Welcome to tomorrow – an interesting prediction

28/12/2020

This came in an email from a friend.

I have no idea of its origin or authenticity, but it is interesting reading:

Most or all of the following will become realty in the next 10-20 years . . . some of us won’t see the changes but our kids and grandkids will.

1 – Auto repair shops will disappear . . . .

 2 – A petrol/diesel engine has 20,000 individual parts . . . . An electrical motor has 20 . . . . Electric cars are sold with lifetime guarantees and are repaired only by dealers . . . It takes only 10 minutes to remove and replace an electric motor . . .

3 – Faulty electric motors are NOT repaired in the dealership but are sent to a regional repair shop that repairs them with ROBOTS . . . .

 4 – Your electric motor malfunction light goes on . . . . so you drive up to what looks like a car wash, and your car is towed through while you have a cup of coffee . . . . Then your car comes out on the other side with a new electric motor or component . . . .

 5 – Petrol pumps will go away . . . .

 6 – Street corners will have meters that dispense electricity . . . . Companies will install electrical recharging stations . . . . in fact, they’ve already started in the developed world . . . .

 7 – Smart major auto manufacturers have already designated money to start building new plants that build ONLY electric cars . . . .

 8 – The “Coal Industries” will go away . . . . Gasoline/oil companies will go away . . . . Drilling for oil will stop . . . . So say goodbye to OPEC . . . . The middle-east is in trouble . . . .

 9 – Homes will produce and store more electrical energy during the day than they use.

 . . . It will be sold back to “The Grid” . . . . The Grid will store and dispense it to the industries that are high electricity users. Has anybody seen the Tesla roof?

10 – A baby of today, will only see “personal cars” in museums. The FUTURE is approaching faster than most of us can even handle . . .

11 – In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide . . . . Within just a few years, their business model disappeared . . and they went bankrupt . . . . Who would have thought of that ever happening?

12 – What happened to Kodak and Polaroid will happen in a lot of industries in the next 5-10 years . . . . and most people don’t even see it coming . . .

13 – Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later, you would never take pictures on film again . . . . With today’s smart phones, who even has a camera these days?

14 – Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975 . . . . The first ones only had 10,000 pixels but followed Moore’s law . . . . As with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment in the beginning . . . . Before it became way superior and mainstream in only a few short years . . . .

15 – It will now happen again (but much faster) with Artificial Intelligence (AI), health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs . . . .

16 – Forget the book, “Future Shock”, welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution . . . .

17 – Software has disrupted and will continue to disrupt most traditional industries . . . (in the next 5 to 10 years . . . .

18 – UBER is just a software tool, (they don’t own any cars), and are now the biggest taxi company in the world . . . . (Ask any taxi driver if they saw that coming) . . . .

19 – AIR-BnB is now the biggest hotel company in the world . . . . (they don’t own any properties) . . . . Ask Hilton Hotels or the Marriott, if they saw that coming . . . .

20 – Artificial Intelligence (AI): Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world . . . . This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world . . . . (10 years earlier than expected) . . . .

21 – In the USA, young lawyers already don’t get jobs, (because of IBM’s, WATSON) . . . . you can get legal advice within a  few seconds so far the basic stuff . . . . with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans . . . . So, if you’re studying law, STOP IMMEDIATELY . . . . There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, what a thought and only omniscient specialists will remain . . . .

22 – WATSON already helps nurses diagnosing cancer . . . . It’s 4 times more accurate and many times faster than human nurses . . . .

23 – Face book now has a ‘face recognition’ software that can recognize faces better than humans . . . . In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans . . . .

24 – Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars were already here . . . . In the next few years, the entire auto industry will start to be disrupted . . . . You won’t want to own a car any more as you will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination . . . .

25 – You will not need to park it; you will pay only for the ‘driven distance’ and you can be productive while driving. The very young children of today will never get a driver’s license and they will never own a car . . .

26 – This will change our cities because we will need 90% to 95% fewer cars . . . . We can transform former parking spaces into green city parks . . . .

27 – About 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents (worldwide). That includes distracted or drunk drivers . . . . We currently have one accident every 60,000 miles driven . . . . However with autonomous driving that will drop to 1 accident in about 6 million miles . . . . That will save a million plus lives, worldwide each year . . . .

28 – Most traditional car companies will doubtless become bankrupt . . . . They will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car . . . . while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels . . . .

29 – Look at what Volvo is doing right now . . . . no more internal combustion engines in their vehicles starting this year with the 2020 models . . . . They are using all-electric or hybrid only, (with the intent of phasing out hybrid models in the not too distant future) . . . .

30 – Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla . . . . Look at all the companies offering an all-electric vehicle . . . That was unheard of, only a few years ago . . . .

31 – Insurance companies will have massive trouble to . . . . because, without accidents, the costs of insurance will become cheaper . . . . Their car insurance business model will disappear . . . .

32 – Real estate will change . . . . Because if you can work while you commute, or you can work from your home . . . . people will abandon their towers to move far away to more beautiful and affordable properties . .

33 – Electric cars will become mainstream by about 2030 . . . . Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run ONLY on electricity . . . .

34 – Cities will have much cleaner air . . . .

35 – Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean . . . .

36 – Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years . . . . but you can now see the burgeoning impact . . . . and it’s just starting to get ramped up . . . .

37 – Fossil energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid . . . . to prevent competition from home solar installations . . . . but that simply cannot continue . . . . Technology will take care of that strategy in the not too distant future . . . .

38 – Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year . . . . There are companies who will build a medical device called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, a sample of your blood, then you breath into it . . . . It then analyses 54 bio-markers that will identify nearly any disease . . . . There are dozens of phone apps out there right now for health . . . .

WELCOME TO TOMORROW – some of it actually arrived a few years ago . . . .  

And, wouldn’t you know it, I’m still trying to work out how to use my cell phone


Science must drive car policy

20/11/2020

Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants to ban imports of fossil-fuelled cars by 2030:

. . . The UK is planning to ban all new combustion engine vehicles by 2035 – though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to bring this forward to 2030.

Shaw, the Green Party co-leader, is concerned about the fate of the UK’s cars after the UK ban, considering most of the world drives on the right. “If we let those into New Zealand, we are stuffed. We will have no chance of being able to reduce our transport emissions, which are the fastest-growing sector,” he said. . .

He is right there is a potential for dumping should the UK ban actually happen.

But a ban here is unlikely to do anything to reduce emissions. Instead it will encourage people to stock pile diesel and petrol fuelled cars before the ban comes in and to keep old cars longer once the ban is in place.

But worse, mass conversion to electric vehicles could increase global emissions.

Bjorn Lamborghini says:

Electric cars require large batteries, which are often produced in China using coal power. The manufacture of one electric car battery releases also a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted by a petrol car over its entire life time.

The United Nations has raised environmental and ethical concerns about the mining of cobalt and lithium required for these batteries too:

. . .For example, two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.

And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution. . .

Back to Lomborg:

Second, electric cars are charged with electricity that is in most countries powered by fossil fuels.Together this means a long-range electric car will emit more CO2 for its first 60,000km than its petroleum equivalent. . . 

Most of New Zealand’s power comes from renewable energy now, but could existing generation cope with a steep increase in demand from charging cars if the nation’s fleet had a lot more electric vehicles?

We need a reality check. First politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. Second, there is a simpler answer. The hybrid car saves the same amount of CO2 as an electric car over its lifetime. Third climate change doesn’t care where CO2 comes from. Personal cars represent about 7% of global emission and electric cars will only help a little.

RIght now electric car subsidies are something wealthy countries can afford to offer virtue-signaling elites. But if we want to fix the climate, we need to focus on the big emitters and drive innovation in fusion, fission, geothermal, wind and solar energy. Advances that make any of these cheaper than fossil fuels would mean it’s not just rich Londoners changing their habits, but everyone, including China and India, switching large parts of their energy consumption towards zero emissions.

The problem with Shaw’s policy is that it’s driven by politics when it needs to be driven by science.


Getting NZ moving

17/07/2020

National leader Judith Collins has announced a $31 billion infrastructure package to get New Zealand moving:

About half ($17 billion) would be invested in the upper North Island – home to half of all New Zealanders.

“Auckland and the Upper North Island are broken by congestion, worsened by the current Government’s incompetence, and everyone knows it,” Ms Collins says.

“Congestion means goods being delivered late to our ports, parents being late to pick up the kids from rugby practice, and a tradie only doing two, rather than four, cross-town trips per day.”

This has a huge cost in human, economic and environmental terms.

