One of the most important ways for the new government to change how we invest in transport is through the Government Policy Statement (GPS). The GPS is produced every three years and sets out the government’s priorities for transport over a 10-year period. It includes allocating high level funding ranges for the various activities such as State Highways, local roads, public transport and policing. The next GPS is due to come into effect in mid-2018 and needs to be confirmed shortly to feed into the various NZTA and local authority planning/budget documents.

We’ve been critical of the GPSs from the previous government for shifting increasing amounts of funding into State Highways. This was in large part to deliver their Roads of National Significance. Over a period of time when the amount of money for transport increased significantly, most areas saw little actual movement. The one massive exception to this was of State Highways. The graph below shows the amount of funding, including the ranges for some of the key activities from previous GPSs. This includes the draft Labour one for 2019-12 that was replaced by National after winning the 2008 election. Comparing the upper limits for each band, the amount of funding for State Highways increased from around 42% in Labour’s 2009-12 GPS to 55% in National’s draft 2018-21 GPS.

As mentioned, National swiftly changed the then draft GPS of the former Labour government upon winning the 2008 election. A letter from Transport Minster Phil Twyford, sent by the Ministry to a number of people on Monday, says that he intends on doing the same thing to National’s draft GPS for 2018-21. A GPS is the product of a lot of work by the ministry and so given the tight time frames, wholesale changes aren’t possible. However, the changes that are outlined in the letter they will be shaving off many of the rough edges and irregularities to give a more balanced outcome. For example, we currently have the bizarre situation where the NZTA will provide funding assistance to run services within a region but not on services between regions. So they’ll help fund trains to Pukekohe but not just over the regional border to Tuakau or Pokeno.

We’re definitely look forward to seeing what changes the Minister delivers. Like with what happened in 2009 I suspect we will see some significant changes in some of the funding bands. Even just keeping State Highways at the 2015-18 level would allow for significant changes in some of the other areas.

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  1. Will allowing inter regional services help the capital connection train between Wellington and Palmerston North which has had an uncertain future for a number of years?

    1. I would likely say so isn’t saving and helping the Capital Connection one of the things Iain Lees-Galloway is very passionate about.

        1. And you can bet the last Gov’t spent up to, and even beyond, the top of the range bars for the State Highways allocations and then spent as little as possible (to the bottom, or even below the bottom of the range) on the other areas to make up the funds needed by all those money sucking RoNS. the country just spent the last 8+ years building.

          And yet for all of that mega spend on state highways and “RoNS” – mostly justified as delivering important “safety improvements”.
          We now have an out of control Road Toll, which in retrospect has been that way ever since 2013.

          Does anyone not see a connection between:
          More vehicles on the road [and hence more VkT] , a rapidly aging fleet, while continually starving the local roads, that most folks use regularly, of maintenance and many easy/cheap to do safety improvements.
          And more people getting seriously injured or killed on those “back country” main roads?

          [SH1 via Dome Valley etc being just one case in point of this].

        2. The NZTA set the actual figure within the range based on things such as how much local authorities will invest.
          This is what was to be spent from the 2015-18 range. So yes, pretty much most of the State Highway range.

        3. No money for Local Road improvements spending – looks like its all sucked up into Local Road maintenance! [and of course those State highways].

          Every other category is middle, or bottom of its range.
          Very telling…

        4. Greg, your 9:24 post shows that you didn’t look close enough, walking and cycling spend is at the top of the range

        5. On the local roads maintenance budget: When NZTA builds a bypass quite often the local roads the SH went along get handed over to the local council to look after. In come cases this can be quite significant. So not only do local councils miss out on funding due to $$ being spent on highways they also have more to maintain with the funds they do get.

        6. You do have to give credit to National for their emphasis on cycling – apparently driven by John Key, a guy who had lived in and understood how real cities work. As opposed to most of his colleagues who are rural/suburban guys.

          The urban cycling fund started a really virtuous cycle and I am confident the new government will take that to a whole new level. Their commitment to fully funding Skypath in particular will be a game changer for Auckland cycling.

          And we are starting to see the results with a big uptick in bicycle sales and people cycling.

        7. @ Goosoid

          I wouldn’t be so sure about Key. He lived in London and I’m sure would have been all over Europe were he would have used excellent PT structure, yet he does not seem to have pushed through any PT developments off his own back while PM.

          The Wellington and Auckland upgrades were legacy projects and the new Auckland Rail Link was pushed by Auckland, not the National/John Key govt. who tried as hard they could to thwart it.

          He could have cashed in on Christchurch but look what’s happened there. As nice as cycleways etc are, they cater for a tiny demographic compared to bus/tram/metro/rail PT.

        8. @ Martin. +1

          Good and concise summary of the miserable transport-legacy of the previous Nat government.

  2. Perhaps we could see re-introduction of R Funding (R for Regional) which gave each Regional Council some control over state funding in its area. This would allow urban councils to give greater emphasis to public transport whereas rural areas have an obviously greater interest in roads (for logging, dairy, tourism, etc). This disappeared altogether in 2009 under Stephen Joyce as he sucked up funding to inject into his RONS.

    1. Gee perhaps we won’t be building caviar highways like the East West link at $400M per kilometer (more solid gold than gold plated). Maybe that was a totally moronic option after all, even though the trucking lobby really pressed the minister for it and it really had no decent business case.

  3. What an excellent post to have. Good, clear graphics showing why things have gone so wrong. Now, if the amounts could be decided based on the really important planning issues, like climate change, pollution and a target of zero fatalities, we’d see a huge shift.

    Council spending is additional to this, yes?

    1. Hello heidi

      Yes, this is just the co-funding pot that NZTA offers (except for the state highways where they pay 100% and those pots are the total of the money). On the other classes, Council pays a part of the cost from their own transport budgets (often, but not always, thats 50% – haven’t checked the FARs – Funding Assistance Ratios – recently).

      So if Council has a *funded* road safety project in their budgets, but the NZTA’s road safety pot is already empty (because the limited money is already allocated to so many other waiting projects), Council could still go ahead… but they’d have to pay 100% of the cost, instead of 50%. So they almost never do a project without co-funding, it just isn’t good money efficiency for them. In this way, MoT and NZTA have a massive influence with the GPS on what gets done, even at a local level.

      1. isn’t it right that the funding ratios for the big cities can be skewed considerably towards local rates? I understood that Auckland in particular does not receive much funding from NZTA for local roads and what is received is pretty much 100% from general taxation – nothing from the NLTF.

        Is that right?

        1. Generally no, all eligible local road projects will receive NZTA subsidy at roughly around the 50 percent mark. However, Councils can elect to undertake some projects that don’t meet NZTA criteria (e.g. maybe have more of an urban amenity/redevelopment focus rather than transport function), in which case they would be coughing up the whole cost (or the whole part over and above the “transport” part that NZTA deems they can subsidise).

      2. The other thing Council/AT like to do is study things over and over again until they doctor a BCR good enough to achieve funding from NZTA. What they often forget is all the money they spent on traffic modelling and studies could have just been spent on the intersection/road upgrade….

  4. Looks like Phil has a low opinion of collaboration – “The importance of central and local government collaborating with key stakeholders with regards to investment in our transport system cannot be UNDERstated” – or perhaps he just needs to hire a proof reader. Insert smiley emoticon thingy here.

    1. Yeah maybe, he meant overstate.

      But you can also read Twyford as saying, [to the minions in the MoT and NZTA, and maybe AT] you cannot marginalise [i.e. understate] local governments involvement in the investment and general decision making process.

      So its more of a shot across their bows.
      And an early indication that the “keep on, keeping on, and all do what the Ministry says” won’t work anymore.

      Time to stop the “the only way forward is a highway” approach to transport and funding.

      Whether these folks in NZTA and MoT [and hopefully AT] get that message? Time will tell.

      For sure, I doubt they’ll be able to smokescreen the new Minister/Associate Ministers, for very long – unlike what they managed to do with the last lot.

  5. Shouldn’t one of the government’s priorities be making the transport network safer to use -ala the Swedish model? I would like policy makers to consider this issue when allocating resources.

    1. Well, they have indicated that they will be introducing VisionZero. But changing the GPS ranges to be more towards safety-funding and local projects (which will have a faster change to road safety), is a fast initial step while they promote a culture change in agencies and start to change design guidelines etc…

      1. I agree these other changes and proposals will have the effect on improving safety. But why not make safety an explicit high order policy objective?

        1. Yes, given the roll toll and possible vision zero policy adoption the GPS should include a specific safety (capital improvements) funding bucket where the primary purpose of the works is safety.

