The road ahead

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
3 November, 2023

Now that the special votes have been counted, it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty of forming a government. The likely coalition partners National, ACT and New Zealand First will have to navigate political potholes and the odd speedbump if they are to form an effective relationship. 

One policy area where there is significant consensus, though, is transport.  

All three parties want to see the back of light rail and end the Labour government’s Road to Zero safety campaign, which involved reducing speed limits from 100km/h to 80km/h across parts of the state highway network. National and ACT are also eager to introduce new funding and financing mechanisms for roading. 

National’s policy is focussed on reviving Steven Joyce’s Roads of National Significance. This would entail the construction of major routes such as a Warkworth to Wellsford expressway and a North West Alternative State Highway in Auckland. There is a strong emphasis on the twin pillars of safety and efficiency. 

National has also promised to make greater use of private capital. Value capture and cost recovery tools, toll roads where appropriate, and equity financing from entities like the Super Fund or global investors have all been earmarked as critical funding sources. A new National Infrastructure Agency will collaborate with NZTA to secure and manage these funding deals.  

Encouraging private capital and international investment chimes with ACT’s policy platform. ACT has also pledged to use public-private partnerships and toll roads to turbocharge road development and maintenance. 

Like National, ACT proposes the establishment of a 30-year infrastructure pipeline that connects central Government, the Infrastructure Commission, and regional councils. If the Government cannot build a road that Kiwis demand because of funding constraints, then domestic and international investors would have the opportunity to bid for the right to construct and operate it, collecting tolls for a specified period before returning control to the Crown.  

ACT’s proposal has the advantage of moving New Zealand closer to a true user-pays system. This would provide a practical solution to the funding constraints that have historically hobbled the National Land Transport Fund. 

New Zealand First is more mercurial. They support National’s plan to build a new tunnel through Mount Victoria in Wellington, but their election manifesto lacks detail.  

The road to forming a government can be rocky and riddled with potholes. But in transport, at least, the broad direction of travel is clear. 

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