The government yesterday announced consultation on a suite of much needed changes to legislation that will remove red tape in order to “make it easier for local authorities (like councils) to make street changes that support public transport, active travel and placemaking“.

Streets will soon be able to be transformed from unsafe and inaccessible corridors to vibrant places for all transport modes thanks to new legislation proposed today, announced Transport Minister Michael Wood.

“We need to make it safe, quicker and more attractive for people to walk, ride and take public transport in our towns and cities across Aotearoa New Zealand,” Michael Wood said.

“People live, shop, and meet with friends and whānau on our streets – but many streets in New Zealand do not allow them to do this safely and easily. Some of the rules for managing streets are fifty years old and outdated. That’s why we’re moving to update them, to reflect people’s needs and give communities new ways to be involved in changes that affect them.”

The Reshaping Streets proposals will make it easier for councils to transform streets and better support public transport, active forms of travel, and improved urban spaces.

The proposed changes include:

  • a new ‘Street Layouts’ land transport rule which will enable councils to change street layouts, pilot street changes, restrict vehicle access, and establish Community Streets and School Streets
  • amending sections in the Local Government Act 1974 covering pedestrian malls, transport shelters (like bus shelters), and temporary road closures
  • changes to other rules and regulations enable councils to trial Traffic Control Devices more effectively, reduce speed limits as part of pilots, and to make these rules and regulations more accessible.

“Streets are public places that need to prioritise people, not just vehicles, so our towns and cities are better places to live, work and play,” Michael Wood said.

“Through our Transport Choices package in Budget 22, we are helping to improve transport options by funding the rapid roll-out of at least 100 km of safe urban cycleways to build more connected networks at pace; create significant safety improvements in around 25 pedestrian areas, and support safer, greener, and healthier travel to 75-100 schools. The package is also funding bus priority improvements in over 40 locations alongside improvements to shelter, access, and customer information at up to 500 stops and stations.

“Reshaping Streets builds on this investment and gets the balance right between ensuring we can move people and goods effectively, while making our streets safe for all users.

“These changes will also help New Zealand meet our emissions reduction targets, reduce deaths and serious injuries from transport, and improve health and wellbeing,” Michael Wood said.

You can see the full consultation document here. There is more detail on Waka Kotahi’s website, and there’s a public webinar on the proposed changes on 25 August. Consultation is open till 19 September.

The consultation covers 18 changes across seven categories. Several of these have clearly come from lessons learnt as a result of Waka Kotahi’s Streets for People programme and, if enacted, will make it easier for programmes like that to thrive. This suite of updates also builds on the Accessible Streets changes that were consulted on two years ago and are currently waiting for cabinet signoff.

We’ll take a closer look in coming weeks, but a quick summary of the proposed rule changes is below. Key terms: RCA = Road Controlling Authority (e.g. local councils and Auckland Transport), TCD = Traffic Control Device (street signs, signals, notices, traffic calming features and markings).

