Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero

As we outlined yesterday Auckland Council’s transport budget options in the Long Term Plan offered a false choice. Build everything in the Auckland Plan Network at the cost of finding an extra $300 million a year in alternative funding, or delay important public transport improvements and the city cycling network in the Basic Network Plan. The obvious middle ground would be to prioritise the projects that deliver public transport and cycling improvements, and delay non-essential projects to save money.

That’s the reason why we have come up with an alternative budget. Our Essential Transport Budget (ETB) proposes Auckland Council prioritise the essential public transport, walking and cycling projects in the Auckland Plan Network in the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan. By prioritising only the essential transport projects from the Auckland Plan budget, the Essential Transport Budget saves ratepayers $220 million a year over the next 10 years.

The Essential Transport Budget proposes spending $7.7 billion over next 10 years, $2.5 billion less than Auckland Council’s Auckland Plan Network ($10.3 billion). This reduces the $300 million a year Auckland Council is attempting to raise through alternative funding to only $80 million a year. At the core of the ETB is a commitment to prioritise public transport and cycling projects, and delay non-essential roading projects such as Lincoln Road and Mill Road. This will ensure we start building the building blocks of a turn up and go congestion free public transport network. Over the first 3 years of the ETB walking and cycling would receive $114 million and public transport improvements would receive $621.1 million.


The Essential Transport Budget would allow Auckland to pursue a number of transformational projects over the next 3 years that would be delayed by 5 years and overall funding reduced if we went with the Basic Transport Network:

Buses: The ETB includes funds all of the infrastructure necessary to roll out Auckland’s totally redesigned bus network over the next 3 years which significantly increases the number of frequent services across the city. A number of interchanges are required such as at Otahuhu and Manukau to facilitate bus-rail and bus-bus transfers before Auckland Transport can roll out the southern New Network. The ETB also includes funding for Auckland Transport’s plan to roll out at least 40km of new bus lanes over the next 3 years, which should reduce journey times and improve reliability on on our busiest bus corridors. Busways are also included in the ETB, with work funded to start on the city centre busways, AMETI busways to Pakuranga and Botany, and Te Atatu station which will be the first major part of the North-Western busway.

New FTN Network

Cycling: The ETB includes a tripling of the cycling budget to over $30 million per year. This should finally allow Auckland to make significant progress on build a safe, separated regional cycling network. This $30 million will be further increased when paired with the government’s urban cycling investment panel. Key beneficiaries of this are likely to be the city centre cycleways such as Karangahape Road, which should be able to be fast-tracked with this extra money.

City Centre Priority routes

Rail and Ferry: The ETB includes funding for upgrades of the remaining substandard railway stations such as Takanini and Pukekohe, and upgrades to suburban terminals at Devonport, Half-Moon Bay, Bayswater and Northcote. It also allows for funding of major works at the Downtown Ferry terminal to reduce congestion at peak times, and allow for improvements in ferry frequency.

The Essential Transport Budget accepts the Basic Transport Network as a base budget to work from, and adds the most essential projects from the Auckland Plan. The Basic plan has already been significantly prioritized by Auckland Transport, so there is little further waste we can identify. Importantly the Basic Transport Network includes funding for the City Rail Link, including enabling works starting later this year. Significant portions of the spending on the Basic Network are made up of ‘Renewals’ funding, which is required simply to maintain Auckland’s 7900km local road network in an acceptable condition. This accounts for nearly $2.5 billion over 10 years in both the Basic and Essential budgets, and accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total spending even in the ETB. There are also a number of already committed projects such as the Albany Highway upgrade, roading associated with the North-Western transformation, as well as general operational spend in areas like IT that our Essential Transport Budget has included.

Auckland’s transport budget needs a significant change in direction to both deliver a city that is well prepared for both the opportunities and challenges of the future. Both of the options presented by the Auckland Council as part of the Long Term Plan consultation fail to meet this standard. The Basic Plan under invests in key infrastructure needed to transform our city, such as rebuilding our bus services; upgrading rail, bus and ferry interchanges and building a safe, separated cycling network. The Auckland Plan builds the infrastructure required, however it also builds a large amount of extra roading projects that have no strategic purpose, apart from desperately trying to ‘solve’ congestion. Therefore it comes at a very high cost, at an extra $300 million a year more than the funding available.

The Essential Transport Network we have presented focusses on building just the important infrastructure we need to fix our cities problems, which saves us $220 million per year compared the Auckland Plan. This also significantly reduces the burden of alternative funding, and opens up more possibilities for innovative funding to fill our budget gap in the shorter term while agreement is gained from the government.

Please visit for more information, including detailed project lists. A detailed report of our proposal is available here. Further blogs will be coming in the next few days, including more detail around projects included and excluded, and detail around funding options. We will also be launching a quick submission form in the next few days so people can easily submit in favour of our plan to the the Long Term Plan feedback. 

