Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at the Ministry of Transport.

New Zealand's transport sector could be at the forefront of a technology revolution, but standing in the way is Kiwis' love affair with used car imports.

The transport system will become increasingly connected, automated, shared and electric, according to Ministry of Transport briefing papers for Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

Smartphones are making vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing services rise, electric vehicles are starting to become common and vehicles are becoming smarter, safer and increasingly automated.

Some new technologies and initiatives, such as road pricing, will be difficult to adopt without a strong social licence

Ministry of Transport chief executive Peter Mersi said it is a challenging time for transport in New Zealand with issues like growing congestion in Auckland and a rising road toll, but the transport sector is also on the cusp of extraordinary changes.

"Everything will become capable of connecting digitally and sharing data, from buses and trucks to state highways and traffic lights," he said.

Car-sharing, like New Zealand's Cityhop, is part of technological change in the transport sector.
Car-sharing, like New Zealand's Cityhop, is part of technological change in the transport sector.

But Marsi said some technologies and initiatives, such as road tolls, will be difficult to adopt without a "strong social licence".

New Zealanders are often quick to embrace new technologies, the MOT briefing papers went on to say, but also tend to prefer buying used cars.

There were 3.9 million cars on the road in 2016 and the average age was 14 years. At the end of November this year, there were 5804 electric vehicles on the road.

The availability of shared cars could accelerate the modernisation of vehicles, "but only if attitudes towards vehicle ownership also change".

The MOT said the Government could choose a range of levers to influence the uptake of new technologies, including regulations, funding, demonstration projects, incentive schemes and promotional marketing.

Twyford said new technologies offered some pretty transformational changes, such as driverless cars, drone technology and ride-sharing, saying within a generation in big cities like Auckland people should be able to live and work without owning a car.


"That is almost unthinkable now but it will happen with much better public transport, more people living in urban communities and better walking and cycling," he said.

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Briefings to incoming ministers: The highlights

On another transport issue, the large number of crashes involving helicopters drew particular attention from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

In briefing papers to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, the body charged with investigating air, rail and maritime transport accidents says of the 13 aviation inquiries at the end of July this year, 10 involve helicopters.

Of those 10 inquiries, four relate to Robinson helicopters, where the commission and Civil Aviation Authority have investigated a phenomenon known as mast bumping.

Mast bumping - the subject of a Herald investigation in April this year into Robinson helicopter - occurs when part of the main rotor blade or rotor hub make contact with the main drive shaft or mast.

The result is often catastrophic and results in in-flight break-up.

The commission also told Genter that three of the helicopter accidents it had dealt with over the past year have been in the tourism sector, which represents a reputational risk.