Transport is a critical part of daily life for all New Zealanders, enabling a range of activities and making a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth and productivity.

Effective transport enables travel to and from work, access to services, visits to family and friends, and allows businesses, regions and cities to be productive and well-connected.

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1. Recognising the importance of our land transport network, over $3.0 billion of New Zealanders’ money is spent through the National Land Transport Fund (the Fund) each year. This investment is accompanied by a further $1.0 billion of local government investment. The Government Policy Statement on land transport (the GPS) sets out the strategy for this investment, and the results the Government wants to achieve from it over the next 10 years.

2. About a third of the funding incorporated in GPS 2015 involves investment undertaken jointly with local government. This includes funding for local roads, public transport, walking and cycling, safety promotion and system management. The GPS signals what the Government wants to achieve in these joint funding areas.This enables local government to frame its investment plans to integrate with the Government’s priorities while giving effect to their own statutory purpose. That purpose is to deliver infrastructure and services that meet the current and future needs of communities in the most cost effective way for households and businesses.

3. GPS 2015 continues the approach started in 2009 of putting the wealth-generating capacity of our economy at the top of the agenda. It focuses on investments that will improve connectivity and reduce the costs of doing business. It maintains the impetus on improving the safety of travel, and puts a spotlight on the continued delivery of measurable value from land transport investment.

4. The national strategic direction for land transport is as follows:

To drive improved performance from the land transport system by focussing on:

  • economic growth and productivity
  • road safety
  • value for money.

5. This strategic direction has been informed by the Government’s national policy priorities. These are:

  • building a more competitive and productive economy
  • rebuilding Christchurch
  • delivering better public services within tight financial constraints
  • responsibly managing the Government’s finances.

6. Elements of these national policies are reflected in five documents relevant to the GPS:

  • the Business Growth Agenda, with its focus on growing our export capacity
  • the National Infrastructure Plan, with its focus on improving the use of the existing network before extending the network, and better allocation of new investment when the network is extended
  • the New Zealand Energy Efficiency Conservation Strategy, with its focus on a more energy efficient transport system with a greater diversity of fuels and alternative energy technologies
  • Connecting New Zealand, with its focus on improving the efficiency of our transport networks
  • Safer Journeys(external link), with its focus on a land transport system that is a safe system.

7. Further information about these documents and links is set out in Appendix C.

Supporting economic growth and productivity

8. Improving the performance of the land transport system in order to improve the productivity of the wider economy is a particular focus of GPS 2015.

9. The Government began a significant improvement programme in 2009 following more than a decade of increasing concern that investment in land transport was not keeping pace with demand. With an intention to invest nearly $11 billion in New Zealand’s State highways over the 10 years to 2019, the Government focused on enabling economic growth rather than simply responding to it, providing high-quality connections between key areas of production, processing, and export.

10. New Zealand’s transport system operates in a dynamic environment. While transport infrastructure often has an operational life spanning many decades, the demands that New Zealand has of the land transport system are changing. This affects both the revenue available for investment, and the type of investment which needs to be made.

11. New Zealand is still in the process of addressing some critical constraints on the network, particularly, but not exclusively, in the upper North Island.

12. Significant steps are being taken to improve critical parts of New Zealand’s land transport system. Continued investment is needed through the Roads of National Significance (the RoNS) programme, providing additional capacity through more transport choice (for example public transport), the Auckland Transport Package, improvements in Christchurch, and measures to increase the amount of the road network available to heavier freight vehicles.

Moving freight

13. Effective and efficient freight movement is critical to the economic health of an exporting nation. Reducing the internal transport costs experienced by producers, processors and exporters of primary produce is one way to improve our international competitiveness. Gains that can be made in this area flow into the rest of the economy.

14. New Zealand’s freight task is forecast to grow by 58 percent in tonnes by 2042 (from 236 million tonnes in 2012 to over 373 million tonnes). This rate of growth is slower than forecast in 2008, but still represents about 1.5 percent per annum. As illustrated in Figure 1 growth will be uneven with Auckland and Canterbury predicted to experience the greatest increases in freight, followed by the Waikato. Road transport is expected to remain the primary mode for freight, accounting for about 70 percent of tonne kilometres.

Figure 1: Freight movements 2012 and 2042

Bar graph illustrating previous paragraph

Source: National Freight Demand Study, Ministry of Transport, 2014

15. Considerable investment has been made to improve freight productivity by permitting the movement of more freight on fewer trucks, and improvements are being made to key freight links in high growth areas (for example, the RoNS). Approximately 6,300 kilometres of the network is now available for heavier high productivity motor vehicles, including 2,000 kilometres now open to 58 tonne vehicles. Additionally around 67 percent of the road network is now open to 50 tonne vehicles (50MAX), which can carry up to five tonnes of extra freight with every trip.

16. Alongside investment from the Fund, the Government has invested $1.04 billion since GPS 2009 in the KiwiRail turnaround plan to boost freight options. GPS 2015 also references Crown appropriations to advance roading investments that particularly benefit freight in regional areas and in Auckland (the Accelerated Regional Roading Package and the Auckland Transport Package).

