It certainly is refreshing to have a government that seems to want to actually govern. We might soon not be the only country without a port strategy.

Imagine the benefits of actually replanting the trees that have been cut down. Imagine the Auckland waterfront without used cars getting the best views.

Watch for self-justifying job-saving promises from Ports of Auckland to fend off any sensible moves like Sydney has made keeping the harbour just for cruise liners and sending cargo to Wollongong and Newcastle.

My interest is in having an integrated transport strategy that not only thinks about cars and congestion in Auckland but covers all of the country using the most cost-effective solutions for moving goods and people.


To replace National's RONS (Roads of National Party Significance) with reliable resilient State Highways will take more than just a statement from the Minister to get rid of the in-built culture of wasting money that NZTA thrives on.

It will take real willpower from the three ministers above to get any change from the dysfunctional but well entrenched system there now.

The upgrade of the northern side of State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns in September 2016.
The upgrade of the northern side of State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns in September 2016.

To get your attention I am going to use a few examples from Northland, but they are replicated elsewhere.

I chose Northland because I know it well, it has the worst State Highways in NZ (try driving from Whangarei to Kerikeri and remind yourself this is SH1).

It has fine examples of completely wasted precious roading expenditure, it exemplifies poor local government, the State Highways are regularly closed in winter isolating relatively large towns.

Steven Joyce's centralisation of everything to Wellington means locals can't even put pedestrian crossings on State Highways as they go through local town centres and transport is often used as an electoral bribe, (remember the 10 bridges, none built yet and they don't include the most needed one).

Northland also has big export volumes and huge opportunities for improvement if the government gets things right.

It would be hard to find a bigger waste of money than NZTA's contract to upgrade the northern side of State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns.

Engineers at the site of massive earthworks under way at Akerama in March last year.
Engineers at the site of massive earthworks under way at Akerama in March last year.

Tens of millions and years of disruption to make a perfectly good 100km/h, three lane Highway into a km/h road bristling with dangerous fences and riding over a poor quality chipseal surface already in need of repair.

Contractors pricing this job before it started wondered if they had the plans around the right way as the steeper narrow southern side is really little changed from when the 1953 bus tragedy occurred and this side can definitely justify investment.

Nobody in Northland can explain how we got to this and none of this wasted expenditure seems to be bothering the board of NZTA.

Further north another supposed safety project at Akerama is doing the same thing. Blowing millions that should be used making the highway network in Northland reliable and weather proof.

Kaitaia is cut off by flooding at the bridge at the north end of Moerewa for an average of five days per year, no exports go south, no food goes north and no ambulances go either way.

So what has gone wrong?

NZTA's board and senior management is peopled by justifiable types all short of actual roading experience and all unable to differentiate between good and bad expenditure.
Safety concerns justified by dodgy economics have supplanted the need for good reliable roads, which is what the public want.

There seems to be no debate about investing in good quality hotmix road sealing (as do developers like myself) instead of cheap and poorly performing chipseal surfaces with their ongoing high maintenance costs.

Across NZ, local government has been cowed into being delighted with whatever crumbs are spent in their region, no matter how stupid the projects are.

A type of Stockholm syndrome has killed off any questioning of NZTA, especially as the local government input is dominated by regional councils that don't even own roads.

Up north the Northland Regional Council, in an unusual fit of looking ahead, actually bought the land allowing the 10km rail link to Marsden Port but stopped there, shell-shocked at having done something, leaving Marsden Point the only major port anywhere without a rail link.

So what should the three Ministers do?

Local Government Minister - change the transport representation to be two district (not regional) council reps, one elected, one working in the roading section.

Minister of Transport - a complete clean out of NZTA of the tired old National party board, to one that really challenges the senior management team.

Regional Development Minister - remind NZTA etc that decent reliable roads, rail that links to the port and the ability of locals to make more decisions are what counts.

■ Wayne Brown is a developer of residential and commercial land and buildings. He has been chair of several hospital boards, transport, electricity and broadcasting companies and was Far North Mayor.