Recently I have been dealing with some personal health issues.
There are times in life where you have to put your own health and family first. As a husband and a father I need to do that at this time.
That is why I have asked to have some time off on medical leave for a few months.
Simon has been very understanding and agreed to this along with my request that my Transport and Infrastructure portfolios be reallocated and that I step back from my front bench role.
I look forward to returning to Parliament in the future to re-join our Caucus.
I will not be making any further comment and ask for privacy.
It is unacceptable for the current Minister of Transport Phil Tyford to attempt to dodge responsibility for the future of the Tauranga Northern Link, one of New Zealand’s most dangerous roads, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“The previous National Government saw this road funded with a procurement process nearing completion and the construction was planned for this year.
“In April 2016, then Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced a $250 million package for the area including $250 million to build the new Tauranga Northern Link road; $85 million to invest in safety improvements for the current road and $150 million to provide for future traffic growth.
“Today NZTA has placed this pre-existing project under re-evaluation because of the change in priorities this Government has introduced to State Highway funding.
“It is simply disingenuous for the Minister to claim no work had been done, when it was funded and underway until this Government took office.
“The decision was made by Mr Twyford and his Government to slash funding for state highways. This has caused NZTA to hald projects that, according to NZTA’s own advice, would cut serious injuries and deaths on this road by 50 per cent.
“Mr Twyford simply isn’t being straight with New Zealander’s when it comes to this dangerous stretch of road.”
Today’s roading announcement in Gisborne shows what damage Phil Twyford is doing to the transport sector, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“As the Transport Minister taxes people more while sucking billions from the regions to fund Auckland trams, the Government scrambles to use special funds for what should be business as usual.
“The Government cut $5 billion from regional highway projects and is hiking taxes to fund trams in the Auckland CBD. Now it’s dipping into the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for $153 million of spending in the Gisborne region, most of which will go into roading.
“This is a shambolic approach to the management of taxpayers’ money. It is a giddy money-go-round.”
National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says while he supports regional investment, he’d expect the spending announced today to be part of normal transport funding.
“Instead the Government has shown that the PGF is an all-purpose funding vehicle with murky decision-making.
“The Government has been coy about how Shane Jones is running what amounts to a coalition slush fund. Funding decisions should be open and rigorous. Instead, the process is so opaque that it is hard to assess the quality of decision-making.”
The Government must halt their planned fuel tax increases as record breaking fuel prices are pushing up the cost of living across New Zealand, National’s Transport spokesperson, Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Record fuel prices are being driven by a Government fixated on new taxes and cherry picked tram projects.
“The Government doesn’t need a new working group or inquiry into fuel prices, they just need to rein in their tax and spend Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
“The Minister was warned regional fuel taxes would result in high costs across New Zealand through price spreading but he ignored the advice.
“In the face of record fuel prices, Mr Twyford has imposed a regional fuel tax in Auckland, and is proposing an additional 12 cents per litre of petrol tax as well as yearly increases in fuel taxes over his term of Government as well as.
“At the same time we are seeing billions of dollars ripped from regional highway projects while more and more people are driving on our highway network all to fund Mr Twyford’s tram-set in the Auckland CBD.
“It is simply the wrong time to be piling more costs onto New Zealanders and the Government needs to halt its plans to impose new fuel taxes.
“National’s transport plan would have provided a stark contrast. We would not be seeing new and increasing fuel taxes and we wouldn’t have seen billions of dollars being transferred from regional New Zealand to fund trams.
“Instead we would have seen investment in cost-effective and flexible public transport options in Auckland and continued investment across New Zealand to support the growth and usage of our State Highway network.”
With the news that new vehicle sales reached a record in August, major cuts to state highway funding could not have come at a worse time, National’s Transport spokesperson, Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Cuts to roading projects alongside a record level of car sales and an increasing use of state highways is a recipe for regional economic downturns and gridlock.
“The Government’s Transport policy has seen a $5 billion cut in funding for state highway projects meaning some of our most travelled routes will not get the investment they need to ensure the economic benefits to their regions.
