Hodgson: Sustainable Land Transport Conference

Published: Mon 22 Nov 2004 02:03 PM
New Zealand Sustainable Land Transport Conference
Hon Pete Hodgson - Opening address, Monday, 22 November, Wellington.
Opening address to New Zealand Sustainable Land Transport Conference, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 9.15- 9.45 am, Monday, 22 November 2004,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning at the start of the Sustainable Land Transport Conference 2004.
This Conference is the largest transport gathering that has been held in New Zealand in recent years. I congratulate the organisers on the work they have done to put together this three day event which has attracted nearly 500 people to listen to, to learn about, and debate the future of the New Zealand land transport system.
I want to acknowledge those of you who have come from a range of countries overseas to join this conference. In particular, I welcome the keynote speakers who have an impressive variety of backgrounds and experience:
Professor Peter Gordon (University of Southern California); Professor William Clark (University of California Los Angeles); Professor Sharon Beder (University of Wollongong); Professor David Begg (UK Commission for Integrated Transport); Brian Souter (Chief Executive, Stagecoach Group plc); Dr Hal Kassoff (Parsons Brinckerhoff, Washington DC).
I welcome you and all the other visitors to New Zealand and I also welcome the many New Zealanders who are here today.
I am sure that you will find the next three days a rewarding and informative experience.
Why are we here?
When this Government came into office in 1999, we had already made a very firm commitment that we needed to give a clear direction to the New Zealand transport system that reflected the realities that we were going to face in the twenty first century.
This commitment was developed into the New Zealand Transport Strategy (NZTS), which is less than two years old. The Strategy now forms the basis of all the decisions that we have made, the policy initiatives that we are currently working through, and our future directions over the next decade. The law giving effect to the strategy was passed eleven months ago.
The New Zealand Transport Strategy states that:
by 2010, New Zealand will have an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable transport system.
To achieve this overall transport vision, we have set out five objectives, against which all our policy initiatives are evaluated. These are:
· to assist economic development
· to assist safety and personal security
· to improve access and mobility
· to protect and promote public health
· to ensure environmental sustainability
No one of these objectives is more important than any other. Everything we do has to be measured against all five, so that we progress our overall vision on a broad front.
Most people here will be familiar with the concept of sustainability. In essence, adopting the goal of a sustainable transport system means that we have to:
· make more efficient use of resources, especially including a move away from non renewable resources to renewable ones;
· to make the best use of each mode of transport, with particular reference to greater use of low impact modes such as walking and cycling;
· reduce the negative impacts of the transport system on land, air, water, individuals, communities and ecosystems; and
· seek opportunities to minimise total transport use where practical.
This is a complex task, and one that will require the long-term reorientation of transport policy and business and individual transport decisions over time.
Sustainability is ultimately about the efficiency of our whole society - a meaning of efficiency that is quite different from the narrow accounting connotation it carried a few years ago.
Efficiency in transport is not just about lowest cost in one particular mode - it is about the impact of the transport system on the whole of society and the environment.
What have we done so far?
We have begun the process of investing in modern transport infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing and changing economy. Substantial funding has been made available to modernise the regional transport networks that support economic growth.
We have established new evaluation processes for transport investment decision-making, so that investment is now starting to reflect the five objectives of the NZTS that I mentioned earlier.
For the first time, we have explicitly begun to supply funding for walking and cycling infrastructure and promotion. New Zealand school children, in particular, are starting to become familiar with walking school buses. A long-term Walking and Cycling Strategy is in the final stages of development.
We have doubled investment in the public transport system, and moved to a system of helping Regional Councils fund a range of new public transport service initiatives. Regional Councils now have access to funding that supports their efforts to grow public transport.
We have brought New Zealand's rail infrastructure back into public ownership for $1 after its unhappy experiences in the private sector since 1993. We have agreed with the new train operator that the Government will invest $200 million in bringing the infrastructure back into good condition. The New Zealand Rail Strategy, which is nearing completion, commits the Government to keeping the existing network, to investigating a number of new railway lines, and to maximising the use of rail transport wherever practicable. We have also developed a new rail safety regime, which is currently awaiting final approval by Parliament.
We have passed legislation to allow tolls to contribute towards the costs of new roads, and a number of specific proposals in this area are under development.
The Government has begun to tackle the serious problem of road vehicle emissions. New standards for petrol and diesel fuel will come into force in 2006 that will put New Zealand fuel up with world best practice. This, in turn, has enabled us to move decisively on tackling vehicle emissions performance. My colleague, Judith Tizard, will be making an important announcement on the next step in this area later in this Conference.
Closely linked to any discussion of sustainable transport is the issue of how we develop a sustainable energy system for the future. Two huge challenges will force the development of a radically different energy system this century: global climate change and the coming peak in global oil production. These are likely to occur within our lifetimes or our children's lifetimes, and render our current energy habits unsustainable.
The challenge is to find a way to continue to meet our needs for energy in a way that enables us to protect our way of life, our economy, and the environment over the coming decades. To do this our energy system needs to be reliable and resilient, environmentally responsible, and fairly and efficiently priced.
Many of you will know that the Government recently issued a discussion paper on sustainable energy, which explores what a sustainable energy system might look like and how we might achieve it. You can pick up a copy from the Ministry of Transport's exhibition stand.
The government has a wide range of policy options available to advance progress towards sustainable energy and we are keen to discuss these with industry groups.
Some of these ideas are canvassed in the Sustainable Energy discussion document. The government is using the document as a basis for discussion with key stakeholders in energy through to March 2005. We will draw on the results of this discussion and build on the ideas expressed in the document as we develop policies to take New Zealand further towards a sustainable energy system.
New Zealand has also ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and I am delighted that this will now come into force next year. Transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, and we have a major task ahead of us to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and reduce the increasingly evident impacts of climate change on the world.
We have continued to reduce the road toll, and we must make further progress.
In all of these initiatives, there is a long way to go before we reach the sort of outcomes that we would associate with a sustainable transport system. But we have begun, and change is well underway.
This is an appropriate moment to pay tribute to my predecessors as Minister of Transport -Mark Gosche and Paul Swain - who began many of these fundamental changes. I also acknowledge here the support and energy of my two colleagues in the transport sector - Associate Minister Judith Tizard and the Minister for Transport Safety Harry Duynhoven.
All our major transport problems come together in Auckland - in terms of traffic congestion, environmental impacts, use of land resources, and the costs all of these place on the total economy and society of New Zealand. Even if you live in Invercargill or Wellington, you still pay the costs that Auckland's transport problems generate through increased costs, freight charges, lost economic capability, and the public health system.
In 2003, all the Auckland local authorities and the Government set up the Joint Officials Group to find ways forward for Auckland's transport system. The results of that work were announced in March this year, and provide a whole new beginning for the Auckland region.
The various planning documents and processes in the Auckland Region are being reformed and integrated with the NZTS and the Auckland Growth Strategy.
The Government is making available substantial extra financial resources for transport system development in the Auckland region. We are determined to complete the core network of roads that is needed in any scenario of Auckland's future. The Government and Auckland have also provided the necessary funding to develop the Auckland urban rail system into a core element of the region's passenger transport. Development of the North Shore Busway is also well advanced to bring the advantages of high speed public transport to that part of the region.
We have also paid close attention to the management of transport systems in Auckland. The Regional Council now has clear leadership of transport system development through its subsidiary the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. This agency, which is being set up over the next year, has been given a clear brief to develop, promote, and manage a sustainable transport system in the region, working in close association with the cities and district councils. The Regional Council has also been given responsibility for managing publicly owned regional infrastructure through another subsidiary, Auckland Regional Holdings.
As the final stage in this long-term process, we have commissioned a major study into congestion pricing of the Auckland road network, which will report next year, and give us all a path towards further steps in developing a sustainable transport system in the region.
The Government is also concerned to promote a sustainable transport system in the Wellington area.
In recent weeks, we have agreed with local authorities and rail operators to fund interim overhauls for the oldest commuter trains pending long-term decisions on new trains. We have also provided funding to replace the commuter trains that run between Wellington and the Wairarapa.
The Working Group on Wellington continues to develop proposals for further development, including a range of options for the Western Corridor to the Kapiti Coast.
Working across Government
The Government transport sector has also been refocused to ensure it delivers a sustainable transport system.
The Ministry of Transport has been given the primary function of leading the development of transport policy to implement the New Zealand Transport Strategy. Up to 50 staff positions are being transferred from the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) and Transfund New Zealand to the Ministry of Transport by Christmas. This will enable all the government's transport policy functions to be concentrated in the one agency.
The LTSA and Transfund New Zealand are being merged into a new agency, Land Transport New Zealand. It will be chaired by Dr Jan Wright, who will also chair the next session. She also very ably chairs the transition board, until next week when the new agency is formed.
The Ministry of Transport is now coordinating a major exercise to ensure that planning across the government transport sector is an integrated process.
Where are we going?
This has been a major change in direction for the New Zealand land transport sector, and it is far from finished. There is a range of further projects that will keep central and local government and the transport sector busy over the next few years:
We need to look carefully at the laws that govern the management of our road system, to ensure that the principles of sustainability are built in to the legislation that governs the operation of local roads as well as the State Highway network.
With the coming in to force of the Kyoto Protocol, we are going to have to do a great deal better in vehicle fuel efficiency, including the active development of alternatives to fossil fuels.
Improving fuel efficiency and moving away from fossil fuels will automatically bring with it the need to develop means other than fuel taxes for paying for our roads, as is now starting to develop overseas. The Ministry of Transport is currently examining a range of possibilities in this area, most of which build on the existing Road User Charges system for diesel powered vehicles. This is a distance/weight charging system introduced in New Zealand in 1978, and still one of the world leaders in this area.
The Ministry of Transport is also completing the Surface Transport Costs and Charges study, which will finally give us the core data to enable us to set long term policies for equitable and sustainable charging of road and rail transport.
Steady progress is also being made on research into the impacts of water runoff and noise from transport networks. This will form the basis of developing remedial approaches to these issues. We do not however have a Transport Research Strategy, something we hope to fix around June.
Work has begun on understanding the complexities of the way in which transport relates to the overall economy and it allows or obstructs individual access to social, employment, and health opportunities. This is an area of which we presently have little understanding.
There is also a very significant body of work that we need to do in relation to the form of our cities. The Ministry of the Environment has made a good start with the recent Urban Design Protocol. We will need to focus very intensively on the relation between transport and land use in New Zealand. We are not good enough at it.
Unfortunately, in today's uncertain world, we also have to focus on land transport security. Madrid taught us that.
Making progress
I believe that we have achieved a great deal in the last five years, and that we have a clear course set towards a future sustainable transport system. We are starting to get some early hits. About two weeks ago, a deal was struck between our largest dairy company and largest rail operator is set to take 45,000 truck movements per year off the road. There is more of that coming. However, I do have some concerns about public sector capability.
Under previous governments the capabilities of central and local government have steadily reduced. This could open New Zealand up to the risk that we might not have people with the skills to implement the required changes to take our transport sector into the twenty first century. It is not just a question of money, we also have to have the technical and managerial skills to drive what we are trying to do.
Therefore, I have asked the Ministry of Transport to work with local government agencies, interest groups, and the transport sector to plan for the future, to develop measures to ensure that sustainable transport policy is and can be promoted and delivered throughout the transport system. This will include ensuring that Regional Land Transport Strategies are developed in line with our objectives, that low impact modes such as walking and cycling are developed and promoted as they should be, and that communities fully evaluate the costs that transport systems impose. It is also why this conference is being held.
Opening Conference
This conference obviously comes at a key moment in the history of transport in New Zealand.
We have set a new course towards a sustainable land transport system, as we have set out in the New Zealand Transport Strategy. We have made a significant number of changes to achieve that goal.
But we are not there yet, and I look forward to this Conference as a forum for thought. an opportunity to listen to the fresh new ideas and suggestions that are all important in keeping us moving forward.
I wish you well in your deliberations and discussions, and hope you have an informative three days.
I have much pleasure in declaring the New Zealand Sustainable Land Transport Conference 2004 officially open.

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