Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport)
: I move,
That the Public Transport Management Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the Public Transport Management Bill be referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for consideration, that the committee report the bill on or before 14 March 2008, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time during a sitting of the House, except during questions for oral answer, during an evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 192 and 195(1)(b) and (c).
Today we face many challenges—global warming is a reality and there is a looming peak oil crisis. We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to look at ways to improve the sustainability of our transport system. If we want New Zealanders to move towards sustainable transport, then we must create a public transport system that is a realistic alternative to private car use. Therefore, it is essential that New Zealand’s public transport services are integrated, accessible, safe, responsive to change, and, above all, economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
The current legislation governing public transport—the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989—does not deliver this. This Act was created at a time when the priority was to reduce the cost to Government and to maximise the role of the private sector in providing public transport. Thus, we have a two-tier system of passenger transport services. They are services contracted by the regional councils with financial assistance from central government, and non-contracted services provided at the operator’s own initiative, which are funded by fares and advertising revenue, and which must be registered with the regional council. The bill calls these services commercial public transport services.
Under the current legislation councils have limited grounds to decline the registration of commercial public transport services. Once a service is registered, the councils have no information on usage, other than that provided on a voluntary basis by cooperative operators. Regional councils also have limited influence on the quality of the service and the vehicle standards offered to the public. The lack of information about, and influence over, commercial public transport services has frustrated the ability of some regional councils and Land Transport New Zealand to create an integrated, safe, accessible, responsive, and sustainable public transport system.
There is growing recognition of the important role of public transport in the wider transport system—particularly in our biggest city, Auckland. It is critical that we create a world-class public transport system. This bill will help to do that, and it is the result of an extensive review and consultation process prompted by concerns about Auckland’s public transport. But let me make it clear: all regions and all councils stand to benefit from this bill.
This bill is about giving the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and all regional councils throughout the country the tools to create a better public transport system. We are not telling them how to run their public transport, but we are saying that different regions have diverse needs and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This bill will enable councils to do what is needed where it is needed. It allows them to have a greater
influence over commercial bus and ferry services, and ensures better integration of services and modes.
The bill will allow regional councils to set fair notice periods for commencing, varying, and withdrawing commercial public transport services. The legislation will give regional councils time to respond to change and will ensure the continued delivery of services to their communities. The bill will also enable regional councils to impose other controls on commercial public transport services. These will need to be no more onerous than conditions within contracts to provide similar services. The controls will allow a regional council to access more information from commercial public transport services—like detailed patronage information. This will assist in better public transport planning and will help to ensure that the overall public transport network is providing value for money.
Integration of the public transport network is a key aim of this Government, and specific provisions to enable the integration of services, ticketing, and fares across a region are included in this bill. If regions choose to use this provision, services will be scheduled to connect with each other. All operators will accept the same tickets, and travelling on public transport will become much simpler. It is all about making the services more attractive and convenient for the passengers, and about drawing new passengers on to the services.
Quality and performance controls will give regions the scope to improve the responsiveness and sustainability of their public transport system. These controls will help the adoption of consistent, environmentally friendly, low-emission buses and ferries. The legislation will allow regions to impose consistent standards of accessibility, including super-low floors for buses and other measures to assist in increasing mobility. The legislation will also assist in providing real-time information systems. Performance standards will help to ensure that there is more accountability and that services run on time and to a high standard.
Under the current legislation a public transport operator can register some individual trips on a route as commercial, giving them an advantage over other operators that wish to contract for the remaining services on that route. This frustrates true competition for those contracts. To address this issue, controls will also allow the grouping of services, requiring them to operate to frequency, capacity, and times specified in the regional public transport plan.
Under the bill, public transport operators will continue to have the right to provide commercial public transport services, but they will be accountable to regional councils to comply with the requirements that the council has set after talking with the community. For a region to impose any of these controls, they must be part of the regional public transport plan. The process for developing these plans will be clarified in the bill to ensure that the community and the stakeholders have input into a plan’s development, and that the region’s public transport contributes to the integration, safety, responsiveness, and sustainability of the wider land transport system.
The bill allows Land Transport New Zealand to issue guidelines regarding the development of regional public transport plans and controls. Regional councils must take these guidelines into account to ensure that the plan identifies the transport needs of the region and that the scope and content of any controls contribute to the objectives of the bill.
The bill will also provide for regulations to be made by the Governor-General to impose further conditions, to introduce new types of control, or to limit the scope of controls on commercial public transport services, should this be necessary. I commend the bill to the House.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga)
: I say from the outset that National will support the Public Transport Management Bill at least to go to a select committee. But, having said that, I am disappointed I did not hear from the Minister a little bit more about why this legislation is needed as opposed to what it actually does. I think there is a chalk and cheese difference between public transport operations that are subsidised and that get taxpayers’ money to help in their revenue stream—whereby the Government has an absolute role to ensure it is getting value for money, quality of service, and so on—and the very different operation where someone decides to get himself or herself a minibus, to deck it out nicely inside, and to provide a public transport service, but who also decides that he or she does not want any subsidy, can do it on a commercial basis, and can make a reasonable return on it. Such people will not see why they should be so regulated.
I think the Minister would have been better to explain to us why the regulations—and I think the quite increased bureaucracy that will go around them—are needed for those commercial public transport services. I think there may be a need for them; it is to do with the integration. If we cherry-pick the commercial services and leave the non-commercials to others, then we may end up with the subsidy being more. There may be a value-for-money, holistic approach to the way we go about it, but I think the Minister should have spent some more time explaining why regulation is needed.
Having said that, though, I think there is a need to ensure that public transport services improve dramatically from the time we are looking at, because as Auckland and other cities get more and more congested, everyone knows it is a fact of life that we will never be able to build our way out of that congestion, in total. Yes, better roads will make a difference; yes, arteries that connect up will make a difference. One of Auckland’s problems is that it has a lot of arteries that do not actually connect, and therefore we can come across the motorway at Māngere Bridge, suddenly hit the end of State Highway 20, and find that it goes nowhere. From there on we have to find our way, on a rat run into town. So, yes, we will indeed dramatically improve the level of moving around the city if we get the connection of those arteries.
But I know that the volume of traffic growth is such, and the volume of people owning vehicles is such—making us the highest motor-vehicle owning country in the world—that we will always need to rely on putting more and more emphasis on people migrating to public transport so that we can keep the city still functioning. So from that point of view I understand why we may be doing this. The Minister said that back in 1989 the focus was very different in terms of the way public administration was operated, but I am still quite concerned about having a sort of nanny State situation, whereby we have a busybody bureaucrat coming in and telling a commercial operator—a commercial operator who is prepared to put his or her own money at risk and take the risks of running that business—how to do it.
We are seeing some of that busybody stuff coming out of Land Transport New Zealand now, with regard to other public transport operators, I think, in the form of hire cars and taxis. I say to the Minister that I find it outrageous that Land Transport New Zealand is saying to hire car companies that it will not let them have meters in their cars. I keep asking why. Why can an operator not decide to operate as a taxi one day, meeting all the rules of taxis and having a meter in the car, then the next day decide, say, to do a run up to Huka Lodge from the airport with some American tourists, operating as a hire car and not using the meter? On another day the operator may decide to be a supplier of services to a school, or something else. Why can operators not do that? Well, I know that at Land Transport New Zealand it is because of bureaucrats who have the tidy-mind syndrome, and who have told a number of the hire car companies here in Wellington that it will be illegal for them to have meters in their cars. What will
happen is that people who are caught with meters in their car will be prosecuted. Those are the rules.
