Simon Bridges has released the final version of the 2015/16 – 2024/25 Government Policy Statement (GPS) following on from the draft version earlier this year. The GPS is effectively the top dog when it comes to transport funding and policy as in the words of the minister:

The Government Policy Statement on land transport (the GPS) sets out the Government’s strategic and policy goals for land transport, as well as the funding direction necessary to achieve them. It guides not only an investment of $3.4 to $4.4 billion per annum from central government, but around $1.0 billion a year from local government.

The GPSs relationship to other key planning documents is shown below.

2015 GPS - Document heirachy

Very little has changed from the draft version we saw with the Ministry of Transport saying some of the changes are:

  • The upper ranges of funding available for public transport have increased, so up to $115 million more will be available for public transport projects between 2015/16 and 2024/25. This takes the potential spending on public transport to a total of $4.585 billion.
  • The objectives set down in the final GPS 2015 have been amended to ensure they are clearer and more well-defined. A new ‘efficiency’ objective has been added, while the ‘demand’ objective has been clarified so it refers to access to social and economic opportunities.
  • A definition of major metropolitan areas (reflecting the Statistics New Zealand definition) has been added, clarifying those areas which are eligible for funding under the Regional Improvements activity class.
  • The Auckland Transport Package (announced by the Government in 2013), Accelerated Regional Roading Package (announced in August 2014) and the Urban Cycleways Package (announced in September 2014) have been referenced throughout GPS 2015. While funding for these will be provided in addition to funding for activity classes, the packages will be considered and undertaken in a way consistent with other projects funded under the GPS.
  • The role that technology and innovation can play in managing network access and capacity has been reflected throughout the document, including the new crosscutting reporting line which will ensure technology investments (and the returns on these investments) will be transparently recorded.

In other words there’s been some tweaking around the edges but no significant change. That means there is still some massive hypocrisy and double standards contained within the document. As a quick example, while noting that vehicle travel has basically flat-lined and will “remain more muted than in previous economic cycles“, the maximum possible funding for state highways increases by 4%. By comparison almost all talk in the document about improving PT services comes with the caveat of “if justified by demand“. Simplified you could say PT investment has to justify its existence but road investment doesn’t.

Related, the maximum possible funding for PT increases by 3.5% per annum and the MoT say “This rate of increase reflects current and projected patronage growth“. Of course that level of projected patronage growth only exists because of the level of funding being made available limiting services. If Auckland Transport had more funding they could roll out the new network much faster and of course by doing so we would see stronger patronage growth much sooner.

One of the key things about the GPS is the funding ranges it sets. These funding ranges are meant to give the NZTA some (small) amount of flexibility when setting the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) which sets out the projects that are likely to be funded. The NZTA could theoretically use the maximum funding ranges in some categories at the expense of others however overall the exact amounts selected tends to be closer to the midpoint between the upper and lower figures.

GPS 2015-2025 Funding Range

And using the mid-point between the two figures, this graph highlights where the money is going over the next decade.

GPS 2015-2025 Funding Graph

In terms of the maximum extra $115m possible for PT, for the next three years the difference between the draft and the final version over the next 4 years are compared to the draft are just $5 million in 2016/17 and $10 million in 2017/18.

In addition to the table above the GPS also lists the funding outside of the categories above, in other words money the government is paying directly for transport projects such as the governments $100m Urban Cycleway funding that they announced in the lead up to the election. One of the things that’s odd about that particular funding stream is it seems to be broken up into state highways and local roads elements which is something that hadn’t been mentioned before.

GPS 2015-2025 Other Funding

Overall the direction of transport policy has changed little since 2008/09 and the focus remains on building massive state highway projects – most with low value outcomes – while the areas of the transport system that are seeing the most growth get ignored.

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    1. This is on the assumption that local projects are likely to demand local government investment. Unless a locality co-pays, the NZTA may refuse to spend their money in that locality.

    2. Not sure how you come to that conclusion; the GPS funding is slightly up and then there’s the $100m urban cycleway fund on top of that. Still a drop in the ocean, but it’s a bigger drop than before…

  1. PT justified by demand? yet in Auckland the road network tap to buses is still effectively closed (and we don’t have control of the 1000 buses effectively)and the rapid transit that we do have growing at 17%. Then minimal funding for cycle also?Transport modal neutral I don’t think so? Then there is the international stats about km travelled by car flat lined last 10 years? What planet are these guys on. Talk about transport and environment counterproductive. This is actually the Ministry of Petroleum and Climate Change advancement in disguise.

    1. And yet the Minister says there are “no easy solutions for curbing nation’s greenhouse gases” (quoted from Herald website at, probably paraphrased from the minister).
      Tim Groser completely ignores that there is plenty of “low hanging fruit” in transport and that is a major opportunity to reduce our emissions. EECA and various other government departments have been pretty clear on this, but Groser seems to be trying his best to deflect attention from it.

        1. And all those “+ves” we got from forestry so far turn into big “-ves” when those trees are harvested, which is likely sometime in the next 10-20 years.

          So any warm fuzzies our politicans think they have about being a “fast follower” with regards this issue will be called out by the rest of the world for the complete load of bullshit it is.

          And no – crapping or farting doesn’t add to the problem, its actually the farm animals belching not farting that is the big problem for the Agricultural sector (other than the chopping down trees problem of course).

          Methane is 30+ times worse as a “Greenhouse gas” per tonne than CO2 is, and agricultural animals (and no doubt possums too) emit a lot of methane.

        2. One point on forestry and CO2 emissions.

          It is universally believed that trees only sequester carbon early on in their life and cease to do that once mature
          – this was believed because for most trees the thickness of the tree rings get smaller as the tree ages (and the trunk/branches get thicker).

          Recent studies have revisited this myth and shown that actual amount of “biomass” laid down by trees as recorded by their tree rings is in fact constant up until the tree is harvested so the CO2 sequestering capability of trees is also fairly constant.

          So, the widespread belief in the need to chop down mature trees to allow more carbon to be sequestered is in fact a myth and this has no part in any CO2 emission reduction process – except to know that leaving the current trees growing until they die is in fact probably a practical CO2 sequestering technique for NZ to consider.

      1. Sorry, I don’t think there is any credible interest whatsoever by the current government in stabilising carbon emissions let alone reducing them. And as long the government continues to own the votes of middle New Zealand there will be no change. Clearly the voting people who matter like what the government is doing, and the government is simply mirroring the views of this group.

        The one positive is that this group of people is actually pretty small, and each win to demonstrate that there is an alternative and better way, erodes the “willful blindness”. Great recent examples of wins include cycle lanes, Wynyard Quarter developments, Britomart developments and the new electric train fleets in Auckland and Wellington. Change is coming, but don’t underestimate the power of the vested interest groups to inflict further damage to NZ’s future in the meantime.

        1. Yes change is coming if they wind up the bus network to full potential even without the motorway system, thanks for nothing. I get the feeling we are dealing with guys that would leave ramp metering on even if only 1 car on the motorway plus still keep building them, and run oil tankers down the system with the tap on , plus create fires to make up for the loss of damage to the atmosphere.

  2. This is utter crap, more of the same since 2008, yet MOT’s own research figures show that growth Traffic compared to VKT and GDP is no longer tightly linked.

    Actual (Freight) “Truck VKT” (i.e. heavy freight ‘Freight’ traffic) – the ones that we are all told that these expensive new roads are supposed to be for; to enable us to move our exports faster to the world.
    Actually reduced to pre-2004 levels during the GFC until 2012, it is rising, but it is now at the same level as it was in 2006.
    Overall total VKT (all vehicles) is rising slowly driven by a rise in Light truck VKT – the ones that don’t carry freight to the markets or the world, but car VKT has declined and is now essentially flat, and at the same level as it was in 2004.

    See Graph on Page 38 of this PDF (, part of the “Future Demand” Publication MOT did recently.
    (see this website for the full report

    But from the above PDF, in their words:

    “The traffic intensity of the economy has been reducing for over a decade. There are signs in a number of countries including New Zealand that economic prosperity is not as seemingly dependent on people travelling by car as it once was. The roading network remains important for a thriving New Zealand but it is not unique in supporting economic activity – other factors must be at work.
    These are not well understood but may include the changing makeup of the economy and also changing preferences for alternative forms of access besides the car.”

    So given that the link between VKT and GDP is now way less strong than it was previously why do we need to spend so much on (a few) more new roads?

    The foreword in the report says this: “The purpose (of this Future Demand report) is to offer insight and guidance that will inform debate and decisions regarding our country’s land transport programme.
    This programme has a current expenditure target for the next 10 years of $38.7bn. We must invest wisely.”

    Is spending this much money ($17B – half the total roading budgeted spend for the next decade) on more new roads given the levels of change and uncertainty we face “a wise investment” for the next decade or beyond?

    And thats without factoring in the likely carbon emission constraints we as a country will be likely (and legally) bound up to from later next year, and will actually have to deliver on in the next decade.

