Speed doesn’t necessarily kill

22/11/2022

National has launched a petition to stop widespread speed reductions :

National is calling on the Labour Government to scrap its proposed blanket speed limit reductions on State Highways, which would slow drivers down without actually improving road safety, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“This week, NZTA released its Interim State Highway Speed Management Plan which proposes to reduce speed limits on State Highways across New Zealand, with some highways having their speed limit slashed from 100km/h to 60km/h. 

“This is a short-sighted, quick-fix attempt to address the problem of road safety that doesn’t deal with underlying issues like poor road maintenance and the proper enforcement of road rules.

“While National supports variable speed limits outside schools during pick-up and drop-off times, this proposal is the first step towards reducing the speed limits on all State Highways across the country to a maximum of 80km/h.

“Blanket speed limit reductions will increase travel times for Kiwis, increase the costs of moving freight, and frustrate motorists trying to move around the country.

“Instead of investing in our roads to make sure they’re fit for purpose and safe to drive on, Labour is taking the easy way out once more, with a simplistic solution that won’t make a meaningful difference.

“Kiwis need both safe and efficient transport routes, especially for our rural communities and the freight companies that help move our goods around New Zealand.

“National opposes blanket speed limit reductions and we are encouraging New Zealanders to speak up against this radical proposal, and sign our petition urging the Government to dump it.”

You can sign the petition here.

The government, and Waka Kotahi, are trying to convince us that speed limits need to be reduced because speed kills but that isn’t always the case:

The police and government are pushing discredited road safety strategies, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“For years we’ve been told that lowering speeds and a heavy enforcement of speed limits would lower the annual road toll. This has proved to be untrue.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Saturday’s tragic head-in collision that killed three members of the same family.

“The simple fact is: if there had been a median barrier on that stretch of road, this accident could not have occurred. As I’ve been saying for years, New Zealand’s roads are like a staircase without a handrail: you make a mistake, you’re probably going to get hurt.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that the police anti-speed messaging is consistently based on doubtful science.

“If the police ‘speed kills’ theory were true, then one of the fastest legal roads in the country: the Waikato Expressway (110km/h), would also be the most dangerous. In fact, the opposite is true: the Waikato Expressway is one of the safest roads in the country.”

Road safety science tells us two things: safe roads protect people from their own mistakes, and that speed, by itself, is not the problem.

“As a matter of scientific fact, few ordinary motorists cause speed-related fatalities. Almost all speed-related fatalities are caused by a small group of yobbos and reckless motorcyclists, and they’re often blotto when they crash. Yobbos and blotto drivers don’t read speed signs, rarely think of consequences and are effectively immune to road safety messages.”

“The government has repeatedly promised to fix our Third World roads but has failed miserably. Now the government is attempting to lower the road toll by lowering speed limits yet again, despite the fact that the widespread lowering of speed limits has not reduced the annual road toll.”

Further lowering will increase driver frustration and add time and expense to journeys but it won’t by itself lower the road toll.

“The overall road toll is actually not as bad as people think. The road toll last year was close to a third of the annual road toll in 1973.”

“While any road deaths are a tragedy, the overall road toll has been trending downwards since the 1980s. In 1973 the New Zealand population was around three million, but the road toll was 843. In 2021, the population was round five million but the road toll was 319.”

“Drivers have not improved. The big improvements have been in the cars, roads and the medical system.”

“I’d like to say enforcement has also improved, but the police simply aren’t doing their job in many cases. In country areas, drinking and driving are often normal, and the locals generally get away with it. The police have also failed to effectively enforce seatbelt laws or laws against the use of cellphones while driving. However, the police are very good at issuing millions of speeding tickets, even though 85% of the road toll occurs below the speed limit.”

“Despite the overall downward trend, the annual highs and lows of the road toll tend to follow the economy. Right now, there’s a lot of building going on. That means lots of builder’s labourers with money to spend on booze, drugs and fast cars. It means lots of trucks carrying heavy freight down highways. The housing boom has also paid for middle-aged men to buy large motorbikes. This group are killing themselves at a typical rate of about one a week. “

The simple graph that explains the road toll | Scoop
News

“As the economy dips into recession, the annual road toll will almost certain dip with it. In the meantime, we have national roading system that belongs in the Third World. We also have a trail of broken promises from the government, and a trail of disproved theories from the police.”

“Let’s be clear, one a tiny group of motorists causing most road speed-related deaths, and this tiny group tends to drive at insane speeds. But this tiny group is not the average driver. Ticketing a family for going 3km/h over the speed limit does nothing to lower road toll, but it alienates ordinary motorists.”

Alienating motorists reduces the social licence needed to keep people obeying limits.

“I appreciate that the police are totally sincere in wanting to save lives. However, they need to accept that the current police and government strategies are clearly not working. It’s time for both the police and government to take a deep breath and change the direction of our national road safety strategy.”

Matthew-Wilson is also frustrated that both the police and the government ignore simple, affordable and effective ways of substantially reducing the road toll.

Cars with Daytime Running Lights on are up to 25% less likely to end up in fatal daytime collisions, yet this simple lifesaving technology isn’t even on the government’s agenda. What’s gone wrong with our government?” 

Lots has gone wrong with the government, including a focus on the wrong things and a failure to base policies on facts, data and science.

That, and an apparent dislike of cars, will do nothing to lower the road toll.

 


How slow will we go?

15/11/2022

How slow does the government want us to go?

