The Transport Minister says this will be the year the capital’s citizens finally see progress on Let’s Get Wellington Moving, and other transport projects already on the books won’t fall by the wayside under the Government’s ‘reprioritisation’ plan
With the policy framework now in place, Michael Wood says 2023 will see more commuters choose low-carbon options for getting around.
“I think the way in which we’ll be successful with this, is if we give options and choices to people to have lower carbon lifestyles or move around towns and cities in a low carbon way, in a way that makes the air cleaner, makes the streets safer, and ultimately is cheaper for people in the households as well.
“So things like the transport choices package we announced recently, which is actually relatively low-cost initiatives and communities that just give people more choices and options in their lives. I’m really interested in exploring more of that alongside some of the bigger investments that we have to make across the system – I think they will be really important.”
The policy work has been coming thick and fast, the Emissions Reduction Plan, Reshaping Streets, the clean car discount and the transport choices package to name a few.
Major projects to get people out of their cars are also expected to make progress in 2023, including Auckland light rail and the long-awaited Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan.
“We want to get on with early works for Auckland light rail next year, get a decision made on the preferred option for the alternative crossing, we want to make really significant progress across Let’s Get Wellington Moving including starting work on the Golden Mile, which I think is one of the key moves we can really put in place in Wellington to give people choices and to really spark up the central city area again.
“And moving forward with Christchurch mass rapid transit that we hope to make initial announcements about in early 2023.”
He said he had confidence in the leadership of the beleaguered Let’s Get Wellington Moving project despite a scathing report not long after he took over the transport portfolio criticising its lack of direction.
“The health check was one of the first things that got handed to me… and it was like welcome to this role but I’m really proud of the work that’s been done since that time.
“All of the recommendations of that health check were responded to, there’s been much clearer political leadership… So I think the programme is in much stronger shape than it was and 2023 will be a year in which people start to see things really happening on the ground.”
He said there were no plans to re-prioritise any of the transport work already on the books, despite a clear message from the Finance Minister that some work would need to be re-assessed.
“We know that we’ve got a lot of needs coming into the system… so we need to make sure that we’ve got the revenue to do what we need to do.” – Michael Wood.
“In terms of the things that we’re overseeing, we’re determined to move forward with the projects that we’ve got on the books at the moment, because they’re all important and cities and regions have often been asking for these investments for a long time and growth keeps coming.
“But we constantly run the ruler over them to make sure that we’ve got them scaled right, that we’ve got the timing right and that we are delivering them as efficiently as we can.
“Within the NLTF [National Land Transport Fund] there’s an ongoing process of looking at the suite of projects that are in front of them, is the scope of them right? Are there ways of slimming down projects? Are there ways of creating greater efficiencies? And we have a similar ongoing process for things that we directly responsible for.”
Wood said the fund itself would also continue to have the ruler run over it, with plans to change how transport projects were funded also making progress in 2023.
The first is a review of short-term funding and how best to get through the next five to 10 years.
“We know that we’ve got a lot of needs coming into the system, we’re doing more land transport than we did 10 years ago, we are rebuilding the rail network and we are investing in things like Road To Zero. The costs just to maintain the network are a lot more than they were previously so we need to make sure that we’ve got the revenue to do what we need to do.
“So there’s work underway at the moment that the Ministry of Transport’s advising me and the Minister of Finance on and that in particular will shape how we bring forward the GPS [Government Policy Statement] 2024 to 2027.”
A longer piece of work on the actual funding model for the NLTF, given the downturn in the current revenue streams of fuel excise, is expected to be reported back to ministers later in the year.
Wood said it was too early to say what a new funding model would look like, but said there were already other revenue streams coming in that could be considered.
“So for example the Crown has been playing more of a role in terms of just investing directly to get some things done, which perhaps is a bit of a sign that we need to be looking at this issue and we’ve done it through the New Zealand upgrade programme, for example, and we’ve now got the Climate Emergency Response Fund – which a relatively significant portion of that is going into decarbonisation transport projects.
“We’ve got the regional fuel tax in Auckland, we’ve got councils who are very keen in advocating for a form of congestion charging, not mainly revenue raising mechanism, but it does raise revenue.
“So there are quite a few of these things sitting out there and the purpose of this process is to make sure that we come to a stable and coherent funding system… you need to have some certainty to be able to look at 10 years plus ahead.”