  3. So the bridgecorp directors get what for misrepresenting peanuts compared to what mismanaged transport spending the last 60 years plus now also another 10 more? Independent Board of Inquiry and I mean independent.

  4. Why has NZ ended up like this? The only right wing movements that seem to be pushing road only are the tea-partiers in the US. The UK, Mainland Europe, parts of Australia, the centre-right Japanese government, all are pushing public transport in tandem with roads.

  5. This was promoted yesterday as adding more to PT but as it turns out, as seems near anything with the government, its an illusion. Once you read the fine print they have just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic and the pathetic increase for PT, I would doubt, would inflation proof it, and that’s if we had any real growth to give us inflation. As for any other alternative, its worse.

    Why the flat earth obsession with roads, paying back the donors perhaps?

  6. Yes it seems the government has read the emperors clothes fairy tale. You are wearing the best clothes but really you are wearing nothing not even a smile if you want to go anywhere. The only ones smiling and getting some return is the petroleum industry meanwhile it seems the investment illusion is still going on but hang on some people trying rapid transit and saying shit this is the way to go smiling and moving somewhere. Time to blow up this popsicle stand illusion and make people accountable as it is also affecting the environment.

  7. How does the size of the merged PT line item compare with earlier versions that separated ops from infrastructure capex?

    1. If I recall, it’s not really that much bigger and does seem to serve to hide the fact that there is virtually no PT infrastructure spend (certainly nothing of the Northern Busway scale)

      1. Yes this is clearly the point of it; there is absolutely no PT capex spend and to have a line item with a big fat zero would highlight that fact embarrassingly.

        This is a crushingly visionless GPS, and just that little bit fraudulent too.

        AT will have to take a leaf out of the government’s book and financialise its PT capital works into operating expenses… then bust the bands of the GPS!

  8. The biggest concern I have is that the central government seeks to dictate to local government how it spends its money. Building projects that are part funded by NZTA makes pure financial sense, but its a poisoned chalice as in doing so the priorities for spending that money get totally biased towards the GPS outcomes.

    This means bugger all spending on PT, walking, cycling and street amenity improvements.

    Imagine what could be done if Auckland Council gave central govt the middle finger and spent its $600 million p.a. on things other than roading capacity!

    1. Agree entirely. This GPS is a Gigantic Piece of Shit and affects all government subsidised works not just State Highways. This transport industry is so corrupt I can’t believe it. Common sense went out the window 60 years ago. To give all modes a hope right now the bus network/network repriorisation needs to be given a true focus and resources to do the job so it can deliver a body blow to car mode and also fire up rail to 100%. Personally I would be buying buses and setting up depots and a team setup to manage this 24/7 since it is so critical to the whole network and all modes. Whatever is best $300m diesel or $600m hybrid for 1000. Even if got 400 by 2016 and started phasing high frequency buses asap so at least can utilise priority rather than waiting and letting the petroleum industry get away with this choked up mess and corrupt investment. Then slowely phase out private operators as fleet increases. It should be under control of AT board maybe owned by Auckland Council?? If we want this to be mode majority with rail we need to take seriously!

  9. it’s sadly amusing that:
    – The “other road costs” category is almost equivalent to the entire public transport budget; and
    – The “other” category is larger than the entire walking/cycling budget.

    I have always found it strange that National are anything but fiscally conservative when it comes to transport, preferring instead to blow insane amounts of money on low value highway projects. I mean, if they wanted to spend on roads then investment in local roads would tend to deliver much better returns. I suspect their predilection for highway investment reflects a convergence of industry/rural/suburban interests, which collectively trumps their normal fiscal conservative nature.

    Maybe I’m just overly optimistic but I was expecting slightly more from Simon Bridges. Instead he looks set to continue with the same mistakes that have characterised National’s handling of this portfolio since 2008.

  10. Even if we got 400 buses by network opening brings total to 1400 plus have the 400 hybrids just going for it 24/7. That’s about $125m per year 1/4 of Auckland transport budget without subsidy. Just an idea but these could be allocated on planned rapid routes and everything done to make those routes free flow as possible-100 per sector north,east,west,south.Ideally get more EMUs maybe another $125m per year. OK half the budget gone but isn’t this more artillery that is going to really boost PT straight away and make a dent. Then we need to utilise road maint budgets on signals, re-roadmarking on bus routes ideally separated cycle same time. Still have 50% left for other urgent projects.