I have been trying; I have been fighting with Land Transport New Zealand and corresponding with Wayne Donnelly, asking him what on earth this nonsense is about. The issue should be about safety, about compliance with some safety regimes so that people do not get ripped off, and about meeting certain criteria, but this is what happens when we let bureaucrats and bureaucracy start to run wild. Just on an initial read of this bill, I have a grave fear that we may be setting up a bureaucratic regime for regional councils to impose. And the regulations will not just be on those who receive some public subsidy—the National Party is very, very supportive of holding people to account if they are getting public, taxpayers’ money by way of a subsidy; of course they should be held to account.
But again I say that if I saw there was a need around Pakuranga, for example, to run a service from there out to Middlemore Hospital, if I wantedto put my money at risk and get a mini van, comply with all safety standards and make sure my van was up to all of its services, then I do not understand why I would then want to be regulated by the regional council, which I do not even want to be associated with. I do not even want to talk with it. I should meet the rules relating to the safety of the vehicle through Land Transport New Zealand and the rules of my driver licensing through both the police and Land Transport New Zealand, but I should not even have to know that there is a regional council. I should be able just to post my schedule in the
that I am going to run a commercial bus service out to Middlemore, and say that if people want to use my service they can. I would include my charges by way of fares, and if I were not getting any subsidy from anybody else, then I do not understand why that would not be acceptable. I never hear—
Hon Annette King: So you’re just cherry-picking?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The Minister says “cherry-picking”. No one runs that service at present. No one runs a service from my electorate out to Middlemore. Here is my question; here is the difference between the left and right in politics. Now we are getting to the guts of it. The left think in terms of control and centre regulation, and “this is how we decide what you do is best”. I ask the question again, because I would really like to know the answer. If I wanted to start a new service—
Hon Annette King: You’ll be able to.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The Minister says I am able to. I have not finished my question, so she cannot answer it yet. If I wanted to start a new service and bought a bus from overseas—a really nice Daimler-Benz; a real beauty, a cracker—and if I had all the licensing, the commercial driver’s P licence, no demerit points on my licence, and so on, and said that from Monday I would run three times a week from Pakuranga out to Middlemore Hospital and back, publishing my fares, phone number, and route in the
Howick and Pakuranga Times, then why do I even need to speak to the regional council? That is my question. I am not asking for a subsidy. I am not even asking for people to use my service; nor am I saying that it is a regulation whereby if people want to go to Middlemore they have to use my bus. I want the Minister to tell me why I should even have to speak to the regional council. This bill will make people have to deal with the regional council, and I want to know why. That is all. In the select committee I will ask those questions, because they are legitimate.
I said earlier on that there may be a reason for it. Maybe if this is not done there will be so much leakage out of the commercial side of it that the non-commercial side will become very heavily subsidised and difficult to manage. [Interruption] No, I do not think that that is the answer. I hear someone saying that he or she thinks the Minister said in her speech that it can force people into complying with integrated ticketing, but
for people who are private operators running a commercial service I would have thought that integrated ticketing was a marketing issue. People may want to use someone’s service but they cannot then use their general integrated ticketing regime—or they have not been able to use it so far because we have not had an integrated ticketing regime in Auckland. That is the answer for that one, I say to the Minister. But if all the major operators—for example, Stagecoach, the train service, and the ferry service—all had some compliant integrated ticketing and I wanted to start my own commercial service out to Middlemore Hospital, then I would actually soon learn that every customer who wanted to use my service would not use me anymore because I was not part of that integrated ticketing regime. The market would actually say to me to go quickly and see the regional council, and ask it what I had to do to be part of and comply with an integrated ticketing regime. But, no, the left says that instead of leaving it to the market, to customers, and to choice, it will regulate operators to bring in more bureaucrats, more regulation, and more red tape, so that a poor old operator who is trying to run a commercial business will say: “What the hell am I doing this for! I’ll just go fishing.”
Phil Heatley: No, the ticket prices will go up.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Of course; that is what I had not understood. The cost of the bureaucracy will be added on to the fare in order to recover the costs.
So I finish as I began, which is to say that National will support this bill to go to a select committee. But we will be very, very interested to know why both commercial and non-commercial, or subsidised and non-subsidised, operators are to be treated the same, and why those who just want to get on and run their businesses, not only in meeting all the safety requirements—we fully support operators should have to, as people should be safe when they are on their vehicles—will have to go off and deal with regional councils in order to be commercially successful businesses.
Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie)
: We are very pleased to have the support of National for this Public Transport Management Bill. It is the norm now for it to do “me too” and support the things it knows people want. Just about all the politicians who stood for the local body elections, whether they were from the right or from the left, said they supported public transport, because they knew that ordinary New Zealanders want public transport. Any of those dumb enough to stand up in a local body election and say they are opposed to it knew they would be history. The National Party is also looking ahead to the elections next year, saying that it better not show its true colours and say what it thinks, which is that it opposes public transport. The member who just sat down was describing legislation that basically exists today, which is the system he wants.
Hon Maurice Williamson: What a load of rubbish!
Hon MARK GOSCHE: Why is he not voting against this bill then? As he said, basically people could set up a bus route. That is why we have the problems we are trying to resolve with this bill.
Also, it is interesting to note these figures. This Government is expecting to spend about $506 million in the 2007-08 year on public transport. Compared with 1999, that is 10 times more. If we went back to 1998 we would find that it was the same, as I think it was in 1997 and 1996, because I think that the member who has just sat down froze the funding for 5 years. He froze it and wondered why public transport ground to a halt in Auckland City.
It does not matter for those who use a car or a limousine. They do not worry about the buses and the trains. That is why that member does not know that there are bus services from his electorate over to Middlemore. He does not know because he has not been on a bus, apart from the odd freebie he gets invited to when a bus service is launched and people are taken from Britomart to the hotel for a drink. He has never
been on a bus like an ordinary punter. He was so worried about his electorate boundaries because he might have to represent some working-class people, and he is now a man greatly relieved that he does not have to do that.
If the member looked out the window of his electorate office he would see big sort of maroon-coloured things going past. They are bigger than cars; they are called buses. From Howick, past Pakuranga they go, every day—heaps of them. The problem, you see, is that we want them to be going all day, not just at the most convenient times for the operator, which is one of the problems with the current legislation.
I will get serious now and just read what the problems are. Under the current legislation the public transport operator can register and deregister services, which may be a single trip at any one time of the day and not necessarily a complete timetable for a route. If people rely on public transport, like a growing number of New Zealanders do—rich and poor—because of its convenience in congested cities, they want to be able to get on the bus in the morning, go to work, and know that there is a bus going back at the end of the day. If they have to finish work in the middle of the day, in the off-peak times, then they might also want to get that bus back home again.
We are trying to give decent planning for the operators and the regional councils so they can guarantee the public a system that can be relied on, and not one that is just cherry-picked so that an operator can say: “I will do a bus in the morning from Howick into the city when there are lots of people wanting to go to work. I will not bother about anybody in the middle of the day. They can find their own way, and if they do not have a car, that is tough.” People cannot catch a train, as Mr Williamson knows, because there are no railway lines out to Howick. So buses are important.
