A few weeks ago, the government released the a draft of their next Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport for consultation, though it also effectively doubles as Labour’s transport policy for the election. The Ministry of Transport explain the purpose of the GPS as:

The GPS is the Government’s strategy for investing in the land transport system. It outlines what the Government wants to achieve in land transport, and how it expects funding from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) to be allocated between types of activities (for example, roading, public transport and road safety) across the land transport system.

Each GPS sets out the priorities for a 10-year period and is updated every three years.

When it comes to the election, the transport policy from our two biggest parties is very much trending towards who can spend the most, and in a year where it has become more evident than ever of the need to reduce emissions, they seem to competing for who can do the opposite of that the most.

As part of this GPS, the government plan to spend more than ever on transport, increasing spending by $5.3 billion to $20.8 billion over 2024-2027, a 34 per cent increase on the 2021-2024 GPS. That’s an absolutely massive increase and it’s hard to see how the transport industry will have the capacity to deliver that. It’s not like there are transport planners, engineers and construction crews just sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for a new job.

Most of that $20.8 billion in spending will be through the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) and for that the GPS sets an expenditure target for each year along with minimum and maximum levels. This chart shows how that expenditure target has changed since the GPS process was introduced. Waka Kotahi data suggests that actual expenditure is typically fairly close to these levels, usually being just a little under or over.

That’s quite a big increase but I won’t be surprising if much of that increase gets eaten up in project cost escalation due to all of the mega projects the government are focusing on competing for the same resource.

Those mega projects are also a cause of huge concern I have with this GPS. As well as with National’s transport policy, they represent an increasing politicisation of transport investment. Over the last 15 years this has seen spending becoming increasingly more pork barrelled as successive governments and opposition parties have tried to win votes by pushing larger and more economically marginal projects.

Technically, the decision on what transport projects get funded sits Waka Kotahi, which is why it has a level of independence from the government. They are meant to make that decision based on how well the various outcomes outlined in the GPS, such as how well it responds to climate change, the economic efficiency of the investment i.e. do we get more economic benefit than the project will cost etc. To get around this, Labour, like National did with the GPS introduce a mafia like logic of “you can build what you want but it should really be these projects

For the non-rail projects, decision rights for funding from the NLTF rests solely with Waka Kotahi. But by highlighting these projects, the Minister expects that their strategic importance will be given particular consideration during NLTP development, given their alignment and potential impact on the wider government priorities outlined in this document

And here are the projects in the government’s Strategic Investment Programme. Many are the same as what was proposed by National and will only serve to encourage more driving and generate greater emissions as a result – not to mention many will likely include significant embodied emissions too. Yet they seem to think that because they build a few public transport projects, that’s all they need to do to tick the climate change box.

“My focus as Prime Minister has been on making sure we are investing in the priorities of New Zealanders. To achieve our full potential as a country, we need fast progress on key transport infrastructure that will support our economic growth and improve productivity,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The Government views these 14 new routes as critical nation building transport priorities for New Zealand over the coming decades.

The routes are:

  • Warkworth to Whangārei – State Highway 1, including:
    • Te Hana to Brynderwyns
    • Warkworth to Wellsford
    • Whangārei to Brynderwyns
  • Auckland Northwest Rapid Transit
  • Auckland third and fourth rail line expansion
  • Avondale to Onehunga rail link
  • Level crossing upgrade and removal – Auckland and Wellington
  • Cambridge to Piarere – State Highway 1
  • Tauranga to Tauriko – State Highway 29
  • Wellington CBD to Airport – second Mount Victoria Tunnel and upgrades to Basin Reserve/Arras Tunnel
  • Wellington CBD to Island Bay – Mass Rapid Transit
  • Napier to Hastings – four-laning State Highway 2
  • Nelson (Rocks Road) shared path – State Highway 6
  • Richmond – Hope Bypass – State Highway 6
  • Christchurch Northern Link – State Highway 1
  • Ashburton Bridge – State Highway 1

“These routes include a balanced mix of public transport and roads, which require work as a priority to reduce congestion, manage emissions, improve safety, grow the economy and open up areas for housing.

“These new priorities complement our existing investments in roads like Otaki to North of Levin, the Takitimu North Link and Melling under the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, as well as faster, more reliable public transport through Auckland Light Rail, the Eastern Busway, and City Rail Link.

