Auckland is set to welcome Sichuan Airlines’ inaugural flight from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China later today, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
Sichuan Airlines will operate three direct flights per week between Auckland and Chengdu.
“New Zealand is in a strong position to attract airlines, with a liberal international air transport policy that allows most major airlines to operate services to New Zealand without restriction,” Mr Bridges says.
“We have negotiated 60 new or amended air services agreements since 2012, and in that time period, the number of services Chinese airlines can offer each week under arrangements between our countries has risen from 7 to 59.
“New Zealand is an increasingly popular tourist destination for Chinese visitors. In the year ended March 2017, 404,384 Chinese visitors came here ─ an increase of seven percent on the year before. Visitors from China spent NZ$1.45 billion, second only to the spending by visitors from Australia.
“This new Sichuan Airlines service is a reflection of the growing trade and tourism links between China and New Zealand, and it raises the number of airlines now operating from China to New Zealand from five to six.
“It’s great to see New Zealand further expanding its international connectivity, allowing people to get to and from Chinese provinces with greater ease. It is also a testament to the success of our International Air Transport Policy, which provides additional opportunities for these airlines,” Mr Bridges says.
More than three-quarters of the build for phase one of the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) programme is complete, says Communications Minister Simon Bridges.
“This is a fantastic milestone which means that more than 1,132,000 households and businesses now have access to fibre. At four per cent ahead of schedule, the build is now complete in 22 cities and towns across New Zealand,” Mr Bridges says.
“Combined with the Rural Broadband Initiative, the UFB programme is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in New Zealand so it’s great to see the rollout progressing so well.
“We’re fast-moving towards our goal of 85 per cent of New Zealanders having access to fibre by the end of 2024, and for vastly improved broadband to be available in New Zealand’s rural communities.”
Mr Bridges says the Government’s investment in world leading communications infrastructure is driving access to better, faster internet for New Zealanders, as evidenced by Akamai’s latest State of the Internet Report.
“The Report shows that in the first quarter of 2017, New Zealand’s average broadband speed increased to 14.7 Megabits per second (Mbps) – a significant leap of 40 per cent in the last year,” Mr Bridges says.
“In addition, it found that mobile broadband users in New Zealand enjoy average speeds of around 13 Mbps. This means we’re tied for third fastest in the Asia Pacific region, and puts New Zealand alongside other global connectivity leaders such as Japan and South Korea.
“Access to faster internet carries numerous benefits for people, businesses and communities right across New Zealand, allowing them to connect to each other and to the rest of the world.
“It’s great to see our country rising in the global broadband speed rankings, as New Zealanders continue to benefit from the rollout of faster broadband,” Mr Bridges says.
The Government’s target for connectivity is that by 2025, 99 per cent of New Zealanders will be able to access peak download speeds of 50 Mbps or better, and the remaining one per cent able to access at least 10 Mbps.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced three extra public open days will be held to give more people an opportunity to see Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel before it opens to traffic.
“There has been strong interest from members of the public wanting to experience the tunnel, with more than 42,000 people snapping up tickets so far to walk and cycle through it,” Mr Bridges says.
“In response to this demand we are now providing a further three opportunities to allow more people to see the country’s largest and most ambitious roading project up close.”
People can now book tickets to cycle through the tunnel on Friday 23 June and walk through the tunnel on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 June.
Tickets to the events are free and can be booked online by visiting www.nzta.govt.nz/waterview.
A ceremonial opening will take place on Sunday, 18 June followed by the first open day. Tickets for the two originally planned open days on 18 and 25 June are fully booked.
The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection will open to traffic in early July.
“The twin 2.4km-long three-lane tunnels will give more options to people and freight moving around and through Auckland, creating a more efficient, reliable and resilient transport system,” Mr Bridges says.
The Waterview Connection largely completes the Western Ring Route, a new 48km route linking the west of Auckland, Manukau, the city and the North Shore.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel will open to traffic in early July, marking the biggest milestone in the city’s transport network in more than half a century.
The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s biggest and most complex roading project, including twin 2.4km-long three-lane tunnels.
“Once open, it will transform the way people and freight move around Auckland, and will represent the biggest change in travel patterns since the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959,” Mr Bridges says.
A ceremonial opening on Sunday, 18 June will be followed by public open day’s to allow people the chance to experience the tunnel up close before opening to traffic.
“The Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s largest ever roading project and is a significant part of the strong investment the Government is putting into Auckland. This investment in the strategic motorway system will help support Auckland’s increasing population and economic growth,” Mr Bridges says.
“It largely completes the Western Ring Route, a new 48km route linking the west of Auckland, Manukau, the city and the North Shore.
“Together, the Waterview Tunnel and wider Western Ring Route will give more options to people and freight moving around and through Auckland, creating a more efficient, resilient and reliable network,” Mr Bridges says.
