The NZ Transport Agency, which replaced Transit NZ and Land Transport NZ on August 1, 2008 has about 1300 staff in 11 offices across six regions. It has been set up to provide an integrated approach to transport planning, funding and delivery. It must develop national transport infrastructure through regional decision-making and will be responsible annually for Crown revenue of $2.8 billion and allocating $2 billion. Chief executive Geoff Dangerfield talks about the new agency and says a key priority will be to streamline the road-funding process. BY GAVIN RILEY
New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) chief executive Geoff Dangerfield says he has been given an opportunity to lead an organisation that will deliver important services to New Zealanders and be a major influence in shaping the transport sector’s future.
“It’s a demanding time for the transport sector, and that was one of the reasons I was attracted to this job,” says Dangerfield, previously head of the Ministry of Economic Development for seven years.
“A good transport system is vital for an efficient economy and for well-functioning communities, and the Government is looking for change – building adaptability and responsiveness in the sector to meet the environmental sustainability challenge, while keeping an eye firmly on value for money.”
Dangerfield says he wants to develop a culture of innovation and accountability at the NZTA, which he regards as more than just a merger of two organisations.
“We have the opportunity to not only build on the considerable strengths of Transit NZ and Land Transport NZ, but also to do some things more effectively.
“Transit had a strong ‘can do’ attitude and approach to getting things done. It developed good relationships in the way it worked with local government and with contractors. It enjoyed an international reputation for innovation.
“Land Transport developed well-considered decision-making processes and a broad view of transport options.
“My challenge is to retain these and other key strengths and bring them into the new organisation in ways that enhance our performance.”
Dangerfield says bringing together the functions of the two previous entities provides for an environment that will “reduce some of the churn and complexity of the funding process, making it more timely and effective”. It also allows the NZTA to assess the full suite of options to achieve the Government’s transport objectives, from investment and funding to state highway and network operations, to the broader regulatory environment.
“A key priority for the NZTA will be streamlining the funding process, making applications for the funding of projects easier and success more predictable – which will mean more certainty for the contracting industry,” he says.
Legislative changes have ensured the NZTA will approach developing national transport infrastructure through regional-decision-making. Regional transport committees are required to develop and prioritise a land-transport programme. The NZTA is a full member of those regional committees and will work with them to bring forward proposals to be included in regional programmes, including state-highway projects.
Dangerfield says the NZTA board, in developing the national land-transport programme, can only approve proposals contained in a regional programme.
“So this new process lifts the emphasis and importance of regional decision-making and the requirement of the NZTA to be fully engaged in the development of such plans. We are structuring the NZTA to have a strong regional presence. The appointment of six new regional directors will enable us to better focus on regional needs and engagement.”
He says it is his wish to maintain good relationships with his agency’s key stakeholders and he looks forward to building relationships with the contracting industry as a key partner in the NZTA’s effort to improve the country’s transport system.
“I am used to an environment of many stakeholder relationships and the transport sector is no different in that regard,” he says.
“By the same token, effective relationships work across a number of points of contact in organisations on a day-to-day basis, and I expect the members of my senior leadership team to be actively engaged in such relationships.”
He says he has observed as chief executive that the issues facing the NZTA are not new, even though the context is a little different from that in his last role. The CEO’s task is to lead the organisation to be successful and to create the environment for that to happen.
“I enjoy leading people and building an organisation’s capability to perform. I have had a lot of experience in leading complex public-sector organisations that work with the private sector, consumers, and local government. That experience will stand me in good stead as we develop the plan for the NZTA to give effect to the Government’s transport strategy.”
Raised and educated in Christchurch, 55-year-old Dangerfield has had a career in government service since obtaining an MSc in resource management at the University of Canterbury.
He worked first in the Ministry of Works and Development on assessing public-sector resource investment and regional
infrastructure projects, then in 1985 joined Treasury where he was employed on reforms to transform departmental trading activities into SOEs, and on primary sector and science policy.
From 1993 to 1995 he worked in the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as an adviser on economic and fiscal strategy and Treaty settlements. He then became deputy secretary to the Treasury in charge of the asset and liability and management branch, with responsibilities for the Crown’s investments and interests in state-owned enterprises and Crown financial institutions, and New Zealand’s foreign and domestic debt.
He became chief executive of the Ministry of Economic Development in May 2001.
Dangerfield has spent most of the past 30 years in Wellington. He and his wife Claire live in Wadestown (“in easy walking distance of work”). They have two teenage daughters at school and a son in his early 20s who is working in Japan for a year.
The family are keen trampers and skiers and have a hideaway in the Marlborough Sounds that is accessible only by boat.
Dangerfield says he has given up trying to resist Wellington’s winds and last year bought a “blokart” – a sand yacht for “a carbon-free adrenalin rush in the windy season”.
But he is not allowing himself to be blown away by the challenge of his NZTA role, even though he acknowledges it’s a big task and responsibility.
“I have felt a similar sense of challenge when starting out in other roles, but have found nothing better than getting on with the job to quell the sense of the enormity of it all and make progress towards my goals,” he says.
Who’s who on the NZTA board?
The New Zealand Transport Agency is governed by an eight-person board, headed by accountant Brian Roche and including members of the now defunct Transit and LTNZ boards. In developing the national land-transport programme, the NZTA board can only approve proposals contained in a regional programme. Members of the board are:
Contractor Vol.32 No.9 October 2008
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