Positioning New Zealand’s transport system for the next decade


The NZ Transport Agency’s Interim CE Mark Ratcliffe gave the following speech to the annual AA conference in Dunedin on Friday 29 March 2019.


  • Tēnā koutou.
  • Thank you for the introduction. I appreciate the invitation to be here with you today.
  • I am the interim Chief Executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency. I’ve been in the seat since mid-January.
  • I bring a background in infrastructure to the role.
  • As the former Chorus Chief Executive, I know the importance of providing good infrastructure and services to communities to keep people connected, improve their wellbeing and support the economic growth of New Zealand.
  • The Transport Agency has a similar purpose reaching into the lives of all New Zealanders but this time its transport of physical things not just.
  • Our core functions are to invest in land transport activities, manage the state highway network and provide access to and regulate land transport.
  • We have been making headlines against some of these core activities for more than six months. And I am moving to respond to the concerns as swiftly as I can.
  • My approach to our work is to be open and transparent.
  • This is the way of the world we live in. People expect transparency from organisations.
  • This is one of the fundamentals I am working on within the Transport Agency.
  • My hope is that this will allow us to deepen our relationship with key partners such as AA.

So what am I doing?

  • Well after 10 weeks in the job I’ve decided to take an approach that ensures our core functions, regulation, system design and delivery and operations to work at the level that New Zealand expects of a government agency.
  • At the same time I’ve challenge my senior managers to focus on our business functions to get them working better.
  • I’m talking about a Master Plan for the land transport system that includes embracing mode shift in transportation types and changes to policy which will be needed for 2020 and beyond.
  • I’m talking about best practice for health and safety of our people, contractors and the public on our sites and road safety.
  • I’m talking about our own business planning, performance measurements, internal governance and our risk and assurance.
  • And I am talking about being more open and transparent with our partners – so you can see clearly how Government priorities translate into our funding programmes and projects in every New Zealand community.
  • I want to talk to you about this specifically today. But first I want to share some recent changes within our organisation.

So where have we come from?

  • I have inherited an organisational structure that came into effect in early January.
  • This structure places a greater emphasis on the Transport Agency being a more effective regulator; introduces a more laser like focus on safety, health and the environment (including road safety) and brings into the Agency the new function of light rail.
  • There are new General Managers in each of these three key areas. They are new to the Transport Agency and bring a significant lift in our capability.
  • Greg Lazzaro started this week leading the Safety, Health & Environment Group. He joins us from Fonterra where he has been the organisation’s Global Health and Safety and Resilience and Risk Director.
  • Kane Patena joins us as the new General Manager of Regulatory early next month. He has an extensive background in regulatory compliance in both the public and private sector.
  • And Carl Devlin joined us in February to lead the country’s largest infrastructure project, Auckland’s light rail project. He has led multi-billion pound investments in infrastructure including a £5 billion-plus railway upgrade for Transport for London.
  • These new managers will drive a gear shift in the Transport Agency.

There are three main topics I’d like to talk to you about today:

  1. The funding allocation changes within the current NLTP
  2. Where the priorities have shifted and what that means
  3. What we are doing in terms of road safety

1.      In terms of funding …

  • The Government Policy Statement for transport sets out the strategic direction, revenue, and funding for investment in the land transport system.
  • It signals:
    • what the government wants the land transport system to achieve (by setting strategic priorities, objectives and results)
    • how much revenue will be raised for the NLTF from Fuel Excise Duty, Road User Charges, and motor vehicle registration and other Crown funding channels
    • how the government wants the funding to be allocated across different types of land transport system activities (roads, public transport, active transport, road policing)
  • This new GPS marks a significant shift in priorities.
  • This GPS has:
    • a stronger focus on reducing deaths and serious injuries
    • an increased focus on environmental outcomes
    • a proactive modal shift in urban areas from roads to public transport and active modes, with a particular focus on rapid transit
    • increased regional investment – through local road improvements, safety improvements, inter-regional passenger and freight connections and resilience, including adaptation to climate change
    • a reduced emphasis on state highway improvements (from 38% of investment in GPS 2015 to 25% in GPS 2018)
  • Despite receiving a boost in the allocation of funds there is already a large programme of activities submitted in each activity class and remaining unallocated funding is very limited.
  • This particularly applies to local road improvements, where there are significantly more candidate projects in the National Land Transport Programme than available funding,
  • Public transport also faces service cost pressure.
  • Similar funding pressures are also emerging in the walking and cycling and regional improvements activity classes.
  • As a result, further funding approvals will require careful management to fit within the funding ranges set for each activity class.
  • We will be prioritising the remaining funding to the projects in the Programme to ensure that the overall local road programme is best aligned to the GPS outcomes.

