In March last year, shortly after Russia launched its horrific invasion of Ukraine, the government cut fuel taxes, road user charges and public transport fares “as part of a cost of living package“.

PT fares were halved while fuel taxes dropped by 25 cents per litre (almost 29 cents once you include GST) and initially were only meant to last for three months. However, over a year and a number of extensions later, those discounts end tomorrow – which is of course seeing a bit of a rush on petrol stations.

The impact on public transport usage of half-priced fares has been hard to assess. Public transport usage has recovered to around 75-80% of pre-COVID levels but most research suggests the impact of the fare discounts has only had a modest impact. This is unsurprising given that they were introduced just as we started to see COVID restrictions eased and over the same time, public transport quality has been atrocious thanks to the bus driver and ferry crew shortage as well as the ongoing issues with the rail network. As we reported yesterday, user satisfaction with PT is near rock-bottom levels with just 23% of people expressing satisfaction with the PT system.

Given the apparent limited impact the half-priced fares had, hopefully that means there shouldn’t be too much negative impact on PT usage. Equally, could the fuel price change encourage a few people to get out of their cars and try PT again?

One thing that will help with PT usage (and with people getting around) is that from Saturday, the government’s targeted fare discounts come into effect. This will see discounts for people under 25 or with a Community Services Card.

Auckland’s public transport customers aged under 25 who use a registered HOP card will get the benefit of free or half price fares from Saturday 1 July.

On 30 June, the government’s half price discount on public transport fares will end, and AT will be offering new concessions to customers who are under 25 from Saturday 1 July.

Following the government’s announcement in May on free fares for those aged 5-12 and half price fares for those aged 13-24, AT has worked quickly to implement the new fares, ensuring the complex changes to our AT HOP system are ready to give customers a seamless experience.

AT Metro Optimisation Manager Richard Harrison says rolling out this change ahead of 1 July has been a significant focus for the organisation in recent weeks.

“Half price fares have made a real difference to Aucklanders when they came into play in April 2022 and we are pleased to be able to continue to offer half price fares for 13-24 year olds and to introduce free fares for 5-12 year olds who travel with a registered AT HOP card.

“We’ve spent the past few weeks preparing to implement these changes. The changes aren’t straightforward but we’re confident that come 1 July everyone using a registered AT HOP card will have a seamless transition to the new fares,” says Mr Harrison.

“If you’ve registered your AT HOP card with your date of birth, you don’t need to do anything – just tag on like you normally do and the appropriate fare will be applied.

“Now’s also the perfect time for young people to register their AT HOP card if they haven’t already, so that they don’t miss out on free or discounted travel from 1 July.”

Customers can find out more about the changes at

As noted above, for the child discounts you only need to have a registered HOP card however for the Communty Connect discount you will need to apply for the concession via or via MSD offices.

Contactless Payments

Finally, while on the topic of paying for PT trips, AT recently confirmed that within the next year, people will be able to tag on and off debit/credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

The changes will apply to full fare paying adults. Those wanting to access concession discounts such as Tertiary and SuperGold will still need to use their HOP card as normal.

AT Chief Executive Dean Kimpton says this is the latest in a range of initiatives AT is introducing to make public transport an easier option for Aucklanders, visitors and tourists.

“You won’t need to stress about buying a HOP card, topping it up, or forgetting it. You can just tag on with what you already have in your pocket like in London, New York or Sydney.

“It’s going to make paying for public transport as easy and simple as paying for a coffee, as it should be.”

Mr Kimpton predicts the improvements will lift public transport passenger numbers by between two million and three million trips per year.

“This change is going to make public transport more appealing for more people including tourists, visitors, casual users, and first-time users.

“I see these improvements which will come in next year, helping to push us past 100 million public transport trips per year in 2024 and that is huge.”

“The more people catching public transport, the less emissions, the less traffic, and the easier and safer it is for us to move around our city.”


It is estimated that the improvements will cost approximately $23 million. Introducing this solution now provides numerous benefits for customers, the environment and the city as a whole.

The improvements are a step towards plans to see the National Ticketing Solution (NTS) introduced across the motu by 2026. By getting Aucklanders using contactless payments for public transport now, the transition to NTS will be smoother and involve much less change for customers.

This functionality was meant to come years ago but was stopped due to uncertainty over what was happening with the National Ticketing System, that was finalised last year. It was also announced at that time that Auckland would likely get this feature in advance of the national solution and presumably it will help ease the transition to that is introduced, likely in 2026.

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  1. The 10c fuel excise duty in 1974 is equivalent to $1.00 today. After restoring it to $0.78, FED is less than 50 years ago. Climate crisis? Oh yeah, we have the ETS, which was adding $0.16 to petrol for a while, but which has recently halved in price thanks to some very ill-thought out decisions. Easy to think that the whole system is broken.

    1. Yeah, would be interesting to see a graph of real petrol excise duty. And for that matter, real petrol costs.

      1. Whichever way you look at it, I object to paying nearly half my petrol tank fill to the government, with money that is already taxed. Petrol tax is basically theft. For $100 u get $50 of fuel.

        1. Cars are expensive to society. The tax component reflects that, and probably doesn’t even cover it….

        2. You object? Oh, well in that case, right this way to the untaxed fuel supply, sorry for the inconvenience.

          I might try that one at the supermarket next time I go. Just try roll out, “well I paid for food last week, what you mean I have to pay for this lot as well????”

          Back in the real world, highways are extremely expensive to maintain and build, someone’s got to pay for it, makes the most sense to collect that from people that drive. Don’t like paying it the voluntary tax? don’t then. Stop buying petrol.

        3. NZ Government always the lazy one, do nothing but to charge sky high taxes to kill drivers with a simple slogan of climate change!

        4. You could argue that giving over huge swathes of land within our towns and cities to motorists is also theft.

          Think of all the tax-free walking, cycling and street-life that is obstructed, discouraged and eliminated by motoring.

          It feels like some kind of conspiracy…

  2. I hope the contactless system is set up correctly in that it caps weekly or monthly fares at would be the week/month pass cost.

    This was always an issue with TFL since it would max out at the weekly rate but anything more was not capped.

    1. Or just get rid of passes altogether. Why do we offer a bulk discount for a subsidised public service, why should people who travel less pay more per trip?

    2. When using a Bank Card will the system make a transaction for each trip or accumulate them for a period (day or week) >

      1. I would say daily but it may be good to divide night and day to ensure they get more payments. You could also make it doc any accumulation over say $10.I don’t know what the London etc systems do.

  3. World oil price has already dropped back to pre COVID level and lower than Russia Ukraine war, but NZ oil price still 50% higher! What’s the reason behind? Perhaps NZ authorities support the NZ oil companies behind to earn and share the extra profit. NZ authorities always say they want people to use public transport, perhaps another way to support oil companies to earn the extra money. Take Australia as an example, their oil price well dropped back from last year. NZ perhaps the worse country on managing living cost!

    1. I don’t know where you get that information from but it is wrong.
      Brent crude, the benchmark for oil was trading at USD 57.83 on Feb 17, 2020 before hitting the Covid low of USD 15.17 on April 27th, 2020. Right now it’s trading at USD 74.00. War in the Ukraine has had little effect on prices as Urals continues to flow into the market, particularly to China, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The current price is more reflective of a weak global economy than Putins miss adventure.
      Also, there are no NZ oil companies. Z and Gull are owned by Australia, Mobil is American and BP are British.
      Reducing the fuel tax was always a short term measure as it’s a hopelessly dumb idea. In times of high oil prices, the last thing a Government should do is lower prices as it just supports demand.

      1. I don’t know where your number come from either. Look at other countries as comparison Australia already back to pre COVID and pre Russia Ukraine war level, why NZ still 50% higher? Perhaps money gone to those traders and authorities back pockets.

      2. Too many NZ people just mention those are Australia company, but why no NZ companies? Lazy perhaps the only reason!

        1. Because NZ is a poor country which sticks all its money in unproductive housing. Whereas Australia has had compulsory retirement saving for decades being invested into buy up NZ companies.

        2. Not only that, because NZ people always think the world is only NZ, no other places.

  4. I don’t know how I’ll ever bus again, unless I somehow have to commute into the heart of CBD. I’ve recently discovered the magic called radar cruise control.

    What was previously a painful and stressfull car drive, now became a 40minute period of zen relexation. I can sit comfortably, drink my coffee, and listen to ebooks and music.

    Parking on the city fringes essentially free/cheap. I keep an escooter in my boot so parking radius for me is much larger now.

    There has to be a lot more done to incentivise me to move to PT again, and I can see more people discovering this too. We need more bus lanes, so PT is fast, and is actually congestion free. The only reason PT made sense for me before is that it was stress free. in terms of time it was similar. Yes it was a bit cheaper, but that wasn’t the majour driving factor.

    1. Totally agree with the last para. As another ex-PT user who is now back in the car, buses and trains need to be way more competitive in terms of travel time and reliability to make me reconsider… That said – when CRL opens, for me that might be the time to try again!

      1. Yes to both you two above, with the Southern Line having an express service speeding things up you may find the benefits out way the costs post CRL.

    2. I’m sure you know what you’re doing, but these driver aids are sure to inspire complacency.

      Depending on the system, it may or may not recognize stationary obstacles, livestock, pedestrians or cyclists.

      I’d also be concerned that drivers will be allowed to use ignorance of the limitations of a particular system or an alleged malfunction as a defence for dangerous, negligent driving.

      Nice use of an e-scooter, by the way!

      1. They generally still require you to manually stay in your lane. I think what Average Aucklander is the removal of one of the biggest stresses of driving in heavy traffic, the constant high alert on the car in front.

        It will inevitably bring some complacency, but overall it is likely to be more effective than the extremely smart but often drifting human brain.

        1. “constant high alert on the car in front” – what about the constant high alert on the potential pedestrian or child in front?

        2. Adaptive cruise control will react quicker to the presence of a pedestrian than most drivers would. It will also react to parked cars and pretty much any other hazard, which is why it’s only works on motorways.

        3. Yep my bad, I am not rich enough to have it (or need it as I don’t spend much time on motorways)

        4. The lower end adaptive cruise works really only on motorway.

          The higher end modern versions available on the likes of mercs, audis work very well in urban settings too. Teslas scare me tbh.

          You are still driving, and they are no where near self driving but assists. They don’t react to parked cars as such, but a cyclist coming out right in front of you makes the car dash light up like a christmas tree with all sorts of imminient collision warnings.

          It’s one of the many safety features, and it does help. But it’s still mostly useful on the motorways.

    3. This kind of thing will be a big disrupter to PT usage. Unfortunately for a lot of Aucklanders the only real reason to use PT is because driving in rush hour is stressful. Otherwise PT is rarely quicker or cheaper once you factor in the value of your own time. Its good if you want a drink after work…

    4. The whole NZ is only the Auckland city? What about other places? When you need to spend double or triple time to take public transport, than what the reason behind? Foolish!!

        1. Why? Because mind set issues, why can’t the mind set expand wider? NZ only has Auckland? Update the mind of yours, perhaps it can issue some helpful points.

        1. Ha ha, whenever there are some point not like to hear, NZ people will ask you go away, this is the Kiwi s. Public comment, discussion always has contrary comments, but are you open for that or not.

        2. Exactly what I mean, whenever there’s negative comments, you don’t like to hear, you are foolish indeed!

  5. It probably hasn’t helped pull in many PT users who wouldn’t normally use PT. But it sure as heck would have helped with cost of living, and the economy. The reversion of both on 1 July will further pressurise discretionary spending and hence the economy. Overnight the reversions pretty much add $30-40 to my weekly costs.

    1. Agreed, but there is no free lunch.

      Taxpayers either pay the difference now, or the Govt borrows money and future taxpayers pay the difference + interest.

  6. One extra bonus of setting up the Community Connect half price fare in the AT website is you have the option of getting a new free HOP card sent out to you.

  7. About time you guys get contactless / bank payments on transport.

    I visited in April and was amazed at the faf trying to get a bus or train. Modern tourists dont carry cash nor will they bother buying a transport card they have to top up repeatedly, particularly one which, if you top up online, takes 24 hours for the balance to be usable. Utter madness.

    Needless to say I ended up driving my parents car most of the time.

    London is phasing out their Oyster card in favour of contactless and I hope you guys go the same way.

    1. Jeremy
      How does London manage access to the network for those eligible for concessional or free transport?
      Presumably by especially issued non standard Oyster Cards?
      The same as I can see here that contactless payment direct to a bank account really only works for full priced fares.

    2. NZ is the most outdated country, no surprise it take 24hours for an online update. Even we made bank transfer within NZ, it take days to take effect!

      1. NZ has just updated the banking system so transfers happen between banks within a couple of hours and 365 days a year now.

        In terms of the HOP card, yes the value is stored on the card itself so information to update that has to be sent to individual buses etc – hence the time wait (faster to train stations etc).
        In terms of London system I heard you had to nominate a station for that value to be added to your card when you next tagged on as there is so many stations and users of the card.

        So not surprising in Auckland you need to give it time as data is too big to push out to each bus via mobile data or something while it’s still travelling around on route. In saying that I guess a bit of an upgrade needed so that banking info can be transferred on the go, what if there is no mobile coverage or it’s interrupted for a bit?

        1. Even though what you mentioned to transfer within few hours is true, but what about if the transfer is on Fri afternoon, probably the update is earliest the Monday afternoons. What a shame! In HK, China as an example, the transfer update is immediate, with no delay. You mentioned the data is large, what another shame! In today, a few million data is just nothing, but perhaps it’s NZ outdated country still treat it as a big job! Head up how others doing!

    1. Can the update “immediately”? Make your experience in other countries, like China than you can tell how efficient they are.

      PS: They do it as least 20 years ago, not from this May (2023). NZ need extra efforts to catch up in many areas.

  8. how can increased petrol price entice someone to try PT if it’s way cheaper now (for most people on most routes) to drive than to use a bus and that’s not to mention travel time, cancellations, and transfer stress. I will personally give up on my occasional bus trip and use a car instead. It’s totally not worth it. One of the most expensive PT systems in the world (per km) with the quality very far from even ‘decent’

  9. Please not to say this way though I agree with you mostly for the NZ Authorities will increase the oil price untill you give up driving.

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