2 Jan 2018

Road tripping with the Minister of Transport

From Summer Times 2020/2021, 11:10 am on 2 January 2018

Choosing music for a road trip is a lot like politics, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford – "you've got to take people with you, right?"

Phil Twyford

Phil Twyford Photo: Twitter / Phil Twyford

Although Phil tends to choose the music, he tells Megan Whelan that his wife Jo always has the power of veto.

While he does sing along, but won't be entering any competitions any time soon.

"I'm a really bad singer. One of the first rules of politics is 'never sing in public' and dancing is close behind."

Some of Phil's favourite road trips are around East Cape, the West Coast and Central Otago. He and Jo also have a real soft spot for Northland.

"Lots of our early summer holidays and road trips were around Hokianga and the Far North."

Cape Reinga

Photo: rafaelbenari/123RF

Phil recalls the criticism levelled at the Labour Party and the Green Party for opposing the motorway between Pūhoi and Warkworth in 2014.

"We thought essentially National were on a sort of motorway binge, blowing billions of dollars on projects that they never even had a proper sort of economic value case for ... but nine years passed and that was enough for them to build that highway. 

"We were never against fixing up the road and improving the safety and making it a better road, we just thought it was a bit of a gold-plated, extremely expensive option."

Off-road and on track

Auckland Transport’s artists visualisations for the proposed light rail service.

An artist's visualisation of Auckland's proposed light rail service Photo: Supplied

As Transport Minister, Phil has been pushing for more freight to be shipped by rail and sea in an effort to free up the roads. 

"It'll also save the planet by reducing carbon emissions."

He says he's confident that can be achieved even up against a very vocal truck lobby. 

In addition to freight, the government is looking at building a stronger public transport system for Auckland that will include living up to his party's promises to build light rail through the city and to the airport within 10 years

"It will mean that people have an alternative to spending hours sitting in their cars on motorways, and it will actually mean that motorways and roads will move more freely as well.

"It won't happen overnight and it will cost money, but I think actually Aucklanders get this and enough of us travel to other cities – you know, even places like Perth and Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne, they're ... two or three decades ahead of us on this sort of stuff."

But first, safety

No caption

Photo: Creative commons

Road safety campaigns have raised public awareness and only a small group of people take risks, but a culture change is still needed, Phil says.

"We do need to make sure everybody wears seatbelts, we shouldn't be texting while driving, we shouldn't be drinking or taking drugs while we're driving – all those things – but there's kind of a level of frailty or human stupidity. 

"That's not to say you let people off the hook of responsibility for behaving like adults, but I think it means that we need to invest more in making the environment safer because you recognise that there's going to be a level of idiocy in life in general. 

"My Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter of the Greens, she's responsible for road safety and she's already leading some really great thinking in this area. 

"I think what you're going to see from the new government is some smarter and targeted investment into the things that can save lives – so putting more money into things like high-risk roads and intersections to make them safer. 

"Barriers are a really important part of it, and there are a number of other road design things that we can do to make roads safer.

"I think one of the first things that we should do is start talking about road deaths. 'Road toll' is a euphemism, actually. These are people who are dying unnecessarily ... and we've got to get serious about fixing it. 

"There are lots of other countries who have been smarter about this than we have, and we could learn things from them."

Phil's playlist:

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly Photo: Supplied

  • 'Teenage Kicks' by The Undertones: "When I was 17 I spent a year living in California and I saw The Undertones in San Francisco with a bunch of friends ... for me, it's very resonant of that time ... super high-energy, kind of driving, wind the windows down and sing at the top of your lungs."
  • 'The Promised Land' by Bruce Springsteen: "We saw him. We lived in the States for a few years and we saw him at Giants Stadium in New York and we saw him when that album came out, The Rising, after 9/11 ... The Boss still does it for me."
  • 'How to Make Gravy' by Paul Kelly: "Making good gravy is a very important life skill, and you know, if you are cooking a roast, for example, which is in the Paul Kelly song, it's the pan juices that are the secret to it – and really good stock. And there's a bit of technique, of course."
  • 'Metal Firecracker' by Lucinda Williams: "I've been a bit Lucinda fan for a long time, seen her live a few times, and this is one of my favourite songs of hers."
  • 'In My Room' by The Mutton Birds "It's a special song for me because I've always loved Don [McGlashan]'s work, and this is the ultimate song about the small domestic details. You know, [it] just captures something about Don's work over the years."

Check out the full Summer Times road trip playlist:

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