Saturday, July 20, 2024

Transport Minister fires back at National’s ‘breathtakingly misleading’ roads program funding

Minister of Transport, David Parker, today slammed the National Party for “being breathtakingly misleading” about how it will fund its roading plans.

Minister Parker said the party’s costings for its new roads projects were billions of dollars short, and their explanation of how they will fund them was “woefully light”.

“The shortfall in their costings for just the four projects they announced yesterday is at least $2.8 billion, and as much as $4.8 billion. You can bet it’s much higher when their other projects are included,” said Mr Parker.

“National has form in this area – when they were last in Government, they paid for new roads by slashing the road maintenance budget. That created a long-term resilience problem for our roading network, including the pothole explosion that this Government has had to fix.

“Then they announced a $500 million pothole repair fund, paid for by raiding the road safety budget – things like traffic police, road safety barriers, passing lanes and signage would be compromised.

“Now they are putting up poorly costed roading promises across the country in their desperation to get a headline. They say they will fund it all through the National Land Transport Programme, but that is laughable.

“True to form, National would have to fill the potholes in their roading projects budget by slashing maintenance spending and hiking road user charges and fuel excise duties. But they are not telling the public that – they should come clean on where they money is going to come from.”

He said many of National’s estimates appeared to be based on old data and fail to take account of real-world escalations in road construction costs.

“Between March 2021 and September 2022, roading material costs rose as much as 45%, labour costs went up 7.5%, diesel was up 90% at peak, steel up 57% and bitumen prices rose by 104%.”

Of the four projects National announced yesterday, Minister Parker argued:

  • Tauriko West State Highway 29 – National has put the cost at $1.9 billion. Waka Kotahi’s latest estimates put the cost range at $2.5 – 3.25 billion ($600 million – $1.35 billion short).
  • Warkworth to Wellsford Expressway – National says $2.2 billion. The latest Waka Kotahi estimate is $3.5 – $4 billion ($1.3 – $1.8 billion short).
  • Cambridge to Piarere – National says $721 million. The latest Waka Kotahi estimate is $1.5 – $2 billion ($780 million – $1.28 billion short).
  • Whangarei to Port Marsden – National says $1.3 billion. The latest Waka Kotahi estimate is $1.41 – $1.67 billion ($110 – $367 million short).

“Private-public partnerships would not make any difference – they are subject to the same cost pressures. The taxpayer is still paying for Transmission Gully.”

“Labour has a track record of responsible investment in road building and maintenance. We balance the roading budget – we challenge National to do the same,” Minister Parker said.

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