“New vehicle registrations are continuing to tick up to record levels and the volume of traffic on our state highways is rapidly increasing with Kiwi’s travelling up to one billion kilometres in the last year – an increase of 5 per cent according to Infrastructure New Zealand.
“The Government is axing state highway improvements when more and more people are going to be using them, a recipe for gridlock.
“In regions like the Bay of Plenty the single most needed project is an upgrade of State Highway 2 between Tauranga and Katikati. This is New Zealand’s deadliest stretch of road and needs the level of investment National was promising.
“The same can be said about major projects between Cambridge and Tirau, Whangarei to Wellsford and Ashburton to Christchurch as well as many other plans now stalled under this Government.
“National’s transport plan would have seen a halt to rising fuel taxes and the progression of our ambitious next generation of Roads of National Significance, with ten major regional highways being constructed across New Zealand.
“Instead, the Minister of Transport Phil Twyford is ripping billions of dollars from the regions, raising taxes and channelling it into his Auckland tram project.
“We don’t need a cherry picked tram project in Auckland when other more cost-effective and flexible options exist.
“Mr Twyford’s ideological attachment is coming at the expense of the rest of New Zealand.”
New Zealanders across the country are paying more and more in petrol prices but are seeing less investment where it matters – making our roads safer in the regions, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Road users across the country will be left out-of-pocket to pay for trams along Dominion Road in Auckland.
“Mr Twyford expects Kiwis around the country to pay an extra 12 cents a litre but won’t commit to much needed funding in roading infrastructure that was planned and ready to go.
“The Minister has left some of the most needed regional roading projects, like the Northland expressway, Otaki to Levin, Tauranga to Katikati and the Ashburton to Christchurch expressway out of the National Land Transport Programme.
“This means regions across New Zealand are being left with dangerous roads and less opportunities to enhance their regional economies.
“Upgrading the Tauranga to Katikati road is vital – this is New Zealand’s most dangerous stretch of road and has seen 18 deaths in five years.
“Instead the Minister has promised small scale safety improvements.
“The Northland Expressway and Otaki to Levin are vital to supporting the growth occurring across those regions. Without these projects, the transport network will become a handbrake on the success of the regions.
“The regions are being side-lined by the current coalition Government, who continues to claim it’s the champion of the regions.”
Today’s release of the National Land Transport Programme confirms the cuts this Government has made to vital regional highway projects up and down the country, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford has had to develop a programme that has seen a $5 billion cut in highway funding and billions in new funding and taxes for trams in Auckland.
“Where funding for regional highways has been kept in place it is to continue National’s major projects like the Puhoi to Warkworth link.
“National committed to major investment across New Zealand’s regions to fund much needed highway projects that would have dramatically reduced road harm, boosted growth, created jobs and provided economic opportunities.
“Mr Twyford makes a big deal about the ‘record investment’ that will help grow the regions, but he’s allocated the largest chunk to the cherry-picked project of Dominion Road.
“This doesn’t help regions like the Bay of Plenty and Northland suffering from dangerous roads and congestion.
“And it means much needed highway projects like the Tauranga Northern Link and the Whangarei to Wellsford Expressway have been axed.
“Mr Twyford argues the Government is making safety a priority – but the best thing the Government could do to enhance safety on our most dangerous roads is to continue with the Roads of National Significance programme which is resulting in some of our safest roads.
“Unfortunately, the regions will have to wait while central city trams are prioritised.”
A new Bill from National would relieve Aucklanders and New Zealanders facing higher fuel prices, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“In Auckland, motorists are facing record high fuel prices with further increases just around the corner.
“A combination of the falling Kiwi dollar, international movements and an already soaring level of fuel taxes has meant many Aucklanders are seeing the highest fuel prices ever.
“Now is not the time to add new taxes like Transport Minister Phil Twyford is intent on doing – instead we need to be looking at minimising the impact fuel prices are having on the cost of living.
“That is why I have submitted a Bill to Parliament to repeal the regional fuel tax.
“This Bill would remove the Auckland regional fuel tax and remove the ability for the Government to roll such taxes out across New Zealand.
