Every weekend we dig into the archives. Today’s post by Matt was originally published in November 2016.

With the release of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) it once again got me thinking about a funding anomaly in our transport system, the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), or the Proposed Future Strategic Public Transport Network as ATAP calls it.


The general way in which we fund transport in New Zealand hasn’t changed for decades, if not close to a century. State Highways are fully funded by central government while local roads and public transport (except rail infrastructure) are funded roughly 50% by central government with the other half coming from local governments (by way of rates) – there are a few exceptions that sit outside of this but by in large it hasn’t changed.

One of the reasons for State highways being fully funded is that they are considered a strategic network. They’re the key roads linking regions, cities and towns together throughout the country. Within cities like Auckland they, primarily in the form of the motorways, do the same thing but also link disparate parts of the city. Here’s what the NZTA say about them:

The state highway network provides a strategic roading link between districts and regions. State highways help to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the entire length and breadth of the country. They link main centres of population to industrial hubs and tourism destinations. State highways also play an important role in delivering public transport solutions. In our planning, we work to build connections with local networks and maintain the functioning of the state highway.

As mentioned above, ATAP has described future strategic PT network to go along with a strategic road network. This is important as it’s a recognition that high quality PT has a key role to play in Auckland’s future. Here’s what ATAP says about them both:

Auckland’s strategic road, rail and public transport networks are the most critical elements of the city’s transport system. It is essential to maintain and develop strong, safe and resilient strategic networks that can cope with increased demand.

Further information in ATAP describes these strategic networks as the “Backbone”, linking major locations and providing for highest volumes of movement. Here is the proposed future strategic road network. Most of the Tier 1 routes are already state highways or proposed to be them (East West Link) with the biggest exception being Te Irirangi Dr and Ti Rakau Dr.


According to the NZTA as of 2015, across the country state highways make up just 11.5% of all roads (12.7% by the number of lane km) but in Auckland this is just 3.9% of roads (6.6% by lane km). Yet these roads are responsible for a large portion of traffic with as much as 48.5% of all vehicle km travelled estimated to be on state highways. These figures are shown below.


Because of their strategic status, state highways also get a lot of funding. In the current 3-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), across New Zealand state highways are allocated $4.2 billion for improvements and another $1.7 billion for maintenance. By comparison just $465 million is allocated for improving local roads, $1.7b for maintenance of local roads while public transport gets $1 billion, mainly for services – and around half of these figures are paid for by local rates.

A big question going forward is how we’re going to pay to develop that strategic PT network. One fear I have is that the deal for City Rail Link, where the council and government share the costs 50:50, has set a precedent in how we fund the rest of the PT network. Auckland needing to fund 50% of all PT, regardless of how important or valuable it is, while even every minor state highway project gets 100% funding will continue to lead to even more perverse outcomes than we already have.

So, given both the strategic road and PT networks are serving essentially the same purpose, why shouldn’t they be funding the same? Why should it matter what mode is being built if it’s considered a strategic network?

I feel this is going to become a greater and greater issue, especially with the upcoming completion of the Western Ring Route. Once Waterview early next year is completed we will have all the key inter-regional links in place. From that point out any motorway projects within the urban area are just about increasing capacity for local movements.

Ultimately, I think a wider funding discussion is needed. ATAP doesn’t break down the costs of developing transport too much but does suggest that over all modes there is a funding gap of up to $400 million annually. There will obviously be a lot of future discussion about how to close that gap and those discussions could go on for many, many years. In the interim perhaps it’s time for the government and council to rethink how funding is structured. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • The strategic PT network is treated the same as the strategic road network and funded 100% from the NZTA out of the NLTP, this includes rail infrastructure which is funded directly by the government.
  • Perhaps combined with 100% funding, the development of the strategic PT network is handed over to the NZTA
  • Another option could be that Auckland is given bulk funding for transport and Auckland Transport’s role expanded to including the development and maintenance of the local state highway network and local rail network. This would allow all transport projects in the region to be assessed, prioritised and funded under the same conditions.

What do you think, should strategic PT corridors be funded the same as their corresponding road networks and how would you do it?

Share this


  1. “In the current 3-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), across New Zealand state highways are allocated $4.2 billion for improvements and another $1.7 billion for maintenance.”

    If the government was really serious about reducing carbon emissions then they would be looking to change this model as you suggest. NZ needs less people driving on our highways and more people on buses and trains. The impact of tourists driving long distances is also badly affecting our carbon emissions.

    I have spoken previously about the Italian autostrada model where users pay for the cost of using these roads. (about 7 euros per 100km) Isn’t it fair where those using the roads pay for them and those using them the most pay the most? (I appreciate that Troy Bowker will be sitting over his Sunday coffee apoplectic with rage over what he probably perceives as another attack on the kiwi bach – or at least his bach. Perhaps it is ironical that if we do nothing about emissions for many bach owners they will some time in the future have king tides, or any tides, lapping around the front porch, or worse?)

    The $5.9 billion is a large chunk of change in only three years. It is enough for north western light rail. There is more than enough left over to think of a better solution than 4 lanes to the planes in Wellington. What about addressing the projected 41% increase in vehicle traffic to Auckland airport over the next twenty years? Where’s the funding going to come from for light rail to the Shore (no more vehicle lanes) that is going to be necessary in the next decade i.e. before 2030.

    The current funding system is broke for a changed world. When Otago University says that we will travel 50% less by car by 2050 it is absurd that we should continue to spend so much on roads at the rate that we are. Let’s not just talk about change, let’s have change.

  2. Matt L this comment you made “Another option could be that Auckland is given bulk funding for transport and Auckland Transport’s role expanded to including the development and maintenance of the local state highway network and local rail network. ” is that as AT are a law under themselves how much off that that money would go to increase the bloated salaries that they receive now ? and not be used for what it’s supposed to be for and how many others will they employ to shuffle paper around . As anything to do with roads and rail all seem to have a forest of paper before anyone decides to do anything .
    Or will they move again this time from the Wynyard Quarter to a large ivory tower with a better view in the city ? with the extra money they will have . They use to have a large building at Henderson railway station and complained they had to come into the city for meetings hadn’t they heard off teleconferencing ? so they shifted to where they are now for what I think was a better view and more places to park their cars and not use the transport they are paying for i.e Buses and Rail .

    1. DavidL,
      you are way too harsh on AT.
      86% of staff travel to work by other means than a single occupancy vehicle.
      This is an enormously important statistic and rightly replaces the previous table that reported on fuel usage for the whole of Auckland.

      I do have some skepticism though about AT’s performance and that is why I will be submitting to the Climate Change Response Bill that if they fail to achieve their carbon emission targets they may be the subject of judicial review. This can’t come quickly enough!

    2. The Henderson office was a poorly located shitshow of parking… and parking complaints. There is practically no parking at the new headquarters and almost all staff catch public transport, walk or cycle.

      Henderson was a dumb idea to start with, it was only there because they had the old Waitakere offices left over. If you stick an office out in the outer burbs you piss off most people who end up with horrible commutes driving from all over, so you tend to lose good staff and are left with folk who happen to live nearby and like the idea of clocking out early to beat the traffic and pick up their kids from school by 4pm.

      The centrally located office is far better for attracting the best staff from around the region while working for public transport and reducing car commutes. It also make far more sense for servicing projects and work sites around the whole of Auckland, and for serving customers and working with companies around all of Auckland.

      The main issue is peoples day to day transport getting to work, but yes taking three hours to have a one hour meeting because your office is in the sticks is also dumb.Teleconferencing is shit by the way, it doesn’t work half the time, and is useless for site visits or workshop sessions. For all you like to whinge about ‘paper shuffling’, most of what AT does is actually working with people directly.

      1. Really important for AT to be as close as possible to Council, NZTA, MoT, CRLL etc, for daily contact. Totally inefficient to be stuck out in the burbs. So much time wasted and no daily experience of the heart of all the networks by staff. Henderson has one rail line, but the city is the key to every mode; ferries, bus, rail, bike, pedestrians and of course streets and roads.

        Basically this is a microcosm of how cities function, the centre is, well, central to everywhere.