Moving people

17. Great access underpins all successful cities. A key priority since GPS 2009 has been to address severe urban congestion where demand exceeds current network capacity, with a particular focus on Auckland. System-wide improvements to the capacity and productivity of transport in our growing cities have also been a focus. This is needed to maintain and enhance access to economic and social opportunities.

18. GPS 2015 has been prepared during a period when vehicle kilometres travelled has been flat. This is illustrated in Figure 2. Vehicle travel is forecast to grow again, albeit at a lower rate than previously experienced, with factors such as the rate of economic recovery, energy costs, travel preferences, and changing demographics continuing to create uncertainty.

19. Demand growth is likely to be concentrated in areas experiencing economic and population growth. The best available information to date suggests that total national growth in personal vehicle travel will remain more muted than in previous economic cycles.

Figure 2: Fuel consumption and vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by year Line graph illustrating previous paragraph20. This overall demand story masks a regional story where New Zealand continues to have areas with intense localised congestion on particular routes, bottlenecks and pressure points. Addressing current constraints and forecast demand will require the use of all available transport tools, including increases in network capacity. High-value investment in State highway capacity improvements will be brought forward with support from central government. Additional measures to improve the capacity of other choke points in the wider network will proceed as a normal part of the Fund’s allocation process.

21. Alongside investment from the Fund, the Government has made significant investments in metro rail improvements in Wellington and Auckland. GPS 2015 also references Crown appropriations to advance work on urban motorways and cycleways (the Auckland Transport Package and the Urban Cycleway Programme).


22. Much of New Zealand’s population growth is likely to continue to be centred in Auckland. Achieving an effective and efficient transport system for Auckland is central to improving the city’s contribution to the national economy.

23. Since 2009, the Government has undertaken a major programme of investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure. This investment is delivering significant results, helping to hold congestion steady despite population growth.

24. Over the next 20 years, Auckland’s population is expected to increase by 480,000, an amount roughly equal to the current population of Wellington. The additional demand for travel from this growth will put even more pressure on Auckland’s transport network. Sound land use policy, public transport investment and demand management will play a role in shaping demand, but private vehicle travel is expected to account for around three-quarters of peak period trips[1].

25. Further increases in the capacity and productivity of the Auckland roading network, particularly those sections currently experiencing severe delays, will therefore remain a priority. This will involve ongoing investment in State highway and local road productivity across the network. This will need to be complemented by significant investments in public transport. Initially this would help unlock the potential created by recent initiatives. Later, further investment will be needed to provide additional capacity on corridors serving our main business and education centres at peak periods.

26. GPS 2015 also references to Crown appropriations for urban motorways and cycleways that will bring forward investment in Auckland’s busiest corridors (the Auckland Transport Package and the Urban Cycleway Programme).


27. Canterbury traffic patterns have been significantly affected by land use changes following the earthquakes, with a substantial shift of traffic to the periphery of Christchurch. This has produced pressures on the network, some of which will be mitigated by a combination of the Christchurch RoNS investment and the re-opening of the Central Business District.

28. However, there is substantial uncertainty around the speed and scale of further changes to the distribution of Christchurch traffic. The long term impacts of changed land use patterns and associated travel demands will become clearer over the next 3 years. Additional measures to address network capacity may well prove necessary over time.

29. GPS 2015 carries forward Crown appropriations for investment in reinstatement of roads damaged by the Canterbury earthquakes (Reinstatement of earthquake damaged roads in Christchurch).


State highways

30. The State highway network provides critical economic links for New Zealand businesses and communities. State highways carry most of New Zealand’s current freight task and link major ports, airports and urban areas. Although the State highway network is only 12 percent of the total roading network, it accounts for about half of the vehicle kilometres travelled each year, and around two-thirds of freight vehicle kilometres. GPS 2015 continues investment in this critical part of the system to reduce both internal transport costs and the costs of doing business. The improvement and maintenance of State highways are fully covered from the Fund.

31. GPS 2015 supplements this investment from the Fund with Crown appropriations to advance State highway investment in regions (the Accelerated Regional Roading Package), Auckland (the Auckland Transport Package) and cycling (the Urban Cycleway Programme).

Local roads

32. The Government recognises the important role that local roads play in connecting communities, businesses and markets. Motorists travel around 20 billion kilometres on our local road network each year. Most public transport and cycling trips also occur on local roads. Local roads provide the vital link to both the farm gate and to where we live in urban areas. GPS 2015 allows ongoing investment to enable the maintenance of a fit for purpose local road system. Local roads are jointly funded with local government.

33. GPS 2015 supplements this investment from the Fund with Crown appropriations to advance investment in cycling on local roads (the Urban Cycleway Programme) and Christchurch reinstatement (Reinstatement of earthquake damaged roads in Christchurch).

