A Herald article last month highlighted strong support for more Government spending on public transport improvements in Auckland. It included the following quote:

But a spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that with $890 million budgeted for public transport in Auckland over three years “it would be grossly unfair to suggest the Government hasn’t given this mode of transport the priority it deserves”.

The story was analysed in a bit more detail in this post, but the question of where the $890m figure came from remained unresolved.

It is a figure that is repeated on the NZTA fact sheet, and in a press release from Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee’s office in relation to the opening of the Newmarket viaduct replacement:

A total of $3.4 billion is being invested in the Auckland region’s transport system between 2012/15 through the National Land Transport Programme alone, including $1.6 billion for state highways, $968 million for local roads and $890 million for public transport.

In the above context it looks like NZTA is investing $890m in public transport in Auckland, funded through fuel excise and road user charges. I sought clarification from Gerry Brownlee’s office on how the $890m figure was arrived at.  My request was referred to the NZTA, who responded earlier this week:


So almost half of the $890m figure actually comes from Auckland Council ratepayers, and the remainder also includes public transport service operating costs as well. (From memory I think the transport services figure includes repayment of the EMU loan). Very few people would know that the National Land Transport Programme includes local council contributions.

This leaves an actual public transport infrastructure spend of $39m from fuel taxes and road user charges over the next three years in Auckland.  This really is a pitiful amount compared to the hundreds of millions being spent on new roading projects. It would seem more than fair to suggest that central Government hasn’t given public transport the priority it deserves.

Edit: Sacha suggested a simple column graph would add some clarity.  Here it is:


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  1. This is the kind of thing that should be in the Herald. Why don’t you guys publish this as a press release and send it to them?

    1. This is a good idea. With the Auckland Transport blog being mentioned twice in the Herald today, they may take notice.
      If not opposion parties could be sent it as a press release, and I am sure Julie Anne Genter would have fun with this Parliment.

      1. You mean something like this…..

        National Misleads On Public Transport Spend
        Press Release by New Zealand Labour at 3:36PM, 28 Mar 2013

        The Government has been caught out misleading Aucklanders on the amount of money being invested in public transport, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford and Transport spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.

        “Gerry Brownlee recently told media that the Government was spending $890 million over the next three years on Auckland’s public transport.

        “It turns out this is a gross misrepresentation,” Phil Twyford said.

        “According to NZTA almost half that amount is contributed by Auckland Council. The remaining $449 million is budgeted for ‘public transport services’, and includes a loan to Auckland Council for electric trains that will be paid back by the Auckland ratepayer.

        “Only $39 million is actually allocated to public transport infrastructure over three years.

        “The Government is only spending $13 million a year on Auckland’s public transport infrastructure. At a time when it is pouring hundreds of millions into new motorways, that is shocking.”

        “National has not initiated a single new piece of public transport infrastructure in four years. All the big advances; double tracking and electrification of the rail network, new stations, the new electric trains, and the Northern Busway were started by the last Labour Government,” Iain Lees-Galloway said.

        “The Northern Busway now carries almost half of all the people entering the central city at peak times. If Labour hadn’t built the Northern Busway ten years ago State Highway 1 would be completely jammed up and we’d be spending billions on another harbour crossing.

        “The Busway’s extraordinary success shows that smart public transport infrastructure is the most efficient way to get best value out of the existing network, and the only way to keep the city moving.

        “National’s priorities are all wrong. A recent poll showed 48% of people favoured giving funding priority to public transport over and above spending on highways. Aucklanders know we can’t just keep building more motorways, but sadly National is stuck in the 1950s,” Iain Lees-Galloway said.


        1. Fair enough cbtadmin, I should have included a hat tip. The press release does link to the post though. Thanks for the great work, as always.

        2. Phil,

          You should have said in your press release the following attribution something like “according to figures from NZTA, released to the Auckland Transport Blog and discussed today”
          And made that entire text quoted a link to the blog post.

          Your link implies the link goes to NZTA when it does not, it goes here – which is outright misleading to any reader of your press release online or otherwise.
          Yes the data came from NZTA, but the editorial on it comes from here.

        3. Whatever, as long as the info gets out there and the govt is discredited. Always keep focussed on the end result…………vastly reduced spending on roads and the inverse on PT and cycling / walking.

