Yesterday Transport Minister Michael Wood and Waka Kotahi released the latest ingredient in the transport acronym soup, the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) for 2021-24. The NLTP sets how much will be invested in transport system over the coming three years and needs to give effect to the Government Policy Statement for Transport (GPS) which was confirmed about this time last year.
Since the formation of Waka Kotahi back in 2008, one phrase that appears in every NLTP has been the claim of a record level of investment. In the 2009-12 NLTP it was $8.7 billion. That was raised to $12.3 billion for 2012-15, then was upped to $13.9 billion for 2015-18. Most recently the 2018-21 version jumped to $16.9 billion. With this latest NLTP we see the biggest jump yet, increasing a whopping 43% to $24.3 billion thanks in part due to investments like the NZ Upgrade Programme and the government providing a $2 billion loan to Waka Kotahi..
Michael Wood said the NLTP will drive the economic recovery by supporting thousands of jobs around the country.
“With local government, we’ll be investing a record $24.3 billion into transport services and infrastructure over the next three years – a 44 per cent increase compared to the last three years and 75 per cent more than the previous government.
“Our Government has listened to the concerns of local government and communities and we have stepped in to provide $2 billion of financing to boost road maintenance and public transport. We couldn’t accept our roads deteriorating.
One of the reasons Waka Kotahi needed the loan is there are a lot of big projects with future funding commitments, such as paying the Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth PPPs which will suck up hundreds of millions each year for decades to come. And with that in mind it’s not clear how Waka Kotahi will pay back that $2 billion loan and what implication that will have on future NLTPs.
At a very high-level, this is where the funding for the NLTP comes from and where it’s going. One thing worth noting from it is that the amount of money being spent on roads ($16.8b) is more than the amount of revenue that comes from road user charges, fuel taxes and registrations ($13.4b). This is important given the frequent claims that drivers are subsidising other modes – even if that investment in other modes is to make it easier for drivers.
As mentioned above, the NLTP gives effect to the GPS, in which the government outlines the overall transport policy and sets funding ranges for each activity class. The NLTP sets where the actual funding levels sit within those ranges. The chart below shows the funding ranges for the GPS and where the funding coming from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), which is made up of road user charges, fuel taxes and registration fees, sits within that.
A couple of things from that graph that stand out.
- This is the first time that state highway improvements hasn’t been the single biggest category and this time both State Highway Maintenance and Road to Zero trump it.
- Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that Public Transport Services is near the bottom of the funding range. During the announcement I asked about this and was effectively told that other than some service improvements tied to the delivery of infrastructure e.g. more train services once the City Rail Link opens, we won’t see a general increase in funding for services. This is disappointing as improving services is going to be critical to making PT more useful and having it play a much greater role in improving mobility and reducing emissions.
- The budget for walking and cycling is above the funding range which is great to see. However, that funding includes things like $190 million to complete Auckland’s Urban Cycleway Projects, that were meant to have been completed by the end of 2018. This highlights that a big part of our (lack of) cycleway problem is not due to a lack of funding but a lack of the ability to deliver. Even so, the increase in funding is welcome though it still represents less than 4% of our transport budget while the United Nations environment team suggests active modes should make up 20% of transport budgets.
- Perhaps as an example of how much Waka Kotahi are funding improvements to rail and coastal shipping because they have to, both have funding ranges right on the minimum the GPS allows.
Next I took a look at the amount of funding per region from the regional summaries provided. It’s worth noting with these that they are only committed funding and the NLTP contains space for new projects which may alter this.
In terms of projects that are being funded, there’s nothing particularly new as it’s all stuff that’s been in other documents such as ATAP and the Regional Land Transport Programme. There are however breakdowns of some of the key things by region. Here’s the one for Auckland, though the government are still not quite funding Auckland to the level agreed in ATAP with there being about a $300 million difference.
There’s a lot more detail on the Waka Kotahi website.