Government plans to bring forward infrastructure spend unlikely to see funding allocated to major roading projects unless new project commitments are made

Government plans to bring forward infrastructure spend unlikely to see funding allocated to major roading projects unless new project commitments are made
Image sourced from Pixabay

The Government is committing to borrowing more to bring forward existing infrastructure projects.  

However, unless it announces funding for new roading projects, its infrastructure package is unlikely to do much to improve New Zealand’s roads.

The only roading projects worth more than $250 million in the Government’s Infrastructure Pipeline, which aren’t already under construction, are for a new Manawatu Tararua state highway and an improvement to State Highway 1 between Papakura and Bombay.

The former is at the procurement stage and the latter at the initial business case stage.

The Government is still finalising which projects will be brought forward.

The total amount of new funds to made available will be revealed when Finance Minister Grant Robertson releases his Budget Policy Statement with Treasury’s Half Year Fiscal and Economic Update (HYEFU) on December 11.

What about roads already consented?

The shift in focus from roads to rail under the Coalition Government stems from its Policy Statement on Land Transport.

Paul Blair, the chief executive of the industry lobby group, Infrastructure NZ, said this has opened a gap in the pipeline, as rail projects take a while to get off the ground.

He’s calling for the Government to fill the void with new roading projects.

Given the length of time it takes to get major projects consented, he believed picking projects already consented was the way to go.

These could include Roads of National Significance, Penlink, which connects Whangaparaoa Peninsula with State Highway 1, the Mill Road corridor between Manukau, Papakura and Drury, the Petone to Grenada Link Road, the Katikati Bypass and the Otaki to Levin Expressway.

Blair’s comments echo that of the National Party, which has been calling for the Government to allocate money to “market ready” roading projects for some time.

Could the National Land Transport Fund be topped-up?

He believed it would be a good idea for the Government to top up the New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA) National Land Transport Fund, which is used to pay for roads and rail.

The fund currently derives revenue from fuel excise duties, road user charges, vehicle and driver registration and licensing, state highway property disposal and leasing, and road tolling.

Had National been elected in 2017, and refused to charge road users more like the Labour-led Government has done, it would most likely have needed to top up the fund to complete the roading projects it’s calling for now.

“Our current method of charging for roads, which has been very good for a long time, is actually not going to fit going forward,” Blair said.

“Petrol taxes are not going to collect the amount of money we need. Our cars are becoming a lot more efficient. We’re also slowly moving towards electric vehicles. We need new ways to price roads.

“We’re very big supporters of congestion pricing, which would be that you would charge to use the road, but for a particular period.”

Do we have people to build the roads?

Cameron Bagrie, of Bagrie Economics, is also concerned about the “skinny” roading pipeline.

“The real risk we have at the moment is that people in that industry bugger off to Australia, because what we’re seeing is that New South Wales and Victoria have got pretty big pipelines in the roading arena,” he said.

Bagrie acknowledged that with unemployment being so low, capacity constraints are an issue, but said: “If we continue to track at 2% GDP growth, then capacity’s going to open up.

“Fiscal policy should be doing a lot more of the heavy lifting to get the economy back at 2.5% to 3% GDP growth.”

Blair said: “We’re in a chicken and egg situation at the moment.

“Our capacity is not where it should be, but that’s also because we haven’t had the certainty we need. I’m really confident that if we introduced more certainty, particularly long-term certainty - multi-year contracts - we’ll actually attract more people back to New Zealand to help up build these things.

“We have record migration coming in. We’re a really attractive place to be in the rest of the world.

“We’ve also got some training initiatives and apprenticeships, but in order to take those new staff on, and to invest in new kit, our contractors need to be getting three, five, 10-year contracts out of government."

Bagrie made a similar point around certainty preventing capacity constraints from making it difficult to get projects off the ground.

Capacity is one thing, but is there the capability to get the money out the door?