People also want to know that they might catch that bus in the morning and get home on the ferry, because there is a very good ferry service that goes out to Maurice Williamson’s electorate. They may decide that they want to be able to do that with the same ticket. Can they do that right now? No. So there is not the ease of use that many international cities with good public transport systems can offer.
Unfortunately, the operators have not all put their hands up and said that they will sign up to an integrated system that says people can get on the bus on the North Shore, get down to the ferry in Devonport, get on that ferry and go across to Auckland City, go across the road to Britomart, and get on a train and go to where they might work in points further south, with all trips using the same ticket. I think that many New Zealanders—and many Aucklanders, in particular—would like to have an integrated ticketing system. The legislation we are putting in place will allow that to happen. Many efforts have been made by the regional council and some operators to have this done under the current legislation, and, I am sorry, but the legislation fails to deliver the powers to make that happen.
We have also seen commercial routes suddenly become non-commercial routes in the blink of an eye. In one case in Auckland—I think many, many people were aware of it, and the Auckland Regional Council was astounded by it—an operator just said it was stopping. Suddenly the council had to come up with $5 million to keep those routes going, and that was not budgeted for. No ratepayers want to have their regional council put in that situation because the law is deficient. That is another good reason why the National Party will be supporting this legislation when it goes through the select committee and comes back to this House.
This bill is good legislation. It gives powers to the regional council to put in place plans to work with the responsible operators to service those routes, those destinations, those times of the day, and all those sorts of things that are important if we want a world-class public transport system. I think that the operators will welcome this legislation, despite the fact that they may have concerns about some of it.
For instance, I know operators are a little concerned about the grouping of services, but when I look at the logic for it, I am not quite sure why they would be nervous about that. What we do want is, obviously, for the public to know that when they get on a bus in the morning, there are pretty good services running at peak time, lesser services in the off-peak time, and then better services again at the end of day when the peak is going the other way. We want to make sure that the operators and the regional authorities, which are responsible for these plans, can draft sensible groupings of services so that that continuity is there. That is what keeps people using public transport.
If there is one thing that turns people off, it is unreliability, a lack of standards, and a lack of knowing that the service deemed suitable for them to get to and from their work or study will be there for the rest of the year. So people make those conscious decisions.
The other thing I would point out—because I think it is quite important—is that quality and safety are important. We want regional councils to be able to put reasonable demands on operators to provide that. We have had arguments for years and years about disability and access to public transport. All sorts of excuses have been made for years and years as to why nothing could be done. People said that it was too expensive and too difficult, and that they could not access the types of vehicles to make it possible. It was just about simple things, like being able to have a loudspeaker going so that people can hear about services if they cannot read a sign that tells them that information.
Lots of people in our communities are visually impaired or have hearing loss or some sort of physical disability, and they are absolutely reliant on public transport because they cannot drive. They just do not have the ability to drive, so putting into place some decent services for those people will be life-changing for them, because reliance on, particularly, mobility taxis in a city like Auckland is just appalling. Why? Because they are mostly booked in the morning to take the kids to school and are mostly booked in the afternoon to bring them home, so people with disabilities are very reliant on trains and buses. They also want to be able to use those disability taxis in the morning and in the afternoon, and from my experience there are just not enough of those sorts of vehicles around to actually make that happen.
So I applaud this bill. I do look forward, like Maurice Williamson, to hearing the various arguments. We must make sure we tease out any difficulties or technicalities in the bill that might get in the way of a good operation from the perspective of both the operators and regional government, because if we go too far in one direction, then the operators will say they are out of here and they will not invest. But if we go too far in the other direction, then ratepayers will have to fork out far too much money in subsidies. That is the sort of balance we will be looking for.
JOHN CARTER (National—Northland)
: The first thing I want to do is to defend my colleague Maurice Williamson after the attack that has been made on him. It was a scurrilous attack. The House should know that Maurice Williamson is a deep supporter of public transport and bus systems. In fact, his nickname is “Bus Williamson”. He is so supportive of public transport that he likes to go around saying he is “Bus Williamson”. The House will be interested to know that in the morning his wife Raewyn has to tie up their dog so that Maurice gets a free run at chasing the buses. Otherwise, the dog trips him up. He is very keen to make sure the bus goes past his place, and I just want to put that on the record. The House should know that Maurice is a very keen supporter of public transport.
I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about one or two things. I listened with interest to the previous speaker, but there was one thing he did not mention once in his speech. If we read the notes that have come with the bill, we see that it talks about operators being required to integrate services, fares, and ticketing. There is nothing wrong with that. The bill will also enable operators to maintain their existing
commercial public transport systems without change. There is nothing wrong with that until we read the next bit, which says that that is where it is deemed appropriate by the regional council. Let us hang on a minute—there is something wrong with that.
Not once did I hear that member talk about commercial viability. Not once did I hear him say that it is actually important, for a private operator to be able to function, that someone actually pays for the service he or she provides. Not once did the member say that. He talked all around that, about the need to be able to maintain the service. He talked about the cost of subsidies, he talked about the cost of transport, but not once did he say that it is actually important to the private operator to be able to get by commercially. That is quite an important part of providing a private service. We have to be able to afford it; we have to be able to come out on the right side.
One of the things that worries me about the lefties is that that does not matter to them at the end of the day—so long as the services are running and all the poor people can hop on them, then that is OK. Well, as we go through the submissions I will be really interested to hear just exactly what the private operators think about some bureaucrat from the regional council hopping on their bus and saying the council thinks the bus should go left rather than right, because there are a couple of people it could pick up there who may not be able to pay, but that will be OK because the operator will be able to pay for that. The fact that the bus service will actually go out of existence because it is then not viable does not matter to the bureaucrat. That does not matter, and that sort of stupid thinking ends up ruining the services that we have.
Just recently in Northland, a group of us have been working to get our withdrawn bus service replaced, to take it from Whangarei, via Dargaville, through the Hokianga, so that the people of the Hokianga can have a bus service. We had to work with the private operators, the ratepayers, and the regional council to end up making sure that the subsidy was at the right level so that the ratepayers were not screwed to death, but at the same time the commercial operator was able to have a viable service. That is already working. We did not need a bill to make it happen in Northland; we were practical and got on and did it. We did it because it was a necessity, and we were able to sit down and talk about it.
Suddenly, the Government comes along and tells people to hang on a minute, because it has a magic answer. It says it will fix things up by writing some rules and regulations, and it will allow a whole lot of bureaucrats to sit down and start poking their noses in and interfering, without worrying about the commercial viability of anything. That will just put in a whole lot of bureaucratic costs and cause a whole lot of cost to ratepayers. One of the things that worries me about this sort of legislation from the lefties over there on the Government side of the House is that it is all about just loading more costs on to the poor old ratepayers. Those members are not worried about whether a service is viable. They just want to make sure that we have a service, and when it finally all falls apart, they will say it is a bit of a pity that it did not work, but never mind that. They will say people will have to find their own way home until such time as something else comes up.