Confirmation that the Government is planning to slash speed limits across state highways in New Zealand is typical Labour, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“This Government simply cannot deliver. Labour’s plan is to slow New Zealanders down, rather than invest in our roads to make sure they’re safe to drive on.

“Today’s announcement is just the first step. Labour won’t stop until they have slashed the speed limits on almost every state highway in the country to a maximum of 80km/h.

“This is a short-sighted, quick-fix attempt to address the problem of road safety. It is overly simplistic and doesn’t deal with the underlying issues.

“Kiwis need both safe and efficient transport routes, especially for the freight companies and rural communities that help move our goods around New Zealand and get them to market.

“Reducing speed limits across the board is not the answer. This will simply increase travel times and make our rural communities more isolated.

It will also add costs to all businesses with a travel component, including freight and that will in turn feed inflation.

Slower speeds will also mean that commercial drivers will run out of hours sooner.

“Some state highways are going from 100 km/h to 60 km/h.

“It’s not good enough for the Government to reduce speed limits rather than getting the basics right by addressing the appalling condition of our state highways which have become peppered with potholes.

“National opposes blanket speed limit reductions. The Government’s priority should be to maintain our highways to a safe standard and to ensure that the road rules are being appropriately enforced.”

The consultation document is here.

It includes the suggestion of more speed cameras which have a lot more to do with revenue gathering than road safety.

The planned slow-downs aren’t as bad – yet – as the blanket nation-wide reductions rumoured to be proposed a couple of weeks ago, but there’s no guarantee that once they’ve slowed us down in some places they won’t extend the speed restrictions until the fastest permitted on all but motorways is 80 kph.

What the consultation document proposes will be confusing for motorists with multiple changes in speed limits over relatively short distances.

Reducing the road toll is a worthy aim but there are better ways to do it.

For example in Spain, main roads which aren’t motorways have rumble strips a few metres before an intersection when a minor road joins a major one. This warns drivers on both roads to take extra care without imposing blanket speed restrictions.

Waka Kotahi could also stop wasting money on advertisements that are nothing more than bureaucratic back-patting and spend more on improving roads.

More median barriers, more passing lanes and fewer pot holes would make roads safer without the need for permanent speed restrictions.

More policing that targets drunk and/or drugged drivers and others most likely to cause, or be involved in, accidents would also help.

Slower isn’t necessarily safer if it means drivers focus on speed limit signs which distract them or get bored or complacent while travelling more slowly.

That’s if most drivers do slow down and there’s no guarantee of that.

How slow will people go it they don’t understand, and agree with restrictions? There’s a very real risk that the social licence that keeps people obeying limits will be sabotaged, leading people to ignore not just the new requirements to drive more slowly but ignoring existing limits too. That will then make roads more dangerous.


Refreshing approach to roading

20/10/2022

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown wants a new approach from Auckland Transport:

I have been elected as Mayor with a mandate for change. It will not surprise you that in over 300 campaign events, by far the most consistent and strongest message I heard from the people of Auckland was the need to lead a change in approach at AT and fix our transport network. I promised to do so. I have heard the same messages from members of the new Governing Body and the Independent Māori Statutory Board.

Much work lies ahead for the council family to gain the trust and confidence of Aucklanders when it comes to transport policy and services, and the management of upgrades and major projects. . . 

I seek a complete change in approach at AT. You appear to have been focussed on changing how Aucklanders live, using transport policy and services as a tool.  Instead, AT must seek to deeply understand how Aucklanders actually live now, how they want to live in the future, and deliver transport services that support those aspirations.

AT needs to exercise better judgement, as well as listen to and follow the wishes of local communities. That includes understanding that AT’s decisions impact the lives of people every day.  AT must understand the families who are struggling to move around the region: pick-up their children, do the groceries, get home safely after-dark, and juggle other commitments. You must understand the local businesses who rely on transport connections and their needs now and in the future. And you must recognise that the transport network materially impacts Aucklanders’ safety – especially at night, for women, for young people, the elderly and for shift workers. 

Aucklanders do not always have the choice of using an e-bike, a bus or even a train but rely on the roading and carparking networks to make their life functional.

By focussing on truly understanding how all Aucklanders want to live and the transport services they want to support those aspirations – not just those who participate in formal consultation processes – and then exercising good judgment, AT can make Aucklanders’ lives better and easier. Through decisions that do not reflect the wishes of local communities, you have been making them worse. . . 

Auckland is not the only place this needs to happen.

Dunedin’s last mayor and too many of his councillors, also showed a complete lack of understanding of the purpose of roads and need for parking.

He wanted to change the one-way system, which allows residents and through traffic to get through the city efficiently, to two-way streets.

Work is already under way pedestrianising George street with no understanding of how that with the loss of parks will negatively impact shops.

The new council won’t be able to undo what’s already been done but I hope it will see sense on retaining the one-way system.

Just as in Auckland the green cart has been put in front of the practical horses inconveniencing people and threatening businesses.

In the immediate term, I request that the Council and AT work together on the following priorities: 

a) Demonstrate to me, the new Governing Body, the Independent Māori Statutory Board and the public that AT accepts the need to far more deeply understand how Aucklanders live now and how they want to live in the future, and that your role is to deliver transport services today and in the future to support those aspirations.

b) Clean up Auckland’s roads, by getting rid of unnecessary road cones and lane closures. I expect AT to take full account of the social and economic disruption of its traffic management approach, which should be risk-based and proportionate. . . 