As for government agencies’ capabilities to spend the money allocated to them, Blair didn’t pass comment, but referred interest.co.nz to the three-yearly assessment Treasury does of the performance of investment-intensive agencies in managing investments and assets critical to the delivery of government services.

It gave the NZTA a “C” Investor Confidence Rating, following its last assessment between February and July 2018. Its drop from a “B” rating was partly due to the assessment taking place before the Government Policy Statement on Transport was finalised and following NZTA’s organisational restructure.

Robertson’s infrastructure package is of course expected to include funding for other types of infrastructure as well, like housing, water, health and education.  

Bagrie said he wouldn’t be surprised if at the HYEFU the Government’s books dipped into deficit. He didn’t see this as a bad thing.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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You know what would save our country an insane amount of money that we could spend elsewhere? Covered ride/walkways around our largest cities. Escooters, ebikes and mobility scooters now have fantastic range and are incredibly cheap to run. The main reasons why people don't use them more are that cars are hazard to them and the weather. Take away hose two issues and you'll solve our traffic issues and save billions both for the government and also private individuals.

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Dude we have cover already that handles all weather conditions, ITS CALLED A CAR.
This idea is about as clever as AOC saying we need to stop flying and build bridges across the oceans.

Welcome. A new member of the 'I don't give a s##t club'.

If your referring to my feelings about your response then yes I agree.
You've added zero to the conversation and infer much about my beliefs.
Have you heard of electric cars, buses and trains ?
No need to spend billions on build roofs.

... around Asia they have zillions of portable roofs

" umbrellas " I think they call them ... saves a fortune on roofing cycleways ...

..wouldn't work in Welly today gbh! A bit better in HK though.

... no .. for Wellington your umbrella'd need to be so reinforced with steel rods you'd not be able to lift the ruddy thing ..

..your beliefs are the problem. Try some science instead, particularity about what it is forecasting ( a hint..it doesn't include motorways to the horizon).

here's a start..but all fake huh.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/national-climate-ass...

A car takes up a lot more space than a scooter. Which is probably why we have problems like congestion, high land prices, etc.
I think the idea has a lot of merit. I would certainly scooter or ride a bike to work if it was both safe and covered.

What a car or scooter is, is mobility, both but especially cars help bring down the price of land as they make it quicker to access more land and hence make housing more affordable, if the land is made available.

" The main reasons why people don't use them more are that cars are hazard to them and the weather."

Yeah, nah, thats not it. Speed, Carrying ability, Convenience.

Yet in surveys most people say hazards and weather...
Sure sometimes you need speed and carrying ability. A lot of times you don't.

Well if you want to be at work on time, it matters a lot of the time

Big road projects? So National. So last century.
Yes, they generate plenty of jobs.
But so do housing projects.
With the Greens in bed with Labour, I can’t see a ramp up in roading projects.
Of course, that will all change should the Gnats get into power...

Labour needs to deliver something concrete on the transport agenda very soon or risk handing electoral success and future voter consolidation to the Nats on a silver platter.

Several large road projects across the country have already passed their initial planning and consenting stages. If the Nats were to swing back into power, all they need to do is flash a green-light on these projects and the country will produce enough economic output and jobs for much of the following decade.

We don't need jobs programs, we have near full employment. We do need efficiency improvements to improve standard of living. Like new motorways that cut the millions of hours wasted in traffic and large numbers killed in accidents on over-busy single lane roads each year.

Well, with labour building via kiwibuild a lot of houses in places like Papakura and Opaheke they'll need to build more roads, they aren't exactly on good public transport routes.

Maybe if Labour managed to acheive something on building the PT infrastructure first you could poo-poo the roads.

Exactly. Can't have one without the other

Thankfully National started the new northern motorway or else Labour would have killed it. Two more years till completion and a good chance National will be back in to see it finished.

Didn't they float the idea of an Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga 'golden triangle' rail network instead of a sophisticated highway connection?

