For the year to the end of June the government and councils across New Zealand collectively spent $4 billion on transport – the first time spending has crossed that mark and about double what we spent a year just a decade earlier.

Helpfully the NZTA have just updated their data showing just were that spending and so with this post I thought I’d highlight some of that.

First up here’s how spending has changed over time at a national level. The NZTA figures includes their share of funding for local roads and other aspects such as public transport. In total just under 50% of money goes on local projects (which includes PT) while just over 50% goes towards state highways.

Spending - NZ - 2015

And here’s what this looks like for the Auckland region where over the last year $1.4 billion has been spent. In Auckland the share going to State Highways is slightly higher them getting 54% of the funding

Spending - AKL - 2015

By now some of you have probably already worked out that Auckland received about 35% of the total funding, which is slightly more than its share of the nation’s population – although given the level of growth that’s occurring not necessarily unreasonable. So how did the other regions fare?

Comparing the data to population information a couple of regions really stand out – getting considerably more investment than other regions on a per capita basis. Those are the three W’s Waikato, Wellington and the West Coast. The chart below shows how much we spent per person and includes the money council’s spent. One I expected to be higher is Canterbury given the amount of work going on however this seems to be more in line with the historically trend of the region having a lower per capita spend on transport

Spending - NZ - 2015 - Per Capita 3

The next charts break down the spending by funding activity. I’ve excluded the small ones such as transport planning as it’s difficult to see them on the same scale as road spending. In the NZ chart you can see that overall spending on new and improved roads was reached $1.8 billion last year and was the largest single activity. At the other end of the scale you can see the impact of increases in the cycling budgets starting to come through and become more visible. I’d expect this to continue with the government’s cycleway spending coming through.

Spending - NZ - 2015 - by activity

And in Auckland the spending on new and improved roads is even more pronounced with much of it being the money being spent on the Western Ring Route

Spending - AKL - 2015 - by activity

The NZTA have quite a bit of data available and there are lots of ways of looking at this. Let us know in the comments if there’s some other way you’d like to see it cut or if you’ve done your own analysis.

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  1. A massive overspend in Wellington. Considering its stagnant population – in comparison to Auckland’s rapid growth and future needs – this is reckless.

    The NZTA is headquartered in Wellington, but that can’t possibly have any impact…

    (The West Coast has a very small population and a large network of roads in relatively poor condition, so bringing these up to a safe and earthquake-resilient standard is important and justified.)

    1. From what I’ve seen in the past, Wellington has historically had per capita funding above the national average while Christchurch has been the opposite.

      One interesting thing I noted from the most recent year (and haven’t checked to see if it holds true for the past) is that on a per capita basis Auckland has had less PT funding than Wellington.

  2. NZTA used to separate out PT opex and capex, but have stopped that now that capex is heading down to zero. I would like to see that separation back again, it is very instructive to see these spilt as they do for driving amenity.

      1. But this also conceals that they’re planning to spend nothing on capex. They have used the capex budget to absorb higher opex caused by Aucklanders rushing into PT, when it urgently needs investing in, not least in order to improve efficiency to decrease that opex cost per journey faster!

        1. I like it merged – makes more sense, and they are equivalent in many cases. E.g. investment in interchange helps to run more efficient services.

          Also it’s the regional authorities rather than NZTA who determines the level of services … so I’m not sure what the problem is?!?

  3. Most concerning however is the NZTA’s continued deliberate choice to underinvest in safety improvements. A full 42% of all fatal incidents on state-highways were caused by vehicles crossing the centre-line in the last three years. That’s about 100 deaths in the last year alone.

    Yet work to install barriers and modify roads for safety is proceeding at a glacial pace. Even the installation of rumble-strips and the redesignation of unsafe passing areas to double-yellow-lines, which would yield large benefits at low cost, is virtually stalled.

    The NZTA is concerned with instituting large mega-projects which yield visibility for the Minister and local Members of Parliament, but it is not concerned with saving people’s lives.

    1. I wonder though, how much of that IS the fault of NZTA, and how much is it is due to the decisions made by the politicians, which NZTA merely puts into place?