To fix this, Ms Collins said National would go ahead with everything Labour has said it will do in transport – with the exception of Phil Twyford’s light-rail Ghost Trains, and the probable exception of the $360 million Skypath 2 – but would go much further.

First, Ms Collins said National would connect Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga with four-lane expressways – including tunnels under the Brynderwyn and Kaimai mountain ranges – to create a genuinely integrated region of 2.5 million New Zealanders.

“National’s vision is to transform the four cities to be one economic powerhouse, unlocking their potential so the upper North Island becomes Australasia’s most dynamic region.”

Second, Ms Collins announced National would complete Auckland’s rapid transit network, including rail to the airport and new busways, as envisaged by its former mayors Sir Dove Myer-Robinson and Len Brown, and former Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee.

“One rough definition of a city is that it is a place you can get from one side to the other in an hour, or a place that the average time to get to work is 30 minutes. National will measure our progress against the goals of 30 minutes to get to work and one hour to get across the city.”

Third, Ms Collins announced work towards an additional harbour crossing would begin immediately, with the intention of work beginning on the ground in 2028.

“National’s Plan is that the crossing should be a tunnel or tunnels, and be for both road and rail, and new public transport technologies that come on line.”

Ms Collins announced Auckland’s ferry network would be expanded to reduce congestion on road and rail. National’s Plan also includes new walking and cycling links as well as expanded park-and-ride facilities.

National’s projects will be sequenced over the next decade and beyond, but work will also begin immediately on $300 million worth of digger-ready projects in Auckland – and throughout the country in 2021 – to fix potholes, roundabouts, and crash corners.

The $17 billion earmarked for the Auckland and upper North Island projects, and the $14b for soon-to-be-announced projects in the southern half of the country, would come from the current Government’s Covid fund. NZTA will also be allowed to better leverage its balance sheet by borrowing up to $1 billion a year, and there will be tolls on the new Brynderwyn, Waitemata and Kaimai tunnels.

Ms Collins said her Government would be different from Labour, saying “it’s time for boldness and long-term vision”.

“National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.

“Today’s plan is one that New Zealanders – including Aucklanders – have been waiting for, for generations.”

The Transport Funding summery is here and says:

National intends to make a major change to the way we fund transport investments in New Zealand.

This simple yet profound shift in thinking fundamentally changes the game by allowing us to significantly invest more on an annual basis, develop a pipeline of projects, and invest in important projects before they become urgent.

We call this the intergenerational approach.

Our policy
National will let Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) borrow significantly more on its own balance sheet, using the $4 billion of annual revenue it receives from fuel tax and road user charges to service the debt. 

The current Government has recently made a similar move with Kāinga Ora.

Transport infrastructure has intergenerational benefits, it is fair to take an intergenerational approach to paying for it.

While this was Judith’s first big policy announcement, and she was happy to share the attention:


Twyford touch derails another promise

24/06/2020

Another broken promise:

Auckland’s light rail project is officially an election issue after the Government gave up on trying to reach an agreement on which plan to back.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Auckland Light Rail process had “ended” this morning.

“Despite extensive cross-party consultation, Government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal,” Twyford said.

“The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election.” . . 

That’s another reason to ensure this government isn’t the next one.

National’s transport spokesman Chris Bishop described the issue as an “epic fail” of a similar scale to Kiwibuild, saying it was one of Labour’s first promises during the 2017 election.

“They said it would be built to Mount Roskill, not just started, but built from the Auckland CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021, which is just next year,” Bishop told RNZ.

“After three years of work, millions of dollars to consultants and lawyers and policy advice, back and forth, we have no route, no consent, no business case, we have no plan, we have no estimate of the cost.

“Light rail’s actually gone backwards compared to what it was three years ago.” . . .

Three years and millions of dollars have been squandered on another project that has fallen victim to the Twyford touch.

Like KiwiBuild, this is another expensive failure of a policy that should never have been promised in the first place.


Mixed messages

28/02/2020

The government is introducing a bill it says could lead to a drop of up to 30 cents a litre in petrol prices.

But, as the Taxpayers’ Union keeps reminding us, around half the contributor to fuel prices is tax, including the one that is supposed to make us use less to reduce carbon emissions.

They’re sending mixed messages.

They’re talking out one side of their mouths by taxing us more to increase the price of fuel to encourage us to use less and then the talk from the other side is a threat to legislate to force  fuel companies to bring prices down because fuel is too expensive.


