Today the government have released the draft of their new Government Policy Statement on Land Transport for 2021-31 (GPS).

As the name implies, the GPS sets out the government’s transport policies and spending on transport and does so over a 10-year horizon – although is refreshed every three years. It breaks transport spending down to specific activity areas and sets a funding range for them. Those funding ranges are then used by the NZTA and regional councils to come up with more specific plans for how that money will be spent. Those plans also have to be consistent with and give effect to the GPS.

Here’s the Minister’s press release.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford released today the Draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) 2021 on land transport which confirms that the Government will invest a record $54 billion in its balanced transport policy over the next decade.

The GPS is how the Government guides Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to invest more than $4.5 billion a year raised through the National Land Transport Fund; and how it expects them to allocate funding towards roads, rail, walking and cycling infrastructure, coastal shipping and public transport.

“This GPS shows our Government is putting the pedal to the metal on our balanced transport policy while committing to a massive infrastructure spend over 10 years,” Phil Twyford said.

“Alongside the historic $12.1 billion COVID-19 economic response package and the $12 billion NZ Upgrade programme, this transport investment will make a real difference to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

“The Draft GPS 2021 signals that we will make a record investment in transport of $48 billion on top of our $6.8 billion from the NZ Upgrade Programme, which will help give the transport construction industry certainty during the current global economic headwinds.

“We are not proposing to raise petrol tax as we are making good progress addressing the infrastructure deficit the last government left with the revenue from GPS 2018.

“Safety remains our Government’s top priority and we’re planning to invest $10 billion in our strategy to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the road by 40 per cent.

“In the first three years alone, Road to Zero will invest nearly $3 billion in safety infrastructure like median barriers, safety campaigns and road policing.

“The regions will get an extra $1.2 billion in road upgrades through Road to Zero in the first three years, more than double the amount for regional improvements under GPS 2018.

“We’re taking climate change seriously through unprecedented investments in public transport and walking and cycling improvements. Compared to the previous government, public transport investment is up 163 per cent and walking and cycling is up 227 per cent.

“Given how both rail and coastal shipping help take pressure off our roads and produce less emissions, we are looking to fund both in GPS 2021. Building alternative transport options for people and freight is a vital part of achieving the Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050,” Phil Twyford said.

Let’s look at the actual document.

As with the current GPS, there are four strategic priorities. This year they’ve changed again but while they’re largely the same, they seem much more focused on specific outcomes. For example, in the current GPS we have the vaguer sounding Access but that has become Better Travel Options while Environment has changed to Climate Change. So in both cases they’re much more explicit in what the priority is which I think is a good thing. The one major change here is Improving Freight Connections which replaces Value for Money, a holdover from the previous government’s GPS and has been shifted into a separate section on how they’ll make investment decisions.

As they point out, many of these overlap, for example, building a protected cycleway improves safety but it also delivers better travel options and by moving more people emission free it helps in addressing climate change.

Within these priorities, one thing that particularly stands out in the Better Travel Options section is this:

Implement mode shift plans for Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. The NZTA will take a more proactive role in accelerating mode shift by partnering with local government and other agencies to shape urban form, make shared and active modes more attractive, and influence travel demand and transport choice. This includes progressing work that is already well underway on developing a public transport system in Christchurch.

These four priorities are meant to contribute to five key outcomes.


One of the most important aspects of the GPS is how it sets out funding priorities. This is done through a series of funding ranges for each specified activity. The NZTA then sets the exact level of funding for each activity within that range. The range also exists on an overall level and in addition there is an annual expenditure target which the NZTA are required to match – although whether they can will depend on things like the amount of fuel tax collected. The overall range and target are shown below and shows the government are expecting to spend $13.7 billion over the 2021-24 period (after that a new GPS could change it all so there’s not too much point counting it).

One thing that isn’t clear is that there’s actually going to be enough money coming into the National Land Transport Fund from fuel taxes and road user charges to pay for all of this, especially as the government seem to be ruling out changing those in the next three years. This is likely to become even harder to meet given current events.

Perhaps the thing I look for most when looking at the GPS is the funding bands for each activity class. Every GPS there are slight tweaks to the funding bands, consolidating a few here, creating new ones there etc. For this GPS the government have made quite a few and significant changes which make direct comparisons with previous GPS difficult.

The most significant of these is the new ‘Road to Zero‘ activity to support road safety. This seems to pull together some funding from state highways and local roads, as well as the previously separate Road Policing and Road Safety Promotion activities. I’ll talk more about this shortly.

