Ministry Of Transport

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Minister briefing – change is coming

The NZTA have just published their Ministry of Transport and Transport Sector briefing documents designed for the incoming Ministers.

If there is a change of government or an appointment of a new Minister, a briefing document is written to help the incoming Ministers understand the key issues faced by their respective portfolios.

The Transport briefing underpins initial discussions between the Minister and the MoT’s management and Board.

It also provides fantastic insight as to what issues the motor industry may face in the upcoming years.

As Peter Mersi, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Transport, makes apparent in the document, new technologies are transforming the world around us. The number of electric vehicles, EVs, are on the rise. New business models are being developed by the motor industry as vehicles become smarter, safer and increasingly automated.

“The combination of new technologies, increasing movements of people and freight, road safety concerns, and environmental pressures will drive many changes,” says Peter Mersi. “While the transport sector as a whole is changing, the basic needs for transport won’t change any time soon.”

The briefing has identified key strategic challenges and opportunities for transport over both the next few years and the decades ahead.

Transport sector is undergoing rapid technological change

Our transport system will become increasingly connected, automated, shared and electric.

“The transport sector is going through an unprecedented period of innovation in vehicles, infrastructure, and services. Transport could be at the forefront of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – a fusion of the physical and digital worlds that is transforming how people live and work,” says the document.

In terms of the motor-industry, the document states that most car makers will be developing new business models to sell ‘mobility as a service’ instead of just selling vehicles.

“Fully autonomous vehicles, when they become widely available, are more likely to be operated as shared fleets instead of all individually-owned, making travel cheaper and more convenient, while requiring less infrastructure.”

Even though fully-autonomous vehicles are expected to be much safer there’s a while to wait until this technology is completely developed.

“The greatest technological safety benefits are likely to come from advanced driver-assistance systems such as automated emergency braking and collision avoidance systems. Connected vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies could also assist people to drive more safely, providing drivers with real-time information about road risks, speed limits, and current road conditions.”

The document also notes that New Zealanders’ will have to be willing to jump onto the technological bandwagon.

“Attitudes towards new transport technologies and services will also affect the speed of any transitions. New Zealanders are often quick to embrace new technologies, but also tend to prefer buying used vehicles. The average age of motorised vehicles in New Zealand is 14 years old. The widespread availability of shared vehicle fleets could accelerate the modernisation of vehicles, but only if attitudes towards vehicle ownership also change.”

Transport will be key to reaching climate change goals

New Zealand is committed under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Transport emissions have increased by 78 per cent since 1990 according to the latest national report from the Ministry of The Environment and Statistics New Zealand

The increasing vehicle movements are associated with growth in our population, tourism, and exports. It also reflects changing consumer preferences towards purchasing vehicles with larger engines.

“Widespread adoption of electric cars and other light vehicles would make the largest impact on transport emissions to 2030.”

“The slow turnover of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet may temper the speed of the transition to electric vehicles. We have one of the oldest vehicle fleets among developed nations. They are likely to wait until cheaper second-hand electric vehicles are available.”

The main barrier to the New Zealander’s buying EVs is the lack of confidence in the infrastructure, battery range and the upfront cost of new vehicles.

High private car use

“New Zealanders travel in many different ways, but the most common method is by private car. Almost 80 percent of household trips are made by car.”

“Over the last twenty years car use has grown, while the share of trips made by walking, cycling, and public transport has fallen. Even for short trips of two kilometres or less, which represent a third of vehicle trips, people use cars over 75 percent of the time.”

“New Zealand’s vehicle fleet has grown significantly since 2000, increasing almost 50 percent. New car sales hit a record in 2016, and we are on track to exceed this in 2017. We now have one of the highest car ownership rates in the world. Approximately 60 percent of cars added to the fleet each year are imported used vehicles.”

To encourage a shift in travel modes, the document states that New Zealand needs to invest in making alternatives to private car use more compelling.

“Vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing could become more popular, with people using smartphones and Mobility as a Service platforms to organise and pay for trips. However, it is unclear how readily New Zealanders will embrace these forms of shared transport,” said Mersi. 

To read the full briefing document click here.