Only a start

03/02/2020

The government’s announcement of a $12b investment in infrastructure wasn’t quite what the headlines said.

For a start, the spending announced last week was for around $7b. No doubt the government is leaving the other $5b for announcements later in the year.

And while the government has been clear it’s borrowing to fund this investment, it hasn’t given a timetable for repaying the debt, nor has it mentioned the interest that will accrue. Yes interest rates are at historically low levels but even a little interest compounding on $12b soon turns into a lot more to repay.

The announcement on new and better roads has been well received but as Steven Joyce points out:

. . .Hallelujah! A victory for sanity and the reasonable belief of most New Zealanders that personal mobility in the form of cars, trucks and motorbikes will continue to be the norm well into the future, even as the fuel that drives those vehicles radically changes for the better.

Beyond that, the government’s announcement was tepid and unambitious, despite all the hype.

Alongside a few worthwhile already scheduled rail and local roading projects, they are simply re-starting five of the major state highway projects that were cancelled after the last election.

To provide some context, when completed these projects will provide just over 60 kilometres of modern four lane highway.

The Roads of National Significance of the last decade just wrapping up provide over 300 kilometres of new highway to the same standard.

Also the pace of construction over the next five years will be about half what it has been over the last three years.

We’re getting less, it’s taking more time, and the government’s borrowing to do it.

The Government is therefore expecting a lot of applause for a massive reduction in roading investment. I suppose it is better than nothing.

It must be questioned however why there is a need to borrow all those billions when a programme nearly five times the size was able to be mostly funded from petrol taxes and road user charges (which are much higher today).

There is also a sizeable fish-hook embedded in the fine print. The government is to investigate dedicating one of the two lanes each way on each project for buses, or cars with multiple occupancy.

I can see that going down like a cup of the cold proverbial if it ever comes to pass. . . 

The government has wasted two years before deciding to do some of what National would have done and is borrowing to do what National would have done from better management of crown accounts rather than debt-funding it.

There is a better way:

With all that in mind, here is a starter for ten on what a new state highway building plan for New Zealand could look like: three networks of modern four lane highways based through and around our three biggest cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The Northern Expressway network would safely and efficiently link Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua. The Central Expressway network would do the same for Wellington, Hutt Valley, Levin, and Palmerston North, on towards Whanganui and over the hill to Hawkes Bay.

The Southern network would radiate out from Christchurch, north to around Amberley, south to Ashburton and on towards Timaru, and inland towards the Alps.

A decent chunk of each is now already built. Completed over say a twenty year period the three networks would provide safe, reliable, stress-free travelling of a standard that is taken now as a given in the rest of the developed world.

They would help spread around growth and development as has occurred in the Waikato with the new expressway, and much earlier on Auckland’s North Shore with the Northern motorway.

They would lower the road toll by eliminating the temptation for dangerous passing manoeuvres on our busiest two-lane roads, as we have seen with the Tauranga Eastern Link and Waikato Expressway.

This sort of plan would be an upgrade worthy of the name, and would require simply upping the pace of the last ten years. . . 

So it’s a start, but only a start and a late one on borrowed money at that.


4 lanes from Cape to Bluff

20/12/2019

It used to take an easy 3 1/2 hours to get from home to Christchurch.

Last Friday I started the journey nearly four hours before I was due to officiate at a wedding rehearsal and I got there with only a minute to spare.

It was one of those trips with lots of big trucks, lots of slow traffic and lots of times when the vehicle following a slow one wouldn’t pass and didn’t leave enough room between it and the one it was following to pass it when it was safe to pass one but not two vehicles.

And of course most of those slow vehicles went faster when we got to passing lanes.

This is not unusual. There is much more traffic and our roads are not up to carrying it.

The government’s announcement that at least some of the extra debt it’s going to incur will go on roading is a welcome change to the anti-road stance it’s had but it’s not going far enough.

We need a four lane highway from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It couldn’t all be done at once but it needs to be done.

It will make travel both more efficient and safer, helping productivity and reducing the human and financial costs of accidents.


Derailing business confidence

21/10/2019

In Thomas Coughlin’s analysis of the derailing of the government’s light rail plans this stood out:

. . .Evans gave a stark warning to the Government, saying that the messed-up process could stop firms from bidding for other government projects in future, making it even more difficult for the Government to plug it’s infrastructure gap. . .

Paul Evans is the chief executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers.

His view is yet another example of how this government is derailing business confidence.

Firms have wasted time and large amounts of money on this project and having been bitten so badly will be shy about bidding for others.

Meanwhile all of us are paying more for fuel by way of increased tax for a project that looks like it was never on the right track from the start.


Roads to wellbeing

12/07/2019

The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council has a strong message for the government: infrastructure is at a crisis point.

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

The warning came in a June 26 letter to Ardern — released to this columnist — where the council said New Zealand lacks a “national masterplan” to tangibly map out “our immediate, medium and long-term infrastructure future in an integrated way”.

The Business Advisory Council, chaired by Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, has presented a damning indictment of New Zealand’s infrastructure regime saying there is “no overarching vision or leadership in New Zealand for infrastructure development”.

“This means there is no nation-building narrative upon which to build a strategic direction,” it says — although it excuses the Ardern Government of any culpability for the mess which it says is intergenerational.

Apart from a national masterplan — which is heavily redolent of the Singapore Government approach to infrastructure development favoured by some council members — it wants to see funding and financing mechanisms that would allow for long-term, debt-funded or investable opportunities. It notes the incentives between central and local government are misaligned and New Zealand is poor at execution and delivery.

“The public sector does not have the capability to manage a programme of projects of national significance and the private sector operates in a boom-bust cycle,” the letter warns. . .

This government made much about its wellbeing budget but is ignoring the part infrastructure plays in that:

The council’s letter says that Infrastructure, in its broadest sense, underpins wellbeing.

“The success of regions relies upon their effective connectivity to urban centres; linking the city fringe with the centre can reduce income inequality; mature, unclogged and functioning cities (especially Auckland) are our critical engines of growth; swimmable beaches rely on major storm water and sewerage projects; energy certainty is a basic building block for investment; larger bridges can enable higher loadings, fewer truck movements and lower emissions; broadband connectivity empowers business to occur anywhere, any time; and a connected vision for infrastructure enables wealth to flow into and around the country, building an equality of opportunity for all Kiwis.”

The government scrapped several reading projects which would have improved travel times, safety, and productivity.

They would have been roads that led to improved wellbeing.

It then added insult to injury by increasing fuel taxes to fund trains and cycleways.

“Unfortunately, the system that sits beneath effective and sustainable infrastructure development in our country is fundamentally broken.” . . 

Improved infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue but this is an anti-roads, anti-cars government.

Walkways, cycleways, buses and trains all have a role to play but they can’t replace safe and efficient roads.

The government doesn’t appear to realise that improved infrastructure Is an important component of sustainability, bringing economic, environmental and social benefits.

Its transport blind spot stops it seeing that poor infrastructure is a roadblock on the journey to wellbeing.


Cost of higher fuel tax

02/07/2019

An extra four cent tax was imposed on motorists yesterday.

The direct cost is obvious – it will be more expensive to buy fuel.

The indirect costs won’t take long to take effect – higher prices for everything that has a transport component.

That will hit individuals, community organisations and businesses.

And for what?

. . .Half-way into the “year of delivery,” and all we’re seeing is key projects delayed, down-sized or discarded. The public are seeing noticeable asset deterioration at a rate we haven’t seen previously. It’s across New Zealand, Forum members advise, not just Auckland. . . 

Where’s the money gone? What exactly has it been spent on? Auckland transport users certainly aren’t seeing the benefits.

The rest of New Zealand isn’t seeing any benefits either.

We’re paying higher prices for fuel and getting less spent on roads.


Driving on another planet

06/06/2019

A New Zealand Transport Association tool shows 87% of road speeds are higher than is safe:

. . . The agency’s online risk assessment tool, Mega Maps, uses a range of factors such as road width and stereotype, shoulder width, roadside hazards and alignment to calculate the safe and appropriate travel speed.

Mega Maps suggests only 5 percent of the open road should have the current 100 kilometre an hour speed limit, and in most cases a speed of 60-80 km/h should apply.

For most urban areas, Mega Maps suggests the safe and appropriate speed would be 30-40 km/h . . 

Road design is one factor in making driving less safe. New Zealand roads could be much better but plans by the previous government to improve some by building four-lane highways were canned by this one.

I do most of my driving on the open road and it’s rare to have a longer trip when I’m not caught behind someone dawdling along at 10, 20 or more kilometres an hour below the legal, and safe for most, speed limit.

