Today the government are releasing their Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), with the details released to the public at midday. The ERP:

“will set out exactly how the Government plans to deliver on the first emissions budget. The Minister of Finance will also outline the first investments from the Climate Emergency Response Fund on the same day”.

One of the first things we’ll be looking for is to see just how much the ERP has changed from the draft that was released and consulted on last year. I’m picking there will be some minor changes, but that by and large it will remain the same – including the four high-level targets, which were:

  • Reduce vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by cars and light vehicles by 20 per cent by 2035 through providing better travel options, particularly in our largest cities.
  • Increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30 per cent of the light fleet by 2035.
  • Reduce emissions from freight transport by 25 per cent by 2035.
  • Reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 per cent by 2035.

But the most important aspect that we’re looking for will be the policy and funding initiatives the government are looking to implement in order to achieve those targets. So, I thought I’d list some of the things we expect to see, and the things we hope we’ll see.


Things we expect we’ll see:

Longterm PT fare reductions

In reducing fuel taxes and public transport fares recently, the government hinted that the PT fare drop, or something like it, may become permanent. Given the comments so far, I expect we’ll see a commitment around making fare reduction permanent, though I’m not sure it will be the exact 50% reduction we currently have.

Road Pricing 

As I discussed last week, it appears road pricing, or [de]congestion pricing as it’s commonly known, will be part of the announcement. It’s a proposal that’s already been unanimously supported by Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee – and National Party leader Christopher Luxon was on that committee when that happened. Announcing this won’t mean road pricing comes in immediately, however, as there is a lot of work needed first, including legislative changes.

So, I’m picking that if pricing is included in today’s announcement, it will be that the government will proceed with enabling legislation and possibly a programme to of work to finalise the details of an Auckland scheme, such as working out the exact boundaries and charges that will initially apply, as well as starting to scope and design the technology components etc.

Strategic Communications Funding

Most of us now accept the need to address climate change and want our country to do that – but many still don’t want to personally have to change how they travel, and will tend to oppose initiatives to make alternatives to driving easier. So, along with initiatives to reduce emissions there needs to be a strong communications strategy helping to explain why change is needed and the types of things that can be done to achieve it.

Stuff reported on the weekend that this was a likely announcement:

Climate Change Minister James Shaw hinted that a public information campaign would be part of the Emissions Reduction Plan to be released on Monday, noting the Climate Change Commission had recommended this type of approach.

In its final advice, the commission proposed the Government “establish a lead agency and a dedicated fund to support behaviour change”.


Things we hope to see:

Funding for improved PT Services 

While lowering PT fares is welcome, the biggest driver in the use of PT is the quality of service, such as the frequency, reliability and speed of services. In most places across NZ, we need to do a lot better in this regard. So, we want to see the government put more funding and central government focus in to achieving this so that PT can become a viable alternative for a lot more people.

In Auckland for example, we need more services to run at the ‘frequent’ standard, and for that frequent standard to be improved from a service every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, to every 10 minutes from 6am to 9pm. Funding this could be an ideal use of some of the road pricing revenue.

E-bike subsidies

The government’s Clean Car Scheme sees rebates given for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are funded by fees for high-emitting vehicles.

We think the government should expand the scheme, or create a separate one, to offer rebates on e-bikes. E-bikes aren’t cheap, but are already far more affordable than electric cars and many e-bike users find they are able to replace many, if not all of their car journeys with them. They also have the benefit of requiring far fewer materials to build and need even less electricity to run. This could help bring the cost of e-bikes down, potentially even (especially with something like a targeted rebate) making them a viable option for lower income households – something electric cars won’t be.

More Cycleway Funding

To go with making e-bikes easier to afford, we could also do with more safe places to ride them. More funding is clearly needed – with Auckland looking for at least another $1.7 billion over the next decade to deliver a meaningful network that would meet demand and start to shift the carbon dial, but even that is just a fraction of what’s needed.

