Opposition parties slate land transport plan

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 12:21 16/06/2014

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National is proposing to spend billions over the next decade on the country's roads, prompting opposition parties to accuse the Government of being stuck in the past.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has released the Government's draft land transport policy statement, showing an emphasis on the country's road network at the expense of public transport and walking and cycling initiatives.

Brownlee said the proposal continued National's focus on "economic growth and productivity, road safety and value for money".

The $38.7 billion would be spent on building and maintaining roading networks that were "critical" to the country's economic performance, as well as on road safety and walking, cycling and public transport initiatives.

"This will provide more transport choices, and result in further reductions in the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads," Brownlee said.

Spending on highway improvements and maintenance will increase by 4 per cent and 3 per cent a year respectively, spending on local road improvements and maintenance by 4.3 per cent and 2.4 per cent.

Spending on public transport will increase by 3 per cent and on walking and cycle improvements by 3.5 per cent.

Roading upgrades have been allocated between $2b and $2.8b next year compared with between $275 million and $390m for public transport and between $15m and $33m for walking and cycling improvements.

But the Greens and Labour were scathing of the proposal.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the strategy was a "fantasy plan that pretends climate change doesn't exist and locks New Zealanders into their cars for the next 50 years".

Genter said only 10 per cent of the spending was allocated to public transport and less than 1 per cent to walking and cycling initiatives.

"This is not a smart way forward for transport investment," she said.

"Fuel prices already mean fewer cars are on the roads and climate change means we will have to cut emissions."

The National Government was "still stuck in the 20th century, trying to solve congestion by wasting billions on a few extremely expensive duplicate highways".

"New Zealanders are going to be stuck in traffic and paying huge fuel bills for decades to come if the National Government continues this unbalanced approach."

Genter said research around the world showed new highways worsened congestion in the medium term and increased overall transport costs. The focus should be on public transport initiatives, she said.

Labour's Phil Twyford said the proposal was "business as usual".

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"There is a lot of rhetoric about the need for more efficiency in moving freight around, but National has only one tool in the box - moving bigger trucks on bigger motorways," he said.

"National should be taking a more intelligent look at how investing in rail, ports, coastal shipping and roads can boost economic development in the regions. The system should allow the most efficient transport mode to do the job on a case by case basis."

Twyford said traffic demand was declining in New Zealand and around the world and "pumping billions of dollars into low-value motorway projects in the hope that future traffic demand will justify them is a fool's dream".

Brownlee told Radio New Zealand that cycleways also got funding from local government and said the Government was "playing catch up in what has been probably two decades of underspend in the roading network".

The public has until August 11 to have its say on the strategy.

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- Stuff

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