There is a plague of road cones and speed restrictions throughout the country, so many in places where there is no apparent need for them that it is encouraging drivers to ignore them with the consequent danger of them not slowing down when for safety’s sake they need to.

Traffic management requirements for road works used to be in a notebook that fitted in a top pocket. Now there’s a couple of manuals and people employed specially to sort and supervise them.

Everything that makes getting around adds time and costs and  increase frustration.

It’s based on anti-car ideology and is often impractical.

How refreshing to have a mayor who understands that.


Stop, slow or go?

11/10/2022

It’s early Sunday evening and you’ve driven more than 10 kilometres on a rural road without meeting any other vehicles.

You come to some orange cones, signs requiring a reduction in speed and a set of traffic lights with the red one lit up.

You know that it’s on a timer and if it’s only just turned red you’ll have a 10 minute wait.

You know the stretch of road well, you know that you can see more than 100 metres ahead at all times, there’s no sign of oncoming traffic and you know that there’s enough space to safely pass any vehicle that approaches.

Do you wait or do you go?

Legally there’s no debate, you ought to wait. But this is an example of temporary traffic hold-ups and slow-downs that is testing the patience of drivers and tempting them to ignore lights and limits.

Another is the reduce-speed signs that precede lines of orange cones when no work has started, no workers are at the site and there is no obvious reason to slow down.

The more of these there are, the more they’re being ignored and the greater the danger that ignoring temporary traffic lights and slower speed limits will become habitual and drivers won’t react as they ought to when stopping or reducing speed are necessary.


No social licence for slow speeds

03/10/2022

A large pothole on a main road has damaged tyres on multiple vehicles:

New Zealand’s bad road conditions have struck again after a massive pothole in the Bay of Plenty caused carnage for drivers.

The pothole has taken out several tyres on State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Range.

Social media users issued a warning to other drivers, posting a video showing over a dozen vehicles pulled over with possible wrecked tyres.

Another person said over 30 cars hit the pothole and were piled up on the side of the road. . . 

Are there no orange cones to spare for this pothole? If so is it because scores of them are  lining roads where there is no sign of damage or work being done?

It comes after what has been dubbed a ‘pothole crisis’ with drivers, road safety campaigners and AA calling for the roads to be fixed.

AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen told Newshub an analysis from 2020 estimated the Government needed to spend $900 million more over the next three years to catch up on the work needed. 

“Our roads are in the worst condition that many people have ever seen.

Instead of fixing the roads, Waka Kotahi is wasting millions of dollars on propaganda advertising that is no more than bureaucratic back-patting in an attempt to convince us of their wonderfulness and that their aim to get to a zero road toll is a good idea.

One of their strategies is to lower speed limits which is unlikely to reduce serious accidents:

A proposal to dramatically lower the speed limit on most of the nation’s highways is unlikely to significantly lower the road toll, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner. says:

“Few drivers have a problem with a lower speed limit in high risk areas. But this proposal is aimed at lowering the speed limit from 100kp/h to 80kp/h, even on long, straight, relatively safe highways. This is madness and is likely to produce a major backlash from all sectors of society.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that the police consistently use doubtful science to justify impractical speed enforcement.

“Despite what the police claim, speed is the primary cause of just 15% of fatal crashes, according to Ministry of Transport research.”

“Another inconvenient truth is that the police are targeting the wrong drivers. As a matter of scientific fact, few ordinary motorists cause speed-related fatalities. Instead, almost all speed-related fatalities are caused by a small group of yobbos and reckless motorcyclists, and they’re often blotto when they crash. Yobbos and blotto drivers don’t read speed signs, rarely think of consequences and are effectively immune to road safety messages.”

Matthew-Wilson’s claims are supported by a 2009 AA summary of 300 fatal accidents, which concluded:

“. . . government advertising suggests you should be grateful to receive a speeding ticket because it will save your life. In fact, exceeding speed limits isn’t a major issue…[Nor is it] true that middle-New Zealand drivers creeping a few kilometres over the limit on long, empty [roads were a major factor in] the road toll…”

The AA report confirmed that a high percentage of speed-related fatalities were:

“caused by people who don’t care about any kind of rules. These are men who speed, drink, don’t wear safety belts, have no valid license or WoF – who are basically renegades. They usually end up wrapped around a tree, but they can also overtake across a yellow line and take out other motorists as well.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Jeremy Thompson, 28, who caused a head-on crash near Waverly that killed seven people in 2018. Thompson had been smoking synthetic cannabis and was driving erratically before the crash.

“Perhaps the police could explain how lowering the speed limit would have prevented this crash?”

“The cops also tell us we need to reduce average speeds. But the average speed isn’t the speed that the average driver travels at; the average speed rises and falls with the number of crazy drivers travelling at crazy speeds. Clearly, the police should be targeting the crazy drivers, not the families driving home from holiday.”

“The police say that 90% of the country’s roads are unsafe. Unsafe compared to what? That’s a convenient made-up figure designed to hide that reality that a decade of heavy speed enforcement has utterly failed to significantly reduce speed-related road deaths.”

The condition of far too many roads is sub-standard as the drivers whose tyres were damaged can attest.

But the solution to that isn’t blanket speed reductions, it’s fixing pot holes and doing other work to improve the roads.

