Around $800 million worth of urgent work would save 160 lives a year on New Zealand's regional roads, Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.
Twyford, along with Associate Ministers Julie Anne Genter and Shane Jones, fronted a summit in Wellington today attended by more than 100 transport sector leaders, figures from local government, public transport, interest groups and officials, who wanted to hear more about the Government Policy Statement – its draft 10-year plan on transport.
"One of the most shocking things NZTA (NZ Transport Agency) have told me since I became Minister is that they believe there is $800 million in urgent safety improvements required on local roads, and that these improvements could save as many as 160 lives per year," Twyford said in his speech.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Twyford said he was confident the money would be spent on those fixes but didn't guarantee it.
"It's not actually possible to model that precisely at this point in time given the way that the National Land Transport Programme works.
"But it's our intention that by making reducing deaths on the road one of our top goals for transport, that will cascade down through the whole transport system and the way the projects are designed, the way that choices are made.
"So I'm confident that we will save the extra 160 lives a year and that we will spend that $800 million."
He said NZTA had identified 10 per cent of the roading network as high-risk areas where changes were needed.
"The kind of changes that we'll be making, for instance, redesigning intersections, median barriers, side barriers, adjusting speed limits locally on particular stretches of road in order to save lives."
Twyford didn't know if the advice was given to the previous government.
He reiterated in his speech that there would be fewer new motorways and better regional roads, and Auckland wouldn't be getting any more than its fair share of funding.
"I've communicated to NZTA that we need to operate on the basis that Auckland will get its fair share of the National Land Transport Programme but not at the expense of the regions, and that other funding sources will need to be found within Auckland for projects that require funding in excess of what Auckland would normally get on a fair population share of the National Land Transport Programme," he said.
"That is why Auckland Council is asking its citizens to pay a regional fuel tax."
Auckland Council is expected to introduce about 10 cents a litre in regional fuel taxes to pay for its share of major transport projects such as light rail.
Twyford said no other region would pay a regional fuel tax in this term of Government.
Auckland's regional fuel tax is separate to the proposed nationwide excise increase of 9 to 12 cents per litre of petrol over three to four years.
The Government was investigating other ways, including public-private partnerships, to pay for urban transport projects.
"It is not fair for regional New Zealand to pay for Auckland, and I want you to know that will not happen," he said.
The Government Policy Statement is a guide which sets how the Land Transport fund should allocate about $4 billion in funding each year.
It will see funding on public transport increase by 46 per cent to expand the routes available and subsidies for public transport.
On top of that, it sets a new class of Rapid Transit under which $4 billion will be allocated over 10 years to establish rapid transit investment, such as light rail, initially focusing on Auckland. That would increase over time.
About four times as much will be spent on expanding cycling and pedestrian pathways than under National.
The money for regional roads will double from about $90 million a year to $180 million a year in 2019/20 and up to $210 million for four years after that.
That comes at a cost for future large-scale motorway upgrades such as National's policy of $10 billion for 10 further Roads of National Significance.