    1. I see this plant aspect quite important. We have the rail, have the road that we can open up to bus having own lane in most places on the frequent routes plus adding protected cycle lanes. Without going over the top how many EMUs would we need and how much do they cost? If there was a 40% mode shift before 2021/CRL? 20% mode shift 2017,1 year after the bus network, if we got 400 buses owned by council and started a rapid system on non rapid routes then keep upgrading network as per your plans? AMETI all go already then grow this team and keep going it still is road spend but we do need to spike it to change predictions ….3.5% growth don’t think so if we do this right.

      1. You probably think 20% mode shift in 3 years dreaming but think swaying 1 in 5 car drivers to use network very doable if we have the extra plant. I was studying the congestion free network 2020 financial analysis and it looks like we need 37 more EMU anyway which is about 300 million so spending 250m over next 2 years definitely not wasted. OK starting to create a public bus fleet…why? Control primarily, then also fleet management, then all revenue being utilized, plus with patronage boom high chance can start dropping fares and all this revenue back in council’s hands. Also short term more overall numbers and can be more aggressive opening the road network. I know full circle but this is different now and within 10 years bus passengers may be the biggest part of the pie. Buying hybrids why…green , clean and cheaper to run with this saving going back to council/ratepayer. $250m over next 2 years up to 400 brand new hybrids then keep growing at 200 per annum or $125m per annum for another 3 years. Why initially have this 400 on future rapid routes..well speed and that is what is trending at 17%. After 2016 focus on the 2020 plan still heaps to do have a look.

        1. The new buses I would look at phasing in evenly 1/4 to each sector. I guess a 2030 CFN plan overall as best as practicable within the existing road network and keep turning the screws. Ie some rapid evolution in some places ie bus priority intersections, then T3 lane,then bus lane, then busway. Would be good if the AT PT gave the blog latest plans for discussion as this bus frequent network is the next big thing and if done well a punch that will turn the tide then the City Rail Link to really hammer home while carry on the Congestion Free Network making the rapid links rapid and a liveable city.

  11. I’ve just got back from a rail trip to the South Island and I must say, I’m fairly much “trained out” at the moment. The Christchurch to Greymouth TranzAlpine has of course the incredible Otira tunnel, approx 8.5 kms cut through the Southern Alps. How on earth they managed to do this with the technology of the time is amazing. We can’t even get a piddling 2 km tunnel bored for the crl with modern drilling technology.

    It just goes to show the impact of political will in achieving projects. The Otira had government backing. The crl and PT in general does not. And you can see it in the players in the Cabinet. Many of them are from areas in New Zealand where PT is alien to them and the constituents they represent.

    1. Jeff, the Otira tunnel was over 40 years in the planning and building, it sent NZ largest construction company at the time broke and required the Government to step in an finish the job.
      Oh and we had a World War in the meantime as well and it was riddled with poor working conditions so it was also in part a fermenting ground for the NZ Labour Party too.
      (this article from IPENZ fills in some blanks:

      But yes at least the Government of the day was pushing it ahead as a project of National Significance.

      Will many of the RoNS we build today be around a hundred years hence and still in as good a working order as Otira tunnel is now?
      Will anyone remember Brownleee or Bridges as being Ministers of Transport and squanderment during the last great hurrah of road building?

  12. Simon Bridges if you are reading will make this quick for you. Train moves heaps, bus can move quite a bit, car bugger all. Cycling and walking great for the environment and good exercise. You’ve put all the budget with the bugger all category maybe you should reconsider as some spending on trains seems to be fixing the problem.

      1. Its nothing but pork barrel politics, plain and simple.

        ““It’s also really important that we invest in more social infrastructure like this to ensure Tauranga is a top place to live, work and play,” says Simon [Bridges, (local MP for Tauranga)]”

        So local MP Bridges wants as much of the Governments promised $100m cycleway funding (over 4 years) as he can get away with, and all to be spent in his electorate.

        Tell me, and show me, something new Simon – perhaps investing at least 13/rd of this money where 1/3rd the population lives – Auckland is a wiser and better deal for all?

        We have cycleways ready to go in Auckland, crying out for funding, not this “lets hope we can put something together soon” plan for this one in Tauranga.

        1. He doesn’t make the recommendations for where the $100m goes; the Urban Cycleways Investment Panel does. And you can expect ~40% of it to be spent in Auckland.

        2. Well I’ll reserve judgment on that until the money is allocated to projects.

          Like the RoNS, the minister doesn’t persosnally approve or recommend the projects, yet seemly no RoNS has been declined as unworthy by the so-called “independent” panels so far has it?

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