A review has found there was a failure by the country’s transport agency, NZTA, to properly regulate the transport sector.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the Government is acting swiftly to strengthen NZTA’s regulatory role.
“It found previous transport ministers had directed NZTA to focus on ‘building roads’ at the expense of keeping people safe,” he said.
The independent report found in the time period 2007-2015, the Ministry of Transport’s monitoring of NZTA was “not fit for purpose and would not have identified significant performance issues”. During that period National was in Government from late 2008 onwards.
The report said there had been no single cause for the failure, “but rather a series of underlying factors”.
The Government is adopting all recommendations of the report, including appointing a director responsible for all of NZTA’s regulatory functions and powers and allocating $45 million into NZTA’s regulatory function.
Two reviews were carried out, one which looked at the Ministry of Transport’s role in monitoring NZTA and another into NZTA’s regulatory performance.
Mr Twyford said the review was carried out to keep the public safe.
“There are real lessons to be learned so we can have confidence in NZTA. We’re cleaning up a mess here,” Mr Twyford told media this morning.
He said the systemic failure of NZTA’s regulatory role had been a contributing factor to the “blow out” of deaths and injuries on the road over the last 10 years.
The report described NZTA as treating those they were supposed to be regulating, such as WOF providers, as customers, instead of treating the travelling public as their customers.
Ministry of Transport’s chief executive Peter Mersi said the Minister shared responsibility for the regulatory failure, and called the report a “wake up call for the Ministry”.
He said prior to 2017, the Ministry’s monitoring function “wasn’t always able to capture information regarding NZTA’s regulatory performance, nor did we highlight our concerns to the Board in strong enough terms”.
NZTA board chair Brian Roche said work began to resolve the issues as soon as they were identified.
“Our regulatory function is already in a very different place. We have set a goal of becoming a best practice regulator and we will work relentlessly to get there.”
The report found there had been issues with NZTA including a lack of clear regulatory strategy, lack of regulatory scope, issues in decision making, applying sanctions and its focus.
In a statement National's transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says NZTA was a high performer under the previous National Government and the agency now, under Phil Twyford, is "dysfunctional".
“Nowhere in the review’s findings does it say that NZTA disregarded public safety, and for Phil Twyford to suggest otherwise is simply misleading," Mr Bishop says.
"In fact, the report actually says NZTA has a regulatory workforce that is passionate about land transport safety.
“Under National, the NZTA was renowned as one of the highest performing agencies in Australasia. Today, under Phil Twyford, it is dysfunctional.
“National is unashamedly focused on building safer, more efficient roads because safer roads save lives. The road toll was flat-to-falling during our term in Government.
“The current Government’s focus on building a slow tram in Auckland has come at the expense of delivering safer roads. It’s shameful that Phil Twyford has cancelled 12 roading projects across New Zealand that were ready to go, despite a $7.5 billion surplus. People will die unnecessarily because of this.”
The review was sparked by the death of passenger William Ball, 65, who was killed near Dargaville in January last year after his frayed seatbelt malfunctioned during a crash.