Submissions on the draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) close at 5pm today. We discussed this document when it was first released back in late February, and to be honest we were not very impressed by it.

The GPS is a really important document in guiding our approach to transport in New Zealand, as it sets key priority areas and broad “funding bands” for how NZTA spends over $3 billion of public money raised every year from fuel taxes, road user charges and vehicle licensing fees.

This is the fifth version of the GPS since legislation was changed in 2008 to require this document. The first GPS was released in August 2008 by the former Labour Government, but it was replace in early 2009 before it could take effect. Subsequent versions of the GPS have been released in 2012 and 2015. It’s possible therefore to compare how the funding bands have changed over time through the various versions of the GPS:

As the total amount of investment increases over time, perhaps more interesting is to look at the share of funding going to each area, taking the “upper limit” across each activity class:

It’s clear from this graph that the government continues to put more and more of its eggs into the state highways basket, despite projects that this enormous investment is going to – like the Kapiti Expressway or the Tauranga Eastern Link – are either making congestion worse or ending up pretty empty.

In an Auckland context, the biggest gaping hole in the GPS (which is picked up in Auckland Council’s submission – from page 127) is the GPS ignoring the “Strategic Public Transport Network” that was outlined in ATAP and providing no clarity on how this network of busways, light-rail and heavy rail upgrades will be funded.

Therefore, some key points you might want to make in your submission are:

  • Reduce the dominance of the state highways activity class, with funding reallocated to local roads, public transport and walking & cycling to support a more balanced transport network
  • Provide clarity on how Auckland’s strategic public transport network will be progressed and funded
  • Bring heavy rail funding into what’s covered by the GPS so that all transport initiatives, regardless of type, can be fairly prioritised and assessed

In the past the government often hasn’t taken much notice of feedback on the GPS, but this year it might well be different as the draft document highlights that it has not yet fully taken ATAP into consideration – therefore the door remains open for some more substantial change than has occurred in the past. So it’s definitely worthwhile taking a few minutes to send in your submission by 5pm today.

You can provide feedback on draft GPS 2018 by emailing [email protected]

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  1. Re Transport GPS consultation:

    The GPS has been extremely imbalanced and inflexible for the last eight years. In particular it has left our bigger cities without the ability to fund Strategic Public Transport systems. This is an especially critical problem in Auckland, where, as the ATAP process made plain, the absence of a true Rapid Transit Network is causing the near complete urban motorway system to operate inefficiently, always subject to congestion, as it is only partially relieved by alternatives on some routes. Yet where these alternative systems are available to a high ‘Rapid’ standard, the Rail Network and the Northern Busway, they have proven themselves to be powerfully effective at both supporting the urban economy directly and in enabling the motorway system to function more efficiently and effectively.

    The key issue here is that this mode, rather than need, imbalance in the GPS puts our cities in a straightjacket; this is the government saying ‘you can have any transport solution you need, as long as it’s a motorway’.

    It essentially conceives the whole country as having one condition, that of being productive countryside on the way to a port: Largely only needing big highways and lots of highway police. This is not the condition of the urban economy, and the nation’s economy is becoming more urban, as is the whole world this century.

    It especially misunderstands Auckland, and leaves NZTA blundering around in our thriving and biggest citiy, with its booming urban services economy, building massive interregional highways that become swamped with local journeys that would be much better suited to being taken on spatially efficient urban transport systems. But these remain unbuilt, while driving inducing mega motorways are constantly expanded yet fail under their own weight for want of quality alternatives.

    The problems unfolding now with SH16 and SH20 are a prime example. This mono-modal expansion there, with no Rapid Transit component of scale or quality, is a result of this wildly imbalanced GPS: NZTA has to be more than just a road builder/funder.

    Either the State Highway band in the GPS has to be redefined to include what ATAP calls ‘Strategic Public Transport’ of any mode, or there needs to be a new band. Though the former would give each region more flexibility.

    The CRL is as least as nationally significant as a highway out of Tauranga, for example: it will enable the booming Auckland urban economy to continue to boom. For the good of the whole nation.

    Horses for courses, please minister.

    kind regards

    1. The GPS hasn’t tended to be friendly to rural areas either, the money being sucked up by big urban and urban fringe motorways has reduced the size of the pot for local road maintenance and also smaller highway improvements outside of the RoNs.

      We seem to be in another period of building expensive infrastructure that sounds good but is ultimately passed it’s time. We’ve been here before with some of the harder to build branch railways that were built after it was clear rail was passed it’s first peak (I’m thinking Roxburgh branch for example) and again with think big, now it is RoNs.

    1. Yes, though only small growth in VKT per capita, mostly restoring the previously decline. Still down on 10 years ago. New cars mostly due to popn increase.

      Also possibly not surprising with all the $$ invested in roads.

      What we really don’t want is more and more freight being trucked around where alternates exist. Massive opportunity to take trucks off the road of the highly used routes (Auck-Ham-Tau) which will reduce road maintenance costs. Also opportunity to scale back East/West and invest that money in better PT.

      (sidenote: Noticed a bunch of intersections in Palmerston North have been re-done recently into massive 6 lane things, mostly due to freight. Some of that is understandable as there are some rail sidings that come off there, but they’re still on a road widely used in an urban area, adjacent to parks where sport is played etc. Several intersections have had to be re-sealed within 2 years due to truck use carving large grooves in the roads as they get going.)

