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The partnership between the NZ Transport Agency and local government sector

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The NZ Transport Agency’s Interim CE Mark Ratcliffe gave the following speech to the LGNZ Metro Meeting in Wellington on Friday 10 May 2019.

Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to attend today’s meeting to update you on the work of the Transport Agency. For those of you I haven’t met yet, I’m the interim Chief Executive of the NZ Transport Agency. I have been in the role since mid-January.

  • It is a real privilege to be leading the Transport Agency.  Good infrastructure and services are at the heart of communities. They keep families connected, improve their wellbeing and support New Zealand to prosper.
  • The Transport Agency touches the lives of every New Zealander and what we do in partnership with you – our co-investment partners – to improve the land transport system makes a significant difference to their lives.
  • I acknowledge your frustration in recent times because you have been unable to get decisions on funding allocated for your transport programme – and what projects will receive the Targeted Enhanced Funding Assistance Rate (TEFAR).  This causes you uncertainty for your Annual Plans, knowing what projects you can have certainty will be delivered and has an impact on your budgets.  We know that’s not the position you want to be in.
  • In the next couple of weeks all Approved Organisations will be receiving detailed information on what projects have approved funding; what projects are likely and unlikely to be funded in the 2018-21 NLTP’.
  • You will also have received an invitation this week to attend one of 16 regional workshops being held throughout the country from 28 May – where we want to talk with you and your councillors about the reprioritised investment programme.
  • I’m keen to see a good turnout at these.  It’s a chance for us to talk about how we work together to deliver outcomes over the next two years.

The 2018 GPS

  • The 2018 Government Policy Statement on Land Transport set a new direction for land transport investment and development in New Zealand – the first significant change in more than a decade.
  • It has taken all of us time to work through the full impact of these changes.
  • We’ve now prioritised investment decisions to achieve the best alignment with the GPS and transport outcomes being sought for New Zealand within the available funding.
  • The GPS guides the projects we invest and co-invest in.  It provides direction to councils about how the Transport Agency makes investment decisions, and the type of projects that we will be investigating and delivering across both the State Highway Network and the regional transport networks. 

Funding constraints

  • While there is more money than ever to invest during the 2018-21 NLTP in the land transport system – we have experienced the highest pressure ever on funding in all activity classes.
  • A few factors have contributed to making the allocation of funding even more challenging this time.
  • Excluding the shift in transport priorities, we’ve had to manage one of the highest ever carryover of projects from the last NLTP.
  • There’s also been substantial increases in construction costs for projects already contracted and under construction and a significantly higher increase in funding requests – all but one activity class is oversubscribed.
  • We have taken the time to work through the implication of each of these factors to ensure the investment programme gives effect to the GPS and delivers the optimal outcome for New Zealand within the available funding.
  • All bids for funding have been considered and prioritised against the outcomes being sought through the GPS.
  • Limited funding remains to commit to any new projects.
  • During the next few months, we know some councils will realise they are unable to proceed with projects – and the result of this is that previously committed funding will be able to be reallocated.

We will look at every available opportunity to ensure any remaining funds in any activity class will be made available as early as possible in this NLTP period to enable you to get projects underway and completed by June 2021.

State Highways

  • In terms of the state highway activity class – this is the only activity class that was subject to a decrease in funding for this NLTP.  The GPS asked for a priority on safety and access and to have less emphasis on travel time savings. 
  • This resulted in us looking at 12 high profile projects that were in at various stages of planning. It is my understanding that none of these projects had been contracted.
  • We are working with the Ministry and the Minister for Transport to see if any funding can be made available for these projects. 
  • We understand it’s important to your communities to know the future of these.  We will update you as there is more we are able to share.
  • Unless funding becomes available it would be reasonable to assume that little work will be done on these projects in the current NLTP.
  • In the meantime, we are progressing with projects around the country that deliver the best safety outcomes for communities. 

Safety

  • The Ministry will be updating you on the new Road Safety Strategy.
  • Safety remains our top priority and through this NLTP $1.4 billion of NLTP is allocated to projects that contribute to improving safety on our roads. You will have seen Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter in the news lately – promoting the work we’re doing in this space.
  • Since October 2017, we have completed work to make 10 of New Zealand’s rural highways safer. We have installed safety improvements on around 115km of high-risk rural state highways. A further 13 projects are in construction.
  • In addition to these 23 projects, work is being carried out under the Boost Safety Programme. Stage one of this programme, which has been completed, upgraded 30 sections of low-traffic volume rural state highways and stage two, currently underway, added a further 11 sections of regional highways. 
  • Work on the first phase of Boost improvements began in February 2018. The programme upgraded sections of 30 rural state highways in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Otago and Southland with rumble strips and better signs. Safety barriers were added on high-risk sections. Around 2000km of highway was made safer through this phase of the programme.
  • In January 2019, the Associate Transport Minister announced an extension to the Safety Boost Programme to 11 more regional state highways across Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast.
  • The work these projects deliver is making our roads safer and saving lives. 
  • Deaths and serious injuries affects everyone – it reaches deep within our communities – it changes lives, the fabric of families and impacts on businesses.
  • The Transport Agency and its construction partners experienced this trauma earlier this year with the deaths of four people and serious injury of three others working on our roads at two sites in the North Island.
  • The number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads each week is unacceptable.
  • I can’t stress enough the improvements we all need to make in reducing crashes and savings lives.
  • Safety improvements to our roads and roadsides is only one of the four pillars of the Safe System Approach. Just as critical as investment on our roads, is working to encourage people to buy vehicles that have the latest safety features and that they maintain them; improving road user behaviour, ensuring drivers are alert to the risks and drive to the conditions; and that speeds are appropriate for the environment.
  • It’s no secret that a lot of New Zealand’s roads are challenging to drive as they are narrow and winding. Lower speeds give all road users a second chance to either avoid a crash or at least walk away from one if it happens.
  • Speed is a critical factor in how we can improve the safety of our roads. Speed increases both the likelihood of crashes and the severity of them, regardless of what causes the crash.
  • A reduction in speed on our roads is the most cost-effective way to help reduce deaths and serious injuries, and when we are reviewing speed limits in your region, we need to work together to achieve the best results.
  • We have 40 speed limit reviews underway around the country. 
  • It is also important to remember that the investment we make in the local and regional improvement classes, walking and cycling, and public transport all helps make our roads safer by reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.
  • In the last month we’ve:
    • Opened a new shared cycling/walking path in Gisborne
    • Started construction of a new two-way bike path around Evans Bay in Wellington – a two-year project to improve the coastal route
    • Opened the new cycle lanes on SH1 through Dunedin -  along with a new central city bus hub
    • Moved a step closer to improving walking and cycling in Auckland with the SeaPath project moving to the detail design and consenting stage; and
    • Launched a new Youth Driver Licensing project in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development.
    • Projects that deliver the greatest safety outcomes will continue to have funding priority in the 2018-21 NLTP.

GPS 2021

  • This afternoon you will hear the Ministry of Transport about GPS 2021. We expect this will deliver some additional changes and we have several programmes of work already underway to ensure we are well-positioned to work with you to deliver on the new GPS.
  • We want to make it easier for us to achieve the best results for your communities.
  • We have just relaunched the Business Case Approach.  Our new process will provide better consistency and clarity around developing business cases and our aim is to make the process simpler and faster and we’ll be providing training so there is a better understanding of how to use it to achieve the best results.
  • We are also making changes to our Investment Decision Making Framework and we want your input to make improvements to this. We have started work on this. Workshops are being held in four centres and there will be other opportunities to get involved with this work later in the year. 

Partner survey

  • I mentioned earlier that, we are visiting you to discuss funding.  At the same time, we will be seeking direct feedback on our relationships and performance. You will receive an email next week asking for your participation in the survey – please take the time to provide us with your honest feedback – it is important to us.
  • Your feedback is critical to enable us to make improvements – it will inform how we work with you in the future and how we need to change our approach to engagement.
  • The survey is being run by independent research agency Colmar Brunton – and I will share the high-level results with you when these are available.

Conclusion

  • Once again, thank you for inviting me to speak at your meeting.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing you all again at the regional workshops that begin in 18 days’ time – and hoping for a good turnout of CEs and elected members to join the conversation.
  • It is only by working in partnership to deliver the Government’s transport priorities that we will make a difference to the lives of your communities and all New Zealand.

Thank you

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