2.      The priorities have shifted – what does that mean?

  • State highway projects – these have been generating headlines for months as communities come to terms with the impact of a change in Government policy
  • The change in the Government’s transport priorities has significantly increased the pressure on funding for state highway projects – in particular 10 state highway corridors.
  • The outcomes of the 10 re-evaluated corridors, except State Highway 2 Melling Interchange, Petone to Grenada and East West Link, were completed and announced towards the end of last year.
  • We are now working with the Ministry of Transport to consider funding and timing for the projects against funds available nationally. We expect to be able to provide an update on the next steps for these projects in the coming months.

3.      What does it mean for road safety?

  • At least seven people die and around 54 are seriously injured every week on our roads. Each death and serious injury has a devastating impact on our communities. It also has a social cost to New Zealand.
  • I know communities throughout the country are deeply concerned about the safety of our roads. I am too.
  • We are doing a lot in the road safety space and a lot of these things we’re doing in partnership with the AA.
  • All of our activities use the Safe System approach, focusing on
    • safe roads and roadsides,
    • safe and appropriate speeds
    • Safe people
    • Safe vehicles
  • The Safe System recognises that people make mistakes and are vulnerable in a crash. Mistakes are inevitable – deaths and serious injuries from road crashes do not need to be inevitable.
  • It would also be a good opportunity to share with you that the Agency has commissioned an independent review of the Agency’s strategy and approach to road safety by Australian based global road safety advisor Eric Howard – who has also recently completed a road safety review for Auckland Transport.

In terms of safe roads and roadsides

  • Our Safe Network Programme aims to save up to 160 deaths and serious injuries every year across New Zealand’s highest risk state highways and local roads.
  • The $1.3–1.5 billion investment over three years, signals the Government and Agency’s commitment to making our roads safe, working in partnership with local government and the wider safety sector to find the right safety solutions for each region.
  • Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury have been identified as the priority regions for the first phase of the three-year programme. These regions were prioritised as together they have the highest potential for reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries.
  • The programme focuses on safe roads and roadsides, safe level crossings, and safe and appropriate speeds.

Safe speeds

  • Across New Zealand, we have heard from communities that speed is a concern and we are taking steps to address this concern.
  • We are taking a regional approach to reviewing speeds in partnership with local councils and are working with them to develop regional speed management plans.
  • We are also currently prioritising and looking for opportunities to address specific site issues, where there are immediate safety needs.
  • The public and community stakeholders will have their chance to provide feedback on any proposed speed limit changes.
  • Local knowledge and experience of using the roads is very useful information and we value feedback from residents about the speed limit changes they would like to see.

