Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter, who has been on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child, is back at work this week. Whilst she has been away there has been much going on on our roads, some of it good and some of it quite appalling.
As a result there are number of significant issues sitting on her desk:
- Action is needed on our soaring road toll, which is the highest in nearly a decade, having levelled with the 2009 total road toll with five weeks still left in the calendar year
- Requiring all road vehicles to have headlights that come on automatically – it is compulsory in Canada and was done to reduce the number of collisions caused in poor visibility
- A promise was made to invest $300 million into Christchurch transport as part of the rebuild programme following the earthquakes – let us set priorities for that spending and get on with it
- Investigate getting bulk material such as petroleum onto suitable railway carriages and reduce the number of large tankers and such vehicles on roads that are not designed for them.
Whilst these are all good things to be tackling some bigger beasts need to be tackled as well. One of them is reforming the New Zealand Transport Authority from one that is heavily road oriented, into one that works for all modes of transport and their users instead of a lucky chosen few. This is essential work to be done because N.Z.T.A. put little emphasis on rail and the merchant marine, which are better able to move large volumes of material, goods or fuel and are not likely to have to stop as frequently to refuel themselves.
Another one is addressing our carbon challenge. With the Government having announced an impending – even if it is some decades away from fully implementing – ban on oil and gas, we need to significantly up the efforts to develop sustainable, carbon neutral alternatives, which is something that is currently not happening.
It might seem strange to be putting so much emphasis on an Associate Minister, but Ms Genter is the true force in the Transport portfolio, and I think it is only a matter of time before she takes it off Minister Phil Twyford. It is important to note that Ms Genter did her postgraduate research in transport planning and has been the Green Party spokesperson for it since she entered Parliament. Mr Twyford has so far been underwhelming in his ministerial portfolio’s and Transport has not been an exception.
So, I welcome Ms Genter back. The time has come to do some serious policy lifting and before the 2020 election I am expecting to see some significant announcements come from the office of Ms Genter including maybe that she has taken over the portfolio.