“ I’m a big fan of fixing unsafe roads, but the fact that the government has been incredibly slack about sorting out our roading system isn’t an excuse to lower the speed limit. It’s a wakeup call for the government to stop mucking about and instead sort out the safety of our roads. Done properly, we can quickly make our old highways safe for a fraction of the cost of building new highways ”

Matthew-Wilson adds that this proposal to lower the speed limit originally came from the Greens and is primarily intended to make life more difficult for car owners.

Yet another stupid Green policy based on ideology rather than data.

“The Greens approached me to support this strategy. I have been a lifetime supporter of green causes, but I said no. It’s hypercritical to make life more difficult for people who genuinely need vehicles, unless the government first provides these drivers with realistic alternatives to driving

Matthew-Wilson is also frustrated that both the police and the government ignore simple, affordable and effective ways of substantially reducing the road toll.

Cars with Daytime Running Lights on are up to 25% less likely to end up in fatal daytime collisions, yet this simple lifesaving technology isn’t even on the government’s agenda. What’s gone wrong with our government?”

There’s plenty wrong with our government, including the wasting money on advertising and attempts to slow traffic instead of improving roads.

The Taxpayers’ Union reckons that speed limits would have to be reduced to 10 kph to achieve zero road deaths.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is urging the Government to divert all of the marketing and communications budget for its Road To Zero campaign to projects that make New Zealand’s roads physically more safe. The campaign is costing $197 million including $85 million on advertising.

“The Government’s Road To Zero campaign is sadly an expensive exercise in wishful thinking which ultimately sets itself up for failure,” Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says.

“Now that fancy TV ads and Michael-Wood-sized red zeroes haven’t reduced the road toll, the Government is looking to reduce maximum speed limits all over the country to 80km/h. It seems the Government is willing to do practically anything except fix the actual roads.”

“With this current approach, the Government will need to reduce the maximum speed limit to about 10km/h in order to get the road toll down to zero. Although increased road rage could hamper that.”

It wouldn’t just be road rage that would sabotage zero road toll efforts.

Inattention through boredom would also be a problem.

Besides driving slowly can kill people too as driveway deaths show.

“In an ideal world there would be no road deaths and we should be mitigating risks where possible. However, our taxes should be spent strategically in ways that make a material difference, like fixing dangerous roads, not on big budget campaigns promoting unattainable goals.

The government has overlooked a critical component in its campaign to reduce speed limits – social licence.

There is none for slower speeds.

Last year the speed limit in most of Wanaka was reduced to 40 kph.

If the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which imposed the 10 kph reduction, had data to back up its decision to do this, it hasn’t been widely publicised and from my experience it hasn’t had a marked impact on the speed people drive.

It will have increased fines for speeding but it hasn’t noticeably reduced speeds.

When I drive at the regulated 40 kph, cars following me catch up and the distance between me and those in front increases which shows I’m the only one obeying the limit.

Several stretches in the Lewis Pass and the entire road between Nelson and Blenheim have 80 kph limits.

I drove those last year with a passenger who is prone to car sickness which gave me an incentive to travel at less than 100 kph.

There were places where that would be sensible even without worrying about potential nausea, but there were others where it wasn’t necessary and the vehicles that passed me obviously knew that.

There is no social licence for slower speeds on most roads. All it will achieve is disgruntled drivers, more congestion and longer travelling times which will add costs to businesses and that will add fuel to inflation.

It will also divert police from more important work, including targeting the really dangerous drivers driving dangerously.


Less for more

16/05/2022

Getting less while spending more money is a disturbing feature of the government and its agencies:

There’s the eye-watering $1.9 billion for mental health:

National’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Spokesperson Matt Doocey has written to the Auditor-General to request an investigation into why the $1.9 billion the Government allocated to mental health has not resulted in any material improvements in mental health outcomes.

“The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s damning report released last month found that improvements in mental health have not materialised under Labour despite the $1.9 billion of extra funding, with little change in access and wait times for mental health and addiction services. . . 

Then there’s Waka Kotahi:

The Government has been on a spin doctor hiring spree, with the number of communications staff at NZTA more than doubling in four years, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Labour is all spin and no delivery. They can’t get things done so they rely on spin doctors to try to cover up their failures in transport, wasting taxpayer money on doubling NZTA’s comms team rather than upgrading roads.

“The number of comms staff at NZTA has ballooned to the equivalent of 88 full-time staff in 2020/21, up from just over 32 full-time staff in 2016/17.

“The amount of money being spent on these spin doctors is eye-watering. Comms staff earning over $100,000 a year has increased almost 10-fold under Labour, from the equivalent of 6.6 full-time staff to almost 65.

“It doesn’t end there. Despite more than doubling the number of full-time comms staff, the Government is billing taxpayers over $75 million a year for consultants. That’s up from $31 million in 2016/17.

“In fact, NZTA spent almost as much on consultants as on construction for the NZ Upgrade Programme between 2019 and March 2022. During that time, $145 million was spent on consultants compared to $202 million on construction.  

“Labour has created a culture that is tolerant of wasteful spending. This is taxpayer money that would be better spent on building better roads and upgrading our transport infrastructure. . . 

All those consultants and extra staff and all the extra money they cost, yet the agency still produces an advertisement that shows a driver swerving to avoid a possum, contrary to the safety advice that drivers shouldn’t try to avoid a small animal.

All those consultants and extra staff and all extra the money they cost and the agency is substituting lower speed limits instead of the work needed to make roads safer.

All those consultants and extra staff, costing more and delivering less.

