“Anyone who has experienced the state of New Zealand’s roads lately knows that the current system of relying on the Government to maintain them with your taxes isn’t working. ACT’s ambitious plan would change the way infrastructure is planned and funded, by inviting private partners from home and around the world to build infrastructure beyond what the Government can afford,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“New Zealand’s roads are woeful because nearly all new roads rely on excise tax for funding and Government debt for financing. This method of funding and financing means projects don’t get built if the Government can’t afford them, even though they might be needed and profitable.
“Instead, ACT’s policy would set 30 year infrastructure plans between the Government and councils in each region of the country. If the Government cannot afford every road people want, then investors and builders from around the world will be invited to build it and toll it for a specified period before it is handed back to the Government.
“For example, Penlink is a very valuable asset to the people of Whangaparaoa, only just being built now. It could have been built and paid for thirty years ago if this policy existed back then. There are projects all over New Zealand that could be built sooner under this model.
“New Zealand’s road network is straining under the weight of population growth. Congestion costs us billions of dollars each year and the number of potholes is growing quicker than they can be repaired. But the cost of delivering new roads and maintaining existing roads is high.
“Its little wonder Kiwis are finding their roads are falling apart. There has been a record number of complaints to NZTA regarding damage from poorly maintained roads, more money spent on cycleways than fixing identified roading resilience risks, lower grade material being used for repairs, and a total inability to develop new infrastructure.
“ACT is proposing to introduce a world-class toll roading system. It will use private sector financing and expertise to get new roads built faster and to maintain existing roads quicker and more effectively. Overseas countries like Ireland have successfully made extensive use of tolling.
“Under a world-class toll roading system, New Zealanders will have a choice: make use of new toll roads much sooner or wait for tax-funded roads to be delivered later or never.”
“New Zealand’s existing toll roads have exceeded expectations – decreasing distance and drive times and creating much improved safety outcomes. The Northern Gateway has saved 1.23 million hours of travel time annually, and prior to the Tauranga Eastern Link there were 1.8 fatalities each year, compared to only 0.17 now. New Zealand can’t afford not to have more infrastructure like this,” says ACT’s Transport spokesperson Simon Court.
“This approach would bring us up to speed with other parts of the world. Sydney has been able to fund the completion of the 110km Sydney Orbital motorway network in twenty years through making use of public-private partnerships and the collection of toll revenue. In Ireland, 35 percent of the motorway network is now operated by public-private partnerships.
“Traffic congestion costs the New Zealand economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Plumbers who once did four jobs a day can now only do three because they’re stuck on the Auckland Motorway network. Freight which used to take six hours to get from Lyttleton Port to Queenstown might now take seven. These costs add up and are baked into the price of everything in New Zealand.
“Increasing the level of private sector funding will inject much-needed discipline into decision-making while allowing the Government to maintain prudent levels of public debt. Between 2007 and 2017, more than NZ$300 billion was raised by funds globally to invest in infrastructure. Most of that capital was raised from insurance companies, pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds (including our own New Zealand Super Fund) looking for long-term investments with reasonable returns.
“ACT is ambitious for New Zealand, we aspire towards a modern, thriving economy with world class infrastructure. With private sector financing and expertise to bring projects forward, we can achieve that.”
Note to editors: The policy document can be found here.