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Auditor-General resigns

Martin Matthews at the International Transport Forum

Auditor-General Martin Matthews has resigned following heavy criticism over his handling of a Ministry of Transport fraud case committed under his leadership.

“It is with great regret that I have tendered my resignation as Controller and Auditor-General,” he said in a statement.

“The issues and speculation about how I handled matters in relation to the fraud committed on the Ministry of Transport during my term as CEO have made it untenable for me to continue in this role.”

Matthews, who served at the Ministry between 20018 and 2016, allegedly ignored requests from staff to investigate fraudulent activities by a Ministry employee.

While Matthew was CEO, a high-level staffer, Joanne Harrison, defrauded the government department of nearly $750,000 and secured employment for friends and family.

“I accept I am accountable for everything done in and by the Ministry when I was CEO, and I am ultimately responsible,” Matthews said.

An investigation into Matthews will be tabled in Parliament this afternoon.

Matthews resignation follows public calls for his removal from the Auditor-General position from all sides of the political spectrum. NZ first leader Winston Peters said he government was too slow to move on this issue and earlier this week Green Party co-leader James Shaw stated that Matthews conduct made him unfit for the office he held.

 Matthews said he resigned due to the high level of public trust expected of the Auditor-General role.

“It is important to me, and to the office, that the public has complete confidence in the person holding the position of Auditor-General.”

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SSC pledges “redress” for whistleblowers

The State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has published the report of the investigation into former Ministry of Transport (MoT) worker Joanne Harrison.

The investigation, carried out by former Deputy State Services Commissioner Sandi Beatie QSO, was announced after mounting pressure from the public regarding Harrison’s treatment of two former MoT staffers. The employees claimed they were forced out from the government department after raising concerns about Harrison’s behaviour to senior management.

Harrison was failed for three years in February for defrauding the MoT of over $720,000.

Hughes took over the investigation, originally managed by the Secretary for Transport, after the affected staff raised their concerns with him.

“It is vital that public servants can raise concerns about suspected wrong-doing safely and without fear of punishment or reprisal,” Mr Hughes said.

Hughes has apologised both publicly and to the affected staff members, and “agreed with them a package of redress and settlement for the disadvantage they suffered.”

Beatie found that three former staff members in the Ministry’s finance team raised concerns about Harrison’s behavariour, and one employee formally raised concerns with a senior member in the MoT legal department.

The report stated that these staff were not made redundant due to these concerns, but to the Ministry moving to an automated accounts payable process, which was properly planned and authorised and that Harrison had no control over.

However, Beatie found the employees suffered disadvantage and unnecessary hurt and humiliation during the redundancy process, which Harrison had provided advice for. The staff members were made redundant just before Christmas, over seven months before the new automated payroll system was due to come into effect.

The former employees also had to train a temporary staff member to perform their jobs, and one had a new offer employment made and withdrawn.

“While decisions were properly made by the appropriate finance group managers and endorsed by the chief executive, the process followed and particularly the timing of the redundancies was based on advice from Joanne Harrison,” said Hughes.

“While there is no definitive evidence that Joanne Harrison engineered the process to exit these staff, the convergence of events that took place and her involvement in providing advice gives me cause for concern.”

A fourth staff member, who had raised concerns about Harrison’s activities with the Ministry’s chief executive, was also disadvantaged after Harrison took direct action to prevent them from receiving pay rises recommended to them on two separate occasions, the report said.

The Commissioner referred that case to the Secretary of Transport to “remedy the situation and make up for the loss of income they suffered.”

Hughes has also recommended the 17-year-old Protected Disclosures Act be updated by the government, and published new standards for public servants wanting to raise concerns about fellow staff members.

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MoT and BusinessNZ in transport study

The Ministry of Transport and BusinessNZ are partnering to produce a study into how transport innovation can benefit the New Zealand economy, said transport minister Simon Bridges.

“The potential of self-driving cars and their associated economic opportunities are often the focus of research and investment, but there are many other aspects of the transport system which present economic opportunities,” he said.

“I want to see businesses positioned to flourish in New Zealand as intelligent transport systems (ITS) are commercialised.”

An advisory group, chaired by Opus chief executive Dr David Prentice, will oversee the study. The group includes representatives from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and other private and public sectors.