The good thing that is starting to happen in local government, despite this Labour Government, is that some common sense is actually starting to be shown. We are seeing things happen in New Zealand whereby people are saying we have a system called Transit and a system called local government roading, and they are asking why the two systems cannot mix. Those systems are starting to talk to each other, and we are starting to get some more efficiency out of that—would members believe that? I ask whether that is not a good thing. I say to the House that as soon as the Labour Government catches on that that is happening, we will have to make some rules and regulations so it can happen. Yes, that will be the problem. That is exactly the sort of thing we are
talking about here. It is far better to let the locals actually get on and manage a service themselves. If we can make it work in Northland without a whole lot of rules and regulations, it will work everywhere—
R Doug Woolerton: You don’t even live there!
JOHN CARTER: Believe you me, I do not even have to chase the bus; I know where it is. I work to make sure that poor, decrepit old retired cockies from Waikato can come up to Northland and enjoy the buses. I say to that member he is welcome to come up there at any time. It would be better if he were up there rather than doing what he does here, because it does not work down here. He would be more effective if he were up there as the bus conductor. We could do with one of those.
The point is that we support this bill being referred to a select committee so we can listen to the comments—
Hon Maurice Williamson: Does this legislation apply to Zimmer frames?
JOHN CARTER: No, no, Doug Woolerton is too shaky to get on one of those. We support this bill going to a select committee, and we will be interested to hear what submitters say. But I do say to the House it should be mindful of the fact that here we go again, with the possibility of more rules, more regulations, more bureaucrats, more cost to ratepayers, and less efficiency, and with the real possibility of ending up having fewer services, particularly those run by the private sector, because the bureaucracy may not, especially if it is run by Wellington, have a blind clue where the bus runs are in the north. The bureaucrats do not even know where the Hokianga is, let alone other places north of Auckland. So I just say we should be cautious with regard to this bill as it goes through the House. We will support it, but only on the basis that we can let people have their input on it.
PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First)
: It is just as well we do not take the honourable member John Carter seriously, because if he wants to base transport in Auckland on what happens in the far north, it would be absolutely chaotic. I guess we are talking particularly about Auckland, and possibly the other cities in the country, and if we want to run an efficient public transport service—principally, it is buses we are referring to—then we need to cover most of the hours in the day, as the Hon Mark Gosche said, from early morning, at least, until late at night. It is exceedingly unlikely that any one commercial operator could do that, or would do that, and make money out of it. I listened to the Hon Maurice Williamson, and he is very supportive of commercial operators going along, starting up a bus service—here, there, or anywhere—and if they can make money, then good luck to them. That will not work across the total spectrum, because somebody has to do the hours and the runs where there is no money in it. Somebody has to bring back the passenger who goes on a peak service in the morning and comes back late at night when there are relatively few passengers on it.
Hon Maurice Williamson: But those off-peak are subsidised.
PETER BROWN: Exactly, they are subsidised, but if we say to commercial operators that they can do the cream and they do not have to bother with the subsidised stuff, then we are running into trouble in terms of having a public transport system.
Hon Maurice Williamson: But doesn’t the subsidy block the difference between what’s commercial and what’s not?
PETER BROWN: Not necessarily. If I heard the honourable member correctly, I took the impression that he wanted the commercial guys to simply say: “I will do this run between A and B and C and D because I have got a lot of passengers and I will make a lot of money, but I am not particularly interested in the after-hours run, where I am carrying only very few passengers.”
Phil Heatley: But no one is doing the other run! You’re just saying cherry-picking, and no one is doing it in the first place.
PETER BROWN: The member should listen to the debate before he opens his mouth.
Hon Maurice Williamson: It’s a valid point. The subsidy might cover the gap.
PETER BROWN: The subsidy may cover the gap, but the subsidy might have to be huge if the commercial operator were allowed to cherry-pick the cream runs in the first instance, and left the other runs to the non-commercial operators.
If we want a public transport service, then first and foremost it has to be safe. Secondly, it has to be reliable. People have to be able to depend on it. We have heard an example from the Hon Mark Gosche in his contribution earlier, of the operator that just disappeared overnight, leaving a cost of $5 million, or something along those lines. So it has to be safe, it has to be reliable, and it has to be convenient to the passenger, not the operator. It has to be comfortable. People will not leave their cars at home if they have to go and sit on a hard bench seat and rattle around for—I do not know how long—say, an hour; and, again, it has to be sufficiently regular to suit the passengers, not the operator.
New Zealand First has long advocated for integrated ticketing. [Interruption] I missed the point that the member just made.
R Doug Woolerton: He just said it took a lot longer to get from A to B than an hour. He’s being facetious—he doesn’t even know where B is!
PETER BROWN: No! This bill, as I understand it, will put pressure on the operators to introduce integrated ticketing. It will be not only between bus services, but between bus and rail services, and between bus, rail, and ferry services. We can go to any of the major cities in the world—and I think of the experience in London—and catch a train, a bus, a tube, or whatever, and go from A to B to C, all on one ticket on 1 day. That has been beyond our abilities. [Interruption] Listening to the member who is screaming from the wings, I say that it is no wonder why, if that is the best contribution he can make.
New Zealand First says that it is about time integrated ticketing came. However, having indicated—and I state this now—that New Zealand First will support this bill going to the select committee, that is not to say we do not have concerns. It is my understanding that in the years 2005 and 2006 significant consultation was instigated by the Ministry of Transport and it involved representatives of the ministry, Land Transport New Zealand, regional councils, local authorities, and indeed the bus industry. A series of understandings were arrived at. But this bill seems to have overlooked that. Indeed, page 16 of the explanatory note implies that there have been changes, and, referring to the people who have been consulted in the first place, states: “However, they have not been formally consulted in the preparation of this proposal.”
The bus industry tells me that this bill departs significantly from the recommended option B, which was agreed by this working committee a year or so ago. They say there was no consultation with the industry over the changes, and that it gives extra powers to the regional councils and waters down the checks and balances. Significant concerns are being made by the bus industry. It goes as far as to say that option B, the preferred option in this Public Transport Management Bill, in reality is option C in the working document that was discarded, I gather, by just about everybody. I think there is something about this bill—
Hon Maurice Williamson: So we have gone from A to B; we have gone from A to C.
PETER BROWN: We have gone from A to C, but we are moving into options now, and the honourable member might care to take note of that.
R Doug Woolerton: He’s not keeping up.
PETER BROWN: He is not keeping up, no.
Hon Maurice Williamson: It’s beyond me.
Phil Heatley: He’s missed the bus.
PETER BROWN: He has missed the bus completely!
This causes us concern, because we thought this type of legislation was well on track to getting the right amount of cooperation and with the right spirit, when all these parties were involved in putting their ideas together and coming up with some sort of consensus. To learn from the bus industry now that it is really concerned about this bill’s departure from the original working agreement does cause New Zealand First some concern.
We will be looking very, very carefully at the submissions to the select committee. We trust that the various parties will make fairly detailed submissions, and we will look very, very carefully at the submissions in terms of getting the right balance between subsidised services and commercial services. As I said at the onset, it is not possible or practical to rely totally on commercial services. That will, in large part, create a greater need for subsidies for non-commercial services. New Zealand First supports this bill going to select committee, but we will be monitoring it very, very carefully and studying the submissions very, very carefully.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: It is a pleasure to rise on this very auspicious day—the first debating day in this Chamber since the local body elections at the weekend—to debate the Public Transport Management Bill, because it does have quite an impact for local authorities. It was Local Government New Zealand and the local authorities that asked for these changes to be made. They are critically aware, in a way that the National Party does not seem to be, of the importance of integration, of the importance of having standards, and of the importance of maintaining a quality, sustainable public transport service.