  2. A good post – it’s not too late!

    People might also care to comment on:
    * the disconnect between the stated aspiration for one multi-modal transport system and funding being by mode-specific silos, with non-road infrastructure excluded from funding;
    * the disconnect between the stated desire to improve economic growth and the vast majority of funding increasingly going into a class where value for money is stated to be declining (state highway construction) with minimal funding where returns can be very high (e.g. walking and cycling);
    * the treatment of public transport as a poor man’s alternative to what real people do, travelling in a car;
    * the total lack of mention of walking (except in the generic “walking and cycling” class, which is actually about cycling), the only universal transport mode, with completely different requirements from cycling.

  3. My submission like many others will be my vote this year at the ballot box. Continue to not tackle housing, transport, as well as the long term budget crisis that is our aging population and I will go from swing voter to voting for a change in Government.

  4. “Public transport in urban areas provides transport choice for those without private vehicles to get to important destinations like work and education.”

    This shows they don’t get it. This phrase should be removed from the GPS, as many actually prefer to use public transport at peak times even if they do own a car. As Mike says they have to stop treating public transport a poor man’s alternative to the single occupant car.

  5. Phew, done it:

    Submission on draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) 2018

    To whom it may concern,

    In furthering the GPS work for the current to future periods, I wish to ask serious consideration of the following points to be included in the GPS for 2018 onward:

    1. Inclusion of dedicated funding and revenue streams for the urgently-needed Strategic Public Transport Network and systems, including a genuine, linked-up, well-integrated Rapid Transit Network for Auckland, as identified in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) process.

    2. Enabling of additional revenue streams to bring projects identified in the ATAP process, and new projects identified subsequently, forward to earlier completion, e.g., through a combination of targeted rates, land value betterment taxes, area-wide time-of-use road pricing charges, etc.

    3. Rebalance existing activity class funding away from state highways to at the least restore the proportion of funding to local roads, public transport, walking and cycling, road pricing and other initiatives.

    4. Incorporate funding for heavy rail infrastructure into the GPS and National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) processes to enable heavy rail infrastructure improvements and projects to be assessed and funded on a level playing field with other transport modes.

    5. Ensure that NLTF assessment and funding processes capture wider costs and benefits, including the impacts additions or reductions to greenhouse gas emissions have on New Zealand meeting its international commitments, particulates in the atmosphere, pollution (e.g., run-off from roads into receiving waters), accidents and injuries, public health, energy efficiency, land uses, social opportunities, etc. – i.e., a mode-neutral triple-bottom line (economic, social, and environmental) assessment process, with funding allocated accordingly on that basis.

    6. Acknowledgement that investment in good quality public transport in Auckland and other cities does and will provide more than a means of transport for those who don’t or can’t or won’t have their own private motor vehicle, it also provides choice for those who do have their own private motor vehicle but who decide they don’t want to use it, thereby vehicles off the road and enabling the motorway system to function more efficiently and effectively, which directly and indirectly supports the urban economy in multiple ways, e.g., by reducing road congestion, pollution, noise, etc., and enabling the deferment of costly road-widening projects, decreasing the frequency of ongoing road maintenance costs, decreasing policing and enforcement costs, decreasing the costs and impacts of road accidents and incidents on the resources of emergency services, hospitals, families and the wider community, etc.

    7. Convert the NZTA from being primarily a road funder and builder to being an all transport mode (including heavy rail, light rail, and active mode) funder and builder, or replace it with a new organisation responsible for the delivery of all transport modes on a level playing field on an wider triple-bottom line (economic, social and environmental) basis.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jamie Walton

  6. The graph showing the allocation of money is very telling.
    I can’t understand that professional engineers, planners, and managers are so reluctant to go with the wishes of the majority and put more money into PT.
    Do those people always drive themselves and family everywhere? Do they never use the busy buses and trains and not notice the benefits. I like PT and enjoy and stress free ride. There is time to talk to others or check your internet. Unfortunately many rich don’t want to ride with the working classes. Donald Trump opposes high speed rail and would deny the millions of people greatly benefiting riding the 20 000 km of China rail which is greatly adding to the economy there.
    To me the way forward is simple and clear on how to Auckland to reduce the $1 billion congestion cost. More PT from close to the city and built up suburbs is required. Many people want to live in an apartment in Kingsland etc. But the call for more houses in far away suburbs continues and then more motorways to follow will not change the situation. $30 billion and more is required to build the many planned projects. The NZ economy is at risk if we don’t spend the money on projects with the best return. Unfortunately sometimes a mayor or politician or an organisation pushes for a project but the decision should always be based on costs and benefits.

    1. You seem to misunderstand the role of the GPS; it’s got little to do with what the “professional engineers, planners and managers” want to happen in the transport world, it’s purely a political statement of intent/instruction. Very hard to push back on huge road building when that’s what the Govt has said it will spend its money on it (including subsidies for your own local funds).

      Many transport professionals I know are very sympathetic to providing better PT, active modes, road safety, etc. Take a look at the just-concluded IPENZ Transportation Conference programme for example: – I’d say more than half of the programme at least covered topics that were in the areas above, not roads/traffic/efficiency.

      1. Auckland has been in gridlock for years.The city is expanding in ever increasing circles.
        I don’t need an overseas consultant to tell me that it should be a car or bus only tunnel that should connect to the NS. Most people know that we need trains to the airport.
        I makes sense to build a 5 or 10 story apartment in Kingsland, without parking, rather than the equivalent 40 or so houses on good farmland in Pukekohe. The cost to the city is minimal at Kingsland whereas building roads and other extra infrastructure 50 km away is the continuing problem. People living close to the city can walk or cycle and this has big benefits for NZ in several ways.

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