Welcome to 2023. After wrapping up 2022 before Christmas, here’s a look at some of the things we can expect to see and will be watching for this year.

Public Transport

Public Transport Disruption

Disruption to our PT network dominated much of last year, first with the driver shortages then with news of the planned rail network shutdowns, the first of which is now underway. Getting Auckland’s PT networks ‘back to normal’ as much as possible is critical if we want people to really start using it again. A few key things we’ll be keeping an eye on are:

  • How well will Auckland Transport and the bus operators resolve the bus driver shortage? Last year the council and government made some progress on raising driver wages, but will we see that make a difference this year? And if it does ….
  • Will AT reinstate full services? The council’s budget proposal out for consultation this year proposes to lock in the existing service cuts in order to lower the anticipated rates rise.
  • How well (or not) Auckland Transport can mitigate the impact of the rail shutdowns.
  • And will Kiwirail be more efficient than originally expected, resulting in the first tranche of work being completed faster than planned? Later this year we will hear about the plans for the rest of the network, to be done in 2024/25.

City Rail Link

In just a few months the major civil works on the CRL will be completed, and the project will shift to fitting out the tunnels and stations. It will be exciting to see actual stations starting to emerge.

We’re also waiting with interest to learn the full impact of disruption caused by COVID, global supply chain issues and inflation. Keen to hear your thoughts in the comments on just what the final cost and completion date will be.

Northwest Bus Improvements

The biggest new addition to the PT network this year will be the Northwest Bus Improvements. This will see the WX1 introduced along SH16, and use of the motorway interchange bus stops. A big concern here is the quality of these interchange stops will make people wonder just how much of an improvement the project is actually delivering.

Eastern Busway

This year should see the start of the next stage of the Eastern Busway, from Pakuranga to Botany. This comes after the government recently announced they’re putting an additional $200 million into the project. However, the first sections under construction won’t be the busway itself – but are related to the Reeves Rd Flyover.

Rosedale Station

Last year saw completion of the Northern Busway Extension from Constellation Dr to Albany. Later this year the other component of this project will start construction, the new Rosedale Station. It is not expected to be completed till 2026.

Light Rail

Will we see any real progress on light rail this year, or will it be another year wasted?

Active Modes

The big thing we’ll be watching for at the start of this year: will AT be able progress the long delayed Inner West Street Improvement projects? Or will those delaying the work find ways to delay them even longer? And if the delay continues… what happens to the funding?

This work has been ready to go for some time, and at this point constitutes a log jam for the wider programme. Given some of the comments from the new Mayor and some councillors last year, will we even see any other active mode projects breaking ground this year?

(That’s quite an astonishing question to write, three years into an official climate emergency, with other cities managing fine, and buckets of government climate response funding ready to pour into nimble rollouts… but here we are.)


There are a couple of big motorway projects due for completion this year. These are:

The other big road (and PT) project we’ll be keeping an eye on is the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing, which the government is bringing forward work on. Some of the major things to look for: decisions on whether to favour a bridge or tunnel, and whether the road, public transport and active modes are combined in a single project or able to be delivered separately.


Auckland Council

A huge question this year is whether the council (and AT) can show they can rise above the fear and ignorance of a few vocal opponents to progress, and just do what their own well-evidenced strategies say to do.

And if they can’t and don’t: will they go through the process of changing the strategy, or just ignore it completely, in either case wasting years of work to this point?

Who benefits when council gets bogged down, or reverses course? Or to put it another way, what’s the smartest and most beneficial way to move forward, without wasting further energy and resources?

Central Government

Later this year will be central government elections. which could – on current polling – go either way. If there’s a change of government, we are almost certain to see a change to transport policy.

Say government leans right, would it shift towards a massive roads-first policy as National’s rhetoric has been suggesting, or something else? If Labour claws their way back in the polls and wins a third term, but needs to govern with the Greens and perhaps others, what would that mean for transport policy?

The two potential paths seem starkly divergent. Or are they? What does this fork in the road mean in climate terms, and for the chances to keep growing transport choice and humanise our streets?


There are a couple of housing-related issues will be watching closely this year:

  1. What happens with the changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan that were notified last year?
  2. What changes will we see in the light rail corridor that was left out of the changes last year – and what impact will the changes at council have on that?
  3. Last year saw building consents for houses reach record highs. With the economic uncertainty that exists, what impact will that have on consents in 2023?


It’s worth noting that while writing this post, Cyclone Hale is making landfall on Auckland, and will be adding more rain to already rain-soaked areas. The “Week in Flooding” section of our Friday roundup, which started on a whim, is now a regular feature and closer to home each time, and the seas are warmer this summer – and not in a good way, as RNZ reported this week:

The warmer water is good news for holidaymakers, but will cause problems for marine life and also result in more rainfall on land.