I do want to take a small amount of time to congratulate those who were elected to councils and to district health boards over the weekend, and also to congratulate those who were unsuccessful—those people who do wish to serve their community in this way. It is not very easy for people to put themselves out there publicly, to state what they believe in and how they want to represent their communities, and to put all of the hard work into an election campaign. I thoroughly congratulate all of those who were involved, because it does require a certain level of understanding of democracy, and of the importance of representation, for individuals to put themselves out there before their fellow citizens in that way.
R Doug Woolerton: I put myself out there one night, and got locked up.
SUE MORONEY: I cannot comment on that member’s view of putting himself out there. But, certainly, the calibre of the people who stood at the local body elections was such that they understood the responsibility of being better able to coordinate and guarantee quality, sustainable public transport. It is sad in a way that during this debate some Opposition members are exposing the fact that they do not seem to understand many of those issues.
What does this bill do? Essentially the bill will give regional councils greater powers over non-contracted or commercial services, in order to help regions to get the best value for money and achieve an integrated, sustainable public transport network. When Maurice Williamson spoke, he was struggling to understand the reason for this bill. He seemed to want a series of instructions about why it should be such a good idea. I would have thought that his experience during the 1990s might lead him to some conclusions about the importance of having thorough planning and of being able to take a wholly regional approach to the way one would do such things, but it does not appear that Maurice Williamson has learnt any lessons from that era. The reason for this bill is that under the current legislation, regional councils do have limited control over public
transport services that are non-contracted, and by empowering councils to impose controls over commercial services, councils can ensure that commercial services meet the standards expected by their region. It is about people in the regions being able, through their regional councils, to have some say over the service they expect in that regard.
The bill will also allow councils access to ongoing information about commercial services, such as information about demand in particular areas, in order to establish systems that are integrated and responsive to community needs. I just want to reflect on that last statement about being responsive to community needs, because of course that does underpin the whole intent of the bill and I want to make sure that people who are listening to this debate understand that, at its first reading. This bill is about responsiveness to community needs, and that is achieved through local democratic processes. The bill will make it easier for regions to implement integrated public transport systems that do meet community needs.
In particular, I want to pick up on a couple of local issues, because I know that many of the members who have spoken so far have concentrated on Auckland issues. Of course, the public transport needs of the Auckland community are particularly pressing, but there are issues in many other communities throughout New Zealand as well. The area that I am most familiar with is Hamilton, and I do want to congratulate the Hamilton City Council and also Environment Waikato on their recent very good initiatives, such as the free city shuttle bus, that have made quite a difference to public transport in our city. [Interruption] I say to David Bennett that I do use that service frequently. I am not sure whether that member has ever used it. The free city shuttle bus is a great improvement in terms of public transport in Hamilton City, as is the Orbiter network. For the benefit of people who are not familiar with that part of the world, I say a number of services around the outskirts of Hamilton City have now been connected up by a very good bus service, named the Orbiter. That certainly has made a great difference.
The other issue that I want to make sure people know about is the effect of this bill on people with disabilities. This bill will enable regions to better cater for those with disabilities by allowing regions to stipulate appropriate measures, such as the use of super-low-floor buses. Maurice Williamson speculated earlier about a big flash bus service that he might want to operate and, of course, he could not answer a question about whether his flash new bus would have one of those super-low floors and would be wheelchair accessible. He could not answer that question, because in his view—in his mind—the market would sort out that. Well, I tell Mr Williamson that the market has not sorted that particular issue out, and it will not sort it out. Currently regional councils can ensure only that those with disabilities are catered for on the contractors’ services. Operators of commercial public transport services are not required to ensure appropriate facilities are available on the services they run. So that is what happens now; that is what the market-led approach delivers to us.
I am very proud to say that in Hamilton there is again a very exciting initiative on this very issue. Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council, and Land Transport New Zealand are working together—
Hon Maurice Williamson: How does this member know so much about Hamilton?
SUE MORONEY: Oh, this member does know a great deal about Hamilton, because that is where I am based, as Mr Williamson knows. When local people come to meet with me to talk about their needs, they have been filling me in on this particular issue. The pilot project that is happening in Hamilton is looking at not just the vehicles but also the infrastructure, such as the kerbing and the city council - provided services: what the bus stations look like, where they are located, and how people can access them.
So it is a very useful pilot project, and I am proud to say that it is happening in Hamilton. I thank the Disabled Persons Assembly, based in Hamilton—
David Bennett: So it’s a pilot project now?
SUE MORONEY: I tell Mr Bennett that I thank the Disabled Persons Assembly, based in Hamilton, for its advocacy on this particular issue. It has made sure that those bodies have coordinated their roles in order to make a real difference on this issue. When the results of that pilot study are known, I am hopeful that the learning from that study will be translated into work right throughout the country. This very bill will make that possible.
However, I do think that this debate has been rather enlightening, because, of course, it has continued to expose and explain what went so tragically wrong in the 1990s. Although the National Party claims to have moved on, this debate clearly shows that it has not. Although National is to vote in support of the first reading of this bill, its members have not been able to debate this bill without making statements over and over again asking about what is wrong with just the market sorting this issue out anyway. They say the invisible hand of the market will sort out integration in public transport, and will sort out making sure that people can get from A to B in an integrated way. Well, we all know that that is not the case. But it seems that the National Party certainly has not moved on from the market-led ideology of the 1990s. Its members really do not understand yet that having standards—quality standards—in place is something that the New Zealand public of today demand, expect, and require. This type of bill will ensure that those standards will be in place.
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Minister for Transport Safety)
: First, Madam Assistant Speaker, can I congratulate you on re-election in a different mode into local government. I am sure the House will wish you every success in that part of your political career.
The Public Transport Management Bill is an interesting bill because it follows on from the Transport Services Licensing Act, which is now quite old—1989. That Act was really a product of the day, in that the focus on transport policy was about reducing the cost to government, and improving efficiency. It reduced cost by maximising competition and enhancing and maximising the role of the private sector. In the area of passenger transport the Transport Services Licensing Act of 1989 sought to improve efficiency and reduce costs by enabling public transport operators to identify and provide scheduled public transport services on a commercial basis with limited regional authority control.
That Act established the concept of commercially viable routes, and enabled local authorities to, if one likes, allow for licensing of particular routes. Regional councils were left to contract and fund, with assistance, of course, from the Government through Land Transport New Zealand, any scheduled public transport services that were required in their regions that could not be provided by way of normal commercial competition. Routes that were not commercially viable were therefore left up to the regional councils to fund, through their funding and with subsidies from the Government through Land Transport New Zealand. Those services—those routes—had to be awarded through an open tendering process.
So we had a mix—a mix of normal commercial viable routes, which were contestable, and those routes that were not commercially viable but were tendered for. Through that, we really wound up with a hybrid system, in a way, that provided for high-quality public passenger transport systems but on the basis of competition where they were commercial, and on the basis of minimum cost where they were provided by some sort of tendering process.