In terms of safe people

  • We’re working in partnership with Police and the Ministry of Transport to implement a new operating model and a new investment and funding approach to support joined-up delivery of the Road Safety Partnership Programme.
  • The 2018–21 programme supports the police to achieve their operational target of a 5 percent reduction in road deaths each year to 2030. Police will take an enforcement and prevention approach targeted to highest risk.
  • You will be aware that we have a significant road safety advertising and education programme.
  • The programme's main priorities are: speed, drink-driving, drug-affected driving, young drivers, distraction and vehicle safety.
  • Other activities include the BikeReady programme, which provides cyclists with the skills and experience they need to feel safe on our transport network.
  • We are targeting our most vulnerable drivers –our youth – with a number of programmes; including to educate novice drivers, investing in community programmes to assist young people most in need to gain a driver license and the currently airing ‘Unsell’ advertising campaign: traditionally, parents of young drivers have put their teen in a cheaper car to avoid potential damage to theirs. However, these cars invariably have a lower safety rating. With young drivers more likely to crash, it makes sense to put them in the safest car possible.
  • Which leads nicely to the final priority area:

Safe vehicles

There are a number of things we are doing in terms of safe vehicles

  • Looking at regulatory change to improve the safety of cars on our roads.
  • 66% of death and serious injury crashes are in 1 and 2 star safety rated vehicles that offer little safety protection – these make up 45% of the light vehicle fleet.
  • People lack awareness of the role their vehicle plays in keeping them safe – either in reducing the likelihood of a crash or protecting occupants if a crash happens, we’re developing a programme to turn that around.
  • And of course we have undertaken a regulatory review of files we have to make sure the vehicles on our roads are safe.
  • We are making significant improvements to our regulatory function to be world-class – this is about developing new processes and building both capacity and capability.
  • Work is well underway and we’re making good progress.
  • Last October we announced an extensive review of open compliance files, and that we were getting tough on enforcement. There were 850 of these with around 160 prioritised due to their potential safety risk.
  • By mid-March the Transport Agency had taken more than 260 compliance actions across the areas we regulate.
  • The regulatory compliance review is now focused on what the future of regulation at the Transport Agency should look like.
  • The review highlighted areas for immediate improvement which are in the process of being implemented.
  • One has been to establish a new regulatory group. We did this in January. This group brings together the teams that are responsible for the spectrum of compliance activity across the Agency.
  • And we are strengthing this group. I’ve mentioned the appointment of our new GM Kane Patena. We are committed to resourcing and building the capability and culture of the regulatory group.
  • The bottom line here is, as you know now, the Transport Agency is enforcing regulation to improve safety.
  • Our partners play an important part in strengthening the regulatory system and I want to thank you for the support you have shown. The Transport Agency wants to continue our dialogue with the AA as we build the new regulatory function.

Looking ahead to the future

System planning is a key part of preparing for the future

  • Integrated land use planning plays a significant role in helping to build stronger communities throughout New Zealand.
  • The Transport Agency is taking a greater role in master planning the land transport system and its integration with land use to support improving housing affordability and making our cities more liveable.
  • Our transport system needs to provide people with a range of choices about how they get to work, connect with family and friends and access services. And it plays a vitally important role in an efficient and growing economy.
  • Growth in our population and our economy means we need to better plan for the future and help shape our cities and towns in a way that enables people to move around safely and easily.
  • Climate change means we need to make our communities more resilient to disruption from an increasingly number of severe weather events, and rising groundwater and sea levels. It also means we need to embrace transport choices that minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
  • New technology means people have access to more information and a rapidly increasing range of options on how to get around. Ride sharing has arrived, autonomous vehicles are being trialled and electric flying car prototypes are in design.
  • Our goal is to create a sustainable transport system across all modes to better manage urban growth, reduce harm to people and the environment, and introduce improvements offered by new technology.

So what does the future look like?

  • I believe the country’s transport future is a shared future.
  • The Transport Agency has a key role to play in charting that course but we must chart that course together with our partners, interested organisations and New Zealanders.
  • Our elected Government directs that course, but within that we must all come together and work together to make significant progress towards future state.
  • The New Zealand Transport Agency has a national role and a national responsibility to make a real difference in helping to address the big transport and transport-related issues facing New Zealand.
  • The Transport Agency is dedicated to this role. And it is equally dedicated to working with communities and organisations such as AA to deliver the best outcome for New Zealanders.
  • Finally, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I look forward to an opportunity to speak with some of you in the break.
  • Thank you. Mauri Ora.