  2. And Brownlee re-iterated the same line last week [sans numbers] in a quote in this story titled “Honk if you’re stuck in traffic”
    ( http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10873184 )

    Where he said to the effect that “we couldn’t spend more on PT in Auckland than we do”.

    Actual quote near the bottom of that story is:

    “Public transport is always going to have its limitations because of the point-to-point nature of it,” Brownlee argues.
    “Aucklanders, like New Zealanders, like to make their own transport choices. We’ve made some big commitments to public transport, both capital and operational cash.
    ***To say we should simply do more to fix the problem doesn’t recognise that New Zealanders like using their cars.*** ”

    End Quote.

    And there folks, you have it. We couldn’t expect more as New Zealanders love their cars too much to have it any other way.

    1. Same story has this snippet on the CRL:

      “In Wellington, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee concedes he would be happy to see more people on city trains. But he doesn’t want to talk about the rail link until more is known about its viability later in the year.”

      I don’t know is happening later this year to make Brownlee be more informed about CRL viability than he should be already.
      Perhaps someone else here has some ideas as to what this “seminal event” might be (full business case for the CRL unlike the RoNS which don’t have any perhaps) ?

      1. Cynical theory – maybe the local body elections. Approving the CRL now would be a huge feather in Len Brown’s cap, so why would the National party do that? If they do secretly support the CRL, it would be a far better political move to announce it in 2014 when it can boost their own electoral fortune.

        1. I thought he might be waiting till after the local body elections to find out if he has to put up with the pesky pro rail mayor again or can just blow the CRL off if they get a puppet into office….

        2. They would have to have a puppet to stand against Len and that is looking increasingly unlikely at the moment. An credible candidate would surely have to of put their name up by now to start raising their profile (many people are picking Brewer but I think he might hold off till 2016

  3. I hate to defend Gerry but I struggle to see an inconsistency. He says that $890 million will be spent. He doesn’t say that the govt will spend $890 million.

    1. Mr Anderson, if you read the article you will find that the subject being discussed is capital investment by the Government. It is most definitely inconsistent (if not actually deceptive) for the Minister’s response to include both operational spending and local government spending. imho, when a Minister is making a statement that they know is going to be reported to the general public they are guilty of dishonesty if they use “technically correct” statements or numbers that only a specialist audience will recognise as being very different from their popular meanings.

  4. True the Minister is only lying by omission, and only because he has been allowed to get away with it so far.

    An opposition MP may want to ask him on the record to clarify what the government’s contribution actually is – and distinguish capex and opex.

  5. but is he consistent? does the local roads spend include the TLA contribution? if not, then he is being misleading

    1. “…including $1.6 billion for state highways, $968 million for local roads and $890 million for public transport.”

      I would assume that yes local roads also includes council spend, but the $1.6bn for state highways is NLTF central Govt spend alone. I think its misleading. You have to be a transport nerd to know that Govt contributes 100% for state highways and 50% for PT and local roading though. The implication from these statements is that all of the spending is central Govt NLTF spending, when clearly it isn’t.

      1. Misleading because is misleads (non-expert) readers. And misleading because the writer knows the full facts.

  6. Be good to get a discussion going in parliament about the proposed level of spending on PT infrastructure.

    1. Including council contributions is a new tactic employed by nzta to conceal the true extent of its distorted investment in particularly state highway investment. It makes it difficult to track what the actual NLTF allocation actually was (also makes it appear a larger sum) and therefore reduces gap between state highway investment and local government investment. Would be interesting to contrast the totals allocated for different work categories against the initial proposed allocation. I bet would find that state highway very much at the top end and everything else at the bottom.

  7. Can I add. The majority of PT upgrades that are done as part of general road upgrades don’t show up. So each time a bus bypass is built it comes in at zero regardless of cost.

    1. And since the Northern Busway opened in 2008 exactly how many PT upgrades does as part of general road upgrades have there actually been?

      1. Well the VPT project extended the bus lane from the bridge to fanshawe st which cost about $20 million.

        Hobsonville deviation put in extra wide shoulders everywhere as well which cost about $20 million as well.

        1. You can’t include the total cost of the shoulders as they were already required for vehicles, just the difference between a std shoulder and the wide shoulder. Lets not pretend motorway shoulders were designed for buses.

