wellington each morning, including, frequently, me.
It was National that committed immediately to rebuilding the South Island Main North Line after the Kaikōura quakes.
Finally, we invested $1.4 billion into KiwiRail over our time in office.
Our 2017 Agenda
National – again, Simon Bridges – took an ambitious transport plan to the 2017 election.
We promised to complete the original Roads of National Significance and invest $10.5 billion to build ten more.
We committed to important projects like four lanes from Auckland to Whangārei, the East West Link in Auckland, extending the Waikato Expressway from Piarere to the Kaimai Ranges and from Cambridge to Tirau, Tauranga to Katikati including the Tauranga Northern Link, Christchurch to Ashburton and Napier to Hastings.
We promised $267 million further for the Auckland and Wellington commuter networks, including electrifying the southern line to Pukekohe, building the third main line in Auckland, and double tracking the line from Trentham to Upper Hutt.
It was an ambitious agenda but one I am confident we would have delivered. Our track record speaks for itself.
The National Party is the party of infrastructure.
Labour’s record: Infrastructure at crisis point
Almost two years into this Government’s term of office, infrastructure is, to use the words of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, at “crisis point.”
Budget 2019 showed over $3 billion has been shaved off projected infrastructure spending since predictions made just six months earlier. This has been driven by ideology — a point blank refusal to build new roads.
The Government’s 2018 Government Policy Statement on Transport immediately forced the re-evaluation of 12 major roading projects around the country, including Petone to Grenada, Ōtaki to Levin, Cambridge to Piarere, and the East West Link.
In the case of the Tauranga Northern Link, the project was funded, consented, and out for tender. It would have upgraded one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the country and facilitated the growth in Omokoroa outside Tauranga and other areas.
$5.5 billion has been stripped out of the state highway budget and unbelievable as it sounds, not a single major new roading or infrastructure project has started under this Government, nor will any.
The other day in Parliament, Paul Goldsmith asked Grant Robertson if he could name one major project started under this Government. The list he eventually provided was comically depressing.
The Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger programme was announced by Transport Minister Simon Bridges in May 2017.
Dome Valley improvements were announced by Transport Minister Simon Bridges in May 2017.
The Kaeo Bridge and Loop Rd were – you guessed it – announced by Simon Bridges in May 2015.
Papakura to Bombay was announced by Simon Bridges.
You may be noticing a theme here.
The Opononi project he named is a worthy one – but is a $3.2 million sea wall.
Waipapa is a roundabout; and Takaka Hill is repair work following a weather event.
So there you have it. Even projects on the books are being whittled back.
As your CEO Nick Leggett has pointed out, at this late stage of the Manawatū Tararua Highway build – the Manawatū Gorge replacement – NZTA is proposing that what should be a full four-lane piece of highway will reduce to two lanes at a pivotal point, for three kilometres.
This is at the steepest point and will slow down trucks using the road, create congestion, and impact safety.
To make matters worse, a Stock Effluent Dump Site has not been included within the scope of works, despite strong support from industry.
I understand that a recent safety review of the design work says that going to one lane for a short section “reduces the perception that the new road is a motorway” and is “more in keeping with a rural look and feel for the road, to better fit in with the character of the landscape”.
This is ideology over common-sense.
As Nick says, this is a highway and first and foremost and it should be built properly.
The Government’s gutting of the roading budget is occurring at a time when the Reserve Bank Governor, the Prime Minister’s own Advisory Council, and New Zealanders are screaming at the Government to get spades in the ground.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford says New Zealand has “overinvested in roads for decades” while his Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter has made disparaging comments about “car fascists” on Twitter.
Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter need to stop showing contempt for New Zealand families and businesses that use roads around New Zealand every day.
According to the Treasury, currently $4.8 billion in projects are about to be completed but only $1 billion in projects are due to start.
With the country’s growth starting to slow sharply, the Government needs to listen to the experts and push go on transport projects around the country.
Instead, the Government’s policies are a disaster for civil construction.
The Business Advisory Council fears a construction cliff if work doesn’t get underway on new major projects soon.
Construction is 6 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP. It employs 250,000 people.
If we lose our roading capability it will constrain future governments’ ability to address the infrastructure deficit.
This is a real risk to our country’s economic growth. We can, and must, do better.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just announced a $100 billion roading and rail investment package across the ditch – they will need workers.
As the National Party’s Roads of National Significance programme is wound down by Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford, and with no new projects on the horizon, I know where they will come from.
Even when it comes to rail, like in so many areas, the Government has talked a lot, but done little.
What has happened to the third main line in Auckland? Nothing.
What has happened to electrification to Pukekohe? Nothing.
Auckland Light Rail
That brings me to light rail.
Light rail in Auckland was the flagship promise of Labour on the campaign trail in 2017 and now it has been included as part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan for Wellington.
The state highway budget has been cut by $5.5 billion over the next decade for these projects.
At the Auckland announcement, Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern said they had been advised it “was possible” to build the first tranche within four years at a cost of $1.3 billion from the CBD to Mount Roskill and $2.25 billion on to the Airport.
The cost has now ballooned to $4 billion, or possibly even $8 billion if you believe Shane Jones.
Project milestones have come and gone and we are still none the wiser.
Only next year will Cabinet consider two possible options for building light rail – the traditional procurement process led by NZTA or an audacious bid by NZ Infra, a joint venture between the New Zealand Super Fund and Canada’s CDPQ Infra group.
The idea of light rail to Mt Roskill by 2021 is now a fantasy and yet another example of Labour’s inability to deliver.
Light rail in Wellington, too, is on the slow track, much like the rest of the LGWM plan.
Our position on light rail
Let me be clear. We are deeply sceptical about the economics of light rail in both Auckland and Wellington.
National was advised that light rail didn’t stack up when it was assumed the cost was $2.3 billion in Auckland and around $700 million in Wellington.
This was the advice that Labour and the Greens based their election policies on.
No business case has ever been done for light rail and we now know the cost of the project in Auckland is much greater than initially thought, so the economics are now much more challenging.
So for now, and based on what we know, we remain unconvinced on light rail in Auckland.
National accepts that there will come a point that we cannot keep adding new motorways and adding lanes to existing roads that lead into our cities.
The great modern cities of the world all have active multi-modal transport systems where public transport, walking and cycling, and increasingly scootering, are ordinary, accepted, and valued parts of everyday life.
That’s the future that we in the National Party see for Auckland and Wellington and Christchurch. But is light rail really the answer?
In 2016, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport both commissioned a study that looked at the best ways to unlock the transport potential of Auckland. The study found that a bus-based solution would provide a credible approach over the next 20 years, up until the mid-2040s.
A bus–based solution has a number of major advantages.
First, it would allow us to start delivering transport solutions for Auckland almost immediately. The big advantage buses have over trams is that they run on roads and we already have roads - lots of them. Roads are also easy to build - we can do them more quickly that we can lay tracks.
Secondly, buses cost significantly less. A recent report from Treasury backed up the initial conclusions of the NZTA study and noted that we could save between 50-80% of the costs of light rail if we looked at road based solutions.
Perhaps the most significant and most important advantage is that the solution is flexible. Investing in a bus-based solution for Auckland would always allow us the option of transforming those existing roads into light rail in the future as long as we invested in building and protecting the public transport route (which the previous National Government was doing), but to do so at a pace that matched the demand for public transport and that allowed us to spread any additional costs over a longer period of time.
Finally, the problem with light rail is that we hard-wire our transport system by buying billions of dollars’ worth of train tracks and laying them down our streets.
In Wellington, the government has again made the political choice to go with light rail as part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving Plan.
This is despite the 2015 Wellington Public Transport Spine study showing that light rail had a BCR of 0.05 to 0.1.
The preferred option was bus rapid transit. Light rail is almost five times more expensive.
So all in all we are deeply sceptical of the government’s fetish for light rail.
Let me now turn to heavy rail.
National is not instinctively anti-rail, nor are we blindly in favour of it either.
Rail is challenging in New Zealand. Let’s be upfront about that. We have a long and thin country, and a small population.
When the National Government took office in 2008, Labour had recently purchased KiwiRail for $690 million. KiwiRail was not in a good state when taken over. Treasury had advised Government that this price was double the market value. An independent valuation by PWC later confirmed the Government had hugely over paid for KiwiRail. “The sale of the century” is what Toll Holdings called it, and they were right.
The advice National received on taking office was stark. Government was told to retreat to the main trunk line between Auckland and Wellington and the East Coast Main Trunk between Hamilton and Port of Tauranga.
National rejected this advice and invested in turning around rail in New Zealand. We invested around $1.4 billion in KiwiRail, before accounting for the Central Rail Link in Auckland and the Kaikoura recovery package.
This translates to capital investment of about $200 million per year compared to $25 million per year while in private ownership.
This investment represented a balanced approach. We recognised the strategic national value of a functioning rail line but had to make some hard calls where lines couldn’t be financially justified.
A key point to understand is that this funding all came out of the general Crown account. The National Land Transport Fund was only used to pay for projects that were signed off by NZTA and judged to be the best approach to addressing transport needs, and affordable within the Transport Agency’s budget.
Investments such as improved metro rail in Auckland and Wellington were approved by the Transport Agency and funded out of the transport fund.
The Labour/NZ First/Green Government is pumping hundreds of millions into KiwiRail through direct Crown contributions and through the Provincial Growth Fund.
A week or so ago Shane Jones put out a press release announcing $95 million to upgrade the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, and said it would have “significant benefits for Northland’s economy.”
Like many things Shane says, this seems to be based on hope rather than any particular analysis as 99 per cent of freight in Northland travels by truck, not rail.
We await the “Future of Rail” work that’s ongoing with interest. Likewise the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy work.
Finally, let me outline where we’re heading in terms of policy.
We will take a comprehensive and robust transport policy to the election, which you’ll hear more about next year.
In our economic discussion document released a month ago we flagged that we are interested in pursuing innovative approaches to infrastructure and transport investment.
The previous National government made some good progress with PPPs, SPVs and other mechanisms – think of the Transmission Gully project and Milldale's housing development – but we want to go further.
As a country, we've been too conservative in the past. We'll be open to funding innovations where they gets quality long-lasting infrastructure built more quickly.
We’re also open to using the Crown balance sheet and capital injections to get transformational infrastructure built more quickly.
We are very interested in exploring pricing mechanisms that will more efficiently manage the flow of traffic and are revenue neutral.
New Zealand is miles behind the rest of the world in terms of thinking creatively about these issues.
Some of these innovations will be politically challenging and technically difficult, given our policy immaturity with these issues. But we’re committed to getting started.
The next National government will be one seriously focused on the transport and infrastructure needs for the future of our country, building on the outstanding legacy of the John Key and Bill English administrations.
The current Government has dropped the ball and created an infrastructure crisis.
We’ll pick the ball up and run with hard by getting on with the job ahead of us all.
Phil Twyford has squandered a golden opportunity to turn his humiliating Auckland light rail backdown into a positive by redirecting funds towards the roading projects Kiwis are crying out for, National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“The Manawatū Gorge replacement is a no-brainer, but that alone won’t save New Zealand from falling off the infrastructure cliff the Transport Minister has pushed us to the edge of.
“Now that the Auckland light rail project won’t have spades in the ground until 2021, there’s $774 million in unspent funds that should be redirected towards any of a dozen big highway projects this Government has either scrapped or stalled.
“But instead, the Minister has sprinkled some cash on bridge upgrades and public transport improvements. These projects won’t be the infrastructure game-changer this country needs.
“New Zealanders can’t trust Labour on transport. It has milked $1.7 billion from motorists through fuel tax hikes and extra GST, and has given them no new infrastructure in return.
“Over the next decade, $5 billion less will be available to build the safer, high-quality highways this country desperately needs.
“National will rebalance the transport budget if elected in 2020, providing a wider variety of infrastructure that allows all Kiwis to get around the country quickly and safely.”