We also need to get better at delivering networks of cycleways for all ages, faster, and delivering them more affordably.

Make Road Reallocation Easier

Changing road space allocation can be hard, not because it’s technically challenging but because of cumbersome bureaucratic processes and local authorities being made nervous by change-hesitant locals whose voices are amplified by click-bait focused media, while those who’d use the new road-space struggle to be heard.

The government has already shown a willingness to override local authorities’ hesitancy to change housing/planning rules, with the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) – both of which will result in significant changes to what can be built in our cities.

Perhaps it’s time for the government to do the same for road space allocation. For example, they could require that local authorities are not allowed to provide on-street parking on arterials unless safe cycling and bus priority are first provided for. This is not a magic bullet that will make bike lanes appear everywhere overnight, but it might help in reducing some of the resistance to change by local authorities.

An Active Travel Commissioner

The government should take a leaf out of the UK’s book and establish an Active Travel agency to lead and oversee progress for low-carbon travel. In the UK the agency, Active Travel England (ACE), is intended to:

create safer streets for cycling and walking to boost air quality and help improve the health and wellbeing of the nation

Active Travel England has sharp regulatory teeth, in line with the principles set out in Gear Change – the UK government’s fantastic walking and cycling policy. For example, these are just two of the agency’s tasks:

  • inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any that have not been completed as promised
  • inspect, and publish reports on, highway authorities for their performance on active travel, and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians

Furthermore, the policy states:

Active Travel England’s assessment of an authority’s performance on active travel will influence the funding it receives for other forms of transport

Implementing these policies here would certainly help focus the minds of local authorities.

A Mode Shift Fund

As well as funding and initiatives to make alternative modes easier to use, it would be useful to have a general fund for other mode-shift initiatives. This could be used for things such as implementing low traffic neighbourhoods, Innovating Streets-style initiatives, events such as regular Open Streets and play streets, and better funded travel planning tools and teams to help people better understand – and try out – alternative options for getting around.


What else do you think expect or want to see announced today?

We’ll find out at midday.

The writing on the wall, May 2022.
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63 comments

  1. The might announce something to do with rail. They have said that passenger rail is underutalised in New Zealand.

      1. Yeah and there are already hydrogen powered passenger trains overseas, we wouldn’t even need to electrify the route if we got them.

      1. Lets be realistic how many would actually use it? The cost to build sleepers won’t be cheap, Scotsrail ordered 75 new carriages for the Caledonian Sleeper, they cost £150m in 2019 from CAF. Ideally there would be two trains per night, one from each direction, that’s maybe 18/20 new carriages, say $60m, plus staffing, plus fixing stations along to route to make them safe, attractive and usable.

        1. Ok $60m for 20 carriages. That’s 240 cabins.
          Run them every night and that’s, say 150,000 person trips. Over the lifespan of the rolling stock that’s a capital cost of about $6 per person-trip.

          No big deal at all, and the capital investment up front is nothing. About the cost of half a motorway onramp or a park and ride extension.

    1. I caught Te Huia last week, to do a meeting in Hamilton.

      I’d like to see AT come to the party to fund additional service. The current service is a start, but realistically needs to be a two hourly service each way to cater for different types of journeys.

      1. Nik ;-There is suppose to to be an announce in the next couple of months about new services .
        And how full was the trains that you caught on that day ? .

        1. There were a good number of people on each service, I saw about 10-15 getting on at Puhinui in the morning and 30ish getting on at Frankton in the afternoon.

          My estimation is 50-60 on each trip.

      2. There is already submission to increase Te Huia services to 4 return daily services Monday to Friday being 2 return services from Auckland and 2 return services from Hamilton and 3 return services on Saturday and Sunday.

        1. Chris – Public Transport Forum NZ ;- The one that I hope will start is a return trip from say The Strand to Te Awamutu and return which I think would make a great Day Trip . As have seen the odd video with them doing test runs before this years start up .

