As part of the announcement on Saturday of additional government funding for the Eastern Busway, Minister of Transport Michael Wood and Mayor Wayne Brown also announced plans to work together on a new transport plan for Auckland.

Alongside this important step, Auckland Council and the Government have confirmed a path ahead  for crucial futureproofing projects such as getting the best return out of the City Rail Link, Auckland Light Rail and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour crossing, Transport Minister Michael Wood and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown have announced today.


The Minister and Mayor also acknowledged the Eastern busway extension is an important step towards an agreed broader plan to futureproof Auckland with one high-quality, joined-up transport system, which includes cars, buses, trains, ferries, cyclists, pedestrians, freight and passenger rail and light rail. As well as enhancements to the existing transport system, the agreed plan will include a range of projects including maximising the return from the CRL through heavy rail improvements, the Northwestern busway, Auckland Light Rail, and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour crossing.  The agreed joined-up plan will require clear decisions and timelines to be made about the future use of Auckland’s publicly owned waterfront land, currently being used by Ports of Auckland Ltd.

“The Government and Council have committed to work together to advance our priorities, provide certainty and deliver progress for Auckland,” Mayor Brown said.

“The Minister and I agree that it is important for there to be a focus on the immediate and pressing needs facing Auckland including reducing congestion, establishing a clear plan and timeline for the future of Auckland’s publicly owned waterfront land  and fixing Auckland’s current public transport crisis. Together we will ensure central and local agencies are responding to the wishes of Aucklanders,” the Mayor said.

“Alongside this,” said Michael Wood, “the Mayor and I will work together constructively on city-shaping initiatives that we are strongly committed to and have mandates to advance including work on the Mass Rapid Transit system including buses, trains, ferries, the CRL, Auckland Light Rail and the Alternative Waitemata Harbour Crossing. This work will be supported by the Government’s draft New Zealand freight and supply chain strategy to be published by June next year, which will inform investment decisions by central and local government and the private sector.”

A single ‘comprehensive’ transport plan for Auckland sounds great on the surface, but the reality is we already have a plethora of ‘single transport plans’. Let’s take a look at some of them.

The Auckland Plan

When the government amalgamated Auckland under a single council in 2010, it required in legislation the creation of a spatial plan for Auckland that covers the subsequent 20-30 years.

The legislation includes the following:

  1. The spatial plan must –
    1. provide an evidential base to support decision making for Auckland, including evidence of trends, opportunities, and constraints within Auckland; and
    2. identify the existing and future location and mix of –
      1. residential, business, rural production, and industrial activities within specific geographic areas within Auckland; and
      2. critical infrastructure, services, and investment within Auckland (including, for example, services relating to cultural and social infrastructure, transport, open space, water supply, wastewater, and stormwater, and services managed by network utility operators); and

The following section notes that the creation of the plan “must involve central government, infrastructure providers (including network utility operators), the communities of Auckland, the private sector, the rural sector, and other parties (as appropriate) throughout the preparation and development of the spatial plan.

Work started on the first Auckland Plan immediately, and the final version was adopted in 2012.

It was then updated again with the new version, now called The Auckland Plan 2050, adopted in in June 2018.

It was the original Auckland Plan that, for example, set the the City Rail Link as the city’s top transport priority for the first time.

The one downside to the Auckland Plan is that it is necessarily high-level; however it sets the agenda for Auckland and the key goals the mayor seems to have – such as changing the use of port land –would best be dealt with in the Auckland Plan.

Is the mayor planning to refresh the Auckland Plan to achieve this?

Government Policy Statement

This nationwide policy statement isn’t certainly isn’t a comprehensive transport plan at the city level, but it does set out the government’s transport policies and associated funding priorities over a 10-year horizon. The important thing here is that all other plans have to be consistent with and give effect to the GPS. Any changes the mayor may want to see will still need to take the GPS into account.

Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP)

The RLTP is another statutory plan, as its name suggests, for the region. This one sets out in detail which projects in the Auckland area will be funded, as well as how and when they will be funded over the coming decade. It is prepared by Auckland Transport but also includes all projects from Waka Kotahi and Kiwirail.

Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP)

ATAP was first created in 2016 when Len Brown was mayor, as a way of getting the Government and Auckland Council on the same page when it came to the long-term transport strategy for Auckland. Prior to ATAP, the government had been quite hostile towards Auckland’s transport aims and didn’t even agree on basic things like the level of growth Auckland would experience.

Since then ATAP has had multiple revisions, the most recent being early last year.

There are some big problems with ATAP though, such as, in its current form it will continue to see emissions increase when other council plans require it to be doing the opposite. Further to that, despite being an agreement between the Council and Government, the government’s transport agency, Waka Kotahi, tend to just ignore the plan. In the past we’ve heard that the state highway’s teams just pretend it doesn’t exist and carry on BAU while their funding teams don’t provide the level of funding agreed.

We’ll need to wait and see – but a new version of ATAP, even if it has a different name, seems like the most likely outcome from this work.

Other Plans

On top of those mentioned above, there are a heap of other plans and strategies that have impacts on how our transport system is designed and managed. For example:

  • The Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP)
  • Network Operation Plans
  • The Asset Management Plan
  • The Auckland Freight Plan
  • The Auckland Parking Strategy
  • The City Centre Masterplan
  • The Roads and Streets Framework
  • Vision Zero

And of course you could add other key frameworks such as the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway, the long-planned Auckland Cycle Network, and AT’s internal planning around Future Connect. (There are also cupboards full of Corridor Management Plans for the city’s arterials, most of which have never been given effect to, up to and including the recent rebranding as Connected Communities).

These are just some of the plans that exist now, but the idea of having a single transport plan dates back decades. The most infamous of these is the Master Transportation Plan of 1955, which is the plan that set Auckland off down the path to auto-dependency by focusing almost exclusively on roads, most notably the motorway network.

The problem for Auckland has not been a lack of planning. We have heaps of great plans, strategies and programme business cases – but they’re mostly sitting on shelves gathering dust. The challenge is in implementing them, and it remains to be seen if the Mayor and council will be able to stop AT from chasing shadows and delaying important projects. If the council can’t do that, will this new plan join the dust-filled tomes?

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  1. Kind of weird that a mayor supposedly against wasteful spending wants more planning and less doing.

    Planning is valuable for sure, but as you say Matt Auckland has an absolute plethora of plans. It’s just crap at turning them into a reality.

    1. 100% agree. On top of that it seems Brown wants some kind of say in how the government spends its money, but I doubt he will let the government have a say in how he spends council money.
      There is no point in long term plans when you have a democracy, there is almost no way any of it will be done as the times and voters keep on changing. They just need to get on with it and do something, but we seem stuck between the left planning to do stuff but not actually doing it and the right wanting to keep the status quo roads and not spend anything.

    1. I am looking forward to the Auckland Cycle Network being complete by 2030. I know it will, because Len Brown told me so in person (then he wandered off and did nothing much on it).

  2. I like how it states “immediate and pressing needs” vs the actual action which is making a plan, i.e. doing nothing. And of course once the government switches to national next year there will be another reset and another plan. Which will be two-fold: roads, which we will see immediate action and shovels in the ground and public transport, which gets another plan (cycling will be dead then, cyclist can use roads after all, and those will be built).

    1. I like bashing National just like anyone else. But why does everyone believe National will build just roads. They have built PT, under simon bridges cycle lanes were still being built. Labour has built roads too, and bondongled the light rail project might I add.

      It’s like we rather have a goverment that will pretend to do other stuff but roads, and does just roads.

      1. They delayed and downgraded the CRL, they stopped the the third main and Pukekohe electrification. Also would not fund the Eastern busway so it just sat in limbo until the change of government. The only PT they build is stuff already underway, hopeless.

        1. The project was funded under national in the first place though, Len brown convinced them that this was a good idea.
          Central goverment do not need to fund city projects, they often do, but that’s not a requirement.

