Auckland Scoop

Fewer people are driving, so why is roading a priority, asks Labour

Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party
The Government’s ‘roads of national significance’ are tipped to become increasingly insignificant as high oil prices take their toll on road use, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says.

“The release of a briefing to the incoming Minister of Transport challenges the Government’s ability to fund its major ‘roads of national significance’ programme.

“The flat economy and higher petrol prices mean fewer people are driving, resulting in less revenue from petrol tax and road user charges,” Phil Twyford said.

“Predictions that higher oil prices would lead to reduced demand for road travel and hence less spending on roading will be cold comfort for the ‘build it or bust’ team of Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee,” says Phil Twyford. “No matter which way you look at it, it’s a lose-lose scenario.

“On one hand we’re looking at a growing divergence between the cost of the projects and funds available to pay for them. On the other, nobody is going to be able to afford to commute on the motorways now under construction.

“The funding shortfall will impact on both the remaining ‘roads of national significance’ from 2014, together with four additional projects National is proposing.

“What’s bizarre is that the briefing, no doubt reflecting National’s own obsession with roads, assumes we are about to return to a world of low oil prices and a growing economy and rising traffic volumes.

“What does the MoT know that the rest of us don’t? We have now had several years of rising petrol prices, static traffic volumes, and rising public transport patronage.

“It is ironic that the briefing also predicts high oil prices will lead to an increased demand for public transport, given National has promoted new motorways such as the Puhoi-Wellsford Holiday Highway while simultaneously shutting down Auckland’s aspirations for the City Rail Link.

“Rising oil prices should surely make the country consider reducing long term dependence on imported oil by investing more in rail, public transport and coastal shipping.

“Sadly the National Government is building roads like there is no tomorrow – even though traffic demand is static – and slashing public transport funding even though demand is rising.

“While most other countries are grappling with how to make their economies more resilient in the face of an uncertain future for oil, National’s fixation with roads is making New Zealand more and more dependent it,” Phil Twyford said.

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