Here's a link to the staged proposal of a well-planned, integrated Upper North Island transport system featuring a dual-mode, tilting train that'll run at a peak speed of 160km between three regions that make up over 50% of New Zealand’s population and are expected to account for over 70% of New Zealand’s growth in the future .

If only everyday New Zealanders could live off good intentions and ride a conceptual design to work, we'd all be sorted.

And don't forget: The time for Regional Rapid Rail is now.

That was a ridiculous concept. Just so far removed from economic reality its not funny.
It says something that Twyford was swayed by it.
I think they took it straight from their amateur transport enthusiast mates at Greater Auckland...

One of the GA bunch is, IIRC, now appointed to NZTA or sumfink Transporty Gubminty, anyways. Confirmation bias rulz....

Thankfully the wider community of sensible people stopped National from killing the Waterview tunnel.

The Greens view building roads as the ethical equivalent of clubbing baby seals.

The ignorant view it as inevitable.

Clubbing Babies more like it.

E.g. Wellington - basin reserve anti tunnel brigade

This is upper-deck-of-the-Titanic journalism.

What we are facing is a systems problem. What we have is a media looking at small sections, and therefore failing. In the big picture, we drew down fossil energy (a finite resource) at exponentially-increasing rates. If you take the resource as 1000 units and double your way into it, starting from 1, it goes: 1,2, 4, 8, 16,32,64,128,256, 512. That's 9 doublings, which at 3% growth would represent 216 years; about right for where we are now. That gives us one doubling-time left - from 512-1000 units gone. 24 years to all-gone. Think about that.

It gets worse than that; we burned the best stuff first, so the remaining energy represents far less than half the available energy from the whole 1000 units.

And our roads are made of and constructed by the use of, fossil energy/feedstock. As are the urban-sprawl inhabitants (ever-more, according to this article, or who are these new roads servicing?) fed by same.

Renewables cannot replace fossil energy (they will be our default position but we won't be doing nearly as much) so the question RIGHT NOW is what we triage; what we retain and what we drop. there is no other valid debate in town, and by some orders of magnitude.

This smallness of scoping is the same as thinking we should open up offshore drilling. How many doubling-times would that facilitate, globally? None. At best, it might stave off the inevitable by a couple of months (if the largest estimate was used exclusively/globally). As a money-spinner it is pointless, because future energy is required to pay back future debt, and we've already overshot the ability of the remaining fossil energy to do that; why else would interest-rates be at (and even below) zero?

We need a completely new plan - one that is maintainable over the long term. That doesn't include ever-more roads, ever-more houses and ever-more consumption of planetary parts. And we need a new breed of media-person. I categorise the old using four words: old, male, small and scared (interchangeable). The new needs to be wide-scoping and capable of divesting assumptions.

For an instance "getting the economy back on track" needs to be journalistically rubbished. Ask how long that trajectory has been happening, and whether it EVER happened sans fossil energy? We need to be asking these questions, and we need to be challenging the economics fraternity - at this point in the systems trajectory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_the_Limits they are simply out of their depth. Vested interest comments have too, to be seen for what they are.

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The reality is that most New Zealanders use cars to get around, so it is in their interest to know what is happening with the country's roading infrastructure. What's more, it is in their interest to know how their taxes are being spent. 

I'm not saying people should drive more, or roads are amazing, or climate change isn't real, or our capitalist system is perfect. 

I am simply pointing out that because there aren't many roading infrastructure projects in the pipeline, people shouldn't expect to see major changes on the roading front unless the Government decides to fund new projects.

It's journalism because there's a public interest in it. Most people drive, so this affects people's lives. 

The society in which we live in, which has produced both development and pollution, also affects people's lives and needs to be critiqued in the media. 

But I can't approach every issue through the lens of what our world should look like (according to one school of thought), rather than what it actually looks like. 

The media provides a window to the world. Sure, this window is always going to be framed a certain way. We are accountable to the public and need to ensure our framing is fair. We won't always get this right. 

But we can't be held responsible for the downfalls of the world we report on. 

... the reality is there are extremist ideologues in our society who want to ban the internal combustion engine ASAP ... but , they're unable to provide a viable alternative...

So , we're being shrieked at , shamed , dismissed as " boomers " ... cos we choose to live in the real world , for all its faults , rather than in their Greenpeacen utopia ...

GBH - four words.

... actually , I think its 3 words . .. you sweet talking son of a gun ..

EVs will replace the ICE, just not quite there yet on the cost side of things.

you should be about 'ascertaining what the truth is' - rather than 'reflecting your public accountability'- which translated as 'being populist'. Sure it will sell copy - but I'm on about ascertaining facts. Not 'one opinion' (a convenient put-down, one would have thought :) but ascertained fact(s). Sure, you cannot be held responsible for the 'downfalls' (I presume you mean chosen ignorance?) of society, but if your profession chooses to avoid a topic, thus avoiding public debate on same?

For the record, we will likely see more and more roads reverting to gravel (hopefully in a controlled manner) starting from the most-remote, in. We will regret no having two-way and partly-electrified rail. And overarching this, will be a need to de-complexify.

PDK I asked you this yesterday and you didn't respond; can you see a future without travel? If you do what does it look like?

I can't. so for other than fossil fuel powered travel, the infrastructure has to be first class for efficiency. Therefore a serious upgrade to our roading infrastructure is essential.

A future without travel?
Most certainly
Local is all we will soon have

I see numerous commentators still thinking we will never "run out"of fossil fuel.
Its not about running out ... its about the collapse of Debt (which ultimately delivers fossil fuel to consume...)
Debt relies on growth
Resources are too stretched to continue to deliver growth

Oh good grief. We are not now and never will be resource constrained in any regard, because we have near infinite ability to make cheap energy - and can transition to other forms as need arises. Human Muscle => Animal Muscle => Wind => Wood => Coal => Oil/Gas => Fission => Fusion. Fusion is only hard because we are trying to do it at small scale. We will not run out of any minerals because it is just a matter of using more cheaper energy to extract what we need from lower concentration sources. We can If we increase energy consumption by 10-20x energy will get much much cheaper per kWh owing to learning curves - we can synthesize hydrocarbons for a price similar to current cost of oil if we need to.

Good grief... Im guessing you havent noticed any leverage pressure on rivers / fisheries / land / air in your urban concrete bunker ...
The West/Nasa/the planet/the economic system desperately needs you to stump up with these cheap abundunt resources that youve got stashed away
Then we will stop having to use debt buildup as a resource proxy
(diminishing returns is EXACTLY why we are seeing Debt explode)
Wish science isnt good enough im afraid

Your rhetoric is very similar to how nuclear was going to result in "power too cheap to meter..." .... except it didnt

Sorry, didn't see it. We travelled before fossil fuels, and I still traverse the oceans under sail (with a little help from ff admittedly).

I suspect the elite will hope they can just pay more, but like most things now, the 'business model' doesn't work without economy class fare-payers (or toyota corolla and toaster buyers). So elite-only flying probably doesn't happen. But I see a global collapse, after which all bets are off and we become very, very local. I see us as being all about food production, and about triage of everything else. And I see it within a decade.

Which is somewhat at odds with the dreamers hereabouts - imagine the 3D traffic carnage (not to mention the energy demand) of VTOL private or uber-aircraft? Remind me to be somewhere else. Oh, that's right, technology will save that one..... Sorry, I forgot.....

I see the need for two-way rail (no bitumen and better rolling friction-wise and gradient-wise) and electrification. I see a need for more frequent, more flexible public transport. But I see triage from the periphery inwards, probably at an accelerating rate. Doesn't take long for unmaintained blacktop to become loess-covered and thence grown-over.

So what? Mr Jones is a dinosaur, and Labour seem to be regressing to a Savage/Nash/Semple level. Bit late for that.

Pretty grim PDK. I think that would largely be a worst case scenario of essentially total collapse. Even sailing would be off the table as storms get bigger and stronger than we are used to.

However i'd like to think that a radical reset of our technological options would enable us to stave off such a collapse. I totally agree that we have to acknowledge the finite limits to the ecological system we live in, and this dictates some significant regulation to the way we live, even to the extent of birth control. the problem i have with the current situation is any measures taken by Governments everywhere impose the majority of costs on the ordinary people while not achieving anything substantial. Blissfully safe behind their high walls, in their palaces of power and wealth they largely believe somehow they will be immune from the consequences of their inaction, and the rage of the masses when the collapse begins to gain momentum, the political and monied elite still fiddle while the fires of Rome are being lit.

Even our own Green party clings in desperate hope to an Emissions Trading Scheme in the misplaced hope that this will change the world, while the world builds more coal fired power stations rather than nuclear ones, and refuses to make electric vehicles more affordable and accessible. Significant change is required and I don't see the right kind on the horizon, but don't worry most will be zonked out on happy baccy when the end comes!

Drawing from what I saw in the UK in 75 the first stages will be shortages attributed to almost anything.
Fights in the supermarket over sugar for instance, long queues at the petrol stations..rioting with broken windows in Auckland.
It’s all been seen before.
But could be two generations before martial law...

they need to get on with the 4 lane motorway all the way to the new port at Whangarei

We are sadly missing informed and reasoned debate on transport spending.
I don't know that building roads and even railways to counter congestion is smart.
Just google Katy freeway Houston. It's now up to 26 lanes in places, and every time they spend billions widening it, congestion gets worse.
Alternatively, there are parts of the country with underutilised roads. And those roads have already been paid for.

Thinking of building new roads, check the term 'latent demand' then you realise new road building never keeps up with demand...congestion pricing is the way forward!

... that is , until transport as a service takes off ... then the existing roads will be used with the utmost of efficiency , and the vast majority of vehicles on the road will be shared hydrogen powered or EVs ...

Exactly I see the need for roads for a long time to come, flying cars while possible even now are a long way off. Small EV's are the future and existing 2 lane motorways could be re-lane marked to make 3 lanes with the only cost being paint instead of new tarmac.

~3-5 years before first few entrants in vtol air taxi market are certified. 1st generation will probably be cheaper than cars-taxis over 30-50km + distances. Much cheaper than trains (UK trains cost (~$0.8/pax/km). Autonomous cars likely in similar time frame. In a few decades vtol air travel will undercut everything else in cost - with lower mass and energy consumption per km than cars and no roads to pay for.

We desperately need a decent motorway North of Tauranga. At peak times the traffic grinds to a crawl for many kilometres. So far this year at least 4 people have been killed on it. I can't see too many people voting for Labour around here as a result of them halting the first stage of the upgrade that was on the point of starting before they came into power.
They should also remove the toll from the very short motorway to the Lakes. It is an outrageous charge for the short distance, so it is not surprising that most traffic use the city roads, making the bad congestion even worse.
The Wellingtonians are great at looking after themselves. E.g. Transmission Gulley. They made a case based on a toll road for what is a very long and expensive project, then once it was well underway scrapped the proposed toll. Central Government corruptly looking after it's own people. This Labour government has no principals.

Sounds like the bleating of an indulged First-Worlder to me.

But better than believing you can VTOL with less energy than overcoming rolling resistance. Go figure.

Everyone should search 'entropy', then have a wee think about the sheer scale of what we expect to maintain already already. Gonna be interesting, going forward......

I wonder where the cars are going to go at the end of these 4 lane motorways.
Most roads are actually underused outside peak hours. Building 4 lanes to cope with 2 hours a day of peak use(or 5 or 6 public holidays a year in Northlands case) is not a good investment. Congestion pricing would help spread the load.