  • Proposal 1: A new approach for piloting street changes
    • 1A: Provide RCAs with new powers and requirements to install pilots, and set requirements for how to install them
    • 1B: Enable pilots to be used as a form of consultation, with feedback collected during the pilot used to consider whether to make street changes permanent
    • 1C: Enable pilots to be installed for up to two years
    • 1D: Amend the LGA1974 to make it clear that RCAs should not use the provision for ‘experimental diversions’ when piloting street changes
    • 1E: Allow RCAs to lower the speed limit to support a pilot, in areas with a posted speed limit under 60km/h, during the pilot
    • 1F: Update rules for trialling TCDs, so that RCAs can trial TCDs as part of pilots and choose how they notify people about TCD trials
  • Proposal 2: Powers to filter and restrict traffic
    • 2A: Enable RCAs to install modal filters if the objects they use are safe
    • 2B: Ensure legislation provides clear powers to filter traffic, by removing the requirement in the LGA1974 that facilities built on roads cannot, in the opinion of a council, “unduly impede vehicular traffic entering or using the road”
    • 2C: Enable RCAs to restrict or prohibit the use of some or all motor vehicles on specified roadways to support public transport use, active travel, health and safety, emissions reductions, and/or to create public spaces that promote community well-being.
    • 2D: Provide RCAs with an explicit power to install TCDs
  • School Streets
    • 3: Establish powers and requirements for RCAs to create School Streets in partnership with local schools
  • Community Streets
    • 4: Establish clear powers and requirements for residents to hold Community Streets, provided they have approval from RCAs
  • Closing roads for other functions and events
    • 5A: Allow RCAs to close roads for reoccurring events, by removing the 31-day limit per year for road closures in the LGA1974
    • 5B: Bring together powers and requirements to close roads for events in one piece of legislation and update notification requirements so that RCAs can notify the public in any way that they consider appropriate at least two weeks before an event.
  • Pedestrian Malls
    • 6A: Remove the requirement for local authorities to use the special consultative procedure when establishing pedestrian malls. Instead, they must apply the consultation principles in the LGA2002.
    • 6B: Remove the ability for people to appeal to the Environment Court when a pedestrian mall is being created. People would be able to challenge the installation of a pedestrian mall through judicial review.
    • 6C: Shift legislative provisions for pedestrian malls to the proposed Street Layouts rule
  • Transport shelters
    • 7: Remove special notification requirements for creating transport shelters. Instead, RCAs would be able to publicly consult on transport shelters in the same way they do for other features, like bus stops.

The changes are all pretty innocuous and sensible, and really represent just tidying up existing rules, bringing some of our outdated legislation into the 21st century and making it more consistent with other aspects of our transport system. They also in no way require councils to make changes to streets – nor do they remove the need for public consultation.

And they certainly don’t oblige cities to install bus shelters, run open streets events and market days, or even force neighbours to get together for community street parties. They just make it a bit easier to do so.

But this hasn’t stopped National’s transport spokesperson making hyperbolic statements claiming this is somehow part of a grand conspiracy against drivers.

It’s hard to reconcile what’s being proposed with Simeon Brown’s language. The changes look good and should be supported.

It’s good though hat he’s spotted that this work ties into the national climate response, as dealing with that burden falls on any party that wants to govern.

The Transport Choices package mentioned in the press release (100km of cycleway, 25 walkable areas and 75-100 schools) is funded via the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and is a first go at addressing the Emissions Reduction Plan’s call for a 20% drop in light vehicle travel by 2035.

To meet this target, the ERP includes actions to accelerate widespread street changes to support public transport, active travel, and placemaking. One of these actions is to consider regulatory changes to make it simpler and quicker to make street changes. Regulatory changes are needed because the current system does not support local authorities to make street changes at the pace and scale required to meet national priorities.

As we know, most of the VKT reduction needs to happen in urban areas, and the easiest trips to replace are the short ones like the school run and local shopping trips. So councils and communities will definitely benefit from being able to be more flexible and responsive with street changes to give everyone choices other than driving.

You could even say that extreme weather events are already “reshaping” streets for the worse. So, updating these rules (which date rom the middle of last century) should give towns and cities a fighting chance to proactively deliver the kind of resilient public space that will help reduce climate angst in the short and long term.

One question I do have: I wonder if the pedestrian mall changes mean that AT will lose its excuse as to why it can’t enforce parking on places like St Patrick’s Square and Vulcan Lane. For the former, at least, AT has been arguing it would need to be designated a “shared space” in order to be able to manage it.

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31 comments

  1. Regarding Pedestrian Malls, why have sections such as Lorne Street been turned into a pedestrian mall from a shared space when the latter now means enforcement can’t happen. The outcome is what has happened on Alfred Street — packed full of planters to prevent all the illegal parking which AT refused to enforce. As it is, any gap that can fit a vehicle, has something in it most days.