  6. No amount of money spent on road improvements will make up for poor driving skills.
    On a short trip back to Auckland on the weekend I encountered 3 vehicles crossing the centre line.

        1. +100 – as Matts Belin said: Introducing wire barriers and 2+1 overtaking roads allowed Sweden to cut the road toll at a cost of 30 million / life saved annually. They estimated it would have cost them a billion (!) to achieve the same effect if they had focussed on building motorways instead.

    1. A median barrier prevents vehicles from crossing the centre line -that is a road improvement which takes into account human frailty. Trains/trams are on tracks -so they cannot deviate into another lane -that is another transport investment which could make the transport system safer. That is just two examples -I am sure if policy makers objectively analysed the evidence and weighed up various options -then significant progress on safety could be achieved,

      P.S Vance you are skirting close to low brow victim blaming rather than looking at the big picture transport policy objectives which is what we are discussing here.

    2. In all 6 of the countries I have lived in claimed they had the worst drivers in the world. Though Romania may actually have had a valid claim there.

      Humans are humans. It is really easy to blame everyone else and point to our own perfect driving record. But the fact is the roading and safety environment should ensure that mistakes or bad decisions are not fatal.

      All the driver education in the world won’t stop an accident when one or more vehicles involved is travelling at an unsafe speed for the conditions. Speed is a factor in 100% of traffic crashes.

      1. Apparently in Norway someone driving badly is “driving like a New Zealander”. But Vance’s comment makes no sense anyway – if we’re particularly bad drivers, we need an environment that forgives our mistakes even more than elsewhere.

        1. “But the fact is the roading and safety environment should ensure that mistakes or bad decisions are not fatal.”
          Nice idea but totally impractical. The cost of building and retrofitting every single road with a median barrier and side barriers would be just prohibitive.

  7. This change of direction cannot happen fast enough. However I presume existing contracts on RoNs roading will mean that this RoNs expenditure will take some time to wind down?

        1. I think that the Pekapeka to Otaki contract has already been awarded too, and maybe one more grade separation on the Hutt Expressway/Motorway (Haywards?).

          In Christchurch there is also the Western Belfast bypass and Southern Motorway Extension underway, and I think that the northern arterial is also under contract now.

          In Auckland I think the Northern Corridor Improvements, Southern Corridor Improvements, lincoln to Westgate, Kirkbride grade separation, and Puhoi-Warkworth each have contracts in place.

          In Tauranga Baypark to Bayfair is under contract, I am pretty sure that none of the sections of SH2 to the north have been awarded yet

          In Hamilton, the last three (Longswamp, Huntly, Hamilton) sections of the expressway are under contract.

          A lot of money still to disappear down the single occupant motor vehicle hole yet.

        2. Is it at all possible to review or ammend any of this projects. I may be extremely naive here but can you go to contractors and say in light of new governments aims we need to change a few things around.

        3. It may be cheaper to just negotiate a termination fee to scrap the project than build something of dubious value. Most of the contractors will have no problem finding other work.

        4. RE Christchurch: Can confirm that the Southern Motorway and Northern Arterial have started and will be under construction for another 3-4 years yet. Western Belfast Bypass is basically finished now. One of the lanes on the Northern Arterial is a high-occupancy-vehicle lane, so it’s got that going for it 🙂

        5. It may be possible to negotiate something different for Lincoln-Westgate, Puhoi to Warkworth, and Baypark to Bayfair. However, the other ones are so far along that it may cost more to demolish the existing structures than to just finish the job. In many cases the business case for others isn’t that bad either (NCI and SCI, Waikato Expressway, Pekakpeka to Otaki, and the Christchurch motorways stand out as good examples that should be finished).

        6. Even the Greens support continuing with already under contract/construction motorway projects, it’s horrendously expensive otherwise.

        7. I reckon that for all the state highway contracts that are already let, they should be upheld, but with a twist. Same money paid, but a switch of scope from state highways to active modes and PT. Whatever gets negotiated would be a huge boost for active modes and PT and a prevention of traffic and emissions inducing road construction wastage.

        8. Transmission Gully can’t be the last RoNS because something still needs to be done about the Manawatu Gorge situation.

  8. Wellington Phil is making some positive noises, and the small step of allowing a fuel tax to be implemented in Auckland shows more vision than Simple Simon could have found in a hundred years. It seems that petrol companies (who last year were found to be non-cooperative in fuel pricing investigation and generally understood to be profiteering) have already built in this future tax rise, with prices about ten cents higher than pre Jacinda. I notice that Sulky Stephen is claiming that Auckland can’t budget, some more pointless vitriol from a failed economics student. At the same time a motion to debate business class flights at Auckland Council was vetoed by the (non-elected) chief executive, which supports Sulky’s dumb argument. The reality is that there is no shortage of money available to a government, and a fair amount available to a local government; the issue is simply allocation. With a more in touch, more public transport friendly government in power, we can afford to dream a little bigger.

  9. Good post and it makes things very clear. Certainly the change is welcome. The problems are not only road vs PT in Auckland. It is national, for both road vs PT, and rural roads vs motorways. As I have mentioned before, the rural motorway projects soak up so much of the capital budget that there is little left for rural local road improvements – blackspot fixes, bridgeworks, safety barriers etc. All that stuff could employ local people in Northland much better than giving an Auckland based construction company a billion dollars to turn a few more km of SH1 into a four lane motorway. You can see this clearly in the band for Local Road Improvements.

    1. What would be wonderful is to compile a list of some of the worst roads/spots from a safety point of view. and look at the cost of improvements ration to lives saved. And then prioritize so that the maximum number of lives can be saved. So basically a blind corner that can be realigned for 100,000 saving 2 lives a year gets a safety ratio of 50,000 per life saved. and a new expressway at a cost of 500 million saving 10 lives a year gets a ratio of 5 million per life.
      The corner realignment would then sit at the top of the list and get done straight away and the expressway would sit much further down.

      1. Well NZTA already have a list of the top 100 worst intersections ( and probably have a fair idea of the worst road sections too. And we already have a Benefit/Cost Ratio method that does exactly what you are asking for (that’s why most low-cost road safety projects have BCRs well above 10 while RoNS projects can barely scrape past 2); only problem recently is that the BCR measure has been diluted to be just one of the factors considered for prioritisation (the other two being variants of asking “is it a RoNS project?”…)

        1. +1, I think there are also some other things to consider though. If that blind corner is on a section with moderate risk and a few other high risk sections, is it worth treating the whole corridor now?

      2. You won’t realign a blind corner for much under a half million but yes, that is the approach that makes sense if you really want to achieve a reduced road toll.

  10. I am impressed that the Minister is so confident that his new GPS can accommodate his government’s priorities, when at the moment the NLTF funding categories don’t cater much if at all for four out of six of them:

    – Public transport, interregional commuting, and housing ……………only partially catered for, and Kiwirail barely mentioned
    – Rail ……………………………. largely only catered for in urban PT opex subsidy and urban stations
    – Regional development ………….not accounted for in existing legislation for NZTA
    – Mode neutrality ………………….. very difficult without Kiwirail fully integrated

    The Minister needs to address the Kiwirail capital and operational issue both at a funding and at a structural level if he is going to have the ability to address four of his six policy priorities.

    He also needs to face rolling the CAPEX part of Kiwirail into NZTA, and making Kiwirail simply a freight operations company.

    Since most rail both urban and freight is electrified, he could shake the funding tree at EECA rather than continuing to attribute petroleum excises onto rail projects. That would make regional fuel taxes far more democratically palatable.

  11. You can deal with bad sections on a case by case basis. Often though, accidents occur at places where the road standard is inconsistent with the standard before and after it – catching inattentive drivers out. Hence the blackspot. Fixing up whole sections speeds drivers up. So there really is good logic to identifying and tackling the blackspots first.

    1. Fixing up whole sections doesn’t automatically speed drivers up. Part of fixing up sections may well be speed management to try and deliberately reduce speeds. Adding barriers can also narrow the perceived width of the road leading to reduced speed.

      1. True. The barriers do make sense to implement on a corridor basis. There are economies of scale. I was thinking more of realignment jobs.

  12. Now AT should come to the party by re-prioritising their capital expenditure. I’d like to see everything spent on public transport/ bikeways. The rationale for this switch is reducing pollution; reducing congestion; reducing overseas funds because of less expenditure on vehicles and fuel, and increasing the wealth of Aucklanders who utilise the public transport. The 150 million raised each year from the extra fuel tax should be applied only to roading. (This will stop the whinging from those who will say that their fuel tax is going to services that they will never use.)
    Very quickly Auckland may be able to achieve a public transport network that they can be proud of, and even more importantly one that will provide for trips other than to and from the city.

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