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Reducing our road toll

In 2008, New Zealand had its lowest road toll in 50 years. The 2008 toll of 365 compares to 421 road deaths in 2007, and is the lowest annual total since 1959.

While the road toll has been trending down for the last 30 years, improving road safety remains a top priority for the Ministry.

“We lost 365 lives on our roads last year, which is still far too many,” said David Eyre, Manager – Safety Management. “Ensuring that we continue to see fewer deaths and injuries on New Zealand roads must be a collaborative effort between the government and the public.”

A combination of education, enforcement and engineering measures resulted in the lower 2008 road toll, but other factors, such as higher fuel prices and the economic downturn, are likely to have had an impact on the toll. International evidence shows that economic activity can have an effect on the road toll, with a correlation between the number of journeys and the number of crashes.

To help address road safety issues, the Ministry has spent much of 2008/09 developing a road safety discussion document called Safer Journeys, which will provide the basis for a new ten-year road safety strategy. The Ministry recognises that the strategy will need to address the problematic issues around speed, alcohol, roads and roadsides, motorcycling and young drivers. The final strategy will be released in December 2009 after consultation in August/September 2009.

“The specific goals and initiatives of Safer Journeys will be developed following consultation with the public. The strategy will be a guiding document for road safety, and will try to identify the best mix of actions for improving New Zealand’s road safety through to 2020,” said David.

Safer Journeys is led by the Ministry in collaboration with our government road safety partners including the NZ Transport Agency, Police, Accident Compensation Corporation and Local Government New Zealand.

Chart showing change in number of road deaths

Amending the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding

The new Government Policy Statement will push more funding into State highway development over the next three years.

In May 2009, Transport Minister Steven Joyce released the revised Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport Funding. This replaces the GPS released in 2008.

The GPS is the government’s guiding transport funding document, and gives the Minister the power to allocate New Zealand’s transport budget into ‘transport activity classes’, including walking and cycling, and State highways. The NZ Transport Agency is charged with distributing the money among the country’s thousands of transport projects.

The revised GPS has increased the amount available to spend on State highways by more than $1 billion over the next three years. This change reflects the government’s key priority of ensuring economic growth and productivity.

This increased level of investment has been made possible by reallocating funding from other transport activity classes, providing additional Crown funding for investment in Wellington rail infrastructure, and making small increases in fuel excise duty and road user charges.

Wayne Donnelly, General Manager – Road and Rail, said the revised GPS gives the transport sector a strong indication of the government’s priorities.

“The spending in most activity classes has been increased compared to previous years. The allocation for new and improved State highways reflects the government’s objectives of economic growth and productivity.”

Activity Class                                                              Indicative three year allocations ($millions) 
New and improved infrastructure for State highways                                                              3,055
Renewal of State highways  645
Maintenance and operation of State highways  885
New and improved infrastructure for local roads  550
Renewal of local roads  685
Maintenance and operation of local roads  755
Road policing  900
Public transport services  635
Public transport infrastructure  135
Demand management and community programmes  145
Walking and cycling facilities  50
Sector training and research  18
Domestic sea freight development  3
Rail and sea freight  2
Transport planning  105
Management of the funding allocation system  100

Developing an effective rail system

In 2009 the Ministry became the lead government policy and funding agency for New Zealand’s rail system.

Since the government took full ownership and control of New Zealand’s rail system, with the purchase of the Toll New Zealand rail assets in 2008, the Ministry has taken over primary responsibility for providing all rail policy advice to the government. This advice was previously provided by The Treasury.

“Taking on responsibility for rail funding and developing the appropriate policies that go hand in hand has, and will continue to be, an exciting challenge for the Ministry,” said Mike Curran, Manager – Road, Rail and Logistics. “We need to ensure our investment in rail works hard, and that our rail policies contribute to getting the country back on a growth curve.”

In 2008 rail carried 15 percent of freight tonne/kilometres moved in New Zealand, as well as carrying over 18 million urban commuters in Auckland and Wellington. Freight is forecast to grow by 75 percent over the next 15 years and significant increases in passenger numbers are predicted. To help meet these increases it is important that the rail system operates as efficiently as possible, while competing on a commercial basis with other freight and passenger transport modes.

Part of the Ministry’s role is to review what investment is required to ensure the ongoing viability of rail in the future. In the 2009 Budget, $770 million for rail was transferred to Vote: Transport. The Ministry is responsible for establishing appropriate governance, institutional, funding and legislative frameworks that will position rail to contribute positively to the transport system in the future.

Rail infrastructure funding is now under the following appropriations in Vote Transport 
New Zealand Railways Corporation loans - new locomotives and working capital
Auckland rail development - track electrification and DART
Rail network and rolling stock upgrade - national network
Wellington rail development - track and tunnels
Metro Rail Wellington stock and infrastructure - new trains and stations

Roads of National Significance

Earlier this year, the government announced the first seven Roads of National Significance, which have been identified as essential routes that require priority treatment.

Wayne Donnelly, General Manager – Road and Rail, said the list represents priorities for the State highway system.  “The roads are amongst the country’s most urgent priorities within or close to our five largest population centres. All support large traffic volumes, and all need work to reduce congestion, improve safety and support economic growth.

The seven roads identified were:

  • Puhoi to Wellsford – SH1
  • Completion of the Auckland Western Ring Route – SH20/16/18
  • Auckland Victoria Park bottleneck – SH1
  • Waikato Expressway – SH1
  • Tauranga Eastern Corridor – SH2
  • Wellington Northern Corridor (Levin to Wellington) – SH1
  • Christchurch motorway projects

The roads are listed in the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding to ensure that they are taken into account when the NZ Transport Agency develops the National Land Transport Programme.

Further Roads of National Significance may be added in the future, and the Ministry is already investigating possible criteria for future roads.


Click here to download the maps showing the Roads of National Significance [PDF, 3.1 MB]

Illegal Street Racing

Tackling the problem of illegal street racing became a major government priority in February 2009 after a lone Police officer was attacked by 300 illegal street racers and their supporters in Christchurch.

The Ministry, in conjunction with Police, the Ministry of Justice and the NZ Transport Agency, was asked to lead work on a Bill aimed at tackling illegal street racing and the anti-social use of vehicles.

Given the issue’s high profile, the Ministry needed to work closely and efficiently with other government agencies involved. The Bill was developed in a matter of weeks.

“These anti-social activities are not just a transport problem, which is why a cross-agency approach was needed,” said Leo Mortimer, Manager – Safety Legislation.

Measures proposed in the Bill included empowering local authorities to make bylaws that prevent vehicles from ‘cruising’ city streets, allowing compulsory impoundment for vehicles involved in illegal street racing as well as tightening up on noise offences, licence breaches and registration plate offences.

“We sought to identify ways that Police and local authorities could be given the support they needed to address this problem. Our strong contacts with other agencies meant that not only could we do this well, we could also do it within an urgent time frame.”

The Bill, named the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament in May 2009. It complements the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill, also introduced in May.

Domestic Aviation Security 

In February 2008, an attempted hijacking of a small passenger plane took place on an Air New Zealand domestic flight from Blenheim to Christchurch. As a result, the Ministry was assigned the task of leading a review of domestic aviation security.

Working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority, Aviation Security Service, Police, Treasury, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the aviation industry, the Ministry assessed the risks in New Zealand’s domestic aviation environment to see if current levels of security were adequate.

The review identified areas of high risk associated with unscreened passengers and carry-on baggage on flights of less than 90 passenger seats, and looked at security options to manage this risk.

The Ministry consulted extensively with airports, airlines and industry sector groups. In May 2009, Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced that the government would not extend security screening for domestic flights because of the high cost involved. Instead, a range of alternative security measures to enhance security awareness and restrict access to the cockpit will be implemented.

Jacinda Harrison, Manager – Transport Security, said the review was a good example of leadership and consultation.

“Many of our industry stakeholders felt concerned about the potential outcomes of this review. We were also reliant on them to provide information to assist with the government’s decision-making. Our aim was to be upfront about why we were doing the review and what we hoped to achieve by it. We developed very good working relationships with industry, which led to the best advice possible being provided to the government.”

The Ministry, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Aviation Security Service are now implementing the new security measures, and will continue to work with stakeholders.

Measure                                  Implementation 
Strengthening cockpit doors On aircraft with more than 30 seats 
Investigating the feasibility of installing cockpit doors  On 19-seat aircraft
Establishing security committees     At regional airports, consisting of airline and airport staff, local police and other key stakeholders 
Training and education                        For airline and airport staff to increase security awareness 

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