Speech to NZCID Building Nations Symposium

  • Simon Bridges

It’s great to be here at this very important conference and to have come on stage in such a dramatic fashion in the Vector Tesla, expertly driven by Nadine [Chalmers Ross].

The Government is investing more than ever in transport infrastructure to keep a growing New Zealand moving and I think it’s true to say after periods of under-investment, if you take just the National Land Transport Fund, this Government has more than doubled to over $4 billion each year.

The current National Land Transport Programme is the largest we’ve ever seen, some $14 billion over the three years we’re in at the moment and here in Auckland if we think about the numbers, we’ve gone from about half a billion dollars per annum in the early 2000s to over $2 billion at the moment of central and local government investment each year.

Of course this doesn’t account for most of the rail investment, over $4 billion under this government, and the maritime and the aviation investment.

I think as John was saying as well, the scale and the complexity of these projects has increased with a tranche of multi-billion dollar projects on the go, not just in Auckland, but around New Zealand.

Whether it’s the Western Ring Route and the Waterview tunnel, the East-West Link, the City Rail Link the largest public transport infrastructure investment made in this country or here in Auckland. These are the biggest projects in New Zealand’s history.

But of course, it’s not just in our biggest city. We can think of the Waikato Expressway, the Wellington Northern Corridor, the Christchurch motorways which are all nation-building lead infrastructure as well. And I think, I suppose from the perspective of this room the good news is that there is much more to come, a pipeline of projects.

In Auckland, if we think again just about transport we’ve got a diverse range of projects across the gamut of transportation coming. Whether it’s the North-western Busway, or further electrification of rail in the wider Auckland network.

Other projects such as locally, Mill Road, a local road but a billion dollar project or upgrading the eastern airport access and nationally, we’re working on multiple regionally significant projects and inter-regional corridors as well.

One of my central messages to you today is that we can’t just keep building bigger and more complex, we’ve also got to be a lot smarter and particularly in our cities we can’t build our way out of our issues in the long-run.

ATAP, or the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, in that regard is something that I am, as Minister of Transport in this National Government, very proud of. Because as an approach, I think it shows us the future, not just in Auckland, but more widely for New Zealand.

What it did was, it stripped out the politics and it took a very evidence-based approach to the investment needs and the wider transportation needs of our biggest city.

On that evidence-base what we saw quite clearly was more investment was required from the already elevated levels more investment, $24 billion dollar indicative package of investment in the next decade is highly desirable, indeed necessary. But we’ve also got to do much more than that because that will not be a silver bullet, far from it for our issues.

So firstly, we’ve got to make much better use of our existing network. I think as some in this room would say, we have to sweat the assets that we have better.

We’re already starting to do good work on this. Whether it’s Wellington’s new Smart Motorway, or the work that NZTA and Auckland Transport are doing in collaboration with very large start-up from Silicon Valley machine zone, around showing us literally where every single bus in Auckland is in real-time, how many passengers it’s got on it, how much they are paying.

All of these sort of things, will help us to optimise our network effectively to match supply better to demand in real-time on a real-time basis.

Secondly, we’ve got to influence travel demands and that has a number of components. It’s the technology and innovation I’ve already talked about that to some extent, with those ITS solutions and I’ll mention a little more of that in a moment. But it’s also, I think quite clearly over time, pricing and working on that.

That, from the Government’s perspective, isn’t about revenue. It’s not about making money or fixing some sort of cash hole that there might be and it’s not in the immediate term because what we’ve seen, and I saw last week when I was in Melbourne for the ITS conference, is that nowhere in the world has done this yet. Singapore is making some strong moves, but even there we’re talking 2020s, and we do have to improve the infrastructure so that there are viable alternatives, public transport alternatives in place.

And technology. There’s obviously a huge amount going on. And as you’ll know if you know anything about me I’m hugely enthusiastic about it and want the Government to be incredibly enabling in this area.

I’ve said now many times, but the mobility of the future I think is increasingly going to be driverless electric vehicles that again increasingly we won’t own. That is the sharing piece to that equation. You’re going to hear from people much more expert in these areas than myself. You’re going to hear from Dave Ferguson who I’ve had the privilege of meeting a couple of times about CAVs - connected and autonomous Vehicles - some of the issues and where that is going. Can I just say that for our part in New Zealand, we’re starting to see the trials, the demonstrations and the research take place and I think that will accelerate in due course.

I’d also say it’s not just about the light vehicles. In Melbourne again last week I had the opportunity to go on a Transdev, in fact it was an autonomous bus, whizzing round a track and I think as we start thinking more and more and more about really strong public transport networks in Auckland, light rail and the alternatives to that, BRT, actually ABRT Autonomous Bus Rapid Transport poses some very interesting opportunities with the same level of optionality of amenity but potentially in a much more cost effective way.

And you’ll hear about sharing, which funnily enough I’m more excited about in the near-term for Auckland and New Zealand. The sharing economy, you’ll hear a lot about I think from my friend Jose Vegas, the Secretary General of the International Transport Forum our premier transport body globally, and I think what you’ll hear from him, if you don’t you should certainly ask him, is about work the Government has commissioned of his organisation here in Auckland to model and understand the opportunities of the sharing-economy and transport much, much better and help us with the problems we have in the here and now where effectively we go from single-occupancy vehicles to [inaudible] vehicles because it’s the right and it’s the smart thing to do. As we start to think about those light vehicles, shuttles it’s really a hybrid between private and public transport and mobility.

If I can come back finally to ATAP. The work in that regard in Auckland, but as we think more holistically across New Zealand, is far from complete. I’m incredibly motivated to get on with it and this is going to involve, in Auckland’s case, firstly hard-wiring into our frameworks, our statutory documents, our planning documents and I believe Phil Goff is keen in this regard as well. It’s also going to be agreeing an approach on funding and I’ve got no doubt at this conference, this summit over the next couple of days, funding will be if not always talked about the very real backdrop of the conference.

Can I just say from the Government’s perspective as we think about how we invest more in transport, we’ve clearly got a range of options. Central and local government are going to both need to bring something to the table in this regard and I think for you in this room, those of you in the private sector in the investment sector, you have a real role as the Government increasingly becomes more and more open to new funding approaches to fund and invest in infrastructure in Auckland and New Zealand.

And thirdly in this area, a dedicated project I think’s going to have to be set up between Auckland and Central Government to work through the issues, the complexities of pricing and I want to get onto that and have more to say on that before years end.

So ladies and gentleman, it’s great to be here today I’m sure to answer some questions, hear your feedback very shortly. The Government I think is investing more and more in transport but in an increasingly smarter and smarter way than ever before. Thanks very much.