Also changing this time is that the Public Transport funding has been split up to separate services and infrastructure again. These were previously separate activities but National combined them in 2015. There are some good theoretical reasons for doing this but in practice, particularly the last few years, we’ve seen the NZTA using the PT budget to pay for big infrastructure like the Northern Busway extension of the transit lanes they’re building on SH20B – both of which should have come from the Rapid Transit activity. This meant despite the government talking a big game on improving PT, little new money was actually made available to increase services. The Rapid Transit class was new in the current GPS but that has been folded into the new PT Infrastructure class.

There is also now a rail network class, replacing the Transitional Rail one introduced in 2018 – although it is noted that any approved projects or operating funding from it for the Auckland and Wellington PT networks, such as double tracking to Upper Hutt, will now be shifted to the PT classes mentioned above.

The upper and lower bands for each activity class is shown below

As mentioned, because of the changes it’s difficult make direct comparisons with previous GPS, however with a few assumptions I think it’s possible. For this I’ve only focused on 2021-24 years. Then using the figures in the current GPS, I’ve assumed the forecast funding ranges 2021-24 for Road Policing and Promotion of Road Safety remains the same. That gives us a figure for infrastructure spend and I’ve split that up proportionally between State Highways and Local Roads.

It’s also worth noting that this is funding from the National Land Transport Fund and so doesn’t include the government’s NZ Upgrade Programme. That is expected to add just over 3 billion to the expenditure over the next three year period and as we know, includes a lot of motorway projects. So while we’re spending a lot more on public transport than we have, given we’re still spending so heavily on state highways suggests the actual balance hasn’t changed all that much.

The draft GPS will be open for feedback till 27 April.

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  1. Once the NZ Upgrade Programme and all its state highways are added on top of these activity class graphs, it seems like this government will be wasting more money on motorways than the previous government.

    So much for a change in transport priorities. Sigh.

    1. So depressing.

      The walking and cycling amount! No wonder everything’s so dangerous.

      And the enforcement amount, too?? I don’t get it. Where are the police?

    2. Yeah agree, big sigh. I do wonder if it’s partly misinformed sigh, though…
      Investing in state highways has a new question mark over it that it’s never had before, which is… what will actually be using them? Road transport is in line for a massive overhaul over the next 40 years. Diesel powered and human-driven large trucks are currently the mainstay of NZ’s long-haul freight transport. If carbon emission costs are massively hiked globally (which seems probable) they will be largely replaced by smaller and more numerous autonomous electric vehicles. They will be either battery powered (lowest infrastructure costs, but slow), road induction powered (highest infrastructure costs, but fastest) or hydrogen powered (somewhere in between). All these things can be retrofitted later, and will likely need to be anyway.
      I know it’s a terrible idea to bet on new technologies emerging for infrastructure investment, but these already have emerged, and they are full steam ahead on development (we’re not talking flying cars, hyperloops or airtrains here…) I do wonder if regional trains vs more roads are quite the solid investment they used to be, and there doesn’t appear to be enough certainty yet on when new tech will roll out for some solid analysis on it (at least I can’t find any, please correct me if I’m wrong).

      1. You’re a bit focused there on the energy source though, John.

        What about safety? Getting freight onto rail, and people out of cars and onto public transport are both well-evidenced substantial safety improvements.

        What about the effects of building more state highways: ongoing maintenance costs, ongoing financing costs, huge local environmental damage during construction including of the waterways, ongoing environmental damage.

        Putting freight onto rail and people onto public transport minimises the need for state highway building.

        And in the process returns billions of dollars to the coffers for the things we actually need to do.

        The SH building of recent years is going to cost us a lot of money in carbon credits this decade, due to the induced traffic. That’s money we should be spending on building a low carbon network, too.

        1. Automating transport can be as much about safety as it is about anything else. Vision Zero? You got it.
          And the only reason we have so many highways is the abundance of fossil fuels, so the energy source is of vital importance to the preferred mode.
          If we remove humans and fossil fuels from the equation, it must surely change the best infrastructure solution dramatically.

        2. “If we remove humans and fossil fuels from the equation, it must surely change the best infrastructure solution dramatically.”

          Sort of like how a train runs on electricity with 1 driver instead of 600 drivers of petrol cars or 100 truck drivers?