      2. But you have to admit it was really funny that AT got sent to a building in Henderson, which was built with bugger all parking, just at the time AT was arguing parking wasn’t needed for offices. It was even funnier to watch as more parking suddenly appeared for use by AT staff.

        1. But not funny when the subsequently left that not-fit-for-purpose leftover building to move to one where they had practically no staff parking?

          Moral of the story, don’t setup the regional headquarters of a large corporate organisation in an old local council office on the edge of the city.

        2. If AT want to follow the tradition of local government then the next step will be to buy a building, and claim they are saving a fortune by purchasing a building that already meets their needs, then spend 50% again fixing it up. The whole thing could be funded by reducing services all the while claiming services are not being reduced.

      3. Yes must be soooo much better altogether in one central place. New boss, new building, better location. I’m expecting these two facts alone to give us some city wide improvements. I guess they are all fully settled in by now?

    3. After finding these 2 articles on the net , in March 2018 the council were going to sell the building which was then valued at $57 million. And it had the following working there 350 Auckland Council staff and 45 from its Auckland Transport agency.


      And May 2018 they then decided not to sell it . and this article has 6 questions about why the Council property arm and AT deciding in different wisdoms

      1. Why did Auckland Transport (AT) decide to vacate this building they actually owned, and take their workforce, in effect shifting major resources and staff downtown to a very expensive Vodafone Building?

      2. Why has it taken so long for Panuku – the mighty property arm of the council who oversee $2 billion of land and buildings – to develop its strategic land holdings?

      3. And why have Panuku just woken up to the fact about these excess properties and put them on the market?

      4. Is there a magic date in 2018 because these properties have been sitting there since the super city was formed in 2010?

      5. Why or when will the Henderson renewal project commence?

      6. What are the forward commitments to the West Auckland community in lifting the CBD of the western region – namely Henderson?

      And Panuku then sold the building in Auckland central for $3million which could have housed AT instead of moving them to Wynyard Quarter


      So if you look at the RNZ item there is a photo of the carpark around the Henderson building so where do the 350 staff park ? or do they or most of them use PT to get to work ? .and what do most of them do ?

      1. “And Panuku then sold the building in Auckland central for $3million which could have housed AT”

        That building is no longer fit for use. There are structural issues and resolving them requires the removal of all of the asbestos in the building. The estimated cost of the refurbishment was $80m, which is why the building, on a prime central Auckland site sold for $3m.

        Also, the 350 staff probably walk, cycle, or catch public transport, just like most city centre staff do.

        1. Sailor Boy if the asbestos in the building is untouched it will be safe , and with all the asbestos in all the homes in this country it would be in the Billions to clean and remove all as any home built from the mid 70,s and back you have exterior walls , basement sheeting etc and as long it is painted it’s safe so keep all water blasters away , give it a gentle hosing to clan and repaint . And if you have the old super six rooves on your house don’t touch if you think they need cleaning as a water blaster with remove the moss and disturb all the fibres and spread them all around the neighbourhood and that will close everything down until a clean up is done

        2. “if the asbestos in the building is untouched it will be safe”; however, “There are structural issues and resolving them requires the removal of all of the asbestos in the building”. So, it won’t be safe and “The estimated cost of the refurbishment was $80m”

  3. The strategic PT system should be funded further by:
    – congestion tolls (drop in future roading needed, mode shift, increased PT patronage & revenuce, increased cross subsidization from tolls)
    – proper parking strategies aimed at properly pricing commuter parking (private & public)
    – including future carbon prices in transport analysis

    1. kiwi o/s
      and none of this is rocket science because you just have to look at a selection of European countries to see these ideas applied in one form or another.
      And to your list you can add higher sales taxes on new vehicles; and higher registration costs sometimes based on vehicle size.
      On the point of parking strategies AT has one. It doesn’t work because they simply ignore it when they choose. As a citizen we have little recourse. I have complained, but they simply dismissed the complaint. So I complained to the Ombudsman and that has little traction almost twelve months after making the complaint.
      Now the same major breaches appear to have occurred on two separate occasions. Being a guy of infinite patience and almost the same amount of perseverance I will make a complaint about the two other instances.
      It is a sad day when the public has to go to such lengths
      to try and enforce a commitment that has been given to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *