Phil Twyford can sack as many board members and go through as many Chief Executives as he likes but no problems will be solved until he accepts that he and the Government’s policies are the problem, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
Minister of Transport Phil Twyford this afternoon sacked the entire New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) board, apart from the Chair, appointing five new members with two more to come.
Mr Twyford is already onto his third Chair and the Chief Executive position remains vacant.
“Transport is a disaster area for this Government. The Prime Minister’s own handpicked Business Advisory Council says we are facing ‘an infrastructure crisis’ and no new major projects have started under this Government.
“The Government has cancelled or delayed 12 major roading projects around the country, some of which were ready to go when National left office, and has caused huge uncertainty for the construction sector.
“The willingness to fire five board members in a single day severely undermines the ability of the NZTA board to fulfil its functions.
“How can a mass clean out of the NZTA board improve this disastrous situation? There will be a mass loss of institutional expertise and knowledge.
“Mr Twyford needs to realise his policies are the problem, not the board members.”
News that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is considering redirecting $313 million from light rail to state highways because of the Government’s bungled delivery of the Auckland light rail project, is positive, but needs to go further and faster, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has received five papers since February about reallocating money from light rail to highways and admitted in Parliament on Tuesday the NZTA is looking at $313 million being reallocated. This can’t happen quickly enough given the infrastructure crisis created by the Government’s inept handling of the transport portfolio and broken promises around light rail.
“While Kiwis have been paying more at the pump through increased fuel taxes, critical roading projects around the country have been delayed or cancelled. Some of them were already ready to go when National left government in 2017.
“Instead, the money has been piling up for light rail to Mt Roskill which was meant to be complete by 2021 but which Cabinet will not even start making decisions on until 2020.
“The Prime Minister’s so-called ‘Year of Delivery’ has been a joke when it comes to transport. Not a single major project has started under this government and the Prime Minister’s own hand-picked Business Advisory Council says we are facing an ‘infrastructure crisis.’
“Infrastructure companies are warning we are on the edge of a construction cliff.
“Is a transport ‘reset’ coming, a la KiwiBuild?
“Mr Twyford has made a hash of this portfolio, just as he did with Housing. He has an ideological aversion to building new roads and is incapable of delivering on his and the Prime Minister’s promises on light rail.”
Labour’s broken promise on Auckland’s light rail has provided a silver lining in the form of $774 million in unspent transport funds that could be used to solve our infrastructure crisis, National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Now that the Auckland light rail project won’t have spades in the ground in 2020, money must be redirected towards vital highways the Government has either scrapped or stalled.
“A whopping $774m has been earmarked for light rail in the Auckland Regional Transport Plan through until 2020-21, $455m of which is from the National Land Transport Fund.
“Rather than just sit on this fund paid for by motorists, the Transport Minister should spend it on ready-to-go projects that communities are crying out for.
“He could push go now on the Waihi to Tauranga Corridor, which includes the Tauranga Northern Link. At a cost of $520 million, Treasury has advised it is ‘market ready’.
“Or he could ask Auckland Council to bring forward improvements to Mill Road and Penlink, which could both be paid for with the cash not being spent on light rail.
“There’s also the $150m Melling Interchange in Lower Hutt waiting to be built, or the Ōtaki to Levin expressway.
“This needs to happen for the sake of the economy. The light rail delay has stalled NZTA’s building programme for up to 18 months, prompting dire warnings from Treasury about the future of the construction sector.
“The KiwiBuild fiasco Phil Twyford oversaw demonstrated how little Labour’s promises can be trusted. Light rail was Labour’s other big election promise and it’s heading the same way.
“The Government needs to fix this transport mess now, rather than wheel out Megan Woods in 12 months’ time to apologise, yet again, for Phil Twyford’s mistakes.”
Transport Agency officials have confirmed Phil Twyford acted against their advice when he delayed construction of Wellington’s second Mt Victoria Tunnel, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“After three years of planning, public consultation and promises that Wellingtonians would decide their own transport future, the Transport Minister put a pin in all that.
“It was disappointing to hear NZTA Interim Chief Executive Mark Ratcliffe tell the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee that the decision to delay the second Mt Victoria Tunnel until the 2030s was outside the agency's control.
“He described NZTA as a ‘delivery agency’ for Let’s Get Wellington Moving rather than a partner in the process, which tells you just how much regard Twyford has for his officials.
“Now we know the final LGWM indicative package was a stitch-up behind closed doors between Ministers and Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, without any NZTA input.
“NZTA’s advice was to build the Mt Victoria Tunnel ‘sooner rather than later’ but Phil Twyford brushed this off. He valued his own political ideology – and whatever was in that secret letter from Julie Anne Genter – above the will of the people.