        2. To make this service usable, there needs to be a lot more than 4 return services daily, using faster trains. More frequencies and faster services otherwise it will be consigned to the dustbin like the previous attempts.

  2. I am not expecting the ERP to show the “highest ambition” that we signed up to in the Paris Agreement. The draft plan had a target for transport emissions to go from 16 Mt to 14 Mt by 2030. Ireland (same population) is targeting going from 12 Mt to 6-7 Mt by 2030.

    One critical piece will be the treatment of forests. Since the carbon budgets are now set, easing back on forests means cutting fossil fuels more.

    I’d like to see a regional public transport plan and agency but not holding my breath. Anything new on motorways will be significant but ditto.

    If the $4.5b in new climate spending over the next four years is announced, it will be interesting to see where it goes. Maybe Fonterra will get some money to decarbonize their milk drying plants. Not completely dumb, but sets up an uneasy moral hazard for the future.

    The draft asked “How can Government further support households (particularly low-income households) to reduce their emissions footprint?” which to me was backwards. The question should be “How can Government ensure that high-income households reduce their emissions footprint?”

  3. I would like to see agriculture pay its full carbon price and be included in the ETS without any sweetheart deals or carve outs. I would like to see a ban on coal exports and a harsh tariff on coal imports. But this is New Zealand so it is never going to happen.

    1. Does anyone know how much of Aucklands power comes from Huntly?

      I’m guessing its enough to cause major disruption over the ‘cold night’ winter peaks?

      1. Tariffs don’t cause disruption, they merely provide stronger incentives for a change to alternative fuels. Huntly isn’t needed to meet peak demand either, only to make up for lost generation when hydro lakes are low. We could address this with pumped storage, wind, or solar which all allow the lakes to stay fuller. Coal tariffs and / or a higher carbon price would drive this change.

        It’s also worth noting that Glenbrook and Fonterra both use more coal than the Huntly plant and a coal tariff would encourage them to change too.

        1. Making a long term decision on Tiwai Point would also help. Investment in new generation in NZ at the moment is risky as there is the ongoing threat of power from Manapouri entering domestic market in a few years time.

        2. “a coal tariff would encourage them to change too”

          NZ could cease steel production and import it all. A huge win for our GHG targets!

        3. Huntly isn’t needed to meet peak demand either

          I thought that is what they blamed last years Hamilton blackouts on. Huntly being shut down at the time and just being short on peak generation capacity.
          I was under the impression that we genuinely are kind of short on renewable peak generation, not just short on raw energy in dry years.

          The new geothermal projects should help in the short – medium term. Maybe we could uprate existing hydro stations for peak generation? Add another few turbines to existing schemes (recognising that it wouldn’t help raw energy output). The Lake Onslow scheme is not going to help north island peak generation shortages however.

        4. As Sailor says Huntly isn’t needed for peaks it is a base load station. But when it was out the peak stations had to be run continuously. Huntly can generate more than all the Waikato dams, but it was designed for an age where coal burning was ok and we have all known better than that for 30 years . It is well past time to get rid of coal power stations both for public supply and for running milk dryers.

        5. Huntly Power station runs all day and all night so its base load just to be clear it runs during peaks so its probably peak load as well it is even ramped up and down during the day and night to meet demand. It even has an open cycle peaking plant. Sometimes the coal units are shut off but the combined cycle gas plant keeps running. In fact if your looking for base load Geothermal is a better fit. The only time I have seen Huntly completely off line was during covid lockdown when lake levels were good and there was plenty of wind. This gave us a renewable component of 96 percent.
          If you look at the Transpower website you will see a category of co generation this relates to power that is co generated as the result of industrial processers like the steel and forestry mills also dairy milk driers.
          https://www.transpower.co.nz/power-system-live-data

        6. Actually power from Manapouri used to be considered as base load but not any more after the recent drought in Fiordland and Southland. Power has being heading south for some months although it has improved some what over the last few weeks.

