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
Communications Minister Simon Bridges and Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry have welcomed the announcement of a safe, interactive ad-free space for primary school age children to explore and enjoy online local media content.
The new media initiative is a collaboration between NZ On Air and TVNZ. The interactive curated website will be run by a newly formed team at TVNZ, utilising the company’s expertise and technology.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges says it is a first for New Zealand and is possible thanks to the Government’s extensive roll-out of communications infrastructure.
“The roll-out of Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) is making internet more accessible to New Zealanders of all ages with more than 1.1 million households now able to connect. This project will ensure there is quality local content readily available to children in a safe online environment,” Mr Bridges says.
“This project is also a great example of convergence, known as the reduction in barriers between sectors, and shows the new opportunities businesses and consumers alike can gain from the greater choice and accessibility it affords,” Mr Bridges says.
Minister Barry says NZ On Air will invest $1.5m in the site, targeted at 5-9 year olds.
“New Zealand children need to see and hear themselves and their own accents in the media they consume. This project will ensure our culture is alive and well in screen content for our youngest viewers,” Ms Barry says.
“The site will be designed for children and they will be involved at every stage from development through to when it’s ready to go live. It will be easy to navigate and be commercial free with a huge range of content.”
“NZ On Air will commission content through its September funding round and is about to start working with children’s content producers on ideas for new material.”
It is expected to go live around March 2018.
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges, Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman and Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry welcome the kick-off of the DHL NZ Lions Series 2017.
The New Zealand Lions Series 2017 will take place from 3 June to 8 July 2017, and will see the British & Irish Lions rugby team play ten matches against New Zealand in seven host cities, including three test matches.
The series starts tomorrow night when the Lions take on the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium.
“The NZ Lions Series is an iconic rugby event which has significant local and international interest,” says Mr Bridges.
“The Government has committed $3 million from the Major Events Development Fund to support the series. This is going towards a range of leveraging opportunities including a school curriculum programme and Rugby 2017 Festival which will help host cities showcase New Zealand culture.”
“The last Lions Series in 2005 was hugely successful, attracting more than 20,000 international visitors staying more than 431,000 nights in total. The overall positive impact on GDP was estimated at $135 million.
“This is international competition at the highest level, and New Zealand Rugby has done an outstanding job in organising a series that will reinforce our capability to host major sporting events,” says Dr Coleman.
“With no tickets left on public sale for the Crusaders match or the three tests, and at least as many international visitors expected as in 2005, this year’s series will again be a remarkable economic boost for New Zealand.”
“The Rugby 2017 Festival includes a series of rugby club ‘Legends at the Local’ events across the host cities, Matariki programmes and arts events all designed to engage fans in the days around the matches,” says Ms Barry.
“It also includes the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Lands of Hope and Glory’ concert, a world record haka attempt before the Maori All Blacks game in Rotorua and a ‘Dunedin Sounds’ music event.
“To help further enhance the fan experience there will be a fan zone on Queens Wharf in Auckland to coincide with the test matches, with live match screenings, performances, exhibitions, food and beverage showcases. Some of the other host cities will also have their own fan zones.”
The Festival programme is available online at www.rugby2017festival.com
Budget 2017 invests more than $32 million for increased health and safety in our aviation and maritime sectors, and to enhance policy advice for our dynamic and rapidly changing transport system, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
“The Government is investing $15.8 million in Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) and $3 million in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to strengthen their health and safety roles on the water and in the air,” Mr Bridges says.
The Health and Safety at Work Act placed greater responsibility on the CAA by making it the designated agency for the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act for the aviation sector.
“This new funding will enable the CAA to meet its responsibilities, ensure compliance, as well as providing more education and outreach to the sector,” Mr Bridges says.
“New Zealand’s maritime industry is both diverse and geographically spread, with many small and large operators. MNZ will use this funding to provide maritime operators, masters and crew with information about Health and Safety at Work requirements and how they can improve their safety.
“This additional funding will also allow improved investigative and legal operations, to quickly detect and stop unsafe practices, and more effectively prosecute serious safety breaches in our maritime sector,” Mr Bridges says.
The Government is investing $13 million more over the next 4 years in the Ministry of Transport, the Governments principal strategic adviser for transport policy.
“Our transport system is growing and becoming increasingly complex. This means Government needs the best possible advice on our growing investment in roads, rail and public transport as well as on the emerging technologies and disruptive technologies that are changing the way we view transport, both here and overseas,” Mr Bridges says.
“We need to keep pace with this growth and change to maximise the benefits from these advancements.
“This funding will help ensure we are in the best shape possible to have a transport system that meets our aspirations today and in the future,” Mr Bridges says.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges today announced the final details of the Government’s reform package to improve the Telecommunications Act and modernise the communications sector.
The final package will introduce a more predictable utility-style model for Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre, deregulate copper lines where fibre is available, and improve the quality of service for consumers by increasing regulatory oversight.
“UFB is already available to more than one million homes and businesses in New Zealand, and over 85 per cent of New Zealanders will be able to access the high speed network by 2024,” Mr Bridges says.
“As the copper network is essentially being replaced by UFB, it is appropriate that copper regulation be removed from 2020. It makes sense to focus on the services that most people will be using.
“However, to make sure people are protected, copper will continue to be regulated outside of UFB coverage areas. Safeguards will also be put in place to make sure that customers do not lose their copper landline unless there is an alternative service available at a comparable price and service level.”
To complement the final fixed regulation package, the Government is also ensuring the Commission can respond quickly if issues arise in the mobile market, and putting in place new measures to lift the level of consumer service quality in the telecommunications sector.
“Telecommunications services have become much more important to everyday life and business in New Zealand, and the current regulatory settings needed to be refreshed,” Mr Bridges says.
“We have heard from a range of parties as proposals have been developed, and have listened to feedback we received, making a number of changes.
“Overall, the final package reduces compliance costs for industry and further encourages innovation and investment, for the long term benefit of consumers,” Mr Bridges says.
The new regime is expected to be implemented from 2020.
More information on the Telecommunications Act review package is available here.
Attached: Q&A on Telecommunications Act 2001 final regulatory framework