Public transport

34. We see the need for public transport[2] to help unlock the potential of our urban areas by providing additional capacity on key corridors and a choice of ways to move around, particularly during peak commuting periods. This includes investment in infrastructure improvements, including support for improvements through service-related payments. Public transport will also continue to be funded to provide access and choice. GPS 2015 provides for increased provision of public transport, if justified by demand. Public transport is jointly funded with local government.

35. GPS 2015 supplements this investment from the Fund with Crown appropriations to advance passenger rail in Wellington (Wellington Metro Rail Package) and improve railway management (Rail - Public Policy Projects, and Rail - Railway safety). The Auckland Metro Rail Package covered by GPS 2012 will have been completed before 2015.

Active modes

36. There is a walking component in the vast majority of trips made on the network, and cyclists share road space with other modes. Much of the investment in walking and cycling is integrated with the delivery of roading investment. Targeted investment for walking and cycling under GPS 2015 will allow ongoing progress to be made on improving existing transport networks, with dedicated cycling networks in our main metropolitan centres. Most walking and cycling occurs on local roads, therefore investment is made jointly with local government.

37. GPS 2015 supplements this investment from the Fund with Crown appropriations to advance investment in cycling on local roads and State highways (the Urban Cycleway Programme).

Road safety

38. Road safety remains a key transport priority for the Government. Every year thousands of New Zealanders are killed or seriously injured in crashes. The Government has taken a ‘Safe System’ approach to this problem through the Safer Journeys strategy(external link). This strategy looks across the entire transport system

  • roads and roadsides, vehicles, speeds and users
  • to deliver greater levels of safety.

39. GPS 2015 supports the delivery of the Safer Journeys vision of a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury. Each of the RoNS will be built to a high safety rating. Road safety investments will also occur on other State highways and local roads, through road policing, and in the road safety promotion activity class.

40. GPS 2015 clarifies how much of our roading investment delivers safety benefits that will save lives. Good information is needed to ensure that safety expenditure delivers the best possible results per dollar spent.

41. Road policing and road safety improvements are fully paid for from the Fund. Road safety investment that occurs on local roads and road safety promotion are jointly funded with local government.

Value for money

42. The land transport sector has stewardship of a significant proportion of our national wealth, and needs to ensure that public expenditure delivers the right infrastructure and services to the right level and at the best cost. There are high user and societal expectations for increases in levels of service across the whole transport network. Users express this in terms of reduced levels of congestion, a safer system, greater resilience, and mitigation of environmental impacts. Transport decision-makers need to take account of those expectations, and ensure that transport makes a broad positive contribution to the economy and society.

43. Transport objectives nevertheless need to be achieved without placing an unreasonable funding burden on the population or economy. As a proportion of GDP, land transport expenditure in New Zealand is at its highest levels since the 1960s, and the Government expects the sector to deliver results that are clear, achievable and measurable.

44. As funding for transport infrastructure comes from motorists and ratepayers, there is a responsibility to ensure that costs are kept under control, and that any additional funding delivers the best possible results. To that end, the Government, through GPS 2015, looks to the New Zealand Transport Agency(external link) (the Agency) to continue the work it has started on improving the productivity of the land transport system and the way it invests in the system.

45. To maximise the impact on economic growth, GPS 2015 strengthens the Government’s focus on delivering measurable value from investment in the land transport sector. This applies irrespective of which agency is making the investment and encompasses State highways, local roads, public transport and policing services. It includes how decision-makers plan the network, set levels of service, identify and implement improvements, and undertake maintenance and procurement of all types. It applies from the highest profile strategic investments through to the most technical change in standards.

46. While the Government is confident that significant progress has been achieved during GPS 2012, it is seeking more ambitious results in GPS 2015. All delivery agencies are expected to work together to continually improve approaches to asset management and procurement, and to share best practice with others.

47. Investment management that relates to the Fund as a whole is fully-funded. Investment management that relates to regional land transport planning, local roads and public transport are jointly funded with local government.


48. It is anticipated that the Agency will continue to drive for the best possible measurable value from improvements, including investments prioritised by the Government, such as RoNS.


49. Progress is being made on improving the returns from maintenance expenditure. GPS 2015 anticipates that progress will continue in this area. This includes the ongoing implementation of the findings of the Road Maintenance Taskforce (for example, the One Network Road Classification system) and identification of further opportunities to improve productivity.


50. Progress is also being made on improving the returns from public transport investment. GPS 2015 anticipates that progress will continue in this area. This includes the ongoing implementation of the new Public Transport Operating Model and identification of further opportunities to improve productivity.

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[1] 2012-2041 Integrated Transport Programme, Auckland Transport, 2012 (Note: excludes working from home)

[2] In GPS 2015, public transport refers to bus, rail, ferry and taxi services contracted to a regional council and other approved organisations under the public transport provisions of the Land Transport Management Act 2003. Such services are generally eligible to receive funding assistance from the Fund, although they may be provided without any payments from the Fund.