There are times when the road is hilly and windy, the light is poor and/or the weather inclement when slower speeds are appropriate but driving at 60 – 80 kph on most roads most of the time, providing the driver isn’t distracted,  tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, would be a recipe for frustration.

It would also put a handbrake on the economy:

A wholesale reduction in speed limits could do more harm than good by further isolating regional New Zealand and weakening the economy, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

Media reports today reveal the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) estimates 87 per cent of our roads have speed limits that are too high for the conditions. Its mapping tool suggests many roads with a 100kmh speed limit should be reduced to as low as 60kmh.

“We all want safer roads, and while reducing speed limits across the board might be the easiest thing to do, it is too simplistic and would have huge implications for our way of life,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Slower roads would impact regional New Zealand severely. Drastic speed limit cuts might mean it would take 45 minutes longer to get to New Plymouth from Hamilton, for example. In terms of isolation, that’s the equivalent of shifting the city another 60 kilometres out to sea.

“There would also be significant economic costs. If it suddenly took 30 per cent longer to move freight the same distance our national productivity would drop substantially, freight costs would rise and our international competitiveness would fall.

“A smaller economy would invest less in healthcare, for example, ultimately costing lives. Houses would be more expensive to build and the price of food would go up. These broader implications need to be considered fully.

“Over the past three years the road toll has risen, and we should absolutely be focused on understanding why. But it’s worth remembering that speed alone is not the cause.

“Other factors include drugged-driving, enforcement of current laws around drink-driving, not wearing seat belts, the quality of our roads, driver distraction and a huge increase in tourism.

“The Government should reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads, and deal with its blind spot on drugged drivers. It has resolutely ignored the issue for nearly 18 months and it is appalling that the Minister in charge of road safety, Julie Anne Genter, is opposed to roadside drug testing because of her Green Party’s liberal approach to drugs.

“If the Government is truly concerned about saving lives on our roads, then why did the Budget show a cut, in real terms, to road safety policing?”

Most people don’t drive on a whim for the sake of it. We drive to get somewhere we need to go and want to get there in the shortest time we can safely do it.

Then there’s the people who drive for a living, many of whom are those who transport goods.

Slower legal speeds would add to the hours truck drivers would take to get from one place to another and curtail the distance they could travel without going over the time limits imposed on their driving for safety’s sake. It would also raise issues of animal welfare for those transporting stock.

Recommending that only 13% of roads can be safely driven at 100 kph suggests the tool is designed for driving on another planet.


Road toll too hard

04/01/2019

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says it will be decades before the road toll drops substantially:

The Government announced last month it would invest $1.4 billion in road safety upgrades over the next three years in an effort to reduce the road toll, which ended at 382 for last year.

But Genter says while she expects the number of deaths to come down over the next few years, it will be decades before the number drops significantly. . .

But National’s associate transport spokesperson, Brett Hudson, said the public should get more for the amount invested.

“The immediate question is: What do we get for that $1.4b?

“Is the associate minister saying these things won’t save lives? Are they [the Coalition Government] prioritising that money in the right place, or do they not have confidence in what they can achieve?

“If we’re spending $1.4 billion but it’s going to take decades [to substantially reduce the road toll], the associate minister seems to be saying that $1.4b isn’t actually effective.

“Then shouldn’t she actually be doing something that is?”. . .

Putting fuel tax into roading improvements instead of cycle lanes and public transport would help.

Getting people off roads and onto bikes, buses and trains would reduce the road toll but most goods have to be transported by road, and cycle lanes and public transport are only the answer in some routes in some cities.

Like all people who live in the country, most of my driving is on the open road, from home to town.  In spite of the increase in population in our district, I can still do the return journey of nearly 40 kilometres without seeing more than a very few other vehicles until I get to the main road on the outskirts of Oamaru.

But major roads are much busier.

The state highways I use most often are north to Christchurch, south to Dunedin and west to Wanaka. All of them have far more traffic than there used to be and because of that every trip takes longer than it used to.

Longer trips with more traffic are more dangerous, especially when most of them are on two-lane roads with few passing lanes and without median barriers.

Why has Genter put reducing the road toll sooner into the too-hard basket when part of the solution is simple?

Redirecting money from cycle lanes and trains back into widening the roads, and adding passing lanes and median barriers would make more roads safer, sooner.

 

 


$2.63 and rising

08/10/2018

Is this the most expensive petrol in the country?

Regular petrol in Wanaka yesterday cost $2.639, premium was more than $3 and diesel was $1.999.

The lower value of the New Zealand dollar is contributing to the rising price, but so too is the government’s new fuel tax.

It’s supposed to be levied only in Auckland but it’s appears to be spreading throughout the country.

And whether or not the tax is spreading north and south of Auckland, the pain of higher fuel prices is being felt nationwide.

All goods and services have a transport component, when the price of fuel increases, it put pressures on every single thing that is transported.

And the virtue signalling about the environment is cold comfort for those of us who will rarely if ever use Auckland’s public transport and have no public transport available locally.

This will be a tax too far for many people.

A government that talks about caring about child poverty needs to act to reduce the costs their parents can’t avoid.

 


11.5c + 3-4c = more poverty

01/06/2018

Petrol was $2.22 a litre when I filled up my car yesterday.

That’s expensive and it’s going to get worse:

Aucklanders will be hit with a 11.5c a litre rise as soon the regional fuel tax comes into effect on July 1, with petrol companies saying they will be passing the full increase on.

And there will be more pain when prices rise by as much as 4c a litre again on October 1 if the first round of three national fuel excise increases is implemented following a policy statement announcement at the end of June.

The Government has indicated the increase will be 3-4c every year for three years. . . 

A tax of 11.5 cents now and 3-4 cents in a few weeks will add up to more poverty.

Aucklanders might face the highest price increase but it will affect all of us one way or another because at least some of the price rise will spread throughout the country.

Every trip everyone makes in a petrol-fueled vehicle will cost more and so too will every trip everything everyone buys, and everything that goes into everything everyone buys.

The price rise might encourage some to forgo private transport for public, but public transport doesn’t serve everyone in cities and there are no passenger trains and local buses outside cities and you can’t put goods and services on trains and buses.

The price rises will fuel inflation which will put pressure on interest rates which will put more pressure on prices which will further fuel inflation . . .

And who will be hardest hit by that?

It’s always the poorest.

Auckland needs better roads but had mayor Phil Goff kept to his promise of finding 3-6 percent efficiencies across the Council budget, this tax would not be needed.

For the sake of us all, Aucklanders must come up with a viable alternative who could beat the incumbent at next year’s election to save us from another three years of tax and spend.


366 days of gratitude

25/04/2016

Many took the opportunity of today’s statutory holiday to have a long weekend away.

For those in and near our bigger cities that could mean hours in heavy traffic going and returning.

I drove 210 kilometres home this evening without having to pass a single other vehicle going the same way as me. Only one car came up behind and passed me and there would have been fewer than 50 vehicles which passed in the opposite direction.

Today I’m grateful I live in a part of the country which rarely has to endure traffic delays – and most of the few I encounter would be stock rather than vehicles.


366 days of gratitude

19/02/2016

People who live in cities choose, or have, to use buses regularly and the drivers’ strike in Auckland was forecast to cause chaos however, commuters report ‘dream runs’ and lighter than usual traffic  thanks to many opting to walk or take alternative forms of transport.

What that says about repeated calls for more public transport and fewer cars is moot and dream runs and lighter traffic are relative.

I live about 20 kilometres from town. There are three give way signs on the route I usually take and nine times out of 10 there’s no traffic to which I have to yield.

Unless someone’s moving stock on the road or there’s a harvester or other heavy machinery using it, I can make the trip with no hold-ups.

Today I’m grateful I’m grateful I don’t have to deal with urban traffic and the associated stop-go driving regularly.

 

 

 


Council + community = progress

14/04/2015

A challenge from Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher has resulted in the main road in to Moeraki being rebuilt:

. . . Haven St has been closed to through traffic since August 2013 when a 350m to 400m section collapsed following heavy rain.

The road is being rebuilt as part of a push by the Moeraki community to reopen the road because of concerns about the width of the alternative route via Tenby St and that visitors were having problems finding their way to local restaurants and accommodation providers.

A group was formed to work with the Waitaki District Council and manage offers of help and material from local people to tackle the work under the supervision of an engineer and work on the road began in February.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the rebuilt section of street was ”very impressive”. He was ”blown away” by what had been a ”fairly unique partnership” between the Waitaki District Council, the Moeraki community and local contractors.

