As a Ministry we have experienced some real transport highs and lows over the past 12 months, but few of us could forget the events of 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011.
Since the tragic Canterbury earthquakes, the government has committed to rebuilding Christchurch as quickly as possible. The Ministry of Transport (the Ministry) contributed to the government’s response by activating the Ministry’s Transport Response Team within 15 minutes of the earthquake on 22 February to help provide vital transport information to the National Crisis Management Centre based at the Beehive.
The Christchurch earthquakes remind us of the need for a resilient and flexible transport system that contributes to economic growth and productivity. Throughout 2010/11 the Ministry has continued to contribute to the government’s priority areas for transport, which are economic growth and productivity, value for money and road safety.
A new Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding was released in July 2011, and sets the agenda for government transport expenditure for the decade commencing 2012/13. The Government Policy Statement is one of the main tools for ensuring that land transport investment is targeted in the right areas to deliver economic growth and productivity.
A key focus for lifting economic growth and productivity is improving transport infrastructure and services. Assessments of the Air New Zealand–Virgin Blue Alliance, Auckland CBD rail tunnel and Clifford Bay proposals were three major projects completed by the Ministry. Each of these represented a complex and significant transport issue for New Zealand that required the Ministry to deliver impartial, robust analysis and advice.
Continuing to improve the safety of our roads remains a high priority. In May this year the first Safer Journeys Action Plan was launched. This is a 2 year plan setting out more than 100 key actions that road safety partners will take to help create a safer road safety system for New Zealand. There are already a number of positive signs that indicate the government’s focus on road safety is having an impact. For the 6 months to the end of June 2011, the road toll was at 139. This is significantly lower than at the same time last year (60 fewer deaths). The Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Bill was also passed in May, representing the most significant road safety package since 1998. Changes included raising the minimum driving age to 16, and introducing a zero blood alcohol concentration for drivers aged under 20 years.
The examples I have highlighted above evidence the benefits that flow from our flexibility and project management discipline, which is the result of operating as a professional services ministry. Over the past 12 months the Ministry has been far more nimble at responding to the highest transport priorities for the government, and we are efficient at forming teams and doing a good job in good time. This is a credit to all of the staff of the Ministry who have been actively engaged in supporting our more flexible, project based, operating model.
I believe the Ministry’s experience of the professional services approach could offer a prototype for a new way of working that has relevance for the wider public sector. There is great scope in the public sector to better combine skills between agencies and apply them to projects or programmes at a whole of government level, and I am happy to contribute to any conversations to explore the wider relevance of the Ministry’s experience.