Nat’s transport funding plan puts New Zealand into reverse gear

The Maritime Union says the Government’s transport funding plan is an environmental and economic travesty.

The National Government has changed spending commitments of the previous Government and and released a statement on money it will put into developing land transport (including sea transport) for the next ten years.

The new plan includes a three year commitment to spending over seven billion dollars on road related expenditure – and even includes $51 million for cycling and walkways.

In comparison, it puts forward $1 million for “rail and sea freight” and $3 million for “domestic sea freight development.” (Yes – the figure is million not billion.)

That’s about one cent on rail and sea freight development for every twenty dollars on roads.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says that over 99% of New Zealand imports and exports arrive by sea yet this transport mode was receiving enough money to pay for a few lifeboats.

Mr Hanson says the environmental and economic security outcomes of pouring all its resources into more and more roads were staggering.

“Does anyone in this Government have their head around the fact that the world is on the brink of an unprecedented energy crisis?”

He says that reliance on road transport made New Zealand completely dependent on secure supplies of cheap oil – something that will seem like a bad joke in ten years time.

“The only people who will be celebrating this are the boy racers.”

Mr Hanson says around the world Government’s are quickly moving to develop low impact, energy efficient infrastructure as the reality of climate change, peak oil and energy insecurity sinks in.

“The world has changed, but here in New Zealand the new Government has invested a thousand times more in the most environmentally damaging, energy wasteful transport modes than the transport modes of the future, shipping and rail.”

Mr Hanson says the lack of training, infrastructure and investment in coastal shipping has left an island nation in a state of complete vulnerability.

“The role of coastal shipping in the future of our ports has been a major discussion point in the transport industry, but seems to have been entirely missed by the Government.”

The Government says it wants to reduce road accidents, but is planning on increasing the amount of heavy transport and passenger cars on roads, which would obviously increase risks to motorists.

“Building more roads means encouraging more traffic in a vicious cycle that will only end when the cost of petrol causes economic meltdown. We need to get heavy freight off the roads and onto coastal shipping or the ‘blue highway’ and its natural partner rail.”

Mr Hanson says the previous Government had finally acknowledged the role of shipping with its Sea Change strategy, but the National Government had dropped the ball and shown a mentality that was a generation out of date.

He says he believes that road transport lobbyists had taken control of the Government’s agenda due to their political connections and the plan amounted to a multi billion dollar subsidy to trucking operators.

The statement that the Government wants to rebalance in favour of transport options ‘realistically available to New Zealanders now’ show this is a document without vision or forward thinking, says Mr Hanson.

The only reason that road transport is a realistic option is that it has billions of dollars of taxpayers money poured into it, he says.

The Maritime Union would be working to get changes to the plan.

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