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  1. Thank you. I am heartened that Gen Zero is taking the lead as the voice of reason in this critical debate.
    I’m saddened that you have had to.
    The presenting of 2 naff alternatives to Auckland and saying “pick any one” was cynical and lacked the vision that we need. I’m glad you’re there to step into the vision vacuum, and I hope AT and AC actually engage and avoid the patronising “they’re such enthusiastic young people!” line.

  2. Great work from Gen Zero! Essential Transport Budget is the pick of the bunch. People will always underestimate the value of the cycle network!

  3. Maybe the essential plan outlined here is what would be negotiated in the end under the right political conditions. Who knows?

    In my submission I supported the Auckland Plan over the Basic Plan…. And gave what I thought were good reasons for doing that.

    But my experience of past consultations has been that there is an agenda underway and unless that’s what you want, too, any submissions are ignored. The Royal Commission on the Auckland amalgamation is a perfect example.

  4. Looks great Gen Zero. Grey power likes it, count me in for one Gen X. I can’t believe the state of some councilors Quax, Wood, Brewer who are they representing exactly? The plan is liveable guys which way you going try 180 degree?

  5. What is absent in your document is a discussion about growth. Unless the NIMBYs can be confronted in the inner suburbs, all this PT investment becomes for the lucky few. There will be some growth on the boundaries, whether you like it or not, because we are already 20,000 behind population growth – and worsening by the day! If you think any differently then you have your head in the sand.

    I agree that large roading projects should go, but dont forget that some investment in roading in greenfield areas WILL be needed to allow housing supply in the interim while we get our heads around how to provide for intensification.

    Housing supply is AS important as PT investment.

    1. Realist – How much does it actually cost to put in local roading to service a greenfield suburb? Chances are the developers will contribute, and the cost will be partly built into new house prices.
      Or are you confusing this with high-cost new or upgraded-existing arterial roads, which you perhaps consider are necessary to connect these new suburbs? In which case what you are proposing is just more of what has got Auckland in the mess it is.
      A balanced approach would see high-quality public transport provided for any new suburb from the outset. This would reduce the requirement for major roading expense from the outset.
      Bottom line is, far more needs to be spent on public transport and far less on roading. Otherwise it’s just problems-as-usual.

      1. It doesnt work that way. PT investment is better spent in dense areas rather than trying to service every square kilometre of the city no matter how low density it is. My point is that zoning needs to allow further density within existing urban areas, especially the isthmus, which is exactly what NIMBYS are fighting against. If you dont win that battle new housing will go on the outskirts. You cant have it both ways.

        1. Obviously Density Done Well, gives the best outcomes. Let’s face it our spending focus on car last 60 years has stuffed things up. OK $1.5b on rail plus Britomart and a $300m busway in last 10 years only exception but isn’t that delivering for us or what. I wonder what the pie chart looks like since 1952? Bus lanes right now super critical. For all of us and current development areas the sooner AT reprioritises existing seal width on all arterials the better and fires up the new bus network globally. It’s best they hand the whole lot to road maintenance and instruct seperated cycling widths ie 1m extra (4m if 2 way)and a full bus lane if one car lane or more. Believe now grounds for emergency works same with NW motorway and Northern Motorway. Can be done in no time, just needs directive from board and mayor. What if an ambulance needs to get through??? This is a shit scenario aren’t they promoting PT and cycling????

        2. Road Maintenance had roadmarking on tap. Measure with wheel…go new config overnight!! I really don’t understand problem. They just need go ahead to maximise seperated cycling widths and a bus lane both could be done with new white graphic symbols and lines overnight, don’t they know how quick this is.
          Existing lines can be blacked out for 3 months before blasting off. If parking needs to go deliver newsletter , put cones out, and last resort tow. Job done. Whats worse some complaints or someone dying in an ambulance??And this is our strategic fit anyway! Give it the king hit!!

  6. This proposal makes so much sense! It seems for example that the decrease in traffic on the Harbour Bridge is largely due to the vastly increased number sitting in buses. So what if we replicated this all over the city by improving public transport inducing people to use it? (JFK I look at things as they might be and say, why not?)

  7. Love your work Gen Zero! Minor question of clarification – Te Atatu Road widening – you’ve said it’s not essential in the text of your analysis, but it’s not in the appendices? Is it in the ‘Essential Budget’ or not?

  8. Hey Gen Zero, love what you’re doing here! An additional suggestion: public transport users are pedestrians too, and in order to make access to bus stops safe, we need to have pedestrian crossings associated with every single one of them, so that people don’t have to put their lives on the line by jay-walking across busy roads to get to them. This would be an easy and cost-effective way of encouraging greater public transport use.

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