Second reading, Land Transport Management Amendment Bill

  • Annette King
Transport

 

I move that the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill be read a second time.

 Most submissions were very supportive of the principles underpinning the Bill and offered many constructive suggestions to improve it.

 I would like to thank the Members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee for the work they have done in strengthening the Bill.  I support the changes that have been recommended.

 Mr Speaker, this Bill will further imbed the government’s push to ensure that we have a land transport planning and funding system that reflects the sophistication and complexity of a 21st century society.

 The Bill will see the full hypothecation of fuel excise taxes for land transport purposes.  This is a very significant point in the history of land transport funding in New Zealand and will involve about $600m per annum previously retained in the general Crown accounts now being ring-fenced exclusively for land transport activities. 

 The Bill also clarifies the existing legislation in respect of the funding of land transport activities from the revenue received from motorists and heavy vehicle users.

 The Bill retains the requirement for a government policy statement to guide the allocation of the national land transport fund by the New Zealand Transport Agency, on the basis of regional transport plans.

 As Minister of Transport, I will remain responsible for decisions around the allocation of the fund to NZ Police road safety activities based on recommendations developed by the Agency.

 The Bill also provides for monies from the national land transport fund to be paid for “activities that benefit users of pleasure craft”.  This is in lieu of a refund of the petrol tax paid by recreational boaties.   This provision received very widespread support from the marine sector.

 The Committee has recommended allowing the funding to be used for more generic search and rescue activities.

 Under the Bill, regional land transport committees will be replaced by regional transport committees.

 These Committees will have enhanced functions, including the preparation of new three yearly regional land transport programmes and regional fuel tax schemes. 

 The Bill, as introduced, reflected the government’s decision to move to a three yearly regional land transport programmes and a three yearly national land transport programme.  This move will increase certainty in the sector and reduce consultation and planning churn, and was well received by submitters.

 There will be increased flexibility to combine planning documents and consultation processes.

 To further acknowledge local government concerns, the Committee recommends that the Bill expressly require the Agency to take into account the regional priority attached to activities when making decisions on the national land transport programme.

 Groups, such as the Automobile Association and the Road Transport Forum and local government, made strong submissions about the need to be involved in decision making processes around land transport.

 The Bill as reported back acknowledges such views.

 The government’s commitment to rail's role as a critical part of a sustainable transport system is evidenced by our very recent announcement that the government will be purchasing Toll’s rail interests.

 I therefore strongly endorse the Committee’s recommendation that an express reference be made to rail, and coastal shipping, in the purpose section of the Land Transport Management Act.

 The Bill will see Land Transport New Zealand and Transit New Zealand replaced by a new entity: the New Zealand Transport Agency.  Transparency and accountability of this Agency was a major issue for the Select Committee and it has recommended improvements to the Bill as a result.

 Given the New Zealand Transport Agency’s role as a funder and provider of land transport activities, decision-making must be transparent, and there must be suitable accountability provisions.

 Finally, the Bill will allow regions to use a regional fuel tax to fund priority projects that cannot reasonably be funded from any other source within the timeframe desired by the region.  An example is the electrification of the Auckland rail network.  This is a vital project to achieve a sustainable future.

 It will be up to each region to decide whether or not to introduce a regional fuel tax.

The Bill provides that a region may raise a tax of up to ten cents per litre for land transport projects with expenditure on roading projects capped at five cents.

 Many local government submitters, while generally supportive of a regional fuel tax, sought to remove the five cent cap on roading projects.  The Committee has recommended that changes be made so that funding for facilities for walking and cycling, bus lanes and high occupancy vehicles does not crowd out the demand for general traffic projects under the 5 cent roading cap.

 In the Auckland region, because it already has a well developed idea of what projects it would like to fund under a regional fuel tax scheme, the initial Auckland scheme will be developed by the Auckland Regional Council.  The Council will need to take account of the views of the Auckland regional transport committee.

I would also like to take this opportunity to signal my intention to introduce a Supplementary Order Paper.  Members will be aware of the recent media attention given to the rise in fuel prices.  The Government always expected that a regional fuel tax scheme would need to provide for phasing in order to meet the “affordability” criteria which Ministers must apply when considering a regional fuel tax scheme.

 Once again, I would like to thank the Committee for the work they have done on this Bill.

 Mr Speaker, I move that the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill 2007 be read a second time.