Chris Bishop: Kiwis need a Government that can be trusted on transport

Opinion 25/09/2019

By Chris Bishop, National Party Transport Spokesperson, Hutt South MP.

In the past two years, the Government has promised much and delivered little – and nowhere is that more true than in transport. They’ve proven, time and time again, that they simply can’t be trusted on transport.

Almost two years into this Government’s term of office, infrastructure is, to use the words of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, at “crisis point”.

Around $5.5 billion has been stripped out of the state highway budget and unbelievable as it sounds, not a single major new roading or infrastructure project has started under this Government, and nor will it.

Not a single major new roading or infrastructure project has started under this Government.

The government’s 2018 Government Policy Statement on Transport immediately forced the re-evaluation of 12 major roading projects around the country, including Petone to Grenada, Otaki to Levin, Cambridge to Piarere, and the East West Link.

In the case of the cancelled Tauranga Northern Link, the project was funded, consented, and out for tender. It would have upgraded one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the country, and facilitated the growth in Omokoroa outside Tauranga and other areas.

The Government’s gutting of the roading budget is occurring at a time when the Reserve Bank Governor, the Prime Minister’s own Advisory Council, and New Zealanders are screaming at the government to get spades in the ground.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says New Zealand has “overinvested in roads for decades” while his Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter has made disparaging comments about “car fascists” on twitter.

Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter need to stop showing contempt for New Zealand families and businesses that use roads around New Zealand every day.

To make things worse, New Zealanders around the country are paying more at the pump through Labour’s increased fuel taxes – but they’re not getting any projects!

The government campaigned on light rail from the Auckland CBD to Mt Roskill, and out to the airport. But two years into Government, Phil Twyford has admitted that the Labour’s light rail commitment won’t have spades in the ground by the time the next election rolls around.

But there’s a silver lining here, and it’s this: Labour’s broken promise on Auckland’s light rail means there’s $774 million in unspent transport funds.

That’s money we can use to solve the infrastructure crisis, rather than simply sitting on it.

It’s money that can go on the highways we need, that the Government’s thus far scrapped or stalled.

The Government now has an opportunity to right its wrong of sidelining motorists in favour of projects it can’t deliver.

With the country’s growth starting to slow sharply, the Government needs to listen to the experts and push go on transport projects around the country.

The Minister could, and should, hit the accelerator on the Waihi to Tauranga Corridor, including the Tauranga Northern Link. He could nudge Auckland Council on bringing forward improvements to Mill Road and Penlink, which could be funded with the cash now not being spent on light rail.

Slightly further afield, there’s the $150 million Melling Interchange in Lower Hutt, or the Ōtaki to Levin expressway.

Kiwis need a government that gets spades in the ground.

Chris Bishop is the National Party Transport Spokesperson and MP for Hutt South.