NZTA funding could drive up costs for motorists

The government has invested $45 million in the NZTA said Transport Minister Phil Twyford. Photo: RNZ
The government has invested $45 million in the NZTA said Transport Minister Phil Twyford. Photo: RNZ

The government is bolstering the regulation and safety processes at the Transport Agency and Transport Ministry with $45 million. More money will be needed, but the budget surplus is out of bounds, for now.

Reviews of the Transport Agency and Transport Ministry have detailed a decade of regulation and safety failings.

The government yesterday said it would bolster the agencies with 100 new staff and a $45 million fund, but more money would be needed - and that could come from motorists.

Road Transport Forum represents transport operators. Its chief executive Nick Leggett is worried.

"We have some concern because it sounds as though the government are looking to add cost to all motorists and transport operators," he told Morning Report.

"We really need to see more detail about that and also understand the definition of what the problem is."

Transport Minister Phil Twyford told Morning Report the government was "putting $45 million into NZTA right now, that is to fund the work that has been done over the last year, trying to put things right and beefing up NZTA's regulatory capacity".

"The agency is going to be recruiting about 100 extra staff over the next 12 to 18 months and I'm going to take a paper to Cabinet early in the new year with a funding review for NZTA."

At this stage, he couldn't put a figure on how much more was needed, but he said it was likely to be in the low tens of millions.

He said underfunding and NZTA regulatory capacity not being a priority for successive ministers in the last government was "what got us into this mess".

Other ways of bringing in the money could mean a hike in the cost of Warrants of Fitness (Wof), he said.

"I would think it would be in the nature of a few dollars, I really don't know, I haven't had advice [on it]."

It could also be funded "partially" out of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

"Because all road users benefit from having a safe system."

The NLTF is the revenue raised every year through road user charges and the fuel excise duties.

To the Road Transport Forum, he said: "If they want their drivers to be safe on the road ... someone's got to pay for it."

"Where is the money going to come from to keep people safe? Let's get into the real world here," he said.

"Someone has to pay for it ... it's not free."

He wouldn't say if any money from the Budget surplus of $7.5 billion would go towards road regulation and safety costs.

"It's fair and logical and right that people who use the transport system ... should contribute to that and pay the costs of keeping it safe.

"This is a one-off budget surplus. It could be here today and gone tomorrow."

He said the road safety system had to be resourced properly year on year.

NZTA board chairman Sir Brian Roche told Morning Report there wasn't one issue or one person responsible.

"We have failed in what we were required to do and our job now is to rectify that.

"We've got to change some people, there's been a significant change in the leadership team, significant change in the board."

In April 2019, former NZTA board chair Michael Stiassny resigned just one year into his three-year contract.

The agency's chief executive Fergus Gammie also resigned in December 2018.

Sir Roche said the job required "a lot of honesty" and the agency had made progress over the last year.

There was more work needed to be done, he said.

"This is not an overnight solution. It's going to take 12 to 18 months but I personally remain really confident - with the people we've got, with additional resources that we have made available - that we can do what is required of us."

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