A series of public open day events will be held in the lead up to the operational opening of the tunnel to traffic. The events will be free but people will need to book their place online by visiting www.nzta.govt.nz/waterview
Notes to editors
A new video has been released showing the completed infrastructure inside the tunnels. https://youtu.be/pjCOY0z7nDM
The first work train to reach Kaikoura on the Main North Line following November’s devastating earthquake arrived today, marking a significant milestone for the rebuild project, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
The work train, travelling north from Oaro, is the first to reach Kaikoura from the south.
“The train’s arrival demonstrates the progress that KiwiRail is making to restore this vital part of New Zealand’s freight network,” Mr Bridges says.
“The train, carrying a load of rail and sleepers, will help progress KiwiRail’s rebuild and will be used to replace buried and damaged track.
“Opening this connection is a key part of reopening this important line. Being able to get trains to Kaikoura means resources can now be positioned in Kaikoura, allowing work trains to operate in the north, south and middle sections of the Main North Line.
“This will allow the pace of the reconstruction to continue and help not only KiwiRail with their important rebuild work, but also assist with the reinstatement of State Highway 1 by helping to move material for the road reconstruction.
“Before the quake struck KiwiRail was shifting a million tonnes of freight a year over the line. They are working hard to fully reopen this important freight connection as soon as possible.
“KiwiRail is working closely with the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) effort to ensure the reinstatement work is done safely, quickly and well,” Mr Bridges says.
The train that arrived in Kaikoura today had to be pushed through a tunnel and then pulled out from the other end. Damage to the tunnel means further repairs are needed before it can be opened to other locomotives. Once today’s wagons are unloaded they will be returned to Christchurch and the tunnel will be closed to compete additional repairs.
“The Government’s priority is to restore the pre-earthquake transport links to Kaikoura and its surrounding communities, and ensure these vital links are resilient for the long term,” Mr Bridges says.
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges has acknowledged the innovation of teams which presented solutions to challenges of dealing with government at a Wellington event today.
The R9 Accelerator 3+ Demo Day is the culmination of three months’ intensive work by teams of entrepreneurs, innovators, and government specialists, each of which devised a solution to a particular challenge. They presented their solutions to potential private sector and government investors.
The R9 Accelerator is one of the first large scale GovTech accelerators in the world. A radical evolution in the way government solves problems, the R9 Accelerator makes it easier and faster to solve major customer pain points in a low-risk, low-cost, innovative way.
“The teams worked hard to come up with practical answers to thorny problems of dealing with government,” Mr Bridges says.
“Teams tackled questions including how to simplify the process of getting government grants for businesses, using data to personalise government services, and how to put all the information needed by start-up businesses in one place.
“They also looked at social issues such as supporting people with mental health problems to find and stay in work, and simplifying the administrative burden for people who have lost a loved one.”
Mr Bridges says the teams’ solutions showed how much can be achieved with the Accelerator model.
“Accelerators are taking off all over the world. What makes this one special is that it focuses on challenges of dealing with government – one of only a few in the world to do so – and builds teams from the private and public sector.
“The fast-paced iterative model of solving problems fosters exactly the sort of innovation we need to keep our economy growing strongly and put customers at the centre of everything we do.”
The R9 Accelerator, currently in its third round, is part of the continuing work towards the Government’s Better Public Services Result 9: that businesses gain value from easy and seamless dealing with government.
Mr Bridges today launched a refreshed Result Action Plan for the result, which has recently been extended for a further three years.
The plan sets out how the Government will reach two specific targets: reducing the cost for business of dealing with government by 25 per cent, and government services to business having similar key performance ratings as leading private sector firms, both by 2020.
‘The R9 programme has already improved businesses’ ease of interaction with government, as measured in six-monthly polls,’ Mr Bridges says.
“I am confident the strategies laid out in the plan will advance this work, which is a key part of the Government’s aim of creating a prosperous and successful New Zealand.”
Further information about the R9 Accelerator teams and more information about the programme can be found here.
The refreshed Result 9 Result Action Plan can be found here.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges has today announced the reappointment of Dr Stephen Gale as Telecommunications Commissioner and as a member of the Commerce Commission.
Dr Gale has been appointed for a further three years starting on 12 July.
“The reappointment of Dr Gale recognises his valuable knowledge and expertise in competition and pricing issues, and the significant contribution he has made to the work of the Commission over a number of years,” Mr Bridges says.
“The telecommunications sector is going through a significant transition, with the review of the Telecommunications Act. The role of the Commissioner continues to be of vital importance as unique issues may emerge that require specialist understanding of the sector.
“Dr Gale’s reappointment provides the stability and continuity needed at this time,” Mr Bridges says.
Further information about the Telecommunications Commissioner and the Commerce Commission can be found at www.comcom.govt.nz.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges and Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith have welcomed the launch of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Forum to help understand the opportunities and challenges relating to AI in New Zealand.
Supported by NZTech, the Forum brings together users of technology, tech firms, academia and government to help connect, promote and advance the AI ecosystem and drive positive social and economic outcomes for New Zealand.
