As the title suggests, this is a guest post from new Minister of Transport, Michael Wood
Firstly I’d like to thank Greater Auckland for the warm welcome when I was appointed Transport Minister. Transport has been a passion of mine even before I was given the portfolio as a member of the Puketāpapa Local Board. My family are keen public transport users and I have to acknowledge the strong advocacy for better services TransportBlog/Greater Auckland community have led over the last decade. I have no doubt the City Rail Link and Auckland Transport Alignment Project would not have happened without you. I’d also like to acknowledge my colleagues Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter. They had a big task of turning around National’s years of neglect, but thanks to them we’ve got a fantastic platform to build off.
As the new Transport Minister, I know I have a big task ahead of me. Transport shapes people’s lives, it shapes the way our cities grow and the ability of our regions to connect and thrive. Prior to being an MP I spent six years in local government seeing how well thought through transport investment can improve the way that people can move around their communities and connect with a range of opportunities, with the Te Auaunga shared pathway being one project I was involved in. Equally, living right in the middle of rapid transit “void” in Mt Roskill, I have seen how failures to make good investment have the opposite effect. I’m also deeply aware in this portfolio of the sad toll that New Zealand’s historic failure to make our roads safe has on people’s lives. Every week I receive a weekly readout of the Kiwis who have lost their lives on our roads and I am determined to push on with the implementation of Road to Zero to save lives and stop people being seriously injured on our roads.
Auckland is projected to grow by 730,000 people over the next 30 years and we all know if we want to avoid gridlock 24/7 then we need to make sure people have real transport options. COVID has meant public transport patronage has taken a real hit, but I believe it will slowly go back to the pre-pandemic 100 million trips annually and continue to grow from there. Without expanding our options to help ease bus congestion in the CBD and building important rapid transit links like the City Rail Link and light rail from the city centre to Māngere, we will choke on our own growth.
I’m personally committed to light rail. I announced Labour’s commitment to it back in 2016 and it’s an issue I’ve campaigned on for years. I live down the far end of Dominion Road and while I still sometimes take the 27W or the 25L into town, pre-COVID it was at capacity. When we go back to the levels of ridership we achieved last year, our city centre will once again be clogged with buses. Add in the huge housing growth expected in Mt Roskill and Māngere, and we simply have to get light rail done to avoid clogging our streets. I expect to make an announcement on next steps next year and the Government will engage with Aucklanders much more on this important project.
While big projects like light rail and the CRL are part of our strategy, we also need to help let people leave their cars at home with other projects and initiatives. Through ATAP, we developed a mode shift plan to help us make the investments to support more people onto public transport and walking and cycling. Every person who leaves the car at home both frees up the road for those that have to drive and reduces our emissions. We’re working hard with Auckland Council to help embed this thinking into our refresh of ATAP. We’re taking a mode-neutral approach not just in Auckland, but around NZ, and this is underlined by our Government Policy Statement on land transport 2021. For the first time ever, one of our strategic priorities is tackling climate change, so every transport investment will be evaluated on how it contributes to reducing emissions.
While achieving more mode shift towards climate friendly transport options is a major part of our plan to tackle climate change, I’m well aware we need to do more given transport makes up a fifth of all NZ’s emissions and 47 percent of carbon dioxide emissions . When the Climate Change Commission delivers its emissions budgets next year, we know transport is one of the areas where we’re going to have to make big changes. I’m aiming to make announcements on our plan to reduce transport emissions in the coming months.
Laying the foundations for the future is one of our Government’s main priorities, alongside keeping New Zealand safe from the virus and accelerating our economic recovery. Transport is playing a big part across all of them. On top of maintaining essential airfreight to support exporters and securing our maritime border, we’re creating jobs through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme. NZUP is investing $6.8 billion in transport to save lives, get our cities moving and boost productivity in the country’s growth areas. It provides a pipeline of work for the construction industry sector over the next decade, and thousands of jobs will be supported in the sector and the wider supply chain. About 650 people are already working on the programme getting projects ready for construction, and Waka Kotahi expects to award $500 million worth of NZUP contracts before Christmas, and works on the third main rail line between Quay Park and Wiri are underway. And through ATAP, there’s already shovels in the ground on the Eastern Busway, Matakana Link Road, SH20B upgrades, the Puhinui Interchange, Karangahape Road enhancements, New Lynn to Avondale Shared Path, and the Constellation Bus Station upgrade.
While Auckland is very important to me, I will be a Transport Minister for all of New Zealand. I’m looking forward to working with local government on Let’s Get Wellington Moving and developing a rapid transit network for Christchurch. I’m going to continue the work of the previous transport ministers and keep supporting our regions, revitalising rail and implementing mode shift plans to unlock our biggest cities. My focus is on delivering these and other projects across the country to create jobs, support our recovery and get our cities moving.
There’s lots to do and we’re cracking on with it.