Bridges said the study is expected to be finished at the end of the year, and will “make recommendations for how we can develop and grow ITS market opportunities where we have a competitive advantage, and identify areas to be strengthened.”

“There are companies in New Zealand already working in the growing ITS market, as well as companies who could do so,” Bridges said. “A number of international companies have also expressed interest in developing their ITS technologies in New Zealand.”

The Ministry of Transports first Government ITS Plan was launched in June 2014, which facilitated the roll-out of ITS over four years, with most targets intended to be achieved by 2018 .

Government actions announced in 2014 covered a wide range of transport-related issues, including mandating Electronic Stability Control, a centrally-managed road speed limit map, introducing card-based ticketing schemes on public transport, and developing next generation SmartGate technology at Customs.

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Macindoe to attend transport forum

Associate transport minister Tim Macindoe

Associate transport minister Tim Macindoe is in Germany to attend the 2017 International Transport Forum Summit of Transport Ministers.

The summit, which is held from May 31 to June 2, will bring members from 57 countries together to identify challenges in the transport sector worldwide and explore trends shaping transport governance.

“I look forward to being able to further strengthen the connections we have with our international counterparts and to be part of shaping the transport policy agenda on a global level,” Macindoe said.

The associate minister will speak on a panel on regulation for AVs and autonomous driving.

“If automated and autonomous vehicles are adequately managed they have the potential significantly to improve road safety and reduce road trauma in New Zealand, so it is vital to be part of this global discussion,” he said.

“During the panel session I will be looking both to promote New Zealand’s regulatory framework, which allows and encourages innovation, and to learn from the experiences of other members.”

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Harrison altered CV for MoT job

Fraudster Joanne Harrison had lied on her CV to secure her senior position at the Ministry of Transport, journalists have discovered.

News website Stuff reported last night that Harrison had deleted her role at a council where concerns had been raised about her employment history from her CV.

The fallout from the Ministry of Transport fraud case escalated last week, and Harrison’s former boss, the current Auditor-General Martin Matthews, stepped aside as a new investigation was announced by the State Services Commissioner.

A host of documents, including Harrison’s travel expenses and CV, have been made public by the Ministry of Transport as an investigation into the fraud continues.

She also appeared to have completed a personality test which measured “normal personality characteristics” and “career derailment risks.”

Harrison successfully applied to work at the ministry after an unsuccessful attempt in 2008. Her first application featured her work experience at a Far North District Council. In her second attempt, however, she removed all mention of it.

She was the general manager for ‘customer focus and culture’ at Far North until 2008. Previous to this, she used the name Joanne Sharp and worked at Tower Insurance.

She also claimed to have worked for Corrections, and the ministry is now investigating this.

The Ministry of Transport told Stuff on Monday that because Harrison was not shortlisted for the role in 2008, she was not on any records when she applied again three years later.

Investigators are also trying to determine why Harrison took $42,672 worth of domestic taxpayer-funded flights, and two flights to Manchester at a cost of over $18,000.

Concerns were also raised in 2014 about the lack of contracts Harrison provided for suppliers, Stuff said. Harrison also signed off on deals without consulting the legal team, provoking further suspicion.

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State Services Commission to investigate MoT fraud

The State Services Commission will take over the investigation from the Ministry of Transport into Joanne Harrison’s fraud case.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said today he was stepping in due to mounting public concern in the case.

“Public servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal,” he told news website Stuff.

“If public servants raised genuine concerns through proper channels and were then disadvantaged in any way because of it, that would be completely unacceptable and something I view very seriously,” he said.

This comes on the same day Auditor-General Martin Matthews, who was the CEO of the transport ministry at the time Harrison committed the fraud, will appear in front of MPs at a Parliament committee meeting.

The investigation will be carried out by Sandi Beatie, QSO, who will report to the State Services Commissioner.

“Ms Beatie is a very experienced and highly regarded former senior Public Servant and Deputy State Services Commissioner,” Hughes said.

“If anyone feels they were disadvantaged by Ms Harrison during their employment at the Ministry of Transport I ask them to come forward so the matter can be investigated.”

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Former MoT workers describe axing by Harrison

Two former transport ministry workers have described how they were forced out of the ministry after alerting other staff about Joanne Harrison’s fraudulent behaviour.