We have discovered in the time since, of course, that high-quality public transport systems are vital, and they can have a huge impact on sustainability. For those who live in the main metropolitan centres, particularly Auckland, there is a considerable need for public passenger transport that not only is commercially viable or efficient, but also gets people from out of their “one person per car” mode into using public transport.
The bill we have before us today will enable councils to set the quality and performance standards for commercial public transport services and things such as we heard from the previous speaker—with some denigration, actually, from the Opposition—such as wheelchair accessibility or services accessible to those with disabilities so that people can have access to flat-floor or super-low-floor buses to enable them to board those buses. Indeed, we have seen in New Zealand some real innovations of design, and I can think of Design Line, for example, which make one of the world’s best super-low-floor buses here in New Zealand. Those buses, obviously, were responding to a need, but responding to a requirement of the Government by way of regional councils for services accessible to those who had a disability or who were impaired in their ability to get on and off buses.
The bill will also allow for such things as emission standards to be put in place on public passenger transport, so in the centre of cities there might be a tougher standard than, say, in a rural area. The bill will also allow councils to require operators to integrate services, fares, and ticketing, to suit the needs of the community. I have to say that this is an issue that I personally have been very, very keen on for about 25 years. The integrated ticketing regimes, as are used widely in Europe, are something that New Zealand should imitate and initiate as soon as possible, in my view. The integrated ticketing regimes in Holland, for example, in the Netherlands, allow one to use a taxi, a taxi-bus, a bus, a tram, and a train, all on one ticket to go from a particular residence to perhaps employment in a city far away, door to door. Those services accessible off one ticket are simply regarded by the Dutch community now as being the norm and absolutely commonplace.
For us there is still a revolution waiting to happen in terms of integrated ticketing at that level. I think one of the provisions of this bill will be very much welcomed, once the public get used it: the provision to allow for integrated ticketing.
The bill will also give regional councils greater powers over non-contracted commercial services in order to help regions get the best value for money and to achieve an integrated, sustainable public transport network. That is important, because, under current legislation, regional councils have limited control over public transport services that are non-contracted. The bill will empower councils to impose controls over commercial services. Councils will be able to ensure that commercial services meet the standards expected of the region. The bill will also allow councils access to ongoing information about commercial services, such as demand in particular areas, in order to establish systems that are integrated and responsive to community needs.
That will prevent what we would probably call cherry-picking, in that it will allow for the requirement of packages of services so that we do not have operators saying they will come in and do only the most profitable link, and thereby undermine the whole integrity of the service by taking out the ability of another company to provide a package of services around an area. So the bill will make it easier for regions to implement integrated public transport systems that meet community needs.
How will a more consistent public transport system be created under this legislation? Under current legislation, public transport operators can register and deregister services, which might be a single trip at any time on any day—not necessarily a complete timetable for a route—and can put in a notice period of 21 days and simply say they will take out that service or register the service, one or the other. Regional councils may be
obliged to replace the deregistered services, but 21 days’ notice leaves them inadequate time to implement the best possible service for the community. That restricts their ability to offer a reliable, consistent, and sustainable service for local people.
The changes in this bill will mean that councils can specify a longer notice period of, say, 90 days, and have better control over other aspects of the public transport services, such as the ability—as I said before—to set quality standards. That region will therefore have the ability, under its local transport planning regime, to ensure that services that are appropriate for the needs of the region will be able to be put in place and be contracted for, with a minimum of 90 days’ notice.
It will also mean that regions can opt to group services together if that best suits the needs of the region and its communities. It seems to me that that is one of the elements missing from our current system. We have a dual system. We have a competitive system in which normal competition rules of business apply. We also have the ability for a regional council to tender for services in its area where those services are not being run on a commercial basis. I think we can get the best of both worlds here. Those who favour competition and business—the market, if you like, being the provider—will see that that will work very well where businesses are truly commercial and where those routes are operating in a commercial way. Those who see the need for a council to respond to the needs of its community will also see that happening.
We are getting the best of both worlds, under this legislation. I believe that this legislation will enhance public transport and see a continuation of the development that has occurred. Certainly, if one looks at the money going into public transport now from Government sources one sees that it is something of the order of 10 times that which was going into public passenger transport services when the Labour-led Government was first established in 1999.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou. The Public Transport Management Bill could not have come at a more opportune time for the new Mayor of Auckland. Six years ago, in 2001, “Banksie” faced the people and said he would solve the city’s biggest problem—transport—with one thing: roads, roads, roads. But apparently, in true “Banksie” bluster, he has now admitted that he has had a transmogrification. If members have any doubt as to what transmogrification means, I will tell them that it means to change form in a grotesque or bizarre way. The transmogrification of the Ferrari-driving mayor is that he has gone from conspiring to build bigger and better roads to declaring a commitment to create a world-class public transport system. He campaigned on a platform of integrated ticketing across the ferries, trains, and buses, and on a package that he calls an excellent marriage between the train and the car: park-and-ride. Whether Auckland City will reap the benefits of this “Banksie” transmogrification will be a matter for the punters in Auckland to consider. But I am sure Mr Banks appreciates the efforts that the Hon Annette King has made to advance the issue of public transport on to the national agenda so quickly.
Our country’s newly elected mayors and councils are essential to the aims of this bill, which are to achieve an integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable land transport system. My reading of things is that the bill responds to the two competing priorities of the regional infrastructure: to help regions obtain the best value for money in public transport while also enabling fair competition for commercial operators by means of a competitive and an efficient market for public transport services. That tension between best value and the competitive market has been a longstanding issue for local government. Regions want to have the flexibility and commercial edge to host innovative public transport services that would otherwise not be provided. In my own region, we have the BayBus, Twin City Express, and Kati Coach, according to some.
Call a Bus can take people direct from Tauranga to Auckland airport. There is also the Bay Hopper and Super Travel Express—to name just a few services.
However, up until this bill councils have been limited in their ability to regulate commercial services, and as a consequence their capacity to plan and develop the necessary integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable regional public transport systems across the region has been constrained. This bill is about investing in sustainability, while also providing opportunity for significant economic and mobility benefits to be generated.
But there is one particular benefit that is driving—I ask the House to excuse the pun—our decision in the Māori Party to support this bill at its first reading: the benefit of foresight in planning for the future in a low energy - sustainable world. From the Māori Party’s early days since its establishment, we have been talking about the urgent need to reduce Government, personal, and business dependency on oil. In 2005 we called for a cross-party parliamentary commission to look sensibly and collaboratively at addressing the challenge of peak oil. We have talked about the need to become energy literate and to properly evaluate energy options. If we are faced with a menu of renewable sources, such as wind farm generation, solar power, or wave energy, how might we best determine whether it will actually be energy efficient to invest in new infrastructure or to stay with the status quo? We know in New Zealand that our use of our own renewable sources has been declining—mainly as a result of the decline of the Māui field—so there has been a return by the Government to using coal, despite its known disastrous environmental and human health effects.
Rather than looking at non-renewable sources to maintain our current unsustainable modern society, we need urgently to consider renewable energy production and significantly altering the way that we consume. Unfortunately, not one of the political parties in this Parliament was prepared to work with us on the proposal we first put out in 2005. The invitation to work collaboratively was obviously a little too challenging at that time.
