Last Thursday the government delivered its latest budget and while there wasn’t a lot, there were a few transport related items.

Half Price Fares Extension

Back in March the government announced that for three months they were cutting public transport fares in half, along with a 25c per litre reduction in fuel tax and equivalent decrease in road user charges, all in response to soaring fuel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week the government announced they were extending it for a further two months.

“We will extend the cut to fuel excise duty and road user charges, and also keep public transport at half-price for the next two months to provide further support in the face of high global oil prices.

The reduction in fuel tax was followed quickly by a reduction in import prices and meant the undiscounted cost per litre of regular petrol dropped from $3.21 to $2.72 within a week. However, since then import costs have risen again and are currently higher than they were in March meaning the undiscounted price is back up over $3 per litre.

That the half price PT fares was not being made permanent was somewhat disappointing as Deputy PM and Finance Minister Grant Robertson had hinted it might become permanent back when the original drop was announced. It’s also worth noting again just how cheap this is to provide. The two month extension is only expected to cost about $27 million. That means for a year it would only cost about $170 million and benefit millions of New Zealanders and is still way less than the $568 million the government are planning to spend subsidising an unknown number electric vehicles, mostly over just two years, in their Clean Car Upgrade programme announced as part of their response to the Emissions Reduction Plan.

Though even with the half price fares, PT usage in Auckland is still only sitting at around 57% of pre-covid levels.

The one piece of good news around this is the decrease has become permanent for those with Community Services Cards.

“Making it cheaper and easier to catch a bus or a train is also a critical part of our climate response. Through the Climate Emergency Response Fund we are funding the Community Connect scheme that provides permanent half price public transport for community service card holders starting from mid-September.

“That means about one million Kiwis will have access to cheaper transport which also helps us meet our climate change targets.” Climate Change Minister James Shaw said.

It will be interesting to see how Auckland Transport implement this, will they create a dedicated HOP card that community services card holders have to buy, like they have with the SuperGold card, or will it just be a concession that is applied to an existing card like with students. Either way, I hope some effort is put into making the process easy for those eligible

Light Rail

With the current plan of long tunnels we’re still a number of years away from starting any construction on Light Rail. The team are now working on a more detailed business case as well as design and consenting work. The budget included funding for this to happen as well as contingency for “strategic land acquisition”.

One thing I find incredibly frustrating about all this is Waka Kotahi had already started market engagement on ATs original surface design. Had the government not been side tracked by the glossy brochure of NZ Superfund scheme, they would probably be opening the line from the city to at least Mt Roskill this year.

Port Study

While only a small amount, one interesting initiative funded in the budget is a study considering the technical feasibility of shifting Auckland’s port to the Manukau Harbour.

A new port on the Manukau Harbour has been suggested before in previous studies and the big benefit of it over other locations is that it would be close to existing industrial areas where most of the freight would be going, therefore resulting in lower overall transport costs. The previous study identified three potential sites for an artificial island based port on the Manukau, that would need to be connected back to the land via a bridge. They said at the time the Puhinui site was most likely as it would have lower construction costs due to being closer to land.

There is also the presumably not insignificant issue of dealing with the Manukau Bar to work through.

For a neat visualisation on shipping, take a look at the map below (note, it’s useful to change it to show routes instead of ships and to colour routes by the ship type).

Record Transport Spending

One thing that stood out in Treasury’s Vote Transport summary is that this year total spending on transport should top $9 billion, a sharp increase on even just a few years ago. There is also this useful breakdown of where that money is being spent, both in the past and expected in the future.

I took a quick look at previous budgets and was able to get the same breakdown as far back as 2009/10 and it shows just how quickly this has ramped up.

Much of the rail increase at the moment is related to the City Rail Link but it is also notable that this is still less than the loans and other funding from the Crown for roading projects – and that is on top of roading getting the lion’s share of funding from the National Land Transport Programme.

Was there anything else that stood out to you from the budget?

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  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely the drop in petrol prices was unrelated to the budget? Isn’t the budget for the year commencing 1 July and therefore won’t have any direct impact until then?

  2. The Manukau port option is interesting…
    Pros: closer to industrial area, bypasses most of Auckland congestion, closer to majority of overseas destinations (Australia, Asia etc). Frees up space in downtown Auckland.
    Cons: Harbour and entrance needing significant and ongoing dredging, likely going to be a lot of issues with iwi that will no doubt involve handing over a lot of ̶m̶o̶n̶e̶y̶ koha to get across the line.

    1. A number of ships call at both Auckland and either Tauranga or Napier (or sometimes both), it may be a negative having one our big ports on the West Coast and one on the East.

