I am sure the 1960s were great – good music, free love and all. However, it is disappointing to see the direction in which the Ministry of Transport’s government policy statement is taking transport in New Zealand. Someone should tell Steven Joyce that the 60s were 40 odd years ago now and the world has moved on! The updated Government Policy Statement sets the scene for the allocation of funds for transport, and has been changed quite significantly from the direction in which the previous government was taking it. Steven Joyce confirms that it basically entails shifting money from public transport, walking, cycling, roads maintenance and local roads all into state highways. In fact, state highways get a billion dollars extra over the next three years – with almost half of that money being “reallocated” (ie. stolen from) other areas of transport funding (ie. everything except building state highways).

The GPS confirms that it’s going to be a roadsfest – at the expense of everything else:

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding (GPS) is the main guiding document by which the government can ensure that the land transport funding system focuses on the priority of generating economic growth and productivity. The GPS aligns investment in the land transport sector more closely with this priority. Further, the GPS closely reflects the modal choices that are realistically available to New Zealanders. Approximately 70 percent of all freight in New Zealand goes by road, and 84 percent of people go to work by car, truck or motorbike, so we need good roads to move freight and people. The government supports some mode shift over time, especially in our major cities of Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, but considers that this should not be accelerated to the point where the outcomes are economically inefficient.

As I explained in a previous post, the 84% argument that Steven Joyce uses is completely stupid. Of course most people in New Zealand drive their cars as they have no other choice, but in any case what currently happens is irrelevant when it comes to deciding what future projects should be funded. What matters is projected what will happen in the future and doing your best to ensure that future transportation spending reflects what – at best estimate – will happen in the future. If that wasn’t the case then television makers around the world would abandon LCD and plasma screen TVs and build masses of older CRT ones. Of course that’s a silly proposal, just like this government’s transport direction.

The whole GPS document is incredibly depressing reading actually – it’s like something from the 1960s that envisages a future where oil will forever be cheap and plentiful, there is no congestion that we can’t build our way out of, and climate change is something nobody’s even heard of yet. At a time when the Regional Council is being so forward thinking in their approach to transport, the utter stupidity and backwards thinking of the GPS becomes all the more obvious.

The table below shows the spending for the first three years, and clearly highlights how unbalanced the GPS is:

gps-3year copy

Steven Joyce needs to wake up and realise that it’s 2009 and not 1959. I see some irony in the New Zealand Herald’s listing of stories:herald-irony

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  1. What would you do different Jarbury? Why is it “stolen” when the money was generated from state highways in the first place? Why is there a problem if the state highway projects have good BCRs? Why is it silly for a fund generated by road users be largely spent on roads, other than because the Greens think so (and given their gross distortions and malinformation about transport they are hardly credible)?

    The goal appears to be economic efficiency, which is difficult to argue against, unless you think wasting resources is good.

  2. I would have outcome based funding Liberty, rather than input based funding. Surely you spend based on what you want, not based on where the money is coming from.

    You work out the goals you want from a transport system – which I think should be much broader than just “economic growth”. Then you work out which projects will deliver those goals the best and you spend your money on that basis.

    If we only ever funded projects based on the status quo then we’d never get anywhere in life.

  3. I suppose if we were to extend Joyce’s somewhat simplistic logic then we could say that motorways should never have been built because in 1905 something like 98 per cent of all transportation was horse powered and the money would have been better spent on improved stabling, more blacksmiths, better drinking troughs, etc. This is right wing logic ad absurdum, suggesting that Joyce and his advisers have what might be described as an immature intellectual framework when it comes to understanding the persuasive role of government policy making has in modifying popular opinion. Sadly this has been a long-term failing of the New Zealand political system, but to see a New Zealand government pursuing transport policies that fall to the ideological right of current United States policy making is so deeply disheartening.

  4. Of course, another rebuttal to Joyce’s use of the 84% argument is that the percentage of NLTF funds earmarked for the 7 roads of national significance is just as dispproportionate with the amount of travel that actually occurs on those routes.

    Is the surviving funding for PT and ATR 16%, since that’s what it should be if he’s serious about this 84% argument.

  5. Not sure if the funding for PT makes up 16% of the total funding pool Kevyn – however I think it’s $27 on new state highway spending for every dollar on new public transport infrastructure spending. Seems a bit lop-sided don’t you think?

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