Will we continue to see this sort of one hand/ other hand approach in everyday reporting, policy-making, and leadership? Or will 2023 be the year everyone finally joins the dots on how we live now, and how we’ll live in future?

The year unfolds ahead of us. Tell us: what are you most looking forward to, concerned about, and would add to the watchlist?

Share this


  1. This summer of rain will have put paid to NZTA’s “biggest summer of road works ever”. Expect much more blathering about potholes from Simeon and co.

    1. Maybe this year the huge workforce for RoNS construction can be reassigned to meaningful improvements for the existing state highway network. I can think of some gravel roads in Rodney and the many often-promised-never-replaced one lane bridges in Northland, for example.

  2. I am interested in the route for the Harbour crossing. In recent years we’ve gone from ‘sort of parallel to the bridge’ to something that directly connects with Takapuna. Given there isn’t a huge amount of Shore connections for places like Birkdale already, I’m keen to know why, as well as what this would mean on the City side (especially if the uber-expensive tunnel option is chosen) as that could end up taking up a huge amount of space.

    I also want to know why this has been shown in the ‘Waitematā Harbour Connections’ brochure that’s accompanying consultations as in theory, that’s something that should be consulted on as part of this process. Between that and the tunneling of Light Rail on the City side, it seems like a lot of the key decisions have already been made and the ‘consultations’ are just performative.

    The same brochure also suggests the design and build will take fifteen years! That’s an enormous amount of time. There’s no good reason why this couldn’t be done within a decade, but we seemed to have baked in acceptable delays and deferrals into national infrastructure projects. What I’d like to see in 2023 is for someone to simply ask “Why?”.

    1. Is there really a logic for it to go next to the existing crossing? Surely a network design approach would be to have an additional crossing, well away from the existing one? Hong Kong harbour is a great example – used to be just ferries, now there are three tunnels as well, all in very different areas, in order to better serve the different constituencies.

      Surely the map is screaming out for a Port to Devonport route, despite what the locals say?

  3. “Will we see any real progress on light rail this year, or will it be another year wasted?”

    Narrators voice (2024): “It was another year wasted”.

    Labour had six years to start something; getting it to the point that it couldn’t be killed. I just feels as though the team working on this must just be going through the motions waiting to see what happens post election. They might all be out of a job. Or just spend another 3 years doing planning.

    Meanwhile on roads, ‘O Mahurangi – Penlink’ is moving at relative lightning speed. As soon as WK got the go ahead. Even a driving simulator being made so you can play race cars along the road. Because that is the important part, apparently.


    And it will cost more than the gold plated active mode bridge that was proposed for the center of Auckland.

    Maybe I am getting old and cynical, but surely Michael Wood and others can’t help but notice that given an expensive roading project like Penlink or NCI, WK jump in like pigs in mud and get a massive project into action and completed, with lots of lovely concrete and tar seal perfect for high speed car use and damme the emissions.

    Given PT or active mode projects, they seem to sit for years and come up with reasons for them to not be done, or scaled down as much as possible.

    Who is actually running Waka Kotahi?

    1. They have made such a mess of light rail.

      How given the history of light rail along that corridor, they let tarmac Tommy stack the deck with an insanely bloated project like this, is just maddening. Even more so, when this project is sort of the test for light rail for the entire country.

      1. Agreed Jak. They’ve screwed it up so badly the notion of light rail will be as unpalatable to voters as nuclear power. To think that if National had won in 2017 we would have a system half built by AT already. Makes you think.

        1. The Nats were already equating light rail to the Simpsons monorail last election…

          It pisses me off because this is entirely an execution problem, nothing wrong with the light rail mode in itself but Labour’s failure to deliver it.

    2. There isn’t much point progressing the current project. Better to let this one die and try again in a generation when all these people are retired or dead.

      Besides there won’t be any money for it. When National gets elected they like to create recessions. Like Ruth Richardson they will claim it wasn’t their doing and blame the previous government or external factors or both. The truth is GDP = C + I + G + Nx (consumption, investment, Government spending and Net exports) and National likes to reduce G in a hurry. National isn’t alone in this- think David Cameron’s austerity or practically any Republican white house. They all like a good recession after their first budget.

      1. I agree on LRT – let this iteration die.

        Let’s get on with building proper busways (A2B, Constellation-Westgate, etc) and bus priority. Let the Mayor have his Avondale-Southdown HR. Perhaps even the sub-optimal Onehunga extension to the airport.