“They also complement the major programme of repairs and resilience upgrades that we have already funded for state highways across cyclone-affected areas like Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay which is being supported through the National Resilience Plan.

We’ll look into some of these projects in more detail in later posts.

To fund all of this, government are proposing a number of changes.

  • Increases to fuel taxes and Road User Charges
    The government say to fully cover the cost of the increased spending from these sources would require a 38 cents per litre increase. Instead, they’re proposing “two six-monthly 2 cents per litre increases for the first year, followed by two annual 4 cents per litre increases, reaching a total of 12 cents per litre in July 2026“.
  • Hypothecation of traffic infringement revenue to the NLTF
    Currently infringements fees of approximately $100 million per year go directly to the general crown account. This would see that put directly into the NLTF.
  • Crown Grants
    The government will give Waka Kotahi $2.9 billion with $500 of that coming from the Climate Emergency Relief Fund and dedicated to Walking and Cycling projects. The rest would from the general fund.
  • Crown Loans
    The government will lend Waka Kotahi $3.1 billion which will have to be repaid from fuel taxes and road user charges.

This is at least a more realistic plan to fund transport than National’s approach to find $9.5 billion magic beans somewhere.

Perhaps one thing that highlights how the government have backed down on transport is seen in this table showing how the strategic priorities have changed with each GPS. Of particular note are the changes to climate change and safety. Climate change goes from needing to transform our transport system to just transition to one – in other words slower and less urgently, while the need to improve road safety has been significantly weakened.

The road safety aspect is also notable because the dedicated safety funding from the current GPS has been raided to fund more general state highway and local road projects.

Consultation on the draft GPS technically closes at 5pm on Friday 15th September 2023 but the real consultation will be the election on the 14th of October.

Share this


  1. I will not vote for Labour while they promise tens of billions of dollars for Auckland and Wellington regional infrastructure projects and only a few hundred million to Canterbury.
    P.S Canterbury is the second largest regional contributor to the NLTF. It contributes about 45% of what Auckland does and contributes much more than Wellington.

      1. I do not know. It has been a Labour party promise for the last few elections. The MRT study went for light rail or BRT on the road corridor rather than using existing rail lines.
        I still think we should be protecting the rail corridors as a kind of back up.

    1. It is obvious they are spending all the money on promise for free dentist visits, the intelligent know, take toxic sugar out of manufactured food, not only cheaper dentist visits but also better health less drain on health care.

    2. Wellington is nicking Chch money and spending it on themselves – yep, that’s sort of the problem when you’ve got the third city making the decisions for the country. But leave Auckland out of it, we’re contributing loads, we get promised loads, but the actual spend/delivery is not anywhere as much. Just look at table 1 on the first actual page here: https://www.interest.co.nz/sites/default/files/Regional%20government%20expenditure%20full%20report.pdf

      Wellington spends significantly more on itself than anywhere else – and Auckland is worse off than Chch.

      1. Can’t edit, but prior link was massively out of date (noticed it after I submitted), but the general gist is the same, just have to change the data sources to being more current.

        https://imgur.com/809KJvu – essentially Chch and Auckland are roughly the same in spend per capita (with Wellington getting far more per person), but Auckland gets significantly less per GDP (with Chch and Wellington being similar)

        Made a quick table from https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/annual-report-nzta/2020-21/nzta-nltf-annual-reports-2021-complete.pdf and https://www.stats.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Regional-gross-domestic-product/Regional-gross-domestic-product-Year-ended-March-2022/Download-data/regional-gross-domestic-product-year-ended-march-2022-corrected.xlsx and https://www.stats.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Subnational-population-estimates/Subnational-population-estimates-At-30-June-2022-provisional/Download-data/Subnational-population-estimates-At-30-June-2022-provisional.xlsx using the 2022 P options for both.

      2. Wellington peeves me off the most. Auckland deserves good transport project investment. I just wish that Christchurch would get its fair share of good projects.

        1. 100%. It’s our 2nd largest city – but it’s also got the weird funding issues where Selwyn/Waimakariri are getting the benefits of Chch facilities but not having to pay – and vice versa.

          I’m hopeful for the Woodend bypass though – and eventually motