Collaboration in the transport sector is making value for money sustainable – the ultimate goal for funders and the community.

A series of national projects led by the Road Efficiency Group (REG) designed to address the high variability in service and costs in the national transport network supports savings through better asset management and procurement practice.

REG is a partnership of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and 68 road controlling authorities including the Department of Conservation and city and district councils.

Former LGNZ chief executive Malcolm Alexander, who stepped down from the role in September 2020, believes REG projects have saved the country millions of dollars.

“This is not marginal stuff. This is millions of dollars going into better investment into roads, but also freeing up capital to do other stuff.”

Alexander also served on the REG board and said its projects meant councils had more money to spend on other services like three waters or libraries.

“It’s not just a pay-off for roads, it's an infrastructure and community pay off. I'm making that dollar go further because I'm using that capital a smarter way.”

REG standardised the performance of New Zealand roads by creating the One Network Road Classification (ONRC) in 2013. The ONRC system divided New Zealand’s roads into six categories based on how busy they are and whether they connect to important destinations. The classifications are based on traffic volumes, the higher the volume the more significant to the country as a whole.

Using the ONRC, road networks across the country can be compared, and investment directed where it is needed most. As a result, New Zealanders can get the right level of road infrastructure where it is needed, determined by a robust, impartial, nationally consistent tool designed to standardise road performances across the national road network and promote economic growth.

Before the ONRC system was developed, road controlling authorities invested in their networks where they thought best.

In 2015, REG asked Hamilton software specialist Company-X to build the ONRC Performance Measures Reporting Tool (ONRC PMRT). Central and local government import roading data into the online tool and can easily see their performance against safety, amenity, cost efficiency and other measures.

Waka Kotahi and 68 road controlling authorities including the Department of Conservation and city and district councils can see their data and how their transport network performs against their peer group, region or the nation.

Asset managers across New Zealand use the online tool to develop business cases for Regional Land Transport Plans.

The ONRC PMRT project created the world-leading national roading database. As a result of seeing a variance in the data, REG established a framework to measure, monitor and report data quality across road controlling authorities nationally. REG then developed a work programme to help with data quality improvements. A suite of 63 metrics is interrogating the data for each road controlling authority. Each metric looks at data quality in terms of accuracy, completeness, and timeliness.

Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships Jim Harland is chair of the REG Board.

Harland described the success of the REG projects as based on the trust built between Waka Kotahi and local government, and the resulting collaboration.

“In doing this work, we are clear on performance around different components in the network and we are clear on the value for money on the investment that goes in,” Harland said.

“We've also got an understanding of how competent the sector is to develop capability in their teams. Which means that they're equipped to use the tools that we're talking about.”

Andrew McKillop and Dawn Inglis
Waka Kotahi Manager Partnership Programmes Andrew McKillop, left, with former Road Efficiency Group chair Dawn Inglis

Manager Partnership Programmes at Waka Kotahi Andrew McKillop leads the multiple projects within the REG Programme.

“The whole philosophy is about enabling people to come and join the programme and make a difference,” McKillop said.

“With that, there's also providing growth and leadership opportunity for members of the sector through the REG programme.

“In REG it doesn't really matter who you are. Our big focus is actually setting up that environment so that people can work with their peers, come up with innovative ideas, and implement those ideas.”

Former REG Evidence and Outcomes Group chair Dawn Inglis said the collaborative roading sector projects had enabled evidence-based decision making across the whole roading network.

“So many people in our sector are thinking innovatively outside of what they have always done and are willing to share their knowledge and experience,” Inglis said.

“There’s a real commitment to work together and to help if people need it. I think the other thing to me is leadership – within the REG programme, we've had some amazing leaders.”

McKillop reflected on multiple team members who have helped to ensure the ONRC PMRT remains fit-for-purpose. “Our people get involved because there’s such a great opportunity for national cooperation and coordination to make the whole system more efficient.

“We very fortunate to have really passionate people who want to put in their own time to make things happen.”