Gridlock

COMMENT:

Differing political ideologies and analysis to the point of paralysis are bringing parts of the New Zealand transport system slowly but surely to a grinding halt, but there is a solution if the politicians and bureaucrats can put aside their "they know best" attitude.

Governments of the day exercise their right to set the New Zealand transport agenda, it's called the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport.

Sounds fair enough, but over the last 20 years, New Zealand has had three forms of coalition Government, all with different priorities for their transport agenda.

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The result of this flip-flopping in transport ideologies and priorities has meant that local councils which have planned and invested in an agreed way forward one day have had those plans scuttled by a new Government the next day.

New Zealanders would be shocked at the hundreds of millions of valuable transport dollars that are wasted by these false starts.

The New Zealand Transport Agency and New Zealand Rail, which are charged to action the government policies on transport, have invested significantly in developing plans for all transportation modes including designating and buying land only to have much of it shelved because a new government comes along with a new transport agenda.

It is vital that any agreed transport initiative is part of an overall strategy and is properly analysed to make sure the investment is sound and achieves what it sets out to do.

But what I have been observing over the last few years is that decision-making process takes far too long. It seems that knowledgeable and experienced people aren't allowed to make decisions until a project has gone through the never-ending analysis treadmill.

"New Zealanders would be shocked at the hundreds of millions of valuable transport dollars that are wasted by these false starts."

Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty, along with other parts of New Zealand, have been victims of these processes for the last two decades.

We have had to make the best out of a poor system of transport planning, funding and project delivery. So what needs to change?

I have been calling for a total rethink on how we plan, fund and deliver all forms of transport for the future.

We need a national and cross-political party agreement on a New Zealand transport strategy that is enduring and can transcend the whims of the government of the day.

The chances of this happening are slim because governments think they know best, but if we can at least get to an 80 per cent or more agreement that will be a great step forward.

Stuart Crosby is a Bay of Plenty regional councillor and is the chairman of the regional transport committee. Photo / File
Stuart Crosby is a Bay of Plenty regional councillor and is the chairman of the regional transport committee. Photo / File

I recently attended a forum with the Ministry of Transport which advises the Government on policy and was heartened to see it is also thinking along these lines.

Tauranga and the Western Bay are refreshing our approach to housing and transport.

There will be a strong focus on developing a more balanced transport system that promotes safety, predictability, accessibility, travel choices that shift away from single-occupancy vehicles and improved environmental outcomes.

This approach also needs to be enduring across future governments to achieve ongoing funding for its implementation.

Stuart Crosby was Tauranga Mayor from 2004 to 2016 and is now a Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor and current chairman of the regional transport committee.
He is also vice-president of Local Government New Zealand.
Tomorrow: Is public transport the answer? As part of our special series on Gridlock – Tauranga's No. 1 issue we take a look at buses and other ways to get around the city.