Yesterday the government announced the Transport Choices Package, which is funded from their Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as part of the actions to deliver on the targets of the Emissions Reduction Plan. As the name suggests, this programme of work is intended to reduce emissions by improving transport choices for New Zealanders.

Forty-six councils across Aotearoa New Zealand, from large metro centres to small provincial towns, will receive funding to implement more transport options for communities, as part of the Transport Choices package 2022-24, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.

“The Government is upgrading New Zealand’s transport infrastructure system to make it safer, greener, and more efficient for now and future generations to come,” Michael Wood said.

The $350m Transport Choices package aims to provide people in communities across Aotearoa with a wider range of efficient, cost effective and sustainable transport options.

“Our Government’s commitment to infrastructure investment continues to play a critical part in securing New Zealand’s economy and supporting communities to thrive,” Michael Wood said.

“Our Transport Choices package will help make our towns and cities more people-friendly places to live, work and visit. It will support more people to choose different ways of getting to where they need to go safely and enable more kids to get around under their own steam.

“The package will fund additional bus stops, bus prioritisation lanes, new cycleways, improvements to transport infrastructure around schools and improved walking access for neighbourhoods.

“Delivering on projects such as these helps address our current infrastructure deficit while also meeting future needs caused by population growth and climate change.

“The ambitious Transport Choices package will help people in communities across the country get to where they need to go more safely and efficiently, and help to reduce emissions, supporting us to meet emission reduction targets as set out in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan released in May 2022.

“It’s just one initiative within our decarbonisation plan that will enable people across the country to directly help fight climate change. Emissions are not just an urban issue; we’re all going to have to work together to create a better future.

“Addressing climate change is a core part of ensuring a thriving, productive, and secure future for Aotearoa New Zealand, and better transport choices is a huge part of the solution,” Michael Wood said.

Waka Kotahi will now work with successful councils in a two-stage process. The first stage is to further refine and scope their project proposals, with construction beginning on some projects by June 2023.

Within the package there are four funding categories:

  • Delivering strategic cycling / micro-mobility networks – significantly increasing the pace and scale of implementing planned cycling/micro-mobility networks in urban area through delivering low-cost, safe, on street cycleways.
  • Creating walkable neighbourhoods – targeted and neighbourhood scale investments to significantly improve the safety and attractiveness of walking in urban areas, focused around centres, rapid transit stations, and in rapidly growing neighbourhoods.
  • Supporting safe green and healthy school travel – accelerate investment in school travel programmes, delivering comprehensive change that makes active modes safer and more convenient for trips to/from schools and in surrounding neighbourhoods.
  • Making public transport more reliable and easier to use – accelerating programmes of small-scale upgrades to public transport facilities to improve customer experience and service quality for people of all ages and abilities.

This is a great programme, and exactly the kind of thing the government should have been doing for years instead of big BAU road building programmes like the NZ Upgrade Programme.

Interesting to see the RNZ headline this morning describing this as a “splurge on climate-friendly transport projects.” To put this $350m “splurge” in perspective, this programme is less than half the cost of Penlink, less than a quarter the cost of Otaki to Levin – and yet it wouldn’t surprise me if it had greater overall benefits than both combined.

At a high level, the government says this package will deliver:

  • 397 new or upgraded bus stops to improve kiwi’s access to public transport
  • 242kms of cycleways to encourage uptake of cycling
  • 119 schools improvements to keep children safe
  • 29 more walkable neighbourhoods
  • 11 new bus prioritisation lanes will make public transport faster

They also give a list of 14 flagship projects within each of the four categories. One of the striking things about the list is how many of the projects are about reconnecting people with places, fixing historic severances caused by state highways running through.

Another interesting feature is the holistic area-based thinking around neighbourhood attractions, existing connections and schools in particular. Just to give a few examples:

  • Christchurch is clustering its projects in Linwood, around schools, community hubs, and connections into the city and beyond.
  • Dunedin is planning “quick-build school safety improvements in and wraparound active travel education, targeting 11 schools within a proposed speed management area.”
  • Waipa District Council will be building on existing tactical changes and “improving cycling and micromobility links around schools centred in Cambridge and Kihikihi.”
  • Stratford District Council is planning protected bike paths connecting a primary school, high school, and marae, “making it easier for kids to get to school independent of mum and dad” and unlocking access to the swimming pool and the new Stratford Bike Park.
Stratford Bike Park in Taranaki, just one location in the integrated local plan for safe school links in the Transport Choices package.

Also, at least five of the flagship projects mention they’re building on the success of Innovating Streets and its follow-up Streets for People. Those programmes supported councils to trial tactical street improvements, as a way to help develop council capacity and give communities the chance to experience new and more agile approaches to street changes. Looks like it’s working.

So what’s in it for Auckland?

Auckland has one flagship project, which is centred around public transport:

Auckland north-western busway feeder route enhancements

Taking the opportunity to deliver the highest impact in an urban area for mode shift within the whole Transport Choices programme. Vastly improving travel time by providing improvements along the feeder routes to the north-western Busway in Auckland and enhance existing shovel-ready investment on the busway itself.

Firstly, we don’t have a north-western busway and we aren’t getting one either. There are bus improvements coming, but they’re certainly nowhere near the quality of a proper busway.

As for the feeder routes mentioned, unfortunately there’s not any additional information on what that entails, although Auckland Transport did recently hold consultation on implementing T2 lanes on some parts of Te Atatu Rd on the peninsula. I’m unsure if AT have any other plans for improvements to feeder routes – I certainly hope so.

While that’s the only Auckland project named in yesterday’s media releases, it’s clearly not the only location project on the funding list. Labour MP Arena Williams named a bunch of others:

Hopefully soon we will get a full list of all the Auckland projects funded in this package. If we were to see anywhere near our population share, that’d be over $100 million in funding. And given most of the projects are likely to be small and fast, there could be a lot happening around the city.

Mayors from all around the country have greeted the news of projects warmly as well they might, and many were ready to go with news stories and press releases about what the funding means for local transport and climate plans.

As for Auckland, Stuff reported:

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown welcomed the Government funding, although he said these projects “were not necessarily at the top of AT’s priority list”.

Given AT had to apply for projects to be included in the package, it’s not like these have suddenly been sprung upon them. So now we just have to hope that AT will actually deliver the work, and not grind to a halt at the first sign of resistance, like they’ve become used to doing.

PS Putting this $350m climate-friendly transport fund in perspective: the equivalent of the dark blue bar for walking and cycling on the chart below. (Also note it’s the equivalent of 4% of the $8.7bn NZ Upgrade Programme, which is not included on the chart below, and most of which is going towards highways.) It’s a start.

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  1. “Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown welcomed the Government funding, although he said these projects “were not necessarily at the top of AT’s priority list”.”


    Govt “Here’s some money to do good stuff”

    Auckland Mayor “You want to remove car parks with this, right?”

    1. He is right, it’s not ATs priority. AT will be fighting hard to ensure this money is spent smallest number of over engineered disconnected projects that don’t mess with road flow.

      Think will be able to use a single dollar of infrastructure this money is buying in 2023?

  2. I heard the Government is planning on stealing all the roads, setting up four provincial bodies unaccountable to anyone to run them and trying to stop future governments from flogging them off with entrenching legislation while at the same time setting up a governance system designed to annoy racists. Three Modes I think they are calling it.

      1. It is amusing watching a government destroy its political capital. They have a stinking corpse of a policy with three waters and every time we forget about it the Government gives it another kick to remind us.

        1. Depends what you are watching I guess.

          Last year, Auckland had to beg for water from Waikato? Three waters sounds great.

          Give me a dedicated agency that can take a long term approach to infrastructure, over the short term local idiot politicians, campaign on low rates.

        2. Jak’s right – the policy is probably sound, but it is the way it has been promoted that is the disaster. Ever since that cartoon advert of blobby people with brown snot coming out of their nose (at least, that’s what I remember it as) trying to sell us a concept which had not been properly introduced or debated, it has been a disaster. Whichever Ad Agency thought that one up should be rounded up and kicked into touch. Terrible, terrible advert. Maybe they also work for National, and wanted to sink the Government.

          The actual policy – needs tweaking, but can work well.

        3. Didn’t Auckland have to beg for water from Waikato because the application to draw more had been left to languish on the Waikato side? Won’t Auckland and Waikato be in different authorities thus still having the exact same issue? Isn’t 90% of Auckland’s supply issues because of a population increase Wellington has introduced through migration and a lack of a clear population policy, as well as baulking on their obligation to help with the infrastructure development to support it?

          Literally no part of this can be solved by seizing Auckland’s water assets, given them over to someone else and then also making that body responsible for Northland, a mostly rural area with a totally different climate that spends a good chunk of each summer approaching or comfortably in a state of drought. You’re still going to have population front-loading from another part of the country that doesn’t have to deal with the circumstances.

          As for a ‘dedicated agencies’ – we have MOT, WK, AT. All dedicated to the things they do, but are they effective? The faith people have in centralisation is bizarre, given the overwhelming instances of it failing when it comes to critical and essential services, but it seems like they’ve been conditioned to think ‘it could be worse!’ and never ‘why isn’t it better?’.

        4. I look at the Three Waters website and don’t see anything wrong with it. Shares in the entities are given to the local councils so have control in it. What is the problem? There sure is water problems currently and in recent past, don’t we need to solve this? This is a media and anti-Labour government beat up if you ask me.

    1. “Three Modes I think they are calling it.”

      National will rename it Three Motorways, and it will be sweet, suddenly 😉

  3. There have been some learnings from Innovating Streets, most of these “neighborhood improvement projects” have been tied to school access,this makes criticism seem churlish.
    Also seems that in the case of Auckland and Christchurch,they have chosen lower socio economic areas,hopefully because these changes will have the best social/ financial effects.
    Wayne,is sounding like the Grinch,who stole Christmas,for an elected official,to represent NZ,s largest urban population, he is very negative,l am wondering whether he actually likes Auckland at all.

