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Legislation puts Transfund under political control

By Christine Nikiel

Friday 2nd May 2003

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The power of the country's road transport funding decisionmaker, government body Transfund, will diminish if the new Land Transport Management Bill becomes law in its present form.

Concerns over Transfund's relevance under the new bill have been raised by the transport industry, worried that the bill allows for such extensive ministerial control that Transfund's independence in making funding allocation decisions could easily be overruled.

"How relevant is Transfund going to be, given that the PM and the Transport Minister are making all the decisions?" Road Transport Forum chief executive officer Tony Friedlander said.

One industry expert asked whether Transfund would become another Building Industry Authority, in the news recently for its slack performance in leadership over the leaky-building crisis, and slide into just another government-run department.

"Is Transfund becoming just a bank?"

New Transfund chief executive Wayne Donnelly would not comment on whether Transfund would still be relevant under the bill.

Mr Donnelly would not be drawn on Transfund's future and independence under the bill, saying only that his brief was to allocate government transport resources for transport projects in New Zealand.

"We're operating in a way that achieves the objectives of the National land transport strategy ­ that's the direction we're heading. Transfund is just assisting in the process."

Asked whether Transfund would still be relevant under the proposed bill, Mr Donnelly would only say he had taken on the position of chief executive in Wellington because he believed there was a lot of work to be done.

Transfund is charged with allocating funds from the National Roads Account from applications made by road builder Transit and approving competitive pricing procedures for building and maintenance tenders.

Mr Donnelly said Transfund was preparing its 10-year forecast, the programme for next year and its performance agreement for the Ministry of Transport and the government.

Mr Donnelly was instrumental in the Penlink public private partnership (PPP) initiative, a proposal to toll a two-lane bridge in North Auckland's Rodney District. But without proper government legislation the initiative sank and the Rodney District Council returned tenders unopened.

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