        LRT will be for the next generation of leaders to implement in Auckland. Its dead on the south-side. Maybe it will be built north-south instead as part of the second AWHC.

        1. The Mayor will be long gone before anybody would be ready for or there would be any need for the Avondale Southdown freight railway. They still have to build the Marsden Point branch which will take 5 years. However if it is to be built it might as well be designed to carry passengers as well.

        2. Onehunga-Airport heavy rail wouldn’t be the worst option, at least it still serves Mangere (unlike a Puhinui-Airport heavy rail spur).

          With a flying junction at Penrose, stations at Walmsley Rd and Montgomerie Rd (in addition to Mangere Bridge & Mangere Town Centre, & the two Airport stations) and the EMUs running as fast as CAF said they could, it could actually turn out pretty decent, and would fit in quite well to a CFN 2.0 style heavy rail routing (Swanson-CRL-Airport and Pukekohe-CRL-Manukau, trains every 5-7 minutes at peak on each).

    3. Penlink has been on the cards for decades with route designation etc already done. It literally was shovel ready (and sorely needed, just a pity it’s taken so long that it’s now costing 3x the price).

        1. Agreed. Penlink should have been dependent on a lot more TCAB zoning around Whangaparaoa and especially the proposed bus interchange.

        2. *THAB

          And honestly I think a 4-lane Weiti bridge with two of those lanes being bus-only (and future-proofed for light rail) could have been useful in that case too. I can see the NX2 being held up by jammed-up cars on Penlink now that it’s back to 2 lanes.

        3. The conditions required for intensifying Whangaparaoa without increasing vehicle travel and emissions (let alone for decreasing them, as required) are that the public transport and active transport links are substantially improved both to and within the peninsula..

          … **and that conditions for driving (including road capacity, pricing, and carpark pricing) are made less attractive**.

          Penlink is thus not compatible with such an intensification scenario as it increases road capacity. Sustainable intensification of Whangaparaoa is almost impossible; if possible, it absolutely requires that Penlink is not built. The road is simply the next step in continuing with road expansion and sprawl.

        4. Towers aren’t needed. Whangaparaoa has already doubled in population since the early days of Penlink.
          Penlink does allow it to intensify further, and bus lanes are planned for most of the route but unfortunately due to the project being kicked down the road for years (decades even) it’s now going to cost more than double to build a 2 lane road than what it was going to cost to build a 4 lane one (with proper bus lanes) only a decade ago. Either way it still has a positive BCR and it frees up large areas of Silverdale etc from chronic congestion which will allow them to develop.

  4. Labour, with its previous landslide majority, could have done so much to demolish the entrenched National-leaning power-structures and pave the way for an enduring shift in transport policy, but sadly this doesn’t seem to have happened. “Where to from here?”, is as uncertain as ever.

    1. Precisely. They’ve wasted far too much political capital on unnecessary co-governance (from He Puapua – particularly 3-waters) and not actually getting much of anything achieved. That capital could have been better put to work on active modes, LR (albeit not tunnelled LR), busways, infrastructure deficit, health system, education etc.

        1. OT but I’d say not really. The vaccine mandates pissed of Nat voters (so not affecting Lab) and mostly nutters who are anti-establishment etc and who generally don’t vote.
          However combining what is perceived by some as government overreach for that along with further and real overreach with co-governance has really left a sour taste for most people.
          A blown majority government opportunity to fix so many things wrong in this country.

  5. I’m predicting a tranche of RONPs in the National party election promises. Obviously the easy west link, few more country motorways, four lanes to the planes/whangerei, over the kaimais.

  6. I would be keen to hear if you will put in a few words over the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance criticism on the national ticketing proposal, claiming it was an “unnecessary spending”?

    1. They seem to think we’ve paid for HOP and so spending more money for something new. In reality we pay an ongoing fee to Thales to operate the system and the contract for that was extended till 2025 but after that it would need a significant new contract so the costs are probably not that dissimilar

      1. That makes sense, and I suspect it is an expenditure that will end up one way or another even under BAU (hypothetically even if Auckland kept on using the current HOP system)

    1. I am seriously concerned that Simeon Brown will be allowed anywhere near transport portfolio.

      He has heard about induced demand; he just chooses not to believe in it:

      …When asked about induced demand, Brown contended that “the point is people drive to get to where they’re going. I don’t think there are many people out there who just go: ‘Well, there’s a new road, so we might as well use it.'”

