A couple of weeks ago the Government quietly released what’s being called its ‘Indicative Priorities for GPS 2024‘. While this isn’t a full draft Government Policy Statement (GPS), it gives some initial guidance around what the next GPS is likely to focus on.
A quick refresher first though about the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport. This is a really important document in the transport planning and funding system, providing strong guidance about what the government wants Waka Kotahi to focus on in its work, and placing a whole bunch of limits on how Waka Kotahi can spend and invest the National Land Transport Fund. The current GPS, which will expire on June 30 next year, had four strategic priorities – as shown in the diagram below:
We were largely supportive of the previous GPS, while making some suggestions around the need for it to guide all government investment (not just the increasingly small National Land Transport Fund), as well as some changes to the funding details of the document.
A lot has changed in the past three years though, and it’s good to see the initial priorities of GPS 2024 picking this up in a few areas:
- Emissions reduction is elevated to an overarching priority, which should guide all investment in the transport system. Given the massive scale of change required to the transport system for us to meet targets set in the Emissions Reduction Plan this is a necessary and essential change.
- The document makes it clear that the GPS should guide all government investment in the transport system, not just the National Land Transport Fund. This is a really important change as the NLTF seems to be an ever-decreasing proportion of all the money government invests in transport, and some of the biggest mistakes in recent years have occurred when the government has bypassed normal processes to cherry-pick projects like in the NZ Upgrade Programme that often contradict what they’re actually trying to achieve.
- By providing much clearer direction that operations, maintenance and renewals expenditure needs to make a much greater contribution to improving the transport system – not just building back the same old unsafe and unsuitable infrastructure for another generation.
- By elevating the importance of resilience, which obviously has been top of mind in recent weeks due to climate-induced weather events.
Here’s the complete diagram showing the proposed strategic priorities:
Diving into the details a little bit more, it’s notable how much emphasis the GPS will place on the VKT reduction programmes that are supposedly already under development in New Zealand’s largest cities.
Urban VKT reduction programmes
The ERP calls on Waka Kotahi to partner with councils and communities to develop light VKT reduction programmes for major urban areas. These programmes aim to provide better transport choices through improvements to urban form.
This new partnership approach to VKT reduction planning will reduce the need to travel by car, and deliver safer, more accessible, vibrant urban centres providing a range of attractive alternatives to travelling by car. Waka Kotahi and its partners will need to prioritise this planning work so that the new programmes can inform future investment priorities – which will be supported in GPS 2024.
It’s also notable that the ‘bar’ for funding transport investments that increase emissions will be higher than ever.
High thresholds for investments that do not support emissions reduction objectives
Meeting the targets set out in the ERP will require a significant change in the way that New Zealanders use the transport system. Over time, transport investments and interventions will make it possible for more people to walk, cycle and use public and shared transport, especially in our largest urban areas.
This is not to suggest that every individual investment will result in reduced emissions. Some interventions that result in increased emissions may be necessary to support the achievement of wider objectives – but there will be a high threshold for any such investments and the overall investment programme must deliver a reduction in net emissions to meet national targets.
We’ll await with interest the full draft GPS, which should be released in the next few months. The Ministry of Transport say they welcome feedback on this document, which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, this could all change if the government changes later this year.