        1. New Plymouth port is obviously in the west coast (and Westport). Manukau could work but the expense of keeping a channel open kills it in my mind.
          Firth of Thames (Orere Point) is the only other east coast contender. It has space and wouldn’t have the same shifting sands problem, but the expense of connecting road and rail mean shifting costs to OPEX, i.e. Manukau, appears more attractive

    2. The bar makes it hard.

      Whangarei would be great – most goods would still end up in the inland ports in south Auckland via rail. But the rail would need to be much better.

  3. Not sure why anyone would ever want to change the harbour from Waitematā to Manukau, unless they want to see more strandings and deaths. Ask any sailor.

    Wikipedia notes: “tidal flow is rapid and a bar at the mouth makes navigating in or out of the harbour dangerous. New Zealand’s most tragic shipwreck occurred on the bar in 1863 when HMS Orpheus ran aground in clear weather with a loss of 189 lives.”

    Manukau is not an appropriate site for a major port, especially as ships are getting bigger, so more deep water will be needed, not less, and particularly as our predominant wind direction is the Nor-westerly – imagine the consequences of a spill from a ship on the pristine west coast.

    Best place for a Port is either North or South – either Marsden Point or Tauranga. End of discussion.

    1. We are, of course, well noted as being constrained by the shipping and technology available to us in the 1860s, and unable to make any use of the century-plus of progress in engineering or navigation systems developed since then.

      1. Shows how much sailing you have done Buttman, have you not noticed how few sailors there are in the Manukau, and how few commercial vessels go in and out of the Manukau Heads? Massive waves, fierce winds, shifting sandbar, ever larger container ships (which would probably flat-out refuse to go through the Manukau Heads), total lack of infrastructure… the larger the ship that harder it is to manoeuvre, and the more likely it is to get caught by side winds.

        1. Hey – nice shoutout to Manukau sailors. One of the best sailing harbours in NZ – if you know how to navigate it.

      2. ‘Lack of infrastructure’ Do you think we’re going to just start sending ships into the Manukau Harbour first without actually building a port, cranes or setting up a proper shipping channel?

        And I’ve done practically no sailing at all, and I wouldn’t touch the Manukau with a barge poll, in any vessel. But they keep looking at it so presumably it is viable for reasons I can’t appreciate, but then again I’m not so presumption to simply declare a discussion is ‘over’ having provided only a talking point about a shipwreck that happened over 150 years ago as evidence.

        1. Sigh. Look, I’ll go and hang my head in shame and never ever darken these doors again, for the apparently abhorrent mistake of having mentioned in passing that NZ’s worst maritime disaster occurred there. I could go on about how many things are just not suitable about the Manukau – but you guys just wear me out with your toxic negativity about subjects which you have no knowledge in. Never mind. Good bye.

        2. Whaddya know, it really was ‘end of discussion’ – not that he seemed that interested in having one anyway.

    2. There are more options on the East Coast than Marsden Point and Tauranga, so I’m not sure it’s really the end of discussion as you claim.

      1. Interesting Jezza, that the report last year said that all the other possibilities were not, in the end, real possibilities. I think the next best possible harbour was one on the Coromandel Peninsular, on the edge of a reserve, which went down like a cup of cold sick.

        Marsden Point is the best harbour, very deep, safe and calm, but lacks a rail line – so, Budget funds should have been to build that starting right now. Tauranga is the next best option, but the rail line needs electrifying. It’s time for Auckland to get its harbour back, and certainly not by dumping massive ships into the backyard by using Manukau.

        1. Which report? There have been a number of reports and their recommendations differ depending on the interests driving them.

          One of the reports last year put Marsden Point with the worst BCR.

          There is no doubt that Tauranga will continue to grow and handle more of Auckland’s cargo but it has finite capacity and also needs to handle Central North Island growth. Marsden will also grow and start handling some of Auckland’s cargo once the railway line opens in the next few years.

          Every option has it’s pros and cons, the idea that you can say Marsden Pt end of discussion is far too simplistic.

        2. I have heard through the grapevine (and from vaguely public documents) that the Kaimai tunnel situation is fairly dire. Already they spend an entire day a week just on maintenance, no end in sight for this situation, and outside of that running practically all they trains they can. And the problems run deep, the drill and blast section has extensive water management issues. Concrete crumbling, water eroding under the track.

          Sooner or later they will need to do much more extensive work on that tunnel. There needs to be some redundancy in the shipping network for that, or they have to drill another tunnel. Which IMO wouldn’t actually be that bad. A single bore TBM tunnel, little tie in track needed, known geology, plenty of staging space, in the scheme of things it’s pretty close to major industrial / employment centers. Plenty of space to dump spoil.

        3. Part of the cost of expanding the mount will have to be duplicating the kaimai eventually.

        4. @ Jack:

          Interesting. It’s a pity they never kept the line via Waihi open as that would be a perfect suburban and tourist train now and would also supply resilience to the busiest single line track in NZ.

        5. Agree with Guy on this. Manukau is a poor option, especially when you consider long term trend towards industry relocating out of urban areas.

          IMO a slimmed down POAL along with a beefed up Marsden and slightly chunky Tauranga would prolly be optimal.

          Not perfect but the best we can do in the circumstances.

    3. Investigation of the Manukau Harbour option must, obviously, include the Tamaki Ship Canal, only requiring lift bridges at two motorways, one railway, two arterial roads and a busway.

      1. Not at all. Just common sense, which seems to be in short supply from some of the commenters here today! Some of the folk here will argue the hind legs off a donkey, for no other reason than they feel like it, even though the proposal has zero logic. Never mind, carry on, have fun!

  4. Please correct me if I have this wrong. You are saying it would cost $170 million to make public transport half price for a year. This means we pay $340 million per year for Public Transport. As fare box recovery is 50%, the total cost to provide public transport in NZ is $680 million per year. Is this correct?

    1. Farebox recovery has never been 50 %. Only Wellington got even close to 50 % before Covid many councils are much lower.

      1. Any idea what Farebox recovery is? All what the total spend is to run Public Transport yearly in NZ. Generally interested to know this figure in the context of a budget

        1. Waiukuian – Fare box recovery will depend on the region population density with some regions having a higher fare box recovery and some regions having a lower fare box recovery.

    2. Funding from the NLTF for the 2021-2024 period for public transport services is $2.6 billion or $867 million per year and for public transport infrastructure for the same period is $2.3 billion or $767 million per year.

      With the budget announcement for public transport improvements including half price fares for Community Service Card holders is additional $132 million for the next 12 months.

  5. What we constantly get from government’s is how easy it is to spend other people’s money,some whiteboard sessions, where no idea is bad,would surely bring up some low cost alternatives,to address current issues.
    Ultimately the transport conundrum will be solved,by relatively low cost measures,but will require paradigm shift from current thinking,the huge cost is incurred, in trying to maintain status quo,while pushing for change.

  6. On the port front, I can’t see past the glaring option of Northport. Drop some more cash on the rail line, get the spur done. We already see it works with Tauranga competing in the Auckland market.
    The capacity that is sitting unused on that rail line is huge

    1. A very slow, circuitous single track rail line does not have “huge capacity”. Especially where it hits the Auckland commuter train network. The southern line is bad enough, multiple freight trains on the Western line as it is would be a farce of delays and breakdowns.

      1. Not convinced that manukau is the best option. However, wrt to rail links we could quad track to Westfield and even build a southern spur to the airport.
        Both north port and Tauranga do have wider rail network issues, including a number of tunnel upgrades required. Plus you may need to triple or quad track western line or build a new spur to onehunga to avoid congestion near the strand. Or just build a 4 lane highway north or south for all the trucks

        1. So where are you going to get the Truck Drivers from ? , as there is a shortage of Drivers here already .

      2. you could build a CT site out west like huapai somewhere and run the trains from there to northport. Either that or just run them through auck but schedule them to miss the suburban peak. Also would need avondale southdown line to be built if northport is chosen so this means it only affects suburban trains between swanson and avondale.

        1. Have a read of Patrick Reynolds’ article about this exact subject.

          TLDR, Avondale to Southdown would be untenable from the induced level crossings and bulldozing suburbia perspective. Plus it’s not a good solution because the Avondale – Swanson section is going to be super busy anyway (especially seeing as we continue to disallow development around more attractive inner stations like Kingsland). Better to do a single line bored freight tunnel. Which honestly seems like it would be perfectly reasonable cost wise. You really strip away most of the costs by having no stations, little land acquisition, less complex systems, simpler portals…

        2. In reply to jack. Yes i remember that post but it was massive overkill for any issues.
          The avondale southdown is already designated. Its either open space or the buildings on it are owned by kiwirail. So no bulldozing of suburbia required.
          The spans over the south western motorway are already built to accommodate it.
          Avondale~swanson may be busy at peak but kiwirail schedules just miss the 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night and use the other 18 hours a day to have the trains go through that section. Its no issue.
          As far as road crossings the section of 200m or so through onehunga could be looked at for grade separation/tunneling as most of the a~,s designation is already well below the level of the road.
          Not withstanding the passenger benefits of running a full istmus circle line from eastern line to a~s to inner western.(or unitec~pt chev~grey lynn future extension

      3. A very slow circuitous single track rail line does have huge freight capacity compared to a road. And more capacity could certainly be built for reasonable money. There is ample opportunity to add passing loops, or even sections of double tracking. Surprisingly it’s also relatively well grade separated.

        The western line problem is not unsolvable, outlined here :

        1. Or they could bring them South during the day and store them at Helensville and after the passenger services finish in the evening complete the trip at night to Westfield or points further South .

  7. Notice the shipping running through the Russian inland waterway from the sea of Asov up the Don and down the Volga to the Caspian sea also connecting up to the Baltic and the White Sea. Ships up to 180 metres and 18 metre beam but with a max draught of only 4 metres. The waterway ices over during the winter even Mariupol requires ice breakers to keep it open for two months of the year.
    So anything is possible so apart from the most sensible option of leaving Auckland Port where it is my suggestion would be Thames and we could reopen the Thames branch and build a massive distribution centre around Hamilton which would consolidate freight from Thames and Tauranga. Another fascinating aspect is the rail ferries across the Capsian Sea from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan. These are being used to rail containers from China to Turkey and Europe. It only requires two changes of guage at the China border and at the border between Georgia and Turkey. And a trip under the Bosphorus. This is part of the belt and road.

    1. “It only requires two changes of guage at the China border and at the border between Georgia and Turkey. And a trip under the Bosphorus.”

      Well that sounds super-easy then ! Surely there must be a better / easier way?

      1. Yes through Kharzastan Russia Belarus and Poland but still two changes of guage. However with containers this only requires a forklift to shift between trains not like the bulk wagons they are having to swap bogies at the Ukrainian European border to try and get the grain out past the Russian blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Rail from China to Europe is considerably quicker than container ships. And there is a lot of countries in between to trade with and China wants a route that doesn’t involve going through Russia hence the 400 kilometre trip across the Capsian sea

  8. The Albany bus station car park is completely full again, even at 11.30am, so plenty of patronage coming from there. The trains don’t seem particularly busy though, after years and years of constant and ongoing disruption. Pukekohe will be out of action for 2 years+ soon so that will another loss.

    1. The P&R being full wouldn’t mean much for patronage compared to connecting buses. The illusion of cars parked fools many people. Also the trains hold a lot of people so being slightly less busy would probably look like capacity is easily handled. They now have enough trains set to run six on all runs at peak, not like initially so they perhaps are barely overloaded these day unless after some disruption.

    2. Albany Park and Ride has 1,100 spaces. The busway stations overall have about 30,000 boardings on the north shore on a busy day.

      A full park and ride shows us very little, except that cars take up lots of space and are inefficient.

  9. I was surprised to see relocation of the Port back on the radar given it was Mayor Brown that last raised it about 7 years ago. If I recall the Manukau option was discussed but for mostly technical reasons was dismissed. I thought a site in the Hunua Ranges area on the Firth of Thames was preferred – can’t remember the bay’s name. And haven’t we done a few of these studies already? hope it is not the walking path over the harbour bridge all over again – millions spent but nothing achieved.

  10. The whole Saga with Light Rail is incredible disappointing. Even if Labour wins the next election National is likely to win the one after an cancel the whole bloated project.

    Probably the best way to get anything built is to somehow convince National to suggest a surface Light Rail project as “10% of the price of Labours option for 50% of the utility”.

    Weirdly enough an automated Light Metro seems a great idea for Auckland. Maybe Tyford was ahead of his time.

  11. No thanks to a northland post.
    The idea of 50 trains a day rumbling through the village carrying mostly useless tat to Auckland doesn’t appeal.

    1. If I recall, in previous reports Northport was ruled out given this very issue – how do we get all the goods south of Auckland city. The upgrade for rail and road would be too costly.

      1. Maybe but the upgrades to rail would benefit all New Zealanders for a VERY long time (100+ years).

    2. Wouldnt be 50. Ports of tga to metroport in auck has 14 trains per day scheduled (7northbound , 7 southbound) except sunday which has less. So a successful northport would have something like that number

  12. Matt L – When I got my Gold Hop Card it cost me nothing as I had Money on it when I took into get it changed , so I don’t think it would cost anything for those with a community services card to change as long as they have money on their existing card , or they could have it loaded onto their normal card as I have seen other pensioners have done with their ones and the same as students do .

  13. Hey – i live on the Manukau. Its phenomenal. Its also hidden from most Aucklanders. Its the forgotten harbour. Most see it via Auckland Airport – and even then only through glass. An upside of that is its biodiversity, and off the charts bird life. So while cheaper produce via international shipping appeals, we’d rather the bunker oil boats keep their ballast water elsewhere. Northport is really appealing…

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