Immigration NZ is also guilty of  doing less with more money:

The Government has hired over 500 more staff at Immigration New Zealand since 2017 yet visa processing times have exploded, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Labour has been on a bureaucrat hiring spree since they came into Government, but still can’t deliver better outcomes for New Zealand.

“The number of office staff at Immigration New Zealand has gone from 1357 in 2017 to 1879 in March 2022 and the Minister has increased spending by $150 million.

“Yet there were 100 fewer staffers employed to process visa applications in that time, and the processing time for a visitor visa application has blown out from 21 days in 2017 to five months in 2022.

“So the Government has delivered more bureaucrats to Immigration New Zealand and wasted more taxpayer money, for worse outcomes.

“Labour simply cannot get things done. It’s not enough to just make the announcement, spray the cash, hire more public servants and walk away.

“With the border set to reopen in just over eight weeks, more visa applications will come flooding in to add to the major backlog we already have.

“They’ve made their big announcement about opening the border, but exactly how they’re going to process visas and get people into the country, which we desperately need, remains to be seen.” 

This waste would be bad at the best of times, it’s even worse when inflation is raging.

A good government would be aiming to get more for less, instead ours is accomplishing less and spending more.


Slower speeds, more traffic, more accidents

27/04/2022

Garrick Tremain points out the major flaw in the government’s plan to reduce speed limits:

. . .  Also frequently aired is a puerile presentation aimed at convincing us that a reduction in speed on our roads will increase our safety.

Our road toll statistics are about as bad, and sometimes worse, than they have ever been – this despite constant bleating to take care, drive to the conditions, etc, etc…

But:

As bad as they may be our roads have never been better.

*Vehicles have never been safer to travel in.

*Driver education, though far from ideal, is better than ever before.

*Traffic policing has never been stricter.

*Penalties for misdemeanours have never been higher.

*There have never, in my lifetime, been fewer intoxicated drivers on our roads.

Despite all these improvements the traffic accident rate does not decrease.

If those factors have improved, what’s got worse?

Just one thing … the number of vehicles on our roads at any given time.

It would seem therefore, that only a fool, would advocate for increasing traffic density and numbers.

There are two ways to increase the number of vehicles on our roads at any one time… extend the length of the journey by 1) adding distance or 2) adding time.

By reducing speed (as proposed) by 20% (eg. from 100kmh to 80 kmh) we increase traffic volume by 25%  – eg. from 500 vehicles to 625 vehicles.

It is simplest of simple mathematics, yet it has not been mentioned by, or probably even occurred to, the whiz kids in the PM’s think tank or the floors of juveniles employed at Waka Kotahi. . . 

The government has a plan to get the road toll to zero.

Waka Kotahi’s strategy is extensive, and expensive advertising, that amounts to no more than bureaucratic back-patting, pushing the politicians’ propaganda in a misguided attempt to convince us it will make roads safer; and reducing speed limits which will make driving more dangerous.

Slower speeds results in more vehicles on the road and higher traffic density will increase the risk of accidents.

Reducing speed limits might work as a revenue-gathering exercise as frustrated drivers go faster than they ought, but it will also increase traffic volume and that will inevitably lead to more accidents not fewer.

The aim ought to be reducing traffic density and that requires improvements to roads, including more passing lanes, and more motorways that will allow traffic to travel faster. Instead they’re slowing traffic thereby increasing traffic density and that will sabotage their plan to reduce the road toll.


Award for most incompetent Minister goes to . . .

07/04/2022

Who is the government’s most incompetent Minister? There’s plenty to choose from.

Transport Minister Michael Woods is a contender for the $50 million spent on the Auckland bike bridge to nowhere and for continuing to work on the far too expensive light rail project:

While New Zealanders are in a cost of living crisis with record inflation, it is unjustifiable and irresponsible for the Government to steam ahead with their plans to build their light rail vanity project, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Documents released by Treasury today show Michael Wood’s commitment to light rail could explode to an eye watering $29.2 billion – nearly double the cost of what was announced in January, which was already a staggering amount of money at almost $15 billion.

“Treasury’s advice was scathing of the project, saying the Government should not pick a preferred option for light rail until further analysis could be undertaken – advice the Government has clearly ignored.

“Labour’s commitment to this vanity project will cost taxpayers a whopping $100 million before the next election, with no guarantee of spades being in the ground.

“The cost for this project is entirely unjustifiable and the Government needs to accept that this project is simply not worth it. Especially when New Zealanders are dealing with a cost of living crisis, which will only get worse if the Government doesn’t rein in its wasteful spending.

Kris Faafoi is a contender for the way Immigration treated families of essential workers stuck overseas and for failing to fast track residency for essential workers already here.

Immigration policies are also likely to lead to job losses in the tertiary sector:

The Government urgently needs to get international students into the country to prevent looming job losses in the tertiary sector, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

“Universities and polytechnics are currently considering staff redundancies as a way of coping with declining enrolments this year.

“Labour is allowing 5000 international students into the country next month – but universities and polytechnics can only access 2150 students, or 43 per cent, with the remainder of students heading to high schools, Private Training Establishments and English language schools.

“This will do little to ease the urgent staffing issues facing the sector.

“Given that student visas are currently taking Immigration New Zealand three months to process, students applying in April won’t be processed in time for semester two, putting further stress on our valuable tertiary teaching staff.