        3. Sailor Boy… exactly. So the advantages of rail transport over road transport diminishes to some degree. Which is why I wonder whether it changes the overall equation, and therefore changes the best overall solution.

      2. Agree totally John.

        **Very unpopular opinion Alert**

        Autonomy will lead to greater safety on our roads and the movement of goods can be timed to certain times (largely at night) and to certain lanes on higher capacity roadways/highways. Give it 20 years (maybe sooner) and it will be illegal for humans to drive, reducing DSI further.

        Electricity/hydrogen is a fait accompli now, it’s coming. Forget about flying cars and the like… Need to focus on the infrastructure to support autonomous clean energy vehicles moving people and goods, particularly at a regional level… Aviation industry likely to be ‘kaputzed ‘soon. And arguably this needs to happen from an emissions perspective. If in the future if carbon is correctly priced it will be only the 0.1% that will be able to afford to fly to Wellington. The answer… good old roads where rail can’t go.

        In much the same way a lot of today’s roads were upgraded from carriage ways we now need to upgrade inter regional highways the same to move driverless trucks and people at scale.

        Obviously where people live, work and play in built up urban environments will need to be treated completely differently. But if you live in Ohakune and work in Waiouru for example no one can tell me that rail would ever be viable between those two locations. Do these people by dint of living south of the Bombays not deserve a good standard of road for their Autonomus car to whisk them along on in the future?

        Don’t get me wrong rail is great but it can only cover so much of the map. Seems to be a major ‘rail is good’ ‘road is bad’ sentiment on here. If you actually leave Auckland you will see how totally unworkable that is.

        Both road and rail will need to complement each other. In the same way we let the railways fall into disrepair it would be a shame for roads (which have has so much investment put into them) do the same.

        1. ZEVs are fait accompli now, absolutely. But not autonomous vehicles, they simply don’t work, and won’t any time soon.

          Very peculiar example you picked for a never viable rail service. Ohakune and Waiouru are both on the same rail line, an electrified one at that, they are 18 minutes apart by train. It would be extremely easy to run more passenger services to serve that trip. In europe or east asia there would be a train every fifteen minutes on a line serving those towns.

        2. Yep, realise that. The operational cost for the 10-20 people that would make the trip each day would be bonkers to consider though… Surely…

        3. Nick R… seriously, don’t count on it. Autonomous vehicles certainly won’t work without supporting infrastructure, such as safety & guidance systems. But on highways they are simple to incorporate, and relatively low cost. Some truck manufacturers like Kenworth are pushing for it in testbed locations, for depot-to-depot autonomous transit. Somebody like Mainfreight could easily do it here, and really quickly. Remember 10 years ago when you mostly used a landline and your phone was only good for texts and calls? I’m not suggesting it’s the best solution, but the trucking lobby is a formidable beast. If it’s going to happen anyway, we might as well look at how to make the most of it.

        4. The operational cost of the 18 people who go from Swanson to Te Mahia is also bonkers. Rail services are best if they include many stops with small numbers of trips between each, with occasional very popular stops. If we had 20 stops between Auckland and Wellington and every pair of stops only achieved 18 people per direction, per day, that is still 2.5m trips a year.

          One might imagine that slightly more people may want to travel between many of those pairs (Hamilton and Te Awamutu, Palmerston North and Levin, Puhinui and Ohakune, ).

        5. It wouldn’t be a service just between Ohakune and Waiouru.

          If we took the likes of Germany or Japan as an example, it would be a regional train that runs from Taumaranui to Palmerston North with about 15 stops in total.

          15 towns and villages on the line means over two hundred possible origin-destination pairs of which Ohakune to Waiouru is only one. And that’s before you count connections at either end to other regional trains going elsewhere, or longer distance connections to the likes of Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland.

        6. I’m sorry Nick R. This is delusion time if you think people are going to commute daily on a line between Taumarunui and Palmerston North.

          There is so much territory in between as well where people want to get to once they get off the train. Population density in those parts are both incredibly small and very dispersed.

          If I live in Taumarunui and work at the Tangiwai Sawmill am I going to get off at Ohakune and then transition to the Ohakune Local Rideshare van waiting for me, with my 8 fellow co-workers that got on at Taumarunui, Owhango, and National Park? Given we wont be autonomous anytime soon the chap or chapette that drives the Ohakune Local might get a bit bored between 9am dropping us off and coming back at 5pm to pick us up.

          Would I do any of this if I am of sound mind?