  3. A plan that is just a list of pet projects isn’t really a plan. It is just a list of pet projects. A plan has objectives (other than how high on the list can I get my favourite boondoggle).

    ATAP didn’t include light rail, but when AT surprised everyone (including the mayor) then it found its way into the next version of ATAP. That process lacks credibility.

    1. Remember how East West suddenly happened to land, fully-formed as one of the city’s biggest needs? Weird how we seem to have survived another decade without spending 5-10 billion on that.

      1. Yes. Proof that if you want something approved just appoint a retired High Court Judge who hasn’t got a knighthood yet. The rubber stamp will move so fast it is almost a health and safety issue.

  4. The problem is with NZ, not just Auckland. There are too many plans, too many legislative acts covering land use / transport, the land use transport planning process is too complex and not integrated, there are too many organisations, and too many layers of government involved. We tie ourselves in knots. And then yet more time and money is spent developing non-statutory plans.

    I don’t think the proposed Spatial Planning & NBE Acts go far enough and its going to take over 10 years to get fully implemented. We will still be left with a dog’s breakfast for an integrated land use / transport planning and implementation system.

    Land use and transport cannot be separated, as transport is simply the demand response to the spatial land use allocation and relative travel costs.

    For a country of only 5m people:
    a) Merge MoT & NZTA & HUD = Ministry of Land Use & Transport MoTLU
    b) Re-establish Transfund
    c) Merge local governments into unitary authorities (UAs) to match the 14 Regional Spatial Plan areas
    d) Delegated SH management and improvements to the UAs
    e) MoTLU to set the requirements for any sub Regional Spatial Strategy & sub NBE land use transport related plans. UA’s not to produce any other non statutory plans.
    f) Somewhere within the Regional Spatial Strategies, NBE plan or in e) there needs to be the requirement for 30 year land use transport implementation plans (they can be less detailed the further we go out in time). These can simply be updated over time.

    1. I agree. The most crazy thing I have ever heard of is councils not being allowed to lower speed limits or prevent people from parking on council property like berms and shared zones. There is way too much central power over cities that is completely pointless.
      I can’t build a dwelling on my own land within 3m of the council berm (council with too much control) but I can permanently park my old rotten car on the berm (council with not enough control).

      1. I was thinking whether I should just purchase a semi trailer with a container on top and put it on my berm for extra interior space?

        1. Sounds like you have just invented a “tiny home” – rent it out and house some more of those hard-working immigrant that we all need – and get some extra income as well!

    2. And: Land use and transport cannot be separated, as spatial land use is simply the demand response to transport allocation and relative travel costs. But with both those responses skewed by banks’ imperative on return on investment.
      c) has already happened for 1/3 of the country. We note it hasn’t solved everything on its own.
      b) needs some discussion. Should allocation of funding be left to the same Board and Executive that also spend a big chunk of it?
      The problem is not in having a large number of plans – if they genuinely manage the subordinate functions of following The Plan, it wouldn’t be a problem.
      I think it is more the problem of adapting The Plan as we learn what needs changing, and making sure the subordinate elements flow through quickly to make the changed Plan happen. The problem comes with subordinate plans – the annual LTP changes and rates-setting – upsetting delivery of any of the planned work, without first having a meaningful review of The Plan to base those changes on.
      Reviewing and changing plans isn’t a bad thing itself. Stopping good investment before looking at the consequences is easy. Changing investment to some other thing is much slower, so the only things that can be done quickly are to go ahead with stuff that has already been thoroughly planned, or doing nothing.

    1. Is it really Wayne Brown advertising Domino’s Pizza on TV right now? Or is it a doppelgänger? or is it a complete coincidence? or just a complete mistake? Spitting image of a grumpy-looking guy with a scuzzy 3 day growth, talking about a “National Plan”. Can’t be a coincidence….
      The Wayne Brown plan appears to be to sell you all Pizza. I’m confused as to how extra pizza from Dominos will get us all a faster travel plan.

  5. The main difference between the new plan and its predecessors is that it is not shrouded in pr speak. Let’s hope we get more doey than hui for a change.

