One of the hallmarks of a first world country is a first-rate transport system. Sadly, for some time, New Zealand has been found wanting on this score.
Both our freight and passenger transport have suffered from chronic under-investment for years and the cracks in the system have become chasms.
Add to that the imperative to move towards cleaner and more fuel efficient transportation, to reduce our carbon emissions, and to ensure better connectivity in the regions, and it is clear there is work to do.
The Government is stepping up with a “big picture” plan and record investment in transport across the board.
At the heart of New Zealand First policy is the revitalisation of rail. In Budget 2019 we secured a massive $1.042 billion infrastructure investment in our national rail provider, $300 million of which came from the Provincial Growth Fund and is earmarked specifically for regional rail initiatives.
Only last week, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones reopened the Napier-Wairoa rail line, fulfilling one of the earliest promises of the Provincial Growth Fund. The line, which was closed under National in 2012, will see logging trains travel directly to Napier Port once again.
And that is only the beginning. We have feasibility studies underway in a number of other regions, including one in the Eastern Bay of Plenty looking at options for creating an inland hub to connect exports from Murupara and Kawerau to rail.
We know this is the way forward, as rail generates 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions compared with heavy trucks – the sort of reduction we need to meet our country's ambitious climate change targets.
New Zealand First, with its strong roots in the regions, also understands how regional communities need to be connected with each other, with the rest of the country, and with the world, in order to unlock their economic potential.