How do you make a ham sandwich? It may not be as simple as you think. According to Road Transport Forum chief Nick Leggett it may involve as many as 15 truck journeys. The former Porirua mayor spoke to a BA5 gathering in Levin, using the example to illustrate his argument that more needs to be done with our roads, and that a "roading hole" in Horowhenua is bad for the whole country. Horowhenua Chronicle editor Janine Baalbergen was there.
"We need to keep the country moving," says Nick Leggett.
The New Zealand Road Transport Forum chief executive told Levin's BA5 gathering 70 per cent of freight is delivered by trucks "and much of that happens within a specific region".
Only 3-7 per cent of freight currently delivered by road was contestable by rail, he said.
"We have 93,000km of roads in New Zealand and only 4000km of rail," he said.
Leggett painted a clear picture of the importance of roading to the economy. The trucking industry employed 26,000 people and had a $6 billion annual turnover. Public transport was only part of the solution, he said.
"We need to improve travel time, reliability, safety and resilience everywhere," he said.
Leggett took over the position held by Ken Shirley until late last year and was a councillor and mayor for Porirua before that. He brings plenty of lobbying with central government to the table and said he had been involved with the processes around Transmission Gully.
"I've always been interested in transport issues and this job seemed a natural progression for me as there are a lot of similarities. We need to keep the country moving."
And right now when it comes to roads the country seems to be stalling, with 12 major projects being put on the shelf, including the Expressway from Ōtaki to North of Levin.
"Wellington to Palmerston North is one road network, yet all we've got is several bits. Rail does not go to your door. You will still need several trucks to complete the delivery of goods when using rail."
To illustrate he said a ham and lettuce sandwich probably requires 15 truck movements to get from the land to your plate.
"The current government transport policy is about ideology, not evidence. There is an anti-road fixation and Levin has been caught in the middle. Uncertainty rules the day. Twelve roading projects were halted by Labour, it looks like only the Manawatū Gorge will happen."
He said the government focuses on safety, rather than productivity.
"They are obsessed with speed, but ignore about road conditions or driving while under the influence of drugs. According to NZTA 90 per cent of crashes happen due to human behaviours.
"More people die on our roads due to drugs than alcohol. That's why we want roadside drug testing made available. Speed is only about 25 per cent of crashes."
He said over the years the trucking industry has made great strides in efficiency. Freight on the road only contributed to 7 per cent of carbon emissions. Most trucks run on diesel, which is 50 per cent more efficient than petrol and trucks use 33 per cent less fuel than 30 years ago, while noxious emissions for trucks have been slashed by 98 per cent since 1990. He admits there is still some way to go.
"Increasing the cost of living by building fewer roads will slow down the country's carbon neutral goals. Only a robust economy can effectively deal with big changes like climate change.
"Infrastructure building can boost slowing economy. Horowhenua has big growth and the people who live and work here need safe roads to get to Palmerston North and Wellington, big chunks of good roading is still missing.
"New Zealand always under does infrastructure. We do just enough, while other countries look ahead 50 years.
"We need a good balance of road, public transport and rail, but our topography and population spread make rail ineffective for the delivery of goods. Better quality roading is needed, one we can share with others."
He said he believed NZTA has lost expertise in the last few years and their specs are constrained by low budgets, which means roads are under constant repair.
Leggett said the petrol tax collected $2 billion a year, is used for other projects and so are road user charges, putting strain on NZTA's finances, with dire consequences.
In the meantime as other bits of expressway south of Ōtaki come online Horowhenua may become at best a bottleneck and perhaps even a black hole gulping up the traffic to nowhere.
"The roading hole in Horowhenua will make the entire country suffer," warned Leggett.