    1. Or because they know the “Rich lawyers ratio” and the “NIMBY-ratio” is lower in those areas. Plus, fewer people with forklifts to dismantle trial projects that AT sets up, then abandons when the locals start making threats against their Local Board (I wish I was kidding, but then there was Onehunga LTN trial).

  4. It’s a minor detail I know but it annoys me at times, Arena quite often talks about Government delivery on Council delivered projects like stream restoration and playgrounds, in this example the crossing at the Gurudwara in Manurewa is a Local Board instigated and funded project. Nothing to do with Government funding or advocacy. I put it into the plan when I was Chair.

  5. They are taking the blame for something that wasn’t needed. What they should have done is create very strong water standards and really tough penalties for Councils that failed them. Most Councils care about their events centres and sports stadiums. So penalties that would have required Councils to sell their favourite assets to pay water fines might have got them interested in water. Central government is really good at making rules but hopeless and providing services. Someone in Labour forgot that.

  6. Announced, not delivered – let’s remember that. Call me a cynic if you want but until delivered there is nothing to celebrate.

  7. If AT’s priority is not addressing climate change with the help of the central government’s budget, then the government needs to pass a bill to take back control, equally as important as the three waters to save our population from extinction. This Rodney Hide hangover is well overdue to be remedied and with the impotent council that is further from likely than ever.

    1. The issue is that national govt right now does not have a track record of achievement on anything. Sure, they might be popular if they did it right. But lets think about what they could do:

      A) Something that gives national govt more control over Auckland’s transport decisions, respectively forces AT to implement govt policies more aggressively. A super-double-edged (triple-edged?) sword. Sure, they could force AT to do more “good things”. But they’d only make Brown and other Status Quo people more able to hate on AT or their new equivalent – “see what govt is forcing us to do”. And when govt next changes, those policies could go out of the window. Plus, do we want govt to have more power over Auckland???

      B) They could remove AT’s CCO status and turn it back into a more classic transport department of Council. I think in the long run this might be good. And it might even get govt some applause from many corners – including those who aren’t exactly Labour fans. But gosh, can you think of Wayne Brown having all the levers in his hands to set Auckland’s transport policy? It makes me shiver, even though in principle I think it’s the right think to do.

      C) Govt decides not to wade into yet another mess they won’t manage to get any conclusion to by next elections.

      1. I think removing AT’s CCO status would only be a good thing if the intent was to completely remove it from any Council Control at all and make it a truly independent body with a mandate to produce the best transport and environmental outcomes possible. The biggest problems often seem to be worthy goals being shot down by NIMBYs, the car obsessed and the elected members who stoke their fears for the chance to get their votes.
        AT was meant to be more like that but its subservient position in relation to the council hinders it and encourages a clay that clogs the momentum it almost seems to achieve sometimes. It needs to be allowed to be boldly focused on what real experts consider to be the best options rather than armchair experts around local board tables and the city’s dinner tables.

        Miffy though they were being funny with their three modes joke further up the chain. I think it could be exactly what the country needs. (oh and three waters will be better than leaving councils in charge of those assets too).

        1. “and make it a truly independent body with a mandate to produce the best transport and environmental outcomes possible.”

          You cannot make the entity making transport decisions “independent” without any elected oversight. The current arrangement is bad enough. Transport affects so much – there’s a reason why transport decisions are so hotly contested at a local govt / local politics level.

          The idea of handing it to “independent experts” is badly flawed – and I say that as one of the people who would consider himself as a local expert. Who then makes the decisions? Who checks whether what is being achieved is the best outcome, rather than just the opinions of whoever is in charge? And what happens when the facts change and people refuse to?

          As Churchill (?) was said to have said one “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.

          AT’s problem is, if anything, too little democratic oversight. It’s just sad for me that the one who’s calling out for it is our current mayor, whose policies I really disagree with.

        2. Transport must be integrated with urban planning. Bring AT back into Council proper, not even further away from that other crucial function.

  8. Yep. In Auckland, even projects that have started *construction* are not safe (West Lynn Cycleways, Onehunga LTN).

  9. I read Climate Emergency, but i dont see great climate outcomes.
    397 new or upgrade bus shelters. Sounds really unambitious with 1/3 $B to spend.
    If i recall, bus shelters is where AT would send cycling funding underspend.
    The word URBAN seems also to feature greatly. Rodney and Franklin need not apply ?
    Im thinking Rural Rodney and Franklin are pre-urban, cheap to build these infrastructures, so wondering why the urban only flavour.

    1. Because in urban areas you can build a 10km cycleway along an arterial with about 100,000 people in the catchment area, and all you lose is about six carparks outside a dairy. If you do it with Tim Tams it will cost about $5m.

      How many millions of dollars would have to be spent to create a cycleway for 100,000 people in Rodney/Franklin?

  10. “Mayors from all around the country have greeted the news of projects warmly as well they might”
    Apart from Rotorua I imagine where the Council seems firmly rooted in the last century. They are in the midst of ripping out a section of bike way to re-install 29 car parks. These car parks previously had an occupancy of 37%.

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