Mr Bridges says the Forum is a good example of government and industry working together to share knowledge and build capability around AI.
“AI presents exciting opportunities for New Zealand and the world. I appreciate that some people may have some concerns about AI, which is why it’s critical that we collaborate with industry and across the sector to address the opportunities and challenges that AI brings.
“The Government has a key role to play in ensuring that New Zealand can take advantage of what AI has to offer, including giving Kiwi businesses the confidence to engage with AI technologies, while balancing the risks. The Forum will be critical for helping us better understand AI and for informing the development of government policy,” Mr Bridges says.
“The future of AI carries limitless possibilities and many unknowns. It has the potential to significantly change how we live our lives, run our businesses, and how the economy works. However, New Zealand’s small size allows us to be nimble and begin to harness the opportunity now,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“The Government is supporting the forum to undertake research on AI in New Zealand, which will form the base of future work. This collaboration between government and the private sector will drive our understanding of AI and the opportunities for New Zealand,” says Mr Goldsmith.
“We want to encourage innovation in New Zealand. That’s why as part of Budget 2017 we’ve allocated $372.8 million to the second round of our Innovative New Zealand programme which invests in the skills and innovation that will keep our economy growing in the years ahead,” Mr Bridges says.
The AI Forum is one of several initiatives included in the Government’s Building a Digital Nation action plan that was released at the end of March, which sets out how the Government is partnering with New Zealand’s digital sector, other sectors of the economy and the wider digital community, to enable New Zealand to become a leading digital nation.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today that Christchurch has taken out the inaugural Top Town Award in the NZ Transport Agency’s annual Favourite Places to Ride competition.“The competition was close, with Christchurch beating Rotorua and Wellington to take the top title. The award follows significant investment from Government and Christchurch City Council in a city-wide urban network that is making Christchurch increasingly cycle-friendly,” Mr Bridges says.
The Top Town Award was determined by the city or town that received the most nominations across three of the Favourite Places to Ride categories - Urban Ride, Off-Road or Adventure Ride and Community Facility.
The Urban Ride category winner was Taupo’s Great Lake Walkway, followed by Wellington’s ‘Around the Bays’. This category recognises rides around towns and cities including new urban cycleways and shared paths.
The top New Zealand Cycle Trail was taken out by Otago Central Rail Trail for the second year in a row, with close competition from Old Ghost Road.
Rotorua’s The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest was winner of the Off-Road or Adventure ride for the second year in a row. This category includes off-road trails and mountain bike tracks.
The Community Facility category, a new addition for 2017, was won by Avanti Velodrome, followed closely by Kids Bike Taupo. This category includes Bikes in Schools tracks, community bike parks, pump tracks and velodromes.
New Zealanders made close to 10,000 nominations for around 1200 different rides across the four categories.
“It’s great to see such widespread participation in the competition from the far north to the deep south of New Zealand. It shows that it is not just our world-class cycle trails that are proving popular, but that more and more of us are utilising the growing number of urban cycleways routes around the country and choosing to make every day trips by bike.
“Over 60% of urban New Zealanders think cycling is a good way to get around easily and efficiently. By celebrating New Zealanders' favourite cycling routes from around the country we're helping to encourage more people to get out on their bikes more often,” Mr Bridges says.
To find out more visit www.nzta.govt.nz/favplaces
The Government and Auckland Council have agreed on Terms of Reference to establish a project to investigate smarter transport pricing in Auckland.
“Alongside our current multi-billion dollar transport investment in Auckland, we need to look at new ways of managing demand on our roads to help ease congestion. Smarter transport pricing has the potential to be part of the solution,” Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.
“Work undertaken last year by the Government and Auckland Council found that smarter transport pricing could help make a big difference in the performance of Auckland’s transport system,” Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
“Smarter transport pricing could involve varying what road users pay at different times and/or locations to better reflect where the cost of using the roads is higher (i.e. where there is congestion). This could encourage some users to change the time, route or way in which they travel.
“It is essential that we carefully consider the impacts of pricing on households and businesses. A key factor will be the access people have to public transport and other alternatives.
“The Government has also made a clear undertaking that any form of variable pricing will be primarily used to replace the existing road taxes that motorists pay. This is about easing congestion, not raising more revenue,” Mr Bridges says.
The Smarter Transport Pricing Project will undertake a thorough investigation to support a decision on whether or not to proceed with introducing pricing for demand management in Auckland. Officials from the Ministry of Transport, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Treasury and the State Services Commission will work together and engage the public to develop and test different options.
The first stage of the project, which will lay the groundwork for assessing pricing options, is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.
“Any decision on the use of a demand management tool like road pricing is still some years off,” Mr Joyce says. “We look forward to receiving advice from officials as this work progresses. The Government and Auckland Council will then consider the project’s findings.”
Auckland Congestion Pricing Project Terms of Reference are available at www.transport.govt.nz/smarterpricing