The whistleblowers explained to RNZ how they informed senior managers about fake invoices and travel expenses and were then targeted in a restructure led by Harrison.

Harrison was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison in February for stealing $723,000 from the Ministry of Transport.

As well as the embezzled funds, Harrison secured a high-profile job for her husband at another government agency and got another job for a friend, who was on the ministry’s payroll for 10 months without doing any work.

One employee first raised concerns in 2015 after receiving an invoice for Mazarine Associates.

“We couldn’t find anything about them – they had no website, there was no phone number or email address on the invoice,” the former staff member told RNZ.

“I also raised questions about it in a team meeting about this invoice at the time, I said ‘it’s a very unprofessional invoice’ and as it turned out this is one of the ones she used to embezzle a lot of money from the ministry.”

It later emerged that over $500,000 of funds was funnelled to Mazarine and a second consulting form, both of which never existed.

The second employee also shared concerns about the fake invoices and informed then-CEO Martin Matthews about a trip Harrison took to the UK to attend conference, which had been cancelled.

“I’ve got no doubt, in my own mind, but they’ve probably covered themselves – the way they do when they do restructures,” they said.

“When we raised issues sometimes, we were told ‘you’re only here to pay the invoices, and if they’re signed and approved that’s all you have to worry about’.”

The former staff members were then let go during December, the busiest time of year for the ministry’s finance division, and immediately replaced by a temp worker.

Both employees are dissatisfied with the inquiry established by the Ministry of Transport CEO Peter Mersi, and have written to the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes requesting an independent investigation.

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MoT to investigate fraud

The Ministry of Transport has launched another investigation into jailed fraudster Joanne Harrison, following allegations from former staff that she had forced them out.

Harrison, a former senior member of the ministry, was sentenced to three years and seven months in jail in February for three counts of dishonesty while using a document.

This new investigation follows the ministry’s release of numerous documents detailing how Harrison defrauded the government of nearly $750,000 and secured jobs for friends and family.

RNZ reports that one friend was given a job at the ministry through Harrison and was on the payroll for 10 months, but never turned up or did any work. The associate was discovered on security cameras trying unsuccessfully to enter the building.

The ministry is now pursuing the former staff member to recover the wages.

“You never report to the office and there is no evidence of you doing any work for us,” then-CEO Martin Matthews wrote to the associate in a document.

Other instances of fraudulent behaviour have been uncovered by the media. It was discovered that Harrison also arranged a job with a $100,000 salary for her husband at the ministry without disclosing their marriage.

Public attention towards the case, pressure from Labour MP Sue Moroney, and new revelations found in the released documents has led CEO Peter Mersi to launch an investigation into allegations made by former staff members that Harrison had suspicious staff forced out of the ministry.

“Senior officials of the ministry accepted that this restructuring resulted in people who had tried to blow the whistle on Harrison, losing their jobs,” Moroney said in March.

“The ministry argued that she was ‘very premeditated’ in her crimes, but this doesn’t answer why in spite of eight warnings she was never stopped until the Auditor General’s Office became involved.”

Mersi told 1News they have learned from Harrison’s long-running fraud.

“We did undertake a number of independent reviews both into her actions and into our systems and processes to ensure that going forward we’re in a position where we’re confident about the way in which our money is spent and the way in which public money is spent,” he said.

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New commissioner for TAIC

A new appointment has been made within the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC).

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced today Paula Rose’s appointment as a commissioner for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC).

As a professional director, Rose brings a strong background in governance and senior management. She has enjoyed a long career in policing, including a period of time as member of the National Road Safety Management Group.

Rose was an independent reviewer for the Independent Police Conduct Authority and was also awarded Companion of the Queens Service Order (QSO) in the 2013 New Year Royal Honours for contribution to policing and the community.

“This appointment will ensure TAIC’s board continues to have the mix of skills and experience it needs,” Bridges says.

Rose has been appointed until June 2018. The Governor-General appoints Commissioners to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) on recommendation of the Minister of Transport.

The role of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission is to determine the circumstances and causes of accidents, to help avoid similar occurrences in the future.



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The future for NZ vehicles

With the majority of vehicle manufacturers working on autonomous technology, it is no surprise that self-driving vehicles are part of the future.


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