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Public being mislead over roading - expert

Thursday 19 March 2009, 11:38PM
By Dog & Lemon Guide
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The government is being less than honest with the public over its roading plans, says the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says: “The government has announced seven major roads, offering them as a cure for the country’s transport needs. In fact, the new roads will probably benefit the National Party’s friends in big business more than the average motorist.”

“ History has shown that new roads rarely solve traffic congestion for very long. At best they usually just move the congestion somewhere else.”

Matthew-Wilson says much of the government’s transport strategy is being driven by groups such as the Transport Forum, which would profit from the new roads.

“The Transport Forum represents trucking companies, which want the taxpayer to build new roads on their behalf. Trucks damage roads, are a major threat to the safety of other motorists and a staggering waste of energy. The government’s own figures show that transporting goods by rail is over five times more efficient that transporting goods by truck.” 1

“There appears to be little economic justification for spending the taxpayer’s money on helping out trucking companies. However, the government’s roading policies start to make sense when you remember that Road Transport Forum chief executive Tony Friedlander is a former National Party cabinet minister.”

“There’s also the question of toll roads. Transport Minister Steven Joyce has announced that some roads could be funded through tolls. This sounds nice on paper, but you have to question who really profits from this: one of National’s advisors on roading was former party leader Jim McLay, who until recently was the executive chairman of Macquarie New Zealand, a branch of a major Australian builder of toll roads.”

“National has consistently sung the praises of toll roads, but won’t say how much these roads will cost ordinary motorists. For example, before the election, National’s former transport spokesman said that some motorists could be paying $50 a week for road tolls. Then National retracted that statement, saying the real tolls would be much lower. Either National hasn’t done its maths, or it’s hiding something from the voters. Taxpayers have a right to know what the real-world costs of these public-private partnerships will be.”

“The government isn’t being straight with us: we’re being offered the choice between billions of dollars of new roads or gridlock, as if they were the only two options.”

“New Zealand needs an integrated transport solution that offers quick, safe motoring in places where cars are needed, together with quick, safe public transport where there are simply too many cars and too few roads.”

“We need to rethink the whole process of transportation instead of trying to patch a sinking ship. The government’s own figures show that the current road-based transport system is unsustainable, yet the government wants to expand this system.” 2
 

Footnotes:

1 In 2000, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) calculated that transporting goods by road used 3.1 million units of energy to move one ton of goods one kilometre. By comparison, moving the same goods by rail used only 0.61 1 million units of energy, even allowing for the energy used when the trucks picked up the goods at the railway station.

2 “Transport consumes 219.5 PJ (44%) of energy used nationally. Freight accounts for approximately 43% of New Zealand’s transport energy use, and passenger transport 57%. In 2006 transport was responsible for 14.5 Mt of greenhouse gas emissions or 43% of New Zealand’s annual greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Unless action is taken, emissions from this sector are set to grow by 35% by 2030. Such an outcome is economically and environmentally unacceptable.”
Source: Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) report 2007