        2. I wasn’t including the total cost of the shoulders, just the extra width needed.

          In the case of VPT they could have done some narrow 2m or less shoulders but to make them bus shoulders they needed to widen them out to 4m. I’d imagine the bus has its own lane at the traffic signals as well.

          So it certainly wasn’t free.

        3. Dan no one is proposing buses use the VPT, the customers are above, and anyway all these billions on motorways are supposed to liberate the streets and roads from all the traffic on the motorways. Of course that’s still the bollocks it always was as more cars on motorways means more cars on local roads. The whole ideology is a crock.

        4. What are you on about Patrick? Have you just jumped to an entire new topic about private vehicles on local roads?

          Also what is this about buses in the tunnel? Is that another topic you’re starting?

        5. Dan, you’re saying roughly 10% of the Hobsonville deviation ($220m) was spent on creating slightly wider, better shoulders (over and above std shoulders which are not 2m for safety reasons) for buses? I don’t believe your costings.

        6. Bryce. You will note I was talking about the VPT project when I mentioned 2m.
          Also shoulders don’t have to be the standard 3m, the people doing waterview are doing 0.5m shoulders. With are much cheaper than the 4.0 & 4.5m ones on hobsonville.

        7. Which doesn’t answer the 10% price of the total build on the Hobsonville Deviation (including bridges etc). 10% more just to go from std 3m to 4.5m shoulders on a greenfield development?

        8. Problem is that Government will then claim that the entire cost of said Motorway was a PT improvement.
          And doesn’t actually solve any real problems, only puts window dressing and obfuscation to the funding issue.

          As has been observed here more than once, its easy to get a cycleway (or busway) built in Auckland
          – simply add a multi-million motorway beside it and you’ll have it approved tomorrow.

    2. The bus lane on the motorway entrance to St Mary’s bay borders on farcical, it’s completely pointless and the fact that the rest of the motorway through here provides absolutely no bus priority just shows how out of touch NZTA are with reality.

      1. What’s wrong with it. From memory it lets the bus past the congested traffic and onto the free flowing section. What benefit would extending it provide?

      2. The southbound bus lane through St Mary’s Bay is fine. The northbound one is, well, non-existent. Which is pathetic considering that section of motorway is supposedly part of the Northern Busway.

        1. Wow you guys sure are funny. I remember back when I used to say the should extend the busway over the bridge before making a northshore rail line you guys all claimed it was a waste of time as the traffic was rather free flowing here.

          Now however, after years of saying you don’t want it you are complaining that you didn’t get it.

          So anyway, I’ll ask again. What benefit would a northbound bus shoulder give seeing as the traffic runs so smoothly through here?

        2. Traffic doesn’t run smoothly northbound through St Mary’s Bay. Please link to a previous comment when referring to it.

        3. Thats strange, the real time traffic flow system tends to show it as green most days at peak hour.

        4. It’s been clogged and slow flowing every single time I go past, and bunches or buses on the supposed rapid transit network full of people sit there blocked by a dozen cars with single occupants. It’s a complete farce.

        5. Northbound there is a slight issue, I never go beneath 40 on that bit on the bus though.

  8. This is vintage National Party under John Key and it sadly appears a foundation principal of his government. For Gods sake don’t let the truth get in the way of a good misleading story on any subject.

  9. You know I am a firm believer in user pays, so if cars may have to pay for want of a better term a congestion tax, why are we not making cyclists register their bikes and getting licenses for them. They want to use the road and have rights but show no consideration for other road users, also how may millions have been spent on bike lanes thus cutting down the number of lanes car’s have to drive in.They push to the front at traffic lights and thus hold up vehicular traffic while they slowly move off, If they try to tax what I have paid taxes for all my life i will finally see a use for my gas torch. Cutting down camera towers. Free roads we already paid for them, if people want to use public transport let them fund the bloody thing.

    1. So many inaccurate and misleading things in that post that it is hard to know where to start.

      I suggest you read almost any of the archived posts on here to see why that is. Maybe start with the Myth Busting section at the top on why your roads are as subsidised as PT and go from there.

  10. You are right that a lot of cyclists are very inconsiderate. Taxing them however is probably a waste of time. More off-road cycle lanes would be nice..

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