      For a potential minister to choose to ignore the plentiful evidence of experts with “I don’t think”, is alarming in any field. I imagine he might well also choose to ignore climate change

      And build more roads – of course. Mills highway, back on the agenda:


      1. Yes a very depressing article,
        Even more depressing are all the excited commenters.
        Unfortunately Auckland is already highly car dependant and there’s no return from that. You just need to look around and see all the stroads strip malls and big box centres that have been built this has set car dependence in stone.
        And any other transit mode will now always be treated like a joke.

  7. Thanks Matt.
    Assuming a Luxon PM and a Seymore Kingmaker…
    N/Act immigration will open the immigration floodgates, a boon for landlords, but another stressor on our poor public infrastructures.

  8. Really hoping that ALR will somehow, magically, make a U-turn on their tunnelled light rail proposal and just build a surface-rail tram line, or else we’ll be waiting till 2040 for CC2M to be completed…

  9. Probably the saddest summary of a year ahead you will find (until next year no doubt). Auckland is going through a very dark patch thats for sure..

    Also, 3 years to build a bloody bus station? Are they for real?

      1. The cycle lanes are already built, have just gone past them on the bus. They’re closed though, and presumably will stay closed until the bus station is opened.

  10. I have used the rail replacement buses a couple of times over the break. Not to bad the express to Puhinui Station is great. There were two staff members behind the glass and a security guard sitting at the top of the esculator. So 3 staff surely one of them could do a bit of directing passengers to and from the rail buses to the airport link at the bus stop. I note there was three staff at the Britomart rail replacement bus stop.

  11. “Not too bad the express to Puhinui Station is great. There were two staff members behind the glass and a security guard sitting at the top of the escalator”

    This is all thanks to the lack of management from the new and exciting AT Customer Experience Division. The AT Customer Service staff hide in their cosy workspace, whilst the visitors and customers wander around trying to find their way. The TeReo “wayfinding” signage does not help.

    The page on the AT website, for the Puhinui Station looks as if it has been abandoned.

    Is there anyone still working at AT who updates the AT web site?

  12. Great but upsetting column, Matt.
    End of last year was the awful moment I was forced go back to buying a car. I hate driving. I want to show I care about the climate. But the bus cancellations and uncertainty and now rail disruption mean I can’t operate this year without a car although there are times I can use the bike (but worry about safety on the actual roads after a friend got badly injured).
    There seem to be more cars on the road. No wonder. This government and AT have been given every opportunity to do stuff but totally failed.
    Light rail is an ongoing embarrassment. We don’t even know its purpose or method yet as it keeps changing. So much for Ardern’s promise.
    AT can’t even properly deliver cycleways like Meola Rd.
    I’m so depressed about how bad things are, I am seriously thinking of going to Brisbane which has great PT including light rail and I won’t need a car.
    Labour, seriously, what a transformational fail.
    AT needs a total clean out of those tired old car pushers.

    1. Could not agree more. Every post from GA depresses me more and more as I feel powerless. I probably need to stop reading about transport and housing in Auckland as I am getting angrier and angrier.

    2. I hate driving too, also hate the bus so will continue cycling but really want Meola done. I don’t see them as car pushers thou, they don’t achieve anything much, and are generally useless. What little that actually gets built is typically flawed, not done right. I think it’s the whole organization top to bottom, too many people, little of whom are competent.

  13. National can’t seriously believe that a rapidly growing city the size of Auckland can keep relying on buses to form the back bone of the transit network.
    You just need to look at the current driver shortage to see 1 major flaw in that plan. The other flaw is capacity and other problems include reliability and operating costs.

  14. It’s so depressing that transport projects are subject to the whims of politicians. If only proposals could be evaluated against an annual budget by an independent commission tasked with priorities including climate change, safety, congestion relief and value for money. We sure wouldn’t be spending billions of dollars on rural motorways to shift traffic jams a few kilometres up the road for 10 days a year at a BCR of 0.2.
    Proponents of RoNS argue the great safety benefits of the dual carriageway etc etc. The evidence is irrefutable, but what is the opportunity cost? JAG said in 2017 you could put median barriers down every kilometre of state highway in NZ for the price of one RoNS. Now 5 years later the RoNS projects are mostly complete and there’s nothing in the pipeline. What about a 10 year programme of double tracking and electrification for the Golden Triangle? A nationwide programme of safety improvements for state highways that isn’t just a blanket reduction of speed limits which will be completely ignored by many motorists anyway? Road to Zero seems like lip service without going all out on building safe systems.

    1. “What about a 10 year programme of double tracking and electrification for the Golden Triangle?”

      Goodness me, yes. Particuluarly for passenger rail. I have just returned from Australia and it was an absolute revelation to be able to catch frequent trains that can take you beyond city limits. NZ could do this too if it wanted to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *