Item not on the Agenda
Regional Transport Committee
15 December 2023
Oliver Haycock, Manager, Transport Planning
This report provides key updates likely to be of interest to members of the Regional Transport Committee.
Included in this report are updates on the GPS for Land Transport, the national issue of safety on rural school buses, Waka Kotahi’s decision to pause the Transport Choices Programme and a letter recently received from the Minister for Transport.
That the Regional Transport Committee:
1 Receives the report, Chairperson's Report and accepts it as an Item not on the Agenda. Notes the reason why this item was not on the Agenda is that Notes that the reason this item is not on the agenda is the information was provided after the agenda was prepared, and cannot be delayed due to the timely nature of the information
2 Delegates authority to the Chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Transport Committee to review and sign a letter in support of addressing the issues associated with rural school bus safety.
1. Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS)
Staff have been informed that the new Minister for Transport, Hon Simeon Brown, is expected to do a press release by mid-next week (week commencing 18 December) which will set out the strategic priorities and expectations that will be included in the new draft GPS 2024.
It is anticipated that the new draft GPS will be released by mid-February for consultation. Staff may get an earlier indication of content but that will depend on how long the internal Government consultation takes between the coalition partners. It is expected that the consultation period will be short.
The activity classes for the next period of the National Land Transport Fund are still being formulated in conjunction with indicative funding ranges and we will likely not see these until the new draft GPS is released.
The Ministry of Transport are aware of the current timeframes for RLTP consultation, and it is our understanding that they do not want the process to stop. The biggest issue that staff anticipate will be dealing with changes in activity classes and potential definitions.
Staff have worked through this type of issue in the past and will remain dynamic over the coming months, keeping the Committee abreast of developments.
2. Rural School Bus Safety
The issue of rural school bus safety was raised at a recent meeting of the South Island RTC Chairs. The Chairman of Environment Canterbury (also Chair of the Canterbury RTC) is championing this issue.
Given the view that this is a national issue, Chair Scott is proposing to gain support of all RTC Chairs to bring this matter before the Minister of Education and Minister of Transport.
2.1 Overview of the Issue
In many regions around New Zealand, dedicated school buses serve rural areas to transport children to and from academic institutions. Several safety concerns relating to rural school buses were highlighted at a recent meeting of the South Island RTC Chairs:
1. There is no requirement for rural school buses to be fitted with seatbelts.
There is no requirement for buses to be fitted with safety restraints, and this extends to school buses. This issue is of particular concern for rural school buses, due to the tendency for these vehicles to travel at open road speeds, covering greater distances. In addition, the legal carrying capacity of buses is not limited to the number of seats, so children are permitted to stand on rural school services.
2. There are dangers for children when walking to and from the bus.
As rural bus stops tend to be in locations with open road speeds, children are exposed to an environment with a higher level of inherent risk from passing vehicles. While other road users are legally obliged to pass stationary school buses at 20km/h, anecdotally there is an element of disregard for this rule and enforcement is challenging.
2.2 Potential Implications
A paper prepared by the Ministry of Transport stated that “given the age of buses in New Zealand, retrofitting seatbelts would be difficult and costly with floor and superstructure strengthening required.”
In some regions, the same vehicles are used to support both urban and rural bus services. In these instances, there could be the need to fit many vehicles with seatbelts, unless dedicated vehicles can be used for rural school services.
It should be noted that the Bay of Plenty Regional Council does not currently administer any rural school bus services. In the Bay of Plenty, rural school services are administered either by the Ministry of Education or directly by schools.
It should also be noted that should the Ministry of Education or individual schools withdraw from providing rural school services in the Bay of Plenty, there could be a community expectation that the Regional Council would take over the administration of these services. In this instance, the Regional Council would inherit the financial and logistical challenge of implementing and managing any change in Central Government policy regarding rural school bus safety.
2.3 Next Steps
At the time of writing this paper, the proposed letter to the Minister of Education and Minister of Transport has not been circulated for comment.
Members of the Regional Transport Committee should therefore discuss whether they provide in principle support on this issue, and whether they delegate authority and discretion to the Chair of the RTC to review and sign a letter in support of addressing the issues associated with rural school bus safety on behalf of the Committee.
3. Transport Choices Funding – Rotorua Refresh
In mid-October, it became apparent that Waka Kotahi was considering a rationalisation of projects that would receive financial support through the Transport Choices Package (TCP). This fund was being used to deliver the ‘Enhanced Bus Network in Rotorua’ in collaboration with Rotorua Lakes Council.
In response to this, in his capacity of RTC Chair, Councillor Thurston sent a letter to David Spiers at Waka Kotahi outlining the benefits of this project and imploring that the funding be retained. Her Worship Mayor Tapsell also signed this letter. A copy of this correspondence can be found in Attachment 1.
Waka Kotahi have subsequently advised that the TCP fund is on hold, pending direction from the new Government.
4. Letter from the Minister for Transport
On 12 December 2023, RTC Chair Councillor Thurston received a letter from the Minister for Transport, Hon Simeon Brown. This letter instructed RTC’s to cease work on the development of Regional Speed Management Plans, as the Government intends to replace “Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022” with a new rule as part of the new Government’s 100-day commitments. The letter also signals the Government’s desire to publish new objectives for road safety.
The Minister has also instructed Waka Kotahi to end all work on vehicle kilometre travelled (VKT) reduction programmes funded from the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and to not commit any further funding to local authorities (beyond existing contractual obligations) to develop these programmes.
A full copy of the Minister’s letter can be found in Attachment 2 of this report. Also a letter received from Waka Kotahi’s Director of Land Transport is provided in Attachment 3, highlighting the changes to the “Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022” rule.
Attachment 1 - Rotorua Transport Choices Package ⇩
Attachment 2 - Hon Simeon Brown MInister of Transport letter - 12 December 2023 ⇩
Attachment 3 - Director of Land Transport Update - 13 December 2023 ⇩