”Numerous community members have done so well getting the road to this stage.”

He did not believe so much work had ever gone into the stretch of road, which had been notorious for slips for many years.

”Time will be the real test, of course. This work has been the chance to give it our very best effort. If this doesn’t succeed, I’m sure that nothing will, short of spending millions on it.”.

The project started as a challenge the mayor gave to the community at the meeting at the Moeraki Marae late last year.

”They more than met that challenge.”

An NZTA subsidy was not available for the road, and the district council offered to help pay if the community matched it in cash or in kind.

In the end the council would have spent about $60,000 of ratepayers’ money on the road.

He was keen to publicly acknowledge the huge impact the Moeraki community had made. . .

The popularity of the harbour,  Fleurs Place and the tavern leads to a lot of traffic on this road and the detour was less than optimal.

The rebuilding is a tribute to the people who accepted the mayor’s challenge.

This project could be a template for progress in other areas where there’s an opportunity for the council and community to work together.


Fuel price fall good as pay rise

07/01/2015

A few weeks ago when I filled my car it cost nearly $120. I filled it last week for less than $100 and the price of fuel has fallen since then, and is predicted to fall more.

. . . Brent crude oil, the oil imported to New Zealand for petrol, was down US91c to US$56.42 a barrel on Friday on the back of continued concerns about a global supply glut.

Earlier in the day it had fallen to a post-2009 low of US$55.48, only half its average price of about US$110 a barrel between 2011 and 2013. . .

That reduction is as good as a pay rise or tax cut.

The benefit isn’t just the direct one of needing to spend less on fuel. There’s also the indirect benefit from a reduction in the cost of transporting goods.

Fuel is a significant cost on most farms and in many other businesses which will welcome the savings.

The government will get less in GST from fuel, but at least some of that will be offset by people spending money they would have spent on fuel on other things.

What does this mean for the theory of peak oil?

The price is a function of supply and demand and the lower price reflects a higher supply.


Where there’s a gap . . .

18/11/2014

Last week news of Air New Zealand’s decision to pull out of some smaller domestic routes was met with the usual emotional response.

But already Sounds Air is looking at  flying some routes Air New Zealand will ditch and Tauranga-based Sunair Aviation is investigating starting flights to Kaitaia and Whakatane.

These airlines are only at the investigation stage but it shows where one business leaves a gap in the market, there can be an opportunity for another to fill it.


Whatever the weather

17/09/2014

From Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean’s Facebook :

This morning I attended the opening of the Tasman Valley Road with Conservation Minister, Hon Dr Nick Smith. This significant upgrade was a collaboration of NZTA and DoC to improve safety and accessibility to one New Zealand’s most beautiful alpine regions. It will have great benefits for the surrounding communities.

Jacqui Dean MP's photo.

Jacqui Dean MP's photo.

This is #TeamKey working for New Zealand whatever the weather.

The announcement on the road says:

The completed $3 million upgrade of Tasman Valley Road at Aoraki/Mount Cook was officially opened today by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“The major upgrade of the Tasman Valley Road is about improving the safety and accessibility to New Zealand’s most spectacular alpine environment. This new road will enable over 100,000 visitors annually to enjoy the magnificent mountain, lake and glacial views of the Tasman Valley, and the unique flora and fauna including mountain lilies and daisies, and our unique mountain parrot, the kea,” Dr Smith says.

“The upgrade unveiled today – a partnership project between the Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) – will improve one of New Zealand’s iconic ‘must-visit’ destinations, and provide significant benefits for the local tourism industry.

“The original road previously ran over a very dangerous and busy 2.2-kilometre bluff section, which has now been moved and realigned to run along the Tasman Valley floor, where it follows the contours of the nearby Blue Stream. This addresses a number of safety concerns associated with high traffic volumes on a narrow and winding section of road used by large buses and campervans. The new section also reduces the potential exposure to rock falls and avalanches.”

The capital costs of the upgrade have been shared by the Department and NZTA.

“This project is a great example of the Department working in partnership with other agencies to meet the aims of all involved. The upgraded road meets the strategic investment priorities for the Department with the area being an iconic site, while also meeting the NZTA’s priorities to make improvements where there are road safety issues and high traffic volumes,” Dr Smith says.

“I encourage many New Zealanders and other visitors to the area to make good use of this new road, and enjoy one of the great sights our country has to offer.”


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