Phil Twyford’s claim that New Zealand has over-invested in roads and motorways shows how out of touch he is with this country’s transport needs, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
The transport Minister told a Select Committee hearing today that there has been an over-investment in roads and motorways “for decades” in this country.
“Does he think the people crawling along the narrow, winding roads of regional New Zealand in their cars would agree there’s been an over-investment?
“It’s equally unlikely the people wasting their lives away in gridlock on motorways that, in some places, haven’t improved since the 1960s would say the infrastructure is suiting their needs.
“Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel, along with the recent new expressways in Waikato and Kāpiti have been revelations in terms of shaving precious minutes off people’s journeys. Is Mr Twyford saying these investments were a mistake?
“Investing in new, modern public transport systems is important, but it’s possible to do that alongside investment in new, safe road infrastructure, which this Government refuses to do.
“The Government’s highly ideological approach to transport policy is improving the lives of a few, via expensive rail in urban CBDs, at the expense of people living elsewhere.
“New Zealanders travelling at a snail’s pace as they head to work or escape town for public holidays will be left scratching their heads at Mr Twyford’s assertion that no more money needs to be spend on them."
Shane Jones is failing to deliver on all his hi-vis announcements, with only a dribble of the money promised through the Provincial Growth Fund actually landing in bank accounts, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Mr Jones is using his Provincial Growth slush fund to parade across the country making loud announcements with much pomp and fanfare, but is failing to deliver on those promises.
“Information sourced from the Provincial Development Unit indicates many of the projects announced when the fund was established in February 2018 have not been progressed.”
“Mr Jones has promised $1.8 billion to the regions, but only $61m – or 3.5 per cent – has actually been paid to funding recipients.
“The fund will now need to spend $4m per day for the next two years to reach $3b – a whopping 31 times the current rate of spending.
“Shane Jones himself likes to say ‘kōrero is cheap, but money is real’. This just shows the Regional Economic Development Minister is all kōrero and no cash.
“The Gisborne Inner Harbour Development, which was promised $2.3m to make infrastructure improvements for the 250th Anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival, has yet to see a single cent of funding. The anniversary is in October.
“A further $500,000 was promised to make improvements on the Old Ghost Cycle trail, yet 15 months later the Provincial Development Unit is still in ‘pre-contract discussions’. Mr Jones is happy to take credit for employment opportunities created by the cycle trail, but his fund has contributed nothing. He should be thanking the local sponsors.
“Funding to develop a Business Guide to Tree Planting has been stalled and no contract has been finalised. When announcing the project, Mr Jones said it would accelerate tree planting and lead to more jobs, environmental and social benefits. The only benefit over a year later has been a press release and photo opportunity for the Minister.
“National wants our regions to prosper. We will back them with proven economic policies that deliver for all New Zealanders rather than slush funds, empty promises, pomp and fanfare.”
People who drive continue to be treated like outlaws by this Government, which intends to milk them for $1.7 billion in fuel taxes and give them little in return, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The scale of the tax increases on motorists dwarfs anything offered to middle New Zealanders in the Botched Budget.
“Aucklanders are copping the brunt of the Government’s push to frustrate motorists out of cars. When the Auckland regional fuel tax is factored on top of the extra fuel taxes and GST motorists will pay, the tax grab is an eye-watering $1.7 billion.
“The extra tax they’re going to collect is more than the cost of the Waterview Tunnel or the Transmission Gully motorway. But despite paying all this tax, the only thing being offered to motorists in return is the chance to go slower through a reduction to speed limits.
“For the typical Auckland motorist who fills up their tank about once a week, this will see them pay more than $1500 in extra tax over three years.
“This Government clearly doesn’t have motorists’ wellbeing at heart given these taxes will flow through into broader cost of living pressures.
“It stings even more that the Government hasn’t built a single new road, yet it has cancelled, delayed or gutted a dozen major transport projects – such as the East West Link, a decent road north of Tauranga, south from Christchurch and in many other places.”
A reported shortfall in funding for planned Auckland transport projects shows more incompetence and broken promises from the Government, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Government has stopped bunch of projects that were ready to go, and is not making progress on replacements. It has, however, cancelled, delayed or gutted several critical road projects that were in the pipeline, including the East/West Link and a second main road south so it can throw billions at light rail down Dominion Road.
“The Government needs to answer what is happening with the East/West Link. Aucklanders want action and want to know what improvements it plans to make to Auckland’s congested motorways.
“Phil Twyford has shown that he’s world class at stopping projects but so far he’s delivered nothing in replacement.
“The Government is also responsible for chaos and dysfunction at NZTA, which isn’t helping.
“National had a comprehensive transport plan. We would spend taxpayers’ hard earned money well to get them moving.”
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter’s comments that a “huge percentage” of New Zealanders want speed limits to drop shows how out of touch she is with the public, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“We all want safer roads, but I don’t buy that a majority of New Zealanders want Julie Anne Genter to cycle from Kaitaia to Bluff, putting a line through every 100kmh sign she sees along the way.
“Her recent comments attacking some motorists as being ‘car fascists’ reinforce the real fear that the Government’s core transport policy is to frustrate motorists out of their cars.
“The reality is, New Zealanders lead busy lives and don’t want the Government telling them they need to operate at a slower pace. They would rather see their tax dollars spent on new, high-quality roads that are safe for them drive on at 100kmh, but this Government hasn’t built a single new road.
“It has, however, cancelled, delayed or gutted a dozen major transport projects that were in the pipeline, so it can throw billions at light rail for commuters in Auckland and Wellington.
“Drastically cutting speed limits to improve road safety is too simplistic. It would further isolate people living in regional New Zealand and pull the handbrake on our economy by hindering the movement of freight.
“If the Government is serious about wanting to save lives then it will reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads, act on drugged drivers by introducing roadside drug testing and put more money into road safety policing, which saw a cut, in real terms, in this year’s Budget.”
A wholesale reduction in speed limits could do more harm than good by further isolating regional New Zealand and weakening the economy, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Media reports today reveal the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) estimates 87 per cent of our roads have speed limits that are too high for the conditions. Its mapping tool suggests many roads with a 100kmh speed limit should be reduced to as low as 60kmh.
“We all want safer roads, and while reducing speed limits across the board might be the easiest thing to do, it is too simplistic and would have huge implications for our way of life,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Slower roads would impact regional New Zealand severely. Drastic speed limit cuts might mean it would take 45 minutes longer to get to New Plymouth from Hamilton, for example. In terms of isolation, that’s the equivalent of shifting the city another 60 kilometres out to sea.
“There would also be significant economic costs. If it suddenly took 30 per cent longer to move freight the same distance our national productivity would drop substantially, freight costs would rise and our international competitiveness would fall.
“A smaller economy would invest less in healthcare, for example, ultimately costing lives. Houses would be more expensive to build and the price of food would go up. These broader implications need to be considered fully.
“Over the past three years the road toll has risen, and we should absolutely be focused on understanding why. But it’s worth remembering that speed alone is not the cause.
“Other factors include drugged-driving, enforcement of current laws around drink-driving, not wearing seat belts, the quality of our roads, driver distraction and a huge increase in tourism.
“The Government should reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads, and deal with its blind spot on drugged drivers. It has resolutely ignored the issue for nearly 18 months and it is appalling that the Minister in charge of road safety, Julie Anne Genter, is opposed to roadside drug testing because of her Green Party’s liberal approach to drugs.
“If the Government is truly concerned about saving lives on our roads, then why did the Budget show a cut, in real terms, to road safety policing?”
‘You should thank us for not punching you in the face’, is the analogy Shane Jones seems to be using to justify the absence of a solid economic plan in the Botched Budget, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith says.
When asked why the Government hadn’t made any “trophy announcement” for business, the Regional Economic Development Minister claimed that scrapping the capital gains tax was its flagship policy.
“For starters, the Government scrapped the capital gains tax because it finally dawned on them that New Zealanders didn’t want it,” Mr Goldsmith says
“If NZ First had wanted to stop CGT they could’ve done so at any time over the past 18 months. But instead they left the threat out there and further damaged economic confidence.
“It’s a shame the Government didn’t have the same revelation before it delivered a Budget that included a $71m tax on anyone using their mobile phone overseas, a $57m workplace levy on businesses, an $80m tourist tax, and $360m in petrol taxes.
“The Botched Budget comes in the middle of a sharp slowdown in the New Zealand economy, from near 4 per cent growth at the tail-end of the National Government to the low 2 per cent range now.
“Each percentage of GDP growth lost represents about $3 billion, and the Budget had scarcely anything in it to address this fundamental challenge.
“New Zealanders are rightly concerned about this, and Jones’ only response is they should be happy his Government didn’t slap them with a capital gains tax.
“No wonder business confidence remains low. No wonder new investment is low. No wonder our economy is slowing.”
The first legislation passed after the so-called wellbeing Budget is to legislate for an extra $360 million worth of fuel taxes over two years, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“We didn’t hear too much about this in the Budget, but these fuel taxes place a huge additional burden on Kiwi families. Prices at the pump are at some of the highest we’ve seen in years.
“The extra fuel taxes swamp any benefit to be gained from the potential handouts of the budget. This Government gives with one hand and takes more with the other.
“More galling is the fact that motorists are getting less for all the extra taxes they are paying. The Labour, Greens, NZ First Government has cancelled, delayed or gutted a dozen major transport projects – such as the East West Link, a decent road north of Tauranga, south from Christchurch and in many other places.
“Meantime, the new projects they promised, such as the slow tram down Dominion Road, are nowhere near even the development of a business case.
“They get to pay more fuel taxes so that the Government can find new ways to frustrate them out of their cars, with their primary focus on ‘mode shift’ – code for getting people out of their cars and on to their bike or public transport.
“The result is a hole in progress on reducing congestion.”
New Zealanders would expect the Minister of Finance to know the cost of slowing economic growth, something he today underestimated by more than two billion dollars, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Under the watch of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, the New Zealand economy has experienced a sharp decline from close to 4 per cent growth a year to just 2.3 per cent. The number of jobs has fallen by 4,000 this year.
“And today Mr Robertson showed he has no idea the scale or cost of a weakening economy. When asked what a 1 per cent decline in GDP growth is worth – about how much the New Zealand economy has undershot previous forecasts – he answered $800 million.
“The correct answer is actually about $3 billion – more than three times as much.
“What this shows is a Finance Minister who is not over the detail and is unaware of the true cost of a weakening economy. When the $3 billion is spread over all New Zealand households it equates to about $1600 less per household.
“A weaker economy has also resulted in lower tax revenue of $600 million for the year to March 2019. That is $600 million less for essential services like Health, Education and Infrastructure.
“National knows a strong economy is essential to improving the living standards of New Zealand families. New Zealand deserves a Government that has a plan to grow the economy to ensure more jobs, higher incomes and a lower cost of living for New Zealanders.”
Julie Anne Genter’s comments attacking some motorists as being “car fascists” are worrying remarks from a transport minister, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
In a tweet about the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project release, the Associate Transport Minister said: “we need a few car fascists to stop opposing infrastructure that gives more people the option to walk, cycle or scoot safely if they wish”.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford also said his core objective was to get people out of cars, even going so far as to suggest roading improvements that ease congestion are a bad thing because they allow people to keep driving.
“These sorts of comments shows how out of touch they are with the transport needs of New Zealanders,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“The core objective of transport policy should be helping people get where they need to go quickly, efficiently and safely. The Government should be making people’s lives easier – not deliberately making life more difficult in pursuit of some ideological goal.
“Public transport is great for getting people with jobs in central cities to and from work. But many New Zealanders don’t work in city centres, and when it comes to things like taking their kids to sport on the weekend and getting the groceries, having congestion on the roads is not improving their welfare.
“Driving accounts for more than 95 per cent of the distance New Zealanders travel. Even in Wellington, our public transport capital, it is 88 per cent of travel distance.
“These people are not all ‘car fascists’ and the Minister should not be pitting them against people who favour other modes of travel.”