But the issue is, as the US peak oil expert Richard Heinberg told us last week, that the challenge of peak oil is very definitely upon us now. When the peaking of oil production happens, a decline in availability and supply follows. The discovery of new fields and new extraction technology is not offsetting declines, because the global demand for oil continues to increase. In fact, for every new barrel of oil that is discovered, five or six barrels are being used. It is too late for quibbling over whether the peak was in 2005 or 2006 or is in 2010; the undeniable fact is that the world’s oil production is peaking now. Thirty-eight of the 48 largest oil-producing countries have declining oil production, yet demand is steadily rising.
The Māori Party supports the further development of public transport systems to reduce road traffic as a key means to lessen the nation’s dependency on oil. We support those initiatives to lessen carbon emissions as an important component of acting to address the global warming crisis. And in the process we also say we should look to Māori operators for ideas about how to achieve an integrated and a safe, responsive, and sustainable land transport system. Māori have always been key players in the public transport system of our nation. The special relationship between tangata whenua and our ancestral lands and resources must take into account the Crown’s obligations as a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. As such, the governance, management, and administration of transport decision-making must involve Māori at all stages.
Māori have provided, and will continue to provide, options as individual operators of public transport systems. Again, in my electorate of Waiariki I think about the precedent established by the legendary Sam Emery. Sam was born at Kakepuku near Te Awamutu in 1885. His is one of those amazing self-made success stories that we love in Aotearoa.
Without a single day of schooling and despite being unable to read or write—not even a line—he went on to pioneer motor transport, becoming a transport operator and a launch owner. He eventually served on the Rotorua County Council for 18 years. He never forgot his people. He played a key role in the financing and construction of five meeting houses, including one in his birthplace for Ngāti Kahu.
Our more recent history as tangata whenua has seen Māori involvement in the transport sector increase as a result of the collective aspirations of and projects initiated by whānau, hapū, and iwi. In the decade 1991-2001, Māori participation rates in tourism increased by 72 percent. We believe that our Māori operators give us good reason for optimism in responding to the twin challenge of peak oil and climate change. Again in the fine electorate of Waiariki, Tauranga Moana Maori Tourism Inc. advances cultural tourism that is environmentally responsible and economically sustainable. Its initiatives are not only about supporting Māori tourism but also about recognising and protecting the spiritual, physical, and cultural values of the people of the region. Indeed, it is the ultimate expression of tangata whenuatanga by Māori—te kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea—that we do all we can to protect, restore, and enhance mauri within the natural environment.
Our aspiration to create a clean, safe, and healthy environment is tied up with the development of cheap, free, regular, reliable, and frequent public transport. Our party supports any policy initiatives for the rail infrastructure to deliver a better service and reduce the number of cars on the road. And, of course, there are many, many other ways of reducing road traffic. In Rotorua, the number of people who cycle to work has been declining, and in that context Bike Rotorua aims to get more people cycling more often. The project recommends, amongst other things, a cycleway network. So I tell members to watch this space—Rotorua will be leading the way once again. In terms of leading the way, we are interested in the debate around the electrification of public transport, including electric car technology. We believe that reducing our dependence on oil makes both good economic sense and environmental sense.
Finally, I am reminded of the whakatauākī “Ruia taitea kia tū ko taikākā anake. Cast off the sap and leave only the heart.” That is a reminder to us to clear away the irrelevant stuff and concentrate on the essential components. The essential component in this bill for the Māori Party is to support initiatives to improve our public transport systems in ways that serve both to lessen the nation’s dependency on oil in the face of the peak oil crisis and to lessen carbon emissions in the face of the global warming crisis. This bill is a positive step in that direction and the Māori Party will support it.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green)
: The Greens support this bill. It contains a number of measures we have been pushing for, for some years, to improve public transport systems. We know it has been on the Government agenda for a long time to remedy those deficiencies, and we are glad to see that it has finally made it to the House.
A public transport future can contribute substantially to our quality of life. When we compare fighting our way through congested traffic, one person to a car, waiting at traffic lights, poor air quality, and noise, with sitting on a fast train or on a bus on a dedicated busway, able to read, able to listen to music, able to talk to one’s neighbours, and no responsibility for driving, clearly the second is a much better way to move around. But unfortunately public transport is not always like that.
The Greens have been pushing for years to do two things that make it possible for a lot of people to leave their cars at home and use public transport instead. The first thing is that there needs to be more public transport. We need to build the infrastructure, which we are now finally going do in terms of electrifying the Auckland rail and putting more resources into the infrastructure in Wellington, and we need to make it easier to
use the services we have and to improve those services. It is on that second point that this bill will contribute quite a lot.
We know that the future for motoring will become more difficult and more expensive, both as a result of the end of cheap oil and the rising prices that will follow that, and as a result of accelerating climate change and prices on carbon. But it is not just because of those gloomy ideas that we need to foster public transport, it is also because it can contribute so positively to a good quality of life.
I know people who have come from the country to Auckland with a real commitment to using public transport to get around who have been totally stymied. They need a different ticket for every bus company that runs there. Even on the same route they may need a different kind of ticket from one day to the next, depending on who is running the service at that time. The buses do not connect very well with the trains. Neither connect very well with the ferries. The Land Transport Management Act, the drafting of which the Greens worked on with the Labour Government in a previous term, requires an integrated transport system, and this bill will contribute to achieving that by providing that a regional council can require all those transport operators to cooperate in integrated ticketing.
The difference it would make to travel around a large city by being able to get one ticket and use it on all of the public transport services is enormous. Many, many years ago that was seen as quite a difficult technical task to achieve. It is no longer a difficult technical task. Many other cities do it. It can be done with a simple swipe system. It is time it happened. The Auckland Regional Council has been trying to get it to happen for years but the transport service operators will not cooperate. This gives them the power to make it happen, and it is certainly not before time. It gives the regional council power to set the quality and the frequency of services and to demand that they be met.
We have this funny residue from the attempts to apply the market and competition to public transport services, which never really worked, whereby a company that believes it can run a commercial service with no subsidy is left entirely free to run that service any way it likes—or not run it—or, after claiming it can run it, suddenly to give very short notice to the regional council that it will stop running it unless it is subsidised. That is completely unacceptable. Every time members of the travelling public get caught up in one of those messes and they go and buy a cheap car they did not have before, or they go back to travelling by car, we do not get those people back on public transport for a very long time. So we need to make the service reliable. We need to make it comfortable and clean. We need to make it frequent. People need to know that when they get on the train or the bus they will get where they need to go, on time, and have a pleasant journey.
This allows the regional councils to set the quality of the services, even if they are not being subsidised—the ones that they licence—and it allows them to investigate just where public money is going in subsidised services to make sure the public are getting a good deal. It also allows them to set emissions standards for the vehicles that operate public transport services. It is not a good look, as we move to tell motorists, around the end of this year, that vehicles that come into the country will have to meet certain emission standards, to not apply the same standards to public transport vehicles. Visitors to this country comment on the black smoke they see coming out of exhaust pipes, and comment on the quality of our urban air. Many years ago it used to be the case that the Department of Health had a view that we did not need to worry about air pollution in New Zealand, because New Zealand cities were “well ventilated”. I remember that statement very clearly from back in the 1980s: that we did not have air pollution problems, because New Zealand cities were well ventilated. It made them sound a little bit like a public toilet. In fact, that ventilation is not preventing the fact
that air quality in New Zealand cities is dropping below what is recommended by the World Health Organization. So we need to clean up the air, and lead the way with our public transport vehicles so that they are seen to be clean, and, when full, mean that another 40 or so cars are off the road. That cleans up the air even further.
