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.