  6. We,Auckland have been planned to death. The cities around the world making meaningful change,have simply given the middle finger to the planners,shown some leadership,and implemented simple cost effective changes,(ditched road side parking,put in bus and active mode lanes,etc.). They also found the sky didn’t fall in either. Time for real politicians to stand up,planning is an excuse to look busy,while nothing changes.

  7. I can’t even be bothered to read the article in its entirety. It’s just another talkfest. Public transport has so few wins. The last one? Probably the CRL under National. Even a no-brainer like electrification to Pukekohe took forever to get over the line as some sort of consolation prize for absolutely no progress on light rail.

    1. There’s been some decent rapid transit achievements since the government changed in 2017. The Eastern Busway stands out, along with finally getting things moving on the 3rd main and Pukekohe electrification and also moving the Puhinui interchange from something that only appeared in GAs proposals to something now built.

      Light rail has been a complete failure, however I’m not convinced any proposal that involved digging up Queen Street while CRL works were in place was ever going to fly.

      The biggest failure since Labour came in has been in cycling and bus priority, cycling was going better under the previous government.

  8. Hasn’t Matt. L missed the whole point of last week’s announcement shouldn’t we be debating how the shifting of Auckland Port and moving freight to rail can alleviate the need for another harbour crossing and other transport projects. That certainly was the impression I got from the report and the intereptation of the report by Simon Wilson in the print edition of the Herald last week. I am not backing Wayne Brown’s agenda however he was voted in as Mayor and we should be scrutinising his solutions to transport because my impression of the announcement was that the Minister of Transport was willing to go along with him or at least engage with him. By letting the narrative drift into a discussion of meaningless alphabetic soup plans we are letting Wayne Brown off the hook. He has put up proposals they should be discussed on a website which focuses on the development of Auckland.

    1. Looks like you want to do a guest post?

      As for Matt, do remember that he writes the… occasional… article here, so maybe he will write another?

      1. One thing we should all focus on is how we can do better things with what we have got that’s whats behind our Mayor’s scheme for bus priority and traffic light transponders. Also just an observation from myself on how the bus and train networks run. The city focus could be changed to be more cross town friendly as working from becomes more prevalent. And I hope Matt. L does do another post dealing with freight options. While I certainly don’t agree with Wayne Brown’s plans to shift the port he was elected Mayor and its up to us to hold his feet to the fire until he comes up with enough specific details so we can judge whether his plan could work. I believe another of Wayne Brown’s messages is we need to stop hiding behind process so let’s get on with it. Greater Auckland can help.

        1. Where does Brown plan for the Port to shift to? It’s clear he wants it out of Auckland CBD / Parnell foreshore – but where is he proposing to put it? Or does he not care? Anywhere but here?

        2. The problem with Marsden Point is that it’s on the wrong side of Auckland for both Auckland itself, but also the rest of the country.
          It’s going to take some very serious effort on KR part (with government backing) including building ASL to make it a viable solution (and avoid adding hundreds of trucks a day to SH1 between Marsden and Auckland).
          I don’t mind it being developed and used more, but it isn’t a long term replacement option for PoA. Working closely with PoT could help in the medium term.
          Long term a port in or around Auckland is needed.
          Manukau Harbour has been suggested, but that is a non-starter on a safety and ongoing cost basis.
          PoT itself is also long term going to run into constraints so the obvious and best solution has surely got to be a new port in the Firth of Thames complete with new rail line to Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga (potentially using some of the previous rail designation).
          It would provide a massive amount of room, be the best for ships, provide jobs in the area and serve both AKL, Tauranga and indeed Hamilton etc very well (and a direct rail link between Auckland and Tauranga as a bonus for passenger rail).

        3. If regional rail Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga has enough benefits to be worth investing, where and when is the money for Auckland-Marsden Pt going to arrive? No point expecting port traffic to move from Auckland before somewhere else is built for it to go. So shifting PoA is in the same box as Alternative Waitemata Harbour Connections: planning exercise to enable future spending, no shovel-ready stuff for ages (except AWHC can look for some small, significant quick wins, like bikes across the Harbour).

