The Detail: The transport policy that has people fuming

By Davina Zimmer for The Detail.  

The Detail is a daily news podcast produced for RNZ by Newsroom and is published on Newshub with permission. Click on this link to subscribe to the podcast. 

The government's releasing its policy statements that guide priorities and funding into the future, but one in particular has met with angry feedback 

The government's policy statements will leave no doubt as to what direction it wants to head in, but when it comes to transport, not everyone is on the same motorway.  

The GPS (not to be confused with Global Positioning Systems) are documents which outline the political aims of various sectors, including housing, transport, and the big one, health.  

Theoretically if they're a 10 year plan, they should only come out every decade, but the Herald's deputy political editor Thomas Coughlan says in reality they're done much more frequently because governments change and aim to deliver their campaign promises. 

"Ministers can't keep their hands off the tools and they want to constantly be changing things." he says. 

Coughlan thinks it's important for Kiwis to be informed about the documents and what's in them, so today The Detail goes through exactly what they are and how they're enacted.   

Draft GPS are generally open for consultation which gives the opportunity for feedback before things are finalised, and anyone can have their say. 

"You should care about Government Policy Statements as much as you care about the budget. Because this is how the things that you voted for and things that you like or don't like about the government, this is how you get them," he says. 

The GPS which has caused particular angst at the moment is the one on land transport, particularly for Auckland.  

The Transport Minister Simeon Brown says it will unlock infrastructure investments that are needed to help Aucklanders get where they need to go quickly and safely. 

But the Herald's senior writer, Simon Wilson thinks it will do the opposite, especially once the City Rail Link is finished.  

"We're going to have double the capacity of our train network, so many of those road crossings are going to become dangerous and will be stopping traffic a lot of the time. There's one in Auckland where it's going to stop the traffic for three quarters of every hour, which clearly is going to infuriate drivers," he says. 

Wilson says it will also possibly encourage drivers to take risks. 

"Some of those crossings should close, others need to be grade separated, which means you put a bridge or underpass across the rail line," he says. 

But this is not funded in the draft land transport GPS. 

What's also facing a funding shortfall is the city's public transport network.  

Auckland Transport was relying on income from the Regional Fuel Tax, which added 11.5 cents a litre at the pump and was matched dollar for dollar by the government. 

National's scrapped it starting July this year and Wilson says it will create a hole of over $1 billion in Auckland Transport's budget, which he believes destroys the goal of reliable and frequent public transport. 

Wilson says Auckland Transport is currently looking at the impact of losing the regional fuel tax and deciding what they can do without. 

"They're not simply cutting the projects which were funded by the regional fuel tax, they're saying, 'okay some of those we want to keep because they're too important." 

Consultation of the draft GPS for land transport has now closed and the Ministry of Transport is currently reviewing the feedback.  

The final copy will take effect by July this year.   

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