“The Auckland regional fuel tax is driving up the cost of living with the most vulnerable being shouldered with the heaviest share of the tax.
“The Auckland Council’s own Māori Statutory Board estimated low-income Aucklanders could end up paying over $400 per year in added fuel costs.
“Mayor Goff promised to find savings in the Auckland Council’s budget that would have more than covered the revenue of the regional fuel tax.
“The Government keeps loading on the costs to New Zealanders through a multi-billion tram set and funding it through fuel taxes while allowing regional fuel taxes to be rolled out across our regions.
“We need a Government who will help drive down the costs facing Kiwi families instead of looking to add even more taxes – that’s what this Bill seeks to do.”
The Government’s obsession with fuel taxes shows it doesn’t care about the cost of living for ordinary Kiwis, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Now is the time for solutions to the cost of living, not new taxes. National is taking the initiative with a bill lodged today to repeal regional fuel taxes within three months.
“Fuel prices are sitting at record levels across the country and are set to rise further because the Government is proposing three additional rounds of national fuel tax increases totalling an extra 12 cents a litre of fuel in new taxes.
“In addition, there is an 11.5 cents a litre regional fuel tax in place in Auckland that will be rolled to other regions in a few short years. It adds to this Government’s sorry record of driving up costs for households and businesses and choking economic growth.
“Road Transport Forum NZ chief Ken Shirley is exactly right in calling the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax ‘a political sham’ that will be felt across the country.
“The Government needs to explain how more taxes help New Zealand’s growth and international competitiveness.
"This week, the average price of fuel in New Zealand was $2.39 a litre, while in Australia it’s $1.59 (converted to NZD). That means Kiwis are now paying 80 cents more for every litre of fuel and the main reason is tax.
"According to MBIE data, every litre of fuel sold in New Zealand includes $1.27 of tax (made up of emissions trading costs, petrol taxes and GST) – 52 per cent of the pump price. In Australia, excise taxes are closer to 40 cents a litre.
“With forecasts showing a further weakening in the New Zealand dollar, pump prices will rise further. Milford Asset Management has predicted the Kiwi could drop to 60 US cents from around 67 cents currently, which would add about 9 cents a litre.
“National’s transport strategy doesn’t include more taxes.
“We were committed to completing our $12 billion Roads of National Significance projects through our regions and embarking on our $10 billion next generation of roads in regions that are crying out for that investment.
"We don’t need new taxes. We need a Government willing to focus on growing our economy and lowering our cost of living. That’s National’s strategy.”
The Minister of Infrastructure has today re-announced National’s 2017 Infrastructure policy ten months later with less detail and more uncertainty around PPP’s, National’s Infrastructure spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“Even if it did take the Minister ten months to figure out that this was the right idea for infrastructure, it is the first step towards a better plan.
“However, this Government needs to be clear about whether they are actually willing to work with the infrastructure sector to deliver projects for New Zealanders.
“Our plan was ready to go and we were lining up projects such as the Waikeria Prison construction, the Dunedin Hospital rebuild as well as projects building new schools and roads across New Zealand with public-private-partnerships, managed by the National Infrastructure Commission.
“Yesterday, I called on the Minister to adopt National’s 2017 plan to establish a National Infrastructure Commission that would work across the government to connect key infrastructure projects to private funding as public-private-partnerships.
“Minister Jones announcement does not clarify whether the government is abandoning their ideological opposition to PPPs that have already seen projects like the Dunedin Hospital, Waikeria Prison and East West Link fall off the radar.
“The new infrastructure body needs to be able to work constructively with the sector to connect much needed projects to the funding that can see them built quickly and effetely.
“The Government’s opposition to using PPPs is leading to projects being deferred or simply not put on the agenda and that is harming our communities who need them and causing a slowdown in our infrastructure sector.
“Unless they abandon this position, any new infrastructure body will simply be another working group.
NOTE TO EDITORS: National’s 2017 announcement can be found here: https://www.national.org.nz/more_ppps_to_boost_infrastructure_spend