        4. Well Street guy a couple of container ships have already being brought into Marsden Point with containers brought down on road and rail so the option already exists. A similar operation could be arranged for cars to be unloaded at Marsden Point. A rail line to Marsden Point has being announced but is at least 5 years away meanwhile a road bridge between Marsden port and Whangarei rail station carrying containers has already being used I would suggest a similar setup could be used for the cars. I can imagine cars being carried on intermodal equipment with transfer to and from road to rail at Whangerai and Southdown. Its all possible without major investment. But whether it makes any sense is another question. But as far as I can see that is what Wayne Brown is suggesting.

    2. While I agree the PoA is badly located, a waste of space, and a bad use of transport infrastructure, is it really the biggest issue facing Auckland right now?

      1. Enabling more downtown waterfront apartments seems extremely out-of-touch when Aucklanders are still living in garages and motels.

        1. There’s also the issues about building anything on the Port land which sticks out into the water. Firstly, it is very recently reclaimed, so will continue to settle for the next 50-100 years. Secondly, it is dead flat, so views are going to be very limited, unless you build each block quite tall, and then, Thirdly, people building tall are going to block the views of Rangitoto, which is exactly what the whole Port relocation is about anyway. And then lastly, put it all together: tall heavy buildings built on sandy reclaimed land that is slowly settling down, getting in the way of views etc – ground slumping down while global warming pushes sea levels up – there are several recipes for disaster right there. Just saying.

        2. All of central Auckland is on sandy-muddy fill. Commercial Bay, Britomart, Wynyard, Viaduct all reclaimed mudflats.

          Hasn’t stopped NZs tallest buildings being built there.

        3. Tall buildings have their foundations buried down into the bedrock. The actual reclaimed land is of little importance other than providing a barrier from the sea and providing a surface to access said buildings on.

  9. Perhaps it is why so many of us are multi-modal transportationalists. This city had plans in 50s for light and underground rail, then by 1956 had removed all existing light rail. In the 90s as far as I can remember there were no passenger trains. Then we build a dead end Britomart. Just constant short nearsightedness from councillors. Some visionary mayors, some less so, but business as usual councillors protecting wealth have left us lacking in social equality and lagging in climate action. Any traveler would have been to numerous fantastical cities of public transport infrastructure, but we always return to JAFAland, where we are treated like second class to the touristic class, and hard to be proud of anything beyond our beautiful maunga and moana. I only wish I could catch at tram to Kohimarama or Milford Beach. And plenty of gold card holders would appreciate the same I am sure. Driving a motor vehicle is probably the most stressful activity that the human race has invented. Invented to race, to the bottom, perhaps?

    1. “Driving a motor vehicle is probably the most stressful activity that the human race has invented” ??? Really? I don’t think so, and I suspect nor do most people, seeing as they regularly tune the radio, check their phones, eat their lunch, drink cans of fizz, drive with one toe on an accelerator and one finger and thumb on a steering wheel – and most of all, just half a brain on the job. Driving a car at high speed around the Nurberg ring is one of the most stressful activities you could do – but a commute each day on the same route in the same car with the same radio station blaring is about as dull and boring as it can be – and not nearly stressful enough.

      1. Driving a car at high speed is not that stressful for anyone that has any skill behind the wheel. Sadly that excludes almost everyone with a NZDL


    Situation: There are 14 comprehensive transport plans for Auckland.
    Wayne – “14?! Ridiculous! We need to develop one universal transport plan that covers everyone’s needs.”
    Wood – “Yeah!”

    Situation: There are 15 comprehensive transport plans for Auckland.

  11. “best solution has surely got to be a new port in the Firth of Thames”

    Isn’t it too shallow for container vessels?

    1. Depends where in the FoT it’s built. The most promising would be on the western side (closest to Auckland). Dredging would be required, but only initially and then occasional routine maintenance. Compare that to Manukau which would have to be dredged pretty much non-stop.

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