      1. The large majority of it.

        The several projects I have had close knowledge and association with have all been enthusiastically pushed by the NZTA, to the detriment of local communities and alternative modes. No reluctance whatsoever.

  4. Waikato and the West Coast make sense to me, but not sure about Wellington. The Waikato would likely have a relatively high flow of traffic relative to it’s population, sitting in the middle of the most highly populated part of the country.

    The West Coast has a very small population but a state highway network through some rugged terrain that is vital to tourism.

    I suspect the reason Canterbury is historically low is the flat terrain, which would significantly reduce construction and engineering costs I would imagine. Also Christchurch’s radial layout doesn’t suit big grade separated motorways as there are multiple ways to arrive in the CBD, therefore not 2 – 3 main routes.

  5. I see the all powerful cycle lobby has managed to massively increase spending on their cause (yellow bars in the last graph) – from “what yellow bars?” to “Oh I can just make it out”.

  6. Per capita is a very crude way to compare transport investment across the regions as it takes no account of the amount of travel in each case. Far better to compare with the MoT’s other data available, e.g. veh-kms travelled (VKT) by region ( and public transport boardings ( On that basis, the numbers start to make more sense, e.g. West coast has 1.2% of total VKT and 1.2% of funding; Waikato has 12.3% of VKT, 13.4% of $. Akld and Wgtn have by far the biggest PT boardings, so you would expect extra $ covering this (certainly on VKT alone; 30.1% and 8.4% respectively, they wouldn’t justify the $ spent there). But then, it does appear that some regions are getting hard done by such as Canterbury (13.5% of VKT + 10% of PT boardings, not to mention 30% of all cycling-km too, vs 11.2% of $) and Bay of Plenty (6.6% of VKT vs 4.2% of $).

    Even then, this analysis might not make a lot of sense. For example, in more densely-populated centres (e.g. Akld and to a lesser extent Wgtn & Chch) you would expect some economies of scale; we should be able to more efficiently share our transport infrastructure in these places. As someone else pointed out, you’d also need to factor in the fact that it is cheaper to build and maintain transport infrastructure in the likes of Canterbury and Waikato than say Wellington and the West Coast. And if we look at the bit of expenditure on NEW construction, then that probably should reflect the places that are experiencing the most growth in numbers of VKT, boardings, etc (and indeed, population) – but in some places it may simply be reflecting playing catch-up for some period of under-investment in a particular region previously. Good luck with factoring in all of that…

  7. Poor old Hawke’s Bay getting the lowest per capita spend in the country. I think it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves given the single economic/social/cultural unit that is the twin cities of Napier/Hastings are NZ’s 6th biggest population centre, having been just overtaken by Tauranga in 5th. Both are larger than Dunedin, but this seems to slip below the radar for reasons that seem entirely historical.

    There are way too many road deaths and injuries on the 2 lane “expressway” that links Napier-Hastings and the intersection just south of the airport is apparently one of the most dangerous on the SH network. A bit of a boost to upgrade this to a dual carriageway wouldn’t go amiss in terms or life and limbs being saved and parity of regional spend.

  8. Shame all that extra spend Wellington is receiving is being largely wasted on low-cost-benefit, poorly-justified motorway schemes which will increase, not decrease traffic volumes and worsen car-dependency.
    In my view it would have been preferable to dump $2.4 billion into the local landfill rather than spend it on something so demonstrably wrong for the region. Future generations will rue this stupidity.

    Meanwhile the much-needed rail extension to the southern suburbs and airport remains firmly off the table.

  9. Doubling transport spend over 10 years might seem impressive, but actually only represents 7% annual growth. The compounding effect of the 7% each year gives 100% over 10 years. Kinda like the benefits of joining up to KiwiSaver nice and early. 7% additional spending each year is not a great lot more than inflation, especially when we are in serious catch up mode for infrastructure investment.

  10. And our Finance Minister reckons he needs to spend even more on building highways to ‘boost’ the economy. Great if you own a contruction firm. Not so much if you are a young person starved of investment in infrastructure to support your future rather than your grandparent’s rosy rear mirror lifestyle.

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