          No, I will just move to Ohakune to be closer to my work and drive to Tangiwai… Rural NZ works totally different to the cities. This needs to be remembered. Rail is only ever going to complement road in these locations

        7. I’m not sure why you think Ohakune and Waiouru are representative of “people living south of the Bombays”. Focusing on a mostly empty area of NZ and using that as example is crazy.

        8. What you’ve described is exactly what happens in Germany, which is the example I was using. But yes, maybe the least populated part of the North Island is a bad example and people will just drive. That has little bearing on the roads or anthing else, low population that is highly dispersed hardly needs even the highways that do exist, let alone anything else.

        9. It’s not crazy at all. Just wanted to illustrate that roads and rail need to complement each other and one may have more mode share/ be more practical as a primary means of transportation depending on location. Therefore we owe it to those people that are not served well by Mass Transit to have decent roads.

          I still think a rail service the length of the country would be great just think its use as a primary travel mode would vary alot particularly between urban and country.

        10. It would be pretty hard to justify the cost of maintaining the existing two lane road between Ohakune and Waiouru, especially the early warning system for the Tangiwai bridge based on 18 commuters a day either.

  2. This section looks promising:

    Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities

    The first paragraph says:

    “The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leads New Zealand’s housing and urban development work programme. HUD is leading the development of the Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (HUD GPS), which will communicate the Government’s long-term vision for the housing and urban development system. It will also provide direction to Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities (Kāinga Ora). Kāinga Ora will lead, facilitate and enable urban development projects, which will include the delivery of transport and other infrastructure. The Ministry of Transport are working closely with HUD as they develop the HUD GPS.”

    1. Yeah, but the 3rd paragraph then says
      “41. HUD also works with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and other government departments to coordinate the Government’s Urban Growth Agenda (UGA), which addresses the fundamentals of land supply, development capacity and infrastructure provision by removing undue constraints …..

  3. Basically: Labour spends more on Transport, and that small difference is on public transport.
    Labour likes the motorways as much as National.

    I wonder how much of that spike from 2015 is from that stupid Transmission Gully?

    1. It is the Road Transport Forum and other road transport lobby groups instructing the on the future of shifting freight by road.

      1. I know.
        But there are many people who post on here who are clearly, at the very least, pro-Labour and who claim that the Nat’s are solely pro-roads (one of them even types “moar roads!”).

        These people need to be called-out for not being more impartial and holding Labour accountable for their also pro-road stance instead of giving Labour such a free pass and only blaming National. Furthermore: If they’re members of the Labour party; then they need to get within the organisation and try and change it, or expose any lobbying from the road transport forum they’re subjected to to the media/public.
        This is something in the national interest and which effects everyone’s well-being. If people put their political party above that; they deserve to be exposed and condemned for it.

  4. Meanwhile there has still been no further information on the East-West link re-evaluation against the governments policy statement and now, no timeline for it being complete.
    The previous update on the project page (March 2019) said “The outcome of the re-evaluation is expected shortly and we expect to be able to make announcements about decisions on this project in the coming months”
    Now (March 2020) it says “The complexity of the East West Link project and interrelationship with other regional works mean that the re-evaluation is still progressing”.
    This and the CRL were formally Aucklands top two priority transport projects.
    All of the other re-evaluations were completed in 2018.
    The lack of any progress after years have gone by is not acceptable.

    1. The longer they ignore it the more obvious it becomes how unnecessary East-West Link is in the first place. Some minor upgrades are all Neilson St needs.

  5. It turns out Twyford is a genius. The money he has saved by not building houses and by not building light rail can now all be deployed as part of the Government’s stimulus and wage subsidy package. Expect most of the future spending in this policy document to be reworked and even axed as part of the budget. I guess they figured they had written this document so they may as well release it, but it is hardly relevant any more.

      1. It shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail card for the shocking mess they made of Light Rail. Clearly that cannot happen now, but they should not be able to cash in on ‘financial responsibility’ by abandoning a project that a competent government would have been underway on.

        1. Everything’s ok as long as we build roads, Buttwizard.

          Looking forward to seeing where the spending actually tracked on the last GPS’s activity classes.

          Walking and cycling should be at least 20% of the budget. But I suspect they didn’t even meet the bottom of the range for that class.

        2. It will be buried as something that was a good idea back when the country didn’t face major problems. The Government will focus on health and incomes and everything else will only happen if it assists those two priorities. Soimon is already arguing for roads as a means to create employment as if we still live in the Roosevelt era of shovels and wheelbarrows and road construction using hand spoil methods. Fact is labour isn’t the biggest cost of roads anymore so that might not be the best way of spending scarce money. But you can bet it wont be light rail or East West or any of that nonsense. Expect planting forests and other more labour intensive activities. At least that is my guess.

  6. BAU is winning on state highway spend. Now it wins on aviation, too.

    “We are also committing to working with the sector and the CAA to ensure there is no red tape stopping airlines ramping services back up when international conditions improve.”

    From the government’s media release:

    Sorry, kids. The incumbent industries are more important to the government than your wellbeing in the future.

    1. As someone who’s livelyhood currently hangs in the balance, comments such as this are a bit out of order. You may not see aviation as important but it will keep NZ alive during the lockdown which other transportation modes (including shipping) will simply not be able to do.

      1. Martin, I’m sorry your livelihood is uncertain. That will be stressful, and I wish you good health, strength and luck. I hope the government can provide excellent assistance to help people shift to other industries, particularly sustainable ones that contribute to a circular healthy economy.

        My comment was about the government being committed to “ramping services back up”. That, I do not support.

        Aviation has managed to slip under the climate change radar for too long.

        Barcelona acknowledged the aviation emissions problems and put in its climate emergency action plan some proposals that “include steps to cut emissions at the port and the airport, where there are 12.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, four times higher than the figure for the rest of the city.”

        NZ hasn’t made this acknowledgement of the aviation emissions problem, and this is the moment to do so, not to commit to ramping them up again. This should be the moment of realising a whole lot of errors in how we organise our society, and what’s best for the future.

        Covid is creating chaos, upheaval and real fear, and government is right to be spending money to ease situations for people and the organisations they are part of. What I’m not seeing is the usual responsible reflection that should accompany a crisis like this. We need to choose a new path.

      2. Martin – I think you need to clarify why aviation will keep NZ alive during the lock down which other transportation modes (including shipping) will simply not be able to do excluding air access to/from the Chatham Islands.

        Air freight is not high on the list when its comes down to sustainable environmentally friendly movement of freight, except the Chatham Islands.

        Rail is top of the list, followed by coastal shipping, followed by road based transport regionally where there is rail access or inter-regionally where regions do not have rail access and lastly domestic air freight for small or essential priority freight like medical supplies, etc

  7. The total for Walking/Cycling over all periods is less that the low to high range for the 2021-2024 state highway budget.

    Not good enough!

    Matt, do you have the Actual spends for each of those periods? Can you add a dot to the graph?

  8. The light shaded areas are telling and important. A more road focused government would surely spend at the top of the range on highways ($7 billion) and at the bottom of the range for public tranoport ($2.5billion).
    A more PT focused government would be spending more on PT and less on highways. From the graph they would $6 billion (lower end of the range) on highways and $4 billion on PT (higher end of the range).
    The choice between the variable levels of spending on highways and PT is large and will be important to the roads or PT debate

  9. How about some actual commitment to public transport instead of lip service around climate change and vision zero?

    For context, right now I’m stranded here at Akoranga for the next half hour because Auckland Transport can’t or won’t organise a proper timetable to get to Devonport.

    I’d be home in 10 minutes if I’d had the sense to drive here this morning.

    How do we get through to Auckland Council and the government that usability of a public transport ‘network’ actually matters?

  10. “Implement mode shift plans for Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. The NZTA will take a more proactive role in accelerating mode shift by partnering with local government and other agencies to shape urban form, make shared and active modes more attractive, and influence travel demand and transport choice.”

    This could be really good. So often AT seems partly hamstrung by NZTA so if NZTA are leading this progressive work, this could be really positive.

    1. “Implement mode shift plans for Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown”

      Plans for mode-shift should also be for:
      Dunedin, Palmerston North, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth/Bell Block, Whanganui, Invercargil, Whangarei etc…

  11. Now is not the time for a GPS.

    There will be negative growth in the economy for at least a year.

    1) The GPS should be deferred
    2) All the capex reworked and slid out in time
    3) The 2020/2021 program reworked to cover existing construction & works in tender, maintenance, & works which have a major safety component, plus innovative PT solutions that reduce covid19 community transmission.
    4) The fuel tax reduced to match the new program. Some extra money is better in peoples pockets at this time

    1. I don’t think the Government can choose the time for a GPS. Rather, I thought there was a legislative requirement that specified the timetable?

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