  2. Anyone know what they mean by the term “transport shelter” ? (point 7). They seem to mean something that is not a bus stop, which seemed like the obvious answer to me – so I’m therefore left a little confused as to what they are discussing. Ideas?

    1. My interpretation is it is the bus stop shelter. The bus stop itself is the marking on the road but there’s no requirement that the stop have a shelter so that is separate

    2. It is about bus shelters. The bus stop itself is a parking control and covered by the parking controls in the traffic bylaw. However the power to install a bus shelter comes from section 339 of the Local Government Act 1974 and that requires a separate consultation about the shelter. In particular the property it is directly adjacent to has the right to be heard in person about the shelter. So the council committee with the delegated authority to make this decision must hold a hearing with that person if requested. This puts it into the slightly more difficult than other matters category. It doesn’t seem to be a major problem in Auckland but doing away with this additional step is probably in “may as well do it while you are modernising things camp” rather than being of desperate need that we must push for at all costs. It is interesting to note that they can install a public toilet outside a property without needing to hold a hearing but not a bus shelter – so its just an anomaly that they may as well fix.

  3. I really would love a sensible infrastructure party in NZ that can invest in modern infrastructure like PT and renewable energy etc. For example had the winter energy payment been invested into building hydro power stations or similar, NZ could be in an enviable position with plenty of cheap renewable energy. Subsidising the limited electricity we already have is short sighted in terms of benefit, but the costs go on forever. The winter energy payment, fuel tax reduction, and Covid lockdowns went through parliament very quickly, yet here we are 5 years on and its still not possible to have a square that people cannot park their car in, most of the land near Auckland city is zoned low density, we have subsidised petrol and electricity, and no decent new investment in PT or walking or cycling.

    1. I was wondering about our future energy supply last night actually, does anyone now if NIWA or anyone else has modelled how climate change would effect our Hydro Storage?

    2. I am not sure taking money from the needy to build infrastructure to allow wealthy people to squander energy makes much sense. Even the late Jeanette Fitzsimons argued that power should be sold at its marginal cost so that it was used correctly. She also argued that any impact on poorer people should be addressed through a direct payment. Basically what we have now.

      1. Everyone over 65 is poor? And the 25 year old saving up for a 300k deposit on a house is wealthy and should be paying high power prices (because we used his tax money on subsidies instead of investment) while also paying high taxes for the subsidies?

      2. Isn’t the marginal cost of (electrical) power really, really low in NZ, except for the fact that we subsidise a certain Aluminium smelter and don’t have enough power lines to get that low-cost energy to North Island?

        [But overall: agreed]

        1. Damian: it depends whether you’re talking about short-term or long-term marginal cost.

          In the short term, marginal NZ electricity comes mostly from burning coal and gas; it’s a thinner margin than it used to be, but still there.

          In the longer term, marginal NZ electricity comes mostly from wind turbines; they’re cheaper than they used to be, but not “really, really” cheap.

        2. It is the low hanging fruit principle. The next dam will cost more than all the others and not be as efficient. Same for the next geothermal station etc. The marginal cost is what the next erg costs to produce. while there is spare capacity that appears cheap but as soon as we run out then the margin cost rockets. We should charge at that higher price to ensure efficient use and allocation.

  4. Could someone explain what “experimental diversions” are?

    1D: Amend the LGA1974 to make it clear that RCAs should not use the provision for ‘experimental diversions’ when piloting street changes

    1. During the Innovating Streets projects when they were doing things like the modal filters or completely blocking off sections of roads that had to rely on clause 11(d) of Schedule 10 to the Local Government Act 1974 which allows for temporary road closures “when for any reason it is considered desirable that traffic should be temporarily diverted to other roads”. But that is kind of awkward and only allows for a temporary control not a permanent one. I think this is more about providing a better option for the pilots and then being able to make it permanent.