On top of that, international research now shows New Zealand is falling out of favour with international students, being ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations in a survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

“And the effects are obvious – according to the Ministry of Education in 2019, New Zealand had about 22,000 fulltime international students paying total tuition fees of $562 million. The figures for 2021 and 2022 are estimated to be 70 per cent of that 2019 figure.

“The Government must explain what the rational is for limiting international student numbers, our fourth biggest export earner, when the border is reopening.

“It is appalling that this Government has allowed international education in this country to decline to this level. We must act urgently to prevent further deterioration in this sector and that means not restricting international student numbers coming here.” . .

He’s also fallen short as Justice Minister:

Victims of crime missed out on support they were entitled to because Justice Minister Kris Faafoi failed to sign off the criteria for a $3 million victim support fund for more than five months after the fund was announced, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Earlier this month it was revealed that zero victims were supported by the fund announced in Budget 2021, despite applications being open since July 2021.

“Labour was content to let Victim Support take the blame for this lack of delivery, but it turns out Minister Faafoi didn’t bother to sign off the eligibility criteria until November 2021 – more than five months after the fund was announced and four months after applications opened.

Rather than letting Victim Support take the rap, Minister Faafoi should have fessed up that his incompetence is the real reason why victims are missing out on support the Government promised them.

“Governments spend months finalising the Budget every year so he would have known well in advance that this fund would be open for applications from July. What is his excuse for doing nothing for over five months to ensure victims could access the support? 

“Even worse, the Police Minister has conceded agencies who are meant to advise victims of support they are entitled to were not provided information about the fund until February 2022. . .

That Police Minister Potu Williams is another contender for the silence when police were facing the protesters at parliament, silence over repeated examples of policing by consent that let gangs disregard lockdown rules and terrorise the law abiding while doing it; and her refusal to allow National police spokesman Mark Mitchell to meet the Commissioner or district commanders:

. . . He said: “I don’t think she’s [Williams is] very good at her job and I don’t think she’s across her portfolio, but for her now to use her political power and position in government to start blocking me from meetings – that’s Third World stuff … she may as well go and join the Cabinet in Somalia.” . . 

Trumping that is her denial of an increase in gang violence:

. . .Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament on Wednesday if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: “I reject the premise of that question.”  . . .

And this:

Then there’s waste in health with expired vaccines:

Thousands of meningococcal vaccines have been left to expire instead of being given to those most at risk, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It has been revealed that 17,122 meningococcal vaccines have expired in the last two years, at a cost of $1.6 million, and who knows how many lives.

“The Ministry of Health has a strict eligibility criteria for the meningococcal vaccine, but these vaccines that were left unused could have been made available to those most at risk, to help protect them from this deathly disease.

“The lost opportunity to protect people is a tragedy and that $1.6 million that ended up being wasted could have been spent on other areas of health that desperately need it.

“Last week a meningitis petition was presented to Parliament, pleading to the Government to fund vaccines against the disease. This news will be a cold comfort to those petition supporters.

“This is becoming a concerning pattern of behaviour from Health Minister Andrew Little who has already wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccines in a botched catch-up campaign, and now he can add this one to the growing list.

“Minister Little needs to commit to making expiring meningococcal vaccines available to primary care for use inside and outside of the strict criteria to avoid a tragedy like this happening again.” . .

And the botched measles programme costing $1900 per person:

The botched $20 million measles vaccine catch-up programme is worse than it appears, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The other week it was revealed that $8 million of measles vaccines were left unused and had expired.

“However, information shows that only 11,206 people of the targeted 300,000 received the vaccine – representing a cost of nearly $1900 per person and reaching only 3 per cent of the targeted population.

“It was also revealed that Labour spent $1.8 million on public relations to frame a campaign ‘with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific people’, yet only 1181 Māori received the vaccine – a PR cost of $1,500 per person.

“Worse still, to date the programme costs show that $2.2 million has been spent on public relations while only $1.61 million was spent on actually delivering the vaccine to Māori.

“Andrew Little seems more interested in PR and spin than actually delivering measles vaccinations to Māori.

“The list of health failures is mounting under Andrew Little’s watch. He failed to deliver any extra ICU beds during a global pandemic, has completely missed every health target set and now he can add a botched measles campaign to his growing list.”

The government put so much effort, and spent so much money, justifying locking us down and persuading us to get vaccinated so that the health system wasn’t over whelmed yet did little or nothing to retain existing staff and recruit more.

That’s left  hospitals understaffed and health professionals overworked :

Their employers have warned them not to speak out but nurses say they won’t be silenced. Overworked and understaffed, they’ve told Sunday that they’ve had enough of a health system under real pressure.

The Omicron surge hasn’t helped, but there was a serious nursing shortage long before Covid struck, and now burnout and resignations are high while the pandemic shut off the supply of overseas nurses.

Nurses still on the job worry patient safety may suffer because they are so short-staffed.

Is the government listening?

No it’s not. Instead it’s going ahead with the complete restructure of the health system that will do nothing to improve pay and conditions for health professionals and nothing to improve services, and outcomes, for patients.

That would be bad enough at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it’s a complete waste of scarce funds and people’s focus.

While on health and the pandemic lets not forget the shortage of PPE, the delay in securing vaccines which left the rollout starting late and the RATs debacle.

Then there’s paying more and getting less in several areas.

Carmel Sepuloni has overseen an increase in MSD staff and deterioration in performance:

Our welfare system is less responsive than ever as phone wait times for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) surge, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Whether it’s superannuitants, students, people out of work, or a family who needs help to cope with soaring living costs, New Zealander’s deserve timely answers from the department responsible of administering the welfare system.

“Since 2017, the number of MSD staff answering calls has increased from 650 to 1220 people, yet the average wait time has also increased from 4 to 18 minutes, even reaching close to 40 minutes some weeks this year.

“That’s an 88 per cent increase in staff numbers, a large deterioration in performance and no better outcomes for Kiwis.  

“Appallingly, some people have waited longer than three hours while others have reported it took weeks to receive a call back.

“The cost of living crisis has increased demand for hardship grants and there is almost an extra 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit, which means preparations should have been made to cope with more inquiries.

“New Zealander’s deserve a better service given the substantial taxpayer dollars poured into MSD. Simply increasing staff numbers is not going to cut it.

“Minister Sepuloni needs to hold MSD accountable for their plummeting performance and ensures it fulfils its core responsibility to answer New Zealander’s questions and help people access their entitlements.”

Corrections is spending more money on prisoners with worse outcomes:

Taxpayers are spending more money on prisoners, yet violent crime continues to go up, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“New Zealand taxpayers are now spending $151,000 per prisoner, per year – an increase of over $30,000 per prisoner from 2018/19.

“Overall, there has been an increase of $139 million poured into the Corrections system over the period between 2018/19 and 2020/21, despite fewer prisoners.

“At the same time, there has been a steep decline in the number of prisoners accessing rehabilitation services. Prisoners accessing alcohol and drug programmes alone has dropped from 6311 in 2015/16 to 1065 in 2019/20 – a decrease greater than the drop in prisoner numbers.

“More money is being spent, but we’re getting worse outcomes.

“Rehabilitation is a key way for prisoners to turn their lives around, but in 2019/20 the number of prisoners taking part in rehabilitation programmes plummeted to 2399, from 5845 in 2015/16.

“It can hardly be a surprise then that violent crime is up 21 per cent since 2017, as reported by the Salvation Army, and that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the OECD.

“This is typical for a Government who are experts at spending taxpayer money with no expectation of results.

“On top of this, Labour is taking soft-on-crime approach which is clearly not working.

“Without effective rehabilitation, re-imprisonment rates and violence will only keep climbing.”

And more is being spent on mental health for no positive results:

The mental health monitoring report out today shows that the Government’s $1.9 billion investment in mental health has delivered no benefit to Kiwis, National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

“This is emblematic of a Government that is all spin and no delivery. Labour’s only measure of success is how much it spends on things. But it needs to be about the outcomes that we achieve for New Zealanders.

“The report released today by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission reinforces what many mental health groups and services have been telling me for some time – that they’re not seeing any of the money promised for mental health and can’t point to where it’s gone.

“They have been raising these concerns with the Government for months about staff shortages and growing waiting lists, but have not received a response.

“The findings in the report also show that our specialist services are facing increased demand since the beginning of the pandemic, especially from younger people seeking mental health support.

“The Government says it has invested in the sector, yet services are harder to access. They must explain where the money has gone and why it hasn’t made a difference to improving people’s mental health.

“Making announcements with good intentions isn’t going to solve the growing mental health problems that New Zealand is facing, but strong leadership and a well-managed plan to execute change will. We need targeted spending that delivers outcomes for Kiwis.”

Then there are virtue signalling environmental policies that are nothing more than taxes that increase costs but do nothing at all for the environment:

The Government’s car tax comes into force today, piling on yet another cost for Kiwis facing a cost of living crisis, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Hardworking Kiwis will be hoping that this is just an April Fool’s joke, but sadly they will still have to live with Labour’s new car tax after today.        

“The so-called ‘Clean Car Discount’ gives a rebate for expensive electric vehicles while imposing fees of thousands of dollars on many other vehicles. For example, buyers of a Toyota Hilux* will face a $5175 tax when they first register the vehicle.  

“This will have a negative impact on our farmers and tradies who need utes to do their jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.   

“The Government is penalising farmers and tradies for their choice of vehicle despite there being no viable electric ute available. Even Toyota had to correct the Prime Minister last year that it has no plans to bring an electric ute to New Zealand within the next two years.

“LDV will have an electric alternative, the EV-T60, coming from China later this year. But it is two-wheel drive and can only haul a max of 1,000 kgs for 162km. This is not enough to meet farmers’ needs, who need strength and reliability.

“While the Government gives with one hand, by temporarily reducing fuel taxes, it takes with the other by imposing the Auckland regional fuel tax, a car tax, and is now proposing a biofuels mandate which will further increase the cost of fuel. 

“All of these policies drive up the cost of living for motorists struggling to get by under rapidly rising inflation and fuel prices.

An environmental and transport failure is the train from Hamilton to Auckland:

The Te Huia train today marks its first birthday with news that it has spent more time off the tracks than on them, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There is not a lot to celebrate about this service which has failed from day one.

“Not only has the train spent more time off the tracks than on them over the past 12 months, taxpayers have poured $98 million into a service which very few people use and which takes much longer than driving between Hamilton and Auckland.

“Furthermore, research produced by the Waikato Chamber of Commerce shows that based on current passenger numbers the train actually emits more carbon emissions than someone who drives their petrol or diesel vehicle between these two cities.

“Patronage is significantly lower than what it was when the service started despite repeated calls to ‘build it and people will come’.

“This painfully slow train is simply not fit for purpose. It doesn’t achieve the outcomes that the Government claimed it would one year ago.

“The Transport Minister is so completely focussed on his legacy projects, he is prepared to waste almost $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a train that isn’t fit for purpose and hardly anyone wants to use.

“Quite frankly this is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent on extending the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.”  

If all this isn’t bad enough, there’s the incompetence with funding the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) 

The Auditor General’s Report on the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) confirmed what many businesses have been saying – that this Labour Government has been biased and unfair, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Every tourism business in New Zealand has done it tough over the last two years and this report has shown that this Labour Government favoured some and left others to suffer.

“In May 2020 the Government and former Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis opened a $290M fund for struggling tourism businesses. When applications opened, some businesses were accepted without any evidence that they were in financial difficulty, and didn’t have to go through the same process as other businesses.

“The Government seems to believe that only Queenstown exists when it comes to tourism in New Zealand, when in reality there are tourism operators up and down the country who are suffering just as much.

“In typical Labour fashion, they simply threw money at a problem without having a well-managed plan. Current Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has blamed the uncertainty of Covid-19 for these mistakes, but the reality is they failed to think things through at a time when tourism businesses needed them most.

“New Zealanders deserve to have a Government who are responsible with their spending, but this Labour Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to make wise or fair spending decisions.

“I am calling on Minister Nash to find those funds that were given out incorrectly, take them back and redistribute them to all Kiwi tourism operators so that they can open up quickly for international tourists.”

Bryce Edwards says the report raises questions of integrity:

Was political favouritism involved in the dishing out of millions of dollars by government ministers to tourism businesses? We can’t know, because the Government didn’t keep sufficient records or have proper processes for the handouts. That’s the obvious question arising from a scathing report released by the Auditor General on Thursday, which has received far too little attention.

The Auditor General’s report investigates a scheme set up by the Government early in the Covid crisis (May 2020), called the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The report is one of many that have criticised government procedures during Covid for their lack of integrity. . . 

Harman draws attention to the fact that there have been a number of other reports from the Auditor General’s office that have pinged the Government for poor processes in regard to government departments dealing with private vested interests during Covid – especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

Of course, one of the most problematic has been the multi-billion-dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme, which was seen to be poorly designed and administered.

There’s a theme building up from these reports – that of crony corporate welfare getting out of hand in recent years. This is one of the blind spots in New Zealand politics and society. Recent governments are prone to giving generous subsidies to business interests, often without any great systems of integrity or best practice. And unfortunately, the public never seems to mind much when it becomes apparent.

It could well be that New Zealand is just too eager to believe the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index results that show this country to be the least corrupt nation on earth. In ignoring reports such as this latest from the Auditor General, the Government is undermining that status.

On the subject of Ministerial oversight of money wasted, there’s plenty to choose from :

So much incompetence, it’s hard to choose which is worse but there’s one person who is supposed to be on top of all the portfolios and those presiding over them. That’s Jacinda Ardern.

Would any other recent Prime Minister have tolerated this litany of laxness from Ministers? Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark? No.

There’s a lot more to leadership than announcing announcements and serving word salads no matter how caring they sound.

Ensuring Ministers are up to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing and holding them to account if  and when they fall short is a very important one by which measure of competence this PM falls short.


Wasting $s on bureaucratic back patting

18/03/2022

Does this government and its agencies hold the record for the most money wasted on propaganda?

The government and Waka Kotahi are wasting money on advertising what amounts to an admission of failure.

They’re failing to make roads safer and so in an effort to reduce the road toll they’re resorting to reducing speed limits and trying to convince us that’s good.

The advertisement isn’t the only money being wasted on transport mistakes.

The Auckland tram might cost $29.2 billion.

That is $15,000 for every household in New Zealand. So every family in Gore and Hastings and Levin will be paying $15,000 more tax so Auckland gets some trams to the airport!

If it costs $29.2 billion, then that is a cost of:

  • $1.22 billion per km
  • $1.22 million per metre
  • $12,167 per cm
  • $1,217 per mm

Think of the opportunity cost. A new four lane motorway costs around $50 million per km. For what the Government may spend on trams in Auckland you could construct a 630 km long four lane motorway. That is approximately the distance from Auckland to Wellington. . . 

Back to annoying advertisements, Waka Kotahi has another that starts by showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum.

It is, as Camryn Brown writes,  a case study in obliviousness :

. . . Consider the TV ad for the new “Road to Zero” campaign. What does that ad want you to do? A typical road safety ad wants you to slow down, be sober, or wear a seatbelt. This ad has nothing for a road user to act on, it simply promotes the idea of an all-of-system approach to road safety. It tells you that road safety depends on coordinated work across enforcement, road design, regulation, and so on.

It shares this big idea that has excited the bureaucrats so you may see how clever they are and so that you may appreciate them more.

That’s what the ad wants you to do – it wants you to know what the bureaucracy is doing to do and it wants you to think better of them for it. The beneficiary of the ad is the public service, not the public. . .

Compounding the waste of money is the stupidity of showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum, which is dangerous.

If the advertisement pointed out that drivers should never swerve to avoid a small animal and that running over a possum would be doing a service to conservation because they’re pests which carry TB and prey on native fauna and flora it might be acceptable.

But it doesn’t to that and it’s not acceptable use of scarce money that would be far better spent on making roads safer.

Instead, they’re wasting millions on an expensive exercise in bureaucratic back patting.

It does nothing to encourage safer driving and it reinforces the growing chasm between the government, its agencies and the public who finance their wasteful spending.


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.


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