        7. FYI, the Glenbrook steel mill uses coal as a chemical reactant, not a fuel for heating. Converting an iron ore into elemental iron requires carbon to strip away the oxygen molecules in the ore and leave the iron behind. The source of this carbon is coal.

          So simply reducing coal usage isn’t really an option without reducing iron output. Of course you can increase process efficiency but this is constantly improving anyway as it saves money, tariff or no tariff.

          You can carry out the same process using hydrogen (the holy grail of green steel) but this process is far from commercially mature and the company could not just retrofit the current plant to use hydrogen.

      2. About 10 percent with 6 percent from gas and 4 percent from coal. Its a bit more just now with low lake levels in Southland and not
        Much wind.

      3. About 10%.

        There isn’t really any such thing as “Auckland’s power” – the whole country is interconnected. But for NZ as a whole, MBIE reports total net power generation in 2019-2021 at 130114 GWh. Genesis Energy, the operator of Huntly, reports generation for the same 3-year period of 13948 GWh (of which 39% was by burning coal, and 61% gas).

  4. The whole Clean car rebate system is in need of an overhaul already. New EVs are in short supply, and second-hand imports are becoming pricey due to NZD taking a pounding, particularly the Yen.

    1. There is so much demand for cleaner cars that the market needs a little while to adjust by importing more and older dirty cars are getting more expensive.

      That sounds like the system is working exactly as intended.

      1. The dirty cars are getting more expensive but so are the EVs. The value of the rebate has been eclipsed by the fall in our currency since it was established, so used EVs are more expensive, even if they cost the same when you’re buying them in an overseas markets in their currency.

        So if that’s the system working as intended, then the ongoing price of running fuel for people who would otherwise switch to EVs becomes a deadweight loss, as well as the emissions etc.

        1. Blaming the clean car rebate for issues that are entirely caused by a fluctuation in the exchange rate is so, incredibly, dishonest.

        2. Sorry, that’s literally exactly what I’m saying – the used EV rebate is no longer sufficient given that used EVs now cost a bunch more to import.

          I find your attempt to portray this as somehow ‘dishonest’ to be extremely distasteful, given you are accusing me of intentionally misrepresenting something when I’m literally saying the same thing you are attempting me of being dishonest about.

        3. Thanks for clarifying, but it still isn’t clear how you believe that the rising price of imports of all used vehicles makes the rebate any less efficient. This is the part that feels dishonest; ignoring that the cost of used ICE imports still rise with the exchange rate fluctuation.

          Are you suggesting then that the level of rebate needs to be increased so as to provide enough subsidy to actually affect consumer choices?

          If so, is it honest to call that an overhaul when it would just be adjusting the rates (which I understand the system already enables)?

        4. “The rising price of imports of all used vehicles makes the rebate any less efficient” is true if your basis of comparison is limited to other imports. The context of rising costs (of which petrol is one) is important if you’re trying to improve affordability of used EVs in the market people will be buying them in.

          Partially this is offset by the cash-for-clunkers stuff announced today, but if that’s set at the median income then it’s making some heroic assumptions about how much spare cash people with the national median household income can save if they live in somewhere like Auckland. I think the context of the living costs people are paying locally is underdone in this regard, as ultimately that’s what’s going to drive people’s ability to pay.

          As for what qualifies for an ‘overhaul’, I’d like to see the gap between the new and used rebate significantly narrowed and a minimum range for new PHEVs that can be nudged up over time. I think the UK does this?

        5. If we are worried about cost it is probably more important to get going on building that bicycle lane network, so you can actually get less (or no) cars in your household and do casual trips on a bicycle without hating yourself.

  5. There is a fairly reasonable argument to be made that the reduced calorie burn in humans due to ebike use over pedal bike use is a net emissions reduction even using coal power for the ebikes. Food production is generally quite fuel intensive.

    The argument that ebikes are bad because at the moment 18% of NZ’s electricity is thermal powered is extremely tenuous anyway, the energy use of ebikes is so drastically lower than electric cars, a single wind turbine can provide all the energy ebikes use in the Netherlands for example. And if some tiny portion of that ebike’s trips replace a cars trips then it’s immediately a net carbon saving.

    Not having an ebike subsidy because some minority of the grid’s power comes from thermal plants is the ultimate cutting off the nose to spite the face. There is no scenario in which ebike subsidies increase the net output carbon in NZ. Something doesn’t have to be a 100% perfect golden bullet solution in order to be worth doing. We already understand this with the encouragement of bus use (even diesel bus use) is a net carbon saving.

  6. The number 1 thing the Government can (re)announce is that its no longer a case of allowing the economy to prevail over the environment.

    Its not either progress/the economy or the environment anymore. We need the environment upsides and downsides to be treated as (co) equally important compared with the economics – on both upsides and downsides.

    From this flows all manor of policy and process changes. You could never produce a prescription long enough to cover all scenarios. But having such an overarching position makes it clear to all how the problems and their solutions should be approached.

    Bringing agriculture under the ETS is but one logical and swift outcome of that decision.

    Time will tell. Not holding my breath.

    1. The two are not mutually exclusive. The air is cleaner in cities in wealthier countries because they can afford to have to have clean air. If people are flat broke then the environment suffers too.

  7. The e bike subsidy looks good on paper,but at the moment,it would only subsidize people who could already afford to buy one ,just like the e car scheme. The greatest barrier to bikes is ,of course the network,it is currently only used by the strong and fearless,when a 10 year old can ride to school,progress will have been made. Cycle lanes,though are ” unsexy”, what govt ,local authority would be taken seriously, if there immediate action to CC,was bike lanes.
    As John Key is still finding out ,however,the idea proposed to him over nationwide bike trails,which to his credit,he ran with,has continued to reap rewards ,all over the country, unlikely, unsexy,but very,very successful.
    The bike has always held the key ,to most of the issues of CC .

    1. If the government don’t find cycle lanes “sexy” – while they’re doing nothing to mitigate the multiple billions of dollars spent by the automotive and fossil fuel industries to make driving seem “sexy” and undermine transport progress – it leads to all sorts of questions about where they got their sex education from. We know the vast majority of people want a safe cycling network. A big part of the government’s job is to ensure democracy gets a fair go – currently, they’re not managing to do so.

      1. Nobody asked for NZTA’s fancy decoy bridge.

        And we had all better get used to lanes everywhere being repurposed for better transport results.

    2. Of course a bike network is a massive barrier to anyone riding, esp kids.

      But how much of kids not riding to school is helicopter parents?

      My kids have been riding since they were 8 and touch wood, so far so good.

      There is no bike lane, they ride on the footpath and cross two busy roads, fortunately with lights

      They also walked to school alone when the oldest one was 8 and the youngest 6.

      Was I nervous on that first solo walk, hell yes I was. Did I want to follow them down the road? Of course. It took all my willpower not to but at some stage you gotta trust that they can listen to what you’ve taught them.

      Obviously we’re lucky we live close, but lots of parents on the same street were driving their SUV’s the same distance ours were walking/riding.

      Depressing.

      1. It’s likely a bit of both. I for one am terrified of my kids riding on the footpath as I’ve seen the way people come out of their driveways at speed. I’d be much happier with cycle lanes.

        1. Cycle lanes will have exactly the same problem unless they are hard up against the road (which ideally is not the case).

          I remember when my commute went along the Shakespeare Road shared path in Milford. Some people will drive their cars on those driveways to the street at full throttle, backwards.

        2. I t’s a combination of all factors. More cycle network = more riders = more careful drivers (safety in numbers effect, well-documented, goes beyond infrastructure alone). No network is 100% safe against death and serious, even if that is the Vision Zero – BUT a good bikeway design will make you feel AND be a lot safer.

        3. Yeah it definitely doesn’t help if you typically drive around for weeks without ever seeing a cyclist. It is well documented that people will look without seeing if something they don’t expect shows up (like a cyclist instead of a car).

  8. I would like the Government to explain what bio fuels will be used to meet the proposed mandate also how they will produced and where they they be coming from and how they will be distributed for sale. And I want the answer to be given on a two a4 sheet not a 66 page pdf we have had quite enough of those.

    1. I also want to know what cars that cannot run ethanol blends are going to do if biofuels become compulsory in retail fuel.

      1. Same as vehicles that cannot run unleaded fuel. They will have to buy fuel from specialist licenced suppliers at a premium cost.

        Given anything with a Carburettor will struggle on Ethanol blends the market will be there for some time. The requirement will likely be to offer both, with a tax advantage one way I owuld guess.

    2. Thank you for answering my question Victoria.
      Presumably we would use waste cooking oil and tallow to make bio diesel and lactose from dairy to make ethanol. Its hard to see large volumes being produced. In the case of lactose it has value as a food product if futhur processed. Unless we are trying to start a corn ethanol industry or sugar beet industry. Even vegatable oils could be grown for bio diesel however is this a good use of agricultural land. We could manufacture bio fuels from imported ingredients. I haven’t heard anything more about using wood waste to make liquid bio fuels so I presume that idea has being abandoned.

  9. Listening to Michael Wood speak about a week ago I wouldn’t expect the reduced fares to continue. There is limited money available and putting it into infrastructure and improved services is probably a higher priority.
    Certainly congestion charging but I could see the scheme becoming more complicated in an effort to make it more equitable.
    A further expansion of the guzzler tax and ev/hybrid subsidy scheme is possible.

  10. Is there a reason we never talk about subsidising solar power / battery storage for housing? Is it because its a lot less of a problem tha emissions from transport? Or is it that it takes power (excuse the pun) away from the big energy companies?

    Surely NZ owned companies producing solar panel to sell to New Zealanders is better than pumping money into foreign car companies?

    1. Joe, solar PV on homes (without batteries) is only worthwhile if people are home all day to use the power given NZ’s very low feed-in tariffs; that could be fixed. Solar on homes with batteries is viable but very high cost. Far better is to put solar PV on schools, offices and other workplaces that operate during working hours. For schools it’s a complete no brainer as many BoTs have worked out. I would like to see more encouragement to get this done at scale.

  11. There’s multiple ways this climate action can go.

    Maybe it will go down like a smoking ban in pubs in the 1990’s. There will be some grumbling but we will be OK.

    Or it will be like a smoking ban in pubs in the 1960’s. 30 years too soon.

    1. Going down like a weighted balloon for me, so far. More electric car subsidies? THAT’s the transport headline? Half of the transport budget for that, but still treating e-bikes like they don’t exist? Am I getting that right, or am I misreading it? Thanks James, thanks Jacinda.

      So bloody middle-of-the-road, when the road is on fire.

      1. I don’t like to get into politics on environmental stuff, but underwhelming as this is, could you imagine a Simeon Brown transport budget?

        I haven’t caught up with opposition response yet, but given current polling, I worry that in something as basic and universal as global climate change, we can’t seem to get consensus across mainstream political parties.

  12. We could shut the entire country down and live hand to mouth on subsistence farming and it won’t make the slightest difference to climate change. It’s a shit excuse for not doing anything but nevertheless true.

  13. Just watched a interview with the Transport Scientist (I think he was) for the Ministry of Transport on Seven Sharp discussing car share. Good idea for being able to use an EV if you can’t afford one particularly. An E-Bike was also suggested as part of the share scheme. You can hire the car fit for the particular purpose you need it for is one big advantage over owning your own vehicle.

    1. Through my previous employer I had membership to Drivy, now Getaround, as an alternative to using rentals, carshare is not a great system, the cars were never nearby when you needed one, you had to transport yourself to the car, which meant using a taxi, often it was easier and cheaper to just take a taxi, when you did get to the vehicle they were often filthy inside, or were low on fuel.

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