    1. Some thugs control other people with bed legs and threats of physical violence.

      Some thugs control other people with cars and threats of traffic violence.

      Some thugs control other people with their political platform and threats of preventing legislative progress.

    2. When I saw Viv Becks transport policy I thought there might be some possibility of National doing something reasonable, but I guess not. So now I am left with choosing between Labour who will talk about all the things I want but actually just spend most of my tax money on subsidies (a lot going to people much richer than me) or National who will blow my tax money on roads but at least give me a tax cut.

  5. National seems to be going full culture war on transport. Any slight change to entrenched imbalances is an attack on western civilisation.

    And of course ACT will want everything to pay for itself (except cars).

    Poor New Zealand if they make up the next govt.

    1. At least we will get another 5-10 massive new motorway projects before they are voted out again by 2032 or so (which the next Labour govt then will complete, because they don’t have the guts for change either).

      1. The problem for Labour, like the Greens, is there own activists. They don’t like things that are popular. Not quite as bad as the UK Labour party in the respect, who go out of their way to annoy the general public, but it means when they govern they only get to stay in until the whole thing seems like a shambles. If Labour had anyone sensible they would match Nationals tax cut dollar for dollar but focus it on the lower brackets entirely. But that would mean being popular.

  6. Why on earth (what’s left of it) would National choose to make this a party-political contentious issue? These reforms have been needed for decades and suddenly Labour are supposed to be taking away citizens’ “rights”.
    Better if we stay off politics and look at how these reforms can make progress on streetscapes easier, and whether there are any matters to support or amend in the proposals.

    1. Nothing but Partisan politics.

      Remember, Simeon Brown (And Luxon) on one hand demands the Eastern Busway to Botany be completed yesterday, and at the same time insists on cancelling the Regional Fuel Tax that helps fund it. He demands that his constituents have better transport choice in the east but is publicly railing against the temporary bus/T2 lane up Pakuranga Rd, doing his best to ensure it is not permanent.

      The guy could trump Brownlee as the worst Minister of Transport ever. And that is quite an achievement.

      1. Simeon Brown wants the Eastern Busway to be complete so the disruption is over. Not for advocating transport options for the east.

        He’s very much in the camp of buses are empty, they’re for poor people and don’t touch any existing road space to provide for them. Any T2/T3 or bus lanes on Pakuranga Road are staunchly opposed by him.

    2. They are playing the “this government is the Devil Incarnate” card. Oppose anything and everything, no matter the cost of any alternative.

      There seems to be a significant undercurrent now who want to see everything burn so they get to be the king of ashes. Eg. the occupation at the Beehive. Maybe National will try to capture this group of people as voters.

  7. Looks like even Labour starts to understand the importance of local decision should be made by local. The centralisation of AT/CCO making all decisions in their air conditioned planning office has proven not working.

    Decisions should be made by people who benefits it. Decentralised planning leads to better outcomes.

    On the other hand Labour still push for centralisation planning and removing local from making decisions: such as Three-waters, Merging DHB, Removing school from making own decisions, Forcing people to state houses vs free market rental/non profit housing providers etc etc

    Centralisation planning reminders me about communist. It is inefficient and bureaucratic.

    Ironically this Labour government and their voters still believes this ideologies.

  8. Why are the Government consulting on this? I understand local councils consulting, but this is just enabling. Councils still need to make decisions which they will consult on.

  9. omg I read the first part wrong the first time and got excited about the changes and then I realised it’s just another consultation. Personally I’m sick of their consultations that just waste peoples time and then they do whatever they want anyway. And now their consulting on such obvious things yet again. It’s a joke and I doubt it will happen. I won’t be submitting this time.

  10. I don’t know if I’m allowed to post the belated response from AT to my Notice of Motion regarding Transport Management Plans for local curburban events, taking place in the road corridor eg ANZAC day or Play Streets.
    But it wasn’t “yes of course we’ll make it easier to use this public space temporarily for people to do things in”

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