The bill also makes it possible for councils to get data about who is using the buses and how often. One thing I have certainly learnt from the last 2 years of leading the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy is that we cannot make policy and cannot make targets, if we cannot get good data. In that field there are still a number of areas where we do not have good enough numbers and we do not know exactly what the experience is, and that really limits what we can do in terms of setting policy. This bill makes it much easier for regional councils to find out their patronage numbers and costs, and adapt their policies, and set frequencies and requirements, accordingly.
The Greens support this bill unreservedly. We look forward to debate on some of the issues, in the select committee. We particularly support those issues that I have talked about and look forward to supporting the bill on its third reading, as soon as possible.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: The National Party will be supporting this bill. Maurice Williamson raised a very good point when he asked why the Government would want to put this bill forward, and I think Harry Duynhoven explained the reasons very well. He said the need for some kind of coordination was an issue, especially in relation to cherry-picking of services. I think everyone will accept that point when looking at the development of a public transport network in New Zealand.
This bill is not without its flaws, and I have a story to tell about something that is happening in a community in New Zealand. It was mentioned by an earlier speaker, who has no real idea of what is going on and who failed to mention the real point in my city of Hamilton. In Hamilton we have a very effective bus network, which has been used as a model for many other bus networks around the country. We have an Orbiter bus, which is great. It travels right around the city, both ways. However, there is one problem: our bus network in Hamilton is determined by the regional council—Environment Waikato. That council has the role of managing public transport in the Waikato region. The trouble is that 85 percent of its services cover just Hamilton City, which is within the Hamilton City Council’s boundary. So there is an eternal debate going on between the regional council and the city council over who should control and dictate what that bus service is about.
If the earlier speaker had known anything about Hamilton, she would have realised that the real debate around public transport in Hamilton relates to which council will control and dictate how public transport will be provided. This bill gives control over public transport to regional councils. [Interruption] The Minister is making a comment, but I will come back to her. With this legislation, the regional council will have all the control, which it does not need in the case of Hamilton City Council. The city council should have that control. Within its boundary it has 85 percent of the total public transport needs that have been dictated in the Waikato region, yet the control is with the regional council. This is a flaw in the bill, in the sense that it looks just at the model of the regional council and says that it is the great god who will decide everything. Well, that great god had its day of come-uppance last week when the regional council in Hamilton was thrown out. Basically, it was destroyed at the last vote cast on Saturday.
And that will happen to the Labour Party next year, because it awaits the same fate as members of Environment Waikato. Those members will be on the way out next year. They will be out on the bus next year. There will be no more limousines for those guys. They await the same fate of those who do not listen to the public. That happened to
Environment Waikato, and sure as day that will happen to the Labour Party. [Interruption] Oh, yes, and we can talk about Hamilton City Council elections as well, if we want to.
The Minister opposite is waving. She is the Minister who said that public-private partnerships are alive and well in New Zealand. I have the
Hansard from last week, where she was asked a simple question about what she thought of the comments made by her colleague Steve Maharey: “The Government is ruling out the use of public-private partnerships in the state sector … even to help construct new roads,”. That is what she had to deal with from one of her own Ministers last week. And what did she do? She made some kind of excuse about what public-private partnership actually means. She tried to defend her own Minister—a Minister who should have stood up and said: “I was wrong. I made a mistake. I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Instead, she tried to make excuses. She said: “I made it clear that we already have public-private partnerships. We have the private sector building the roads; we have the public sector paying for them.” Well, that is not a public-private partnership! She passed legislation enabling public-private partnerships, so how can she say they already exist? The Minister was trying to cover for her colleagues.
Those members opposite do not have any idea of what is going on in the transport sector. They do not know what a public-private partnership is. They do not know what the regional councils do in Hamilton—for example, with regard to public transport. They have no idea, yet they set about creating pieces of legislation all the time—like this bill. Why do they do it? The reason is that they have nothing else to do. They are not attacking the real problems facing New Zealand.
Let us look at some of the phrases in the commentary on the bill. It states the bill will “give regional councils greater powers to regulate”. Is that not great Labour terminology! I bet you it could put the words “greater powers to regulate” on a billboard at the next election. It states the aim is to “obtain the best value for money”. That is a joke in terms of transport under that Minister. She had a ministerial advisory group do a report and she said she has no aim for best value for money in the transport sector. How can she say that in legislation now? It is disgraceful. But this is the best phrase—“enables fair competition”. How can we have “fair” competition? What does one have to do to make competition fair? Is it not of itself fair? We do not have to regulate competition. That does not make sense. But that is Labour Party mantra. This is a philosophical debate between the Labour Party—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a very amusing speech and a very good Wednesday debate speech, but the member has not touched on the first reading of this bill in any aspect, at all. You might like to ask him just to mention a little bit about this bill. After all, National says it supports it, but the member is making a raving speech about opposing the bill.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I was just about to wave the bill at the member; so perhaps he could refer to it.
DAVID BENNETT: Perhaps it is because the Minister has not read her own bill. Where does she think I got the words “greater powers to regulate”, “best value for money”, and “fair competition” from? I got it from her bill. I was talking about her bill. She has not even read it. She might join the New Zealand First Party next, if she has not even read her own bill.
The Labour Party talks terminology. It talks about things like “greater powers to regulate”. This is all about setting up a bureaucracy that Labour can put on New Zealand local government. This is another case of where the Government puts more and more rate demands on local government. Local government then has to meet those requirements, and the local consumers have to pay through the rates to regional
councils. This is what will happen here. The Government is setting up things like regional public transport plans to cover all these public transport issues. Is that not more compliance costs for local government? That is what it is. It is nothing to do with dealing with the issues. It is to do with setting up bureaucracy and compliance costs. That is what the Labour Party is about.
Another great aspect of this bill is that the Government is going to create—get this—a new public service. And what is it called? It is called the “public transport service”. Do we need the public transport service? No, we do not. We need transport that works. We do not need another public service set up by this Government, but Labour continues in that history of bureaucracy, setting up more and more Government quangos to tell people how to live their lives. This Government is just telling people how to live their lives. It will not actually give people the resources or the money so that they can live their lives. Its failure to do so will result in it having the same fate that Environment Waikato had last weekend.
DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki)
: I just want to take a very brief call to say that I am in support of the first reading of the Public Transport Management Bill. After that extraordinary speech from the temporary National Party member of Parliament for Hamilton East, I think that listeners need to have it made really clear to them that the National Party is voting in favour of the bill that its associate spokesperson on transport just ranted about, incomprehensibly, for 10 minutes. Considering the look of pride on the face of his colleagues, I am really pleased to have taken this very brief call.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport)
: I move,
That the Public Transport Management Bill be
considered by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, and the committee be required to report back to the House in 5 months’ time, on or before 14 March 2008, and that the committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting except during oral questions, and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 192 and 195(1)(b) and (c).