“This transport package is costing the country $6.4 billion and a second Mt Victoria Tunnel was the second-most popular project with the public, but that obviously counted for little.
“Tunnels under Te Aro and the Basin Reserve for State Highway 1 traffic, as well as an extra Terrace Tunnel, were also on the public’s top ten list, but got canned altogether.
“Wellington deserves better than a Government that’s proven it can’t be trusted on transport.”
Labour’s car tax will not only force some car buyers to pay thousands more, it will have a near-zero impact on emissions as well, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Ministerial advice released under the Official Information Act shows Treasury understands what Julie Anne Genter seemingly does not – that her Government’s car tax is bad policy.
“Treasury warned the Government that implementing a car feebate would create a ‘double burden’ for those needing to buy higher-emitting vehicles, such as double-cab utes, while creating a ‘double benefit’ for those able to buy low-emission and electric vehicles.
“National could see from the outset that it wasn’t fair to make families pay thousands more for a used seven-seater van while wealthy executives got discounts on a Tesla Model 3 or BMW i3.
“We warned the Associate Transport Minster – and it turns out Treasury did as well – but she didn’t listen and pushed ahead with plans to foist her tax on New Zealanders anyway.
“Treasury also revealed Genter’s plan would reduce emissions by just 0.09 per cent over 20 years. It’s not worth forcing New Zealanders to pay up to $3000 more for some vehicles just to reduce emissions by such a miniscule amount.
“New Zealanders can’t trust the Labour-led Government on tax, nor can it trust the Greens on transport because all they want to do is ban cars and punish Kiwis for driving.
“Julie Anne Genter has already dismissed Treasury’s advice as ‘wrong’. That’s the kind of Ministerial arrogance New Zealanders can do without when it comes to the economy.
“National believes financial incentives, not penalties, are the best way to support this country’s shift to electric vehicles. Policies introduced by the last Government saw the number of EVs on our roads jump from 1406 in May 2016 to 14,867 in June 2019 as we pushed towards our goal of having 64,000 EVs in the country by 2021.”
National is considering new approaches to infrastructure funding and procurement as we run the ruler over our policies heading into 2020, National’s Infrastructure and Transport spokespeople Paul Goldsmith and Chris Bishop say.
“We are open to new, innovative funding mechanisms ranging from commercial revenue schemes, partnerships with the private sector and capital injections from general Government spending,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Not only has the Government failed to deliver more infrastructure, the infrastructure it has prioritised is low quality. The failure to deliver a high quality infrastructure plan has destroyed confidence in the construction sector and contributed to New Zealand’s slowing economy.
“We have already committed to overhauling the RMA to make it more efficient and predictable. This will mean that rules are clear and well defined, outcomes adequately balance costs, and benefits and timeframes are short and consistent.”
“The Government has stopped or postponed a dozen roading projects, which were ready to get underway, and replaced them with projects that aren’t ready to go and won’t be for a long time yet,” Mr Bishop says.
“We are also open to exploring pricing mechanisms that will help to efficiently manage the flow of traffic and are revenue neutral.
“In short, National will revive the economy by having a plan for growth that would see confidence bounce back and the economy gain the strength it’s lost under this Government.
“We have shown our commitment to building more roads through our Roads of National Significance. We will build more roads and get New Zealand moving again.”
National’s Economy Discussion Document can be found here
Documents released by Treasury reveal why vital new roads across the country are being scrapped or stalled – because Labour’s trains have swallowed up the transport budget for the next ten years, National’s Transport spokesman Chris Bishop says.
“The next decade will be tough for Kiwis who drive because they won’t be getting much in the way of new highways from this Government, despite paying billions in new taxes.
“Recently-released Budget documents show Labour, the Greens and NZ First have – in just two years – fully committed the transport budget for the next decade to pay for their extravagant pre-election rail promises.
“In other words, if their investment in a handful of rail projects goes ahead, it will mean no new highways for ten years.”
“Since becoming Transport Minister, Phil Twyford has plundered the fund topped up by motorists’ fuel taxes and road user charges to the point where $3.5 billion less will be spent on state highways over the next six years, according to Treasury.
“Over the next decade, $5 billion less will be available to build the safer, high-quality highways this country desperately needs.
“This explains why a dozen new highways that were progressing under National have either been cancelled or pushed back until the 2030s, including the Mill Road Corridor and Penlink in Auckland, the Tauranga Northern Link, Ōtaki to Levin north of Wellington, and Christchurch to Ashburton.
“This has stalled NZTA’s building programme for up to 18 months, prompting warnings from Treasury that there won’t be any projects ready to go when National’s roads are finished.
“This would be devastating for the economy as the workforce on these projects may leave construction, or move to Australia where they’re spending $100b on transport infrastructure.
“Motorists will feel justifiably angry. This Government has milked $1.7b out of them through fuel tax hikes and extra GST, but they’re getting no new infrastructure in return.
“That’s because the Government can’t make rail stack up economically. Labour thought Auckland’s light rail to Māngere would cost $2b before the last election, now it’s heading towards $7b with no start date in sight.
“National will rebalance the transport budget if elected in 2020, providing a wider variety of transport infrastructure that ensures all Kiwis can get around the country quickly and safely.”
The full Treasury report can be found here
The Green Party has made its stance on petrol-fueled cars very clear; not only does it want to tax people who drive them, it would outlaw them altogether if it could, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Cabinet papers released under the Official Information Act reveal the Greens were working on a law change to ban fossil fuel vehicles from entering New Zealand by 2035.
“Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter can play this down, but the fact a Cabinet paper was produced shows she was working behind closed doors to change the law.
“Reducing emissions from our vehicle fleet is an important step in the fight against climate change. But it would be irresponsible to make petrol cars illegal so soon without a solid plan to help people into electric vehicles.
“Sadly, this Government thinks the best way to do that is to penalise Kiwis for buying petrol-fueled cars regardless of whether or not they can afford an electric vehicle, or whether models exist that can cater to their needs.
“The best way to green our vehicle fleet is to incentivise, not penalise, the purchase of low-emission cars. Legislating higher-emitting vehicles out of the fleet will force many New Zealanders to retain them because they can't afford to switch.
“Now that we know a law change to ban petrol cars is being kicked around at the highest levels of Government, the Minister needs to be honest with New Zealanders about whether such a move will happen at any point in the future.”
The Cabinet papers can be found here
The mind-boggling prospect of no new major transport projects starting in this term of Government is now very real after Phil Twyford revealed Auckland’s light rail has been delayed even further, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“You can chalk up another broken promise for the Transport Minister after he told Infrastructure NZ’s Building Nations Symposium that the business case for Auckland’s $6 billion slow tram to the airport won’t be considered by Cabinet until next year.
“That means there won’t be enough time to get it started before the election, leaving Phil Twyford with nothing to show for his term as Transport Minster except broken promises.
“The Twyford era of non-delivery is becoming laughable. He’s already made a hash of Labour’s pledge to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes, and lost his housing portfolio as a result.
“Light rail was Labour’s other big election promise. They said it could be delivered to Mt Roskill in four years but that won’t be possible now.
“The business case was supposed to be completed by November 2018. The delay suggests the Minister can’t stack up an economic argument for spending that much taxpayer cash.
“Phil Twyford has single-handedly destroyed any credibility the Government had when it came to infrastructure.
“While this news is disappointing for Auckland commuters, it’s also a massive blow to the construction sector, which employs 250,000 people and generates six per cent of our GDP.
“Labour’s decision to stall or cancel a dozen transport infrastructure projects that were ready to go under National, while he mucks around with light rail, has left the sector with nothing new to work on, pushing this country to the brink of an infrastructure crisis.
“If work doesn’t get underway soon on major new projects, we’ll lose our construction workforce to Australia – where the Government just announced a $100 billion roading and rail investment package – and we may not get them back.”
The New Zealand Transport Agency must commit to funding a detailed business case and resource consent for a Melling Interchange when it meets this week, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop says.
In April, NZTA announced funding for the new interchange would not be considered until 2029. It did not commit to funding the detailed business case and resource consents, saying they would be considered in “early 2020”.
“I’m pleased to say that after intense pressure from myself as local MP, Hutt Valley mayors Ray Wallace and Wayne Guppy, and from hundreds of Hutt residents, NZTA is now looking at committing that funding earlier than planned.
“I understand the NZTA board will, on Friday, decide whether the agency will join its partners in the RiverLink project – Hutt City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council – and undertake the detailed planning and resource consent phase contemporaneously.
“Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace has previously said that if NZTA does not join with his council, it will consider funding the work itself. Ratepayers shouldn’t have to stump up $4 million to do this.
“While NZTA’s involvement won’t solve the underlying problem of the Government not wanting to fund construction until at least 2029, it will at least mean some progress.
“The Government has cut $5 billion from the state highway budget and the consequences of that are being felt in the Hutt. Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins’ recent meeting with NZTA laid the facts bare: the funding cuts have meant projects like Melling and the Petone to Grenada link road have either been significantly delayed or cancelled.
“The best thing Hipkins could do as a local MP is to tell his colleague, Transport Minister Phil Twyford, to increase state highway funding.”