Phil Twyford is clearly more concerned about his public image than he is about improving the transport network given the number of NZTA spin doctors has almost doubled since he became its Minister, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
Information released to National shows the number of fulltime equivalent employees (FTEs), working in media, communications, marketing, stakeholder engagement or public affairs at the New Zealand Transport Agency grew from 26.13 in July 2017 to 40.05 in July 2019.
In 2017, the agency employed 17.53 permanent and 8.60 fixed-term employees in those roles. By 2019, that had grown to 37.05 permanent and three fixed-term employees.
“It’s a slap in the face when the NZTA can find extra money to spend on spin doctors but it can’t find the cash for vital new infrastructure and safety upgrades,” Mr Bishop says.
“Instead of building the roads Kiwis are crying out for, Phil Twyford and his Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter appear more interested in finding new ways to spin their ineptitude in the media.
“The reality is, they’ve pushed New Zealand to the brink of an infrastructure crisis by cancelling, delaying or gutting a dozen major transport projects that were ready to go under National, and not starting any of their own.
“Under their watch, the pipeline of NZTA projects has dried right up as the agency has pivoted towards investing in rail over roads. The problem is, the Government can’t do either very well and the NZTA’s public perception has hit rock bottom.
“The most telling quote from Phil Twyford came after the Budget when he fronted a Select Committee, without his army of spin doctors, and said there has been an over-investment in roads and motorways ‘for decades’ in this country.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. But even if it was, it would be a better use of taxpayer cash than this Government’s over-investment in spin doctors and fancy adverts.
“National would rather see that money spent on projects designed to relieve congestion and improve safety, like Auckland’s East-West Link and Wellington’s Melling Interchange.”