The Bud­get for truck­ing: Pos­i­tives... and dis­ap­point­ments

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

THE GOV­ERN­MENT’S HUGE $50BILLION COVID-19 re­cov­ery bud­get has pos­i­tives and dis­ap­point­ments alike for New Zealand’s truck­ing in­dus­try, in Road Trans­port Fo­rum chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Leggett’s opin­ion.

And he sees two as­pects of the Bud­get’s job cre­ation mea­sures that are in­ter­est­ing: “The in­dus­try will be very pleased to read about sig­nif­i­cantly more sup­port to trades train­ing and a greater in­fra­struc­ture spend.”

Prior to the Bud­get, Leggett had been call­ing for a big com­mit­ment to spend­ing on much-needed road­ing projects as part of the Gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery plan.

In his re­ac­tion to the Bud­get, he says: “In­fra­struc­ture is a tried and true lever to cre­ate jobs – both as an eco­nomic stim­u­lant and to en­hance ca­pac­ity for greater pro­duc­tiv­ity over the long term.

“So it is not sur­pris­ing to see a fur­ther $3bil­lion to fund in­fra­struc­ture projects. This comes from the $50billion the Gov­ern­ment has set aside in this Bud­get to re­cover from COVID-19.

“This in­fra­struc­ture spend is in ad­di­tion to the pre­vi­ously an­nounced $12bil­lion NZ Up­grade Pro­gramme. The Gov­ern­ment’s In­fra­struc­ture In­dus­try Ref­er­ence Group is giv­ing ad­vice to Min­is­ters on which projects should progress.

“As al­ways, we ad­vo­cate for spend­ing on roads, to en­sure freight can move ef­fi­ciently and more safely around NZ to the ports and air­ports that take it to our ex­port mar­kets. Ex­ports will be a mas­sive contributo­r to our eco­nomic re­cov­ery.”

His over­all take on the in­fra­struc­ture el­e­ment of the Bud­get? “We sup­port the in­fra­struc­ture spend but we want to be sure it is more than big an­nounce­ments.

“We want con­fi­dence that there is the ca­pa­bil­ity and ca­pac­ity in NZ to pull off th­ese big projects in a timely fash­ion and within bud­get.”

On the other hand, says Leggett: “We are dis­ap­pointed to see NZ First grab more money for rail projects that don’t stack up – to the tune of $4.6bil­lion.”

The week prior to the Bud­get, he points out, two rail lines were ruled out by Ki­wiRail as un­eco­nomic: “The Gis­borne to Wairoa freight line didn’t stack up. And $250,000 was spent to find the ob­vi­ous – that a pas­sen­ger line from Hok­i­tika to West­port on the South Is­land’s West Coast came at an un­re­al­is­tic price of $92mil­lion. That would leave pas­sen­gers pay­ing $400 for the re­turn trip on a train.

And, he adds: “Now, more than ever, the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of in­fra­struc­ture projects must stack up so they aid our na­tion’s re­cov­ery.”

Leggett says that “quite rightly”, the Bud­get fo­cused on jobs – “as we look at about 1000 peo­ple a day join­ing the un­em­ploy­ment queue. Many of th­ese are peo­ple who have never been un­em­ployed, and have not pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced poverty.”

He is pleased too to see an ex­ten­sion of the wage sub­sidy – “al­though the thresh­old for the fur­ther eight weeks of wage sub­sidy is a 50% yearon-year re­duc­tion in the busi­ness’s in­come, as op­posed to the orig­i­nal 30% re­duc­tion. For busi­nesses in that si­t­u­a­tion, you have to won­der about their vi­a­bil­ity go­ing for­ward.”

Leggett sees a po­ten­tial win for truck­ing in the Bud­get’s goal “to cre­ate jobs at a time many NZers are fac­ing un­em­ploy­ment. We sup­port train­ing and re-train­ing as one path to em­ploy­ment and we be­lieve road freight trans­port can make a strong con­tri­bu­tion to this.

“As the RTF hopes to em­bark on a road freight trans­port-spe­cific train­ing scheme later this year – Path­way to Suc­cess – we hope the Bud­get al­lo­ca­tion to trades train­ing ($1.6bil­lion for a Trades and Ap­pren­tice­ships Train­ing Pack­age to help work­places re­tain their trainees) will have some ca­pac­ity for our in­dus­try.

“We have af­ter all, demon­strated our­selves as a crit­i­cal in­dus­try to our coun­try’s econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly in the minds of the pub­lic.”

T&D

Road Trans­port Fo­rum chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Leggett

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