16 June 2014
The draft 2015 Government Policy Statement reaffirms the Governments commitment to transport investment and will continue the countrys progress towards an internationally competitive transport system. But one cant help but wonder whether an opportunity to establish this GPS as the new global benchmark in forward planning has gone begging, says Stephen Selwood CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.
The GPS in fact signals a slight easing of investment, with total targeted expenditure in 2021/2022 $150m less than that projected in 2012, though this figure does not include projects such as Aucklands City Rail Link which, appropriately, is likely to be funded through general Crown accounts. Once included, Government spending on transport over the next decade will be a record breaker.
Thats good news for commuters and for freight. Lifting investment has had large positive impacts in Auckland, where the first Road of National Significance has already been delivered, and many further regions stand to benefit from improved access over coming years.
This GPS is also notable for acknowledging the potential for new funding and delivery mechanisms, including road pricing and private finance. These activities are essential to leveraging public investment and improving efficiency over the network.
But while this draft GPS is, like many of its predecessors, a commendable improvement on previous iterations, it remains a product of the past. It presents a future of conventional road, balanced against traditional safety, public transport and other objectives which are increasingly distant from the transport revolution currently occurring across the world.
Vehicles that run on electricity, talk to one another and drive themselves are the future. They will be cheaper to run, reduce journey times and offer unprecedented flexibility to meet 21st century needs. They will break down the existing interface between public and private vehicles and revolutionise the way people and societies interact.
Although these vehicles and other technological advancements remain a long way from car yards, it is imperative that rules, guidelines and institutions are in place to manage their arrival. Establishing this back office support will take time and issues including privacy and vehicle autonomy will have to be tackled in the next decade.
This GPS can start the transition to a new transport paradigm or it can reproduce past approaches. The promise of transport solutions that are better on the environment, better for people and places and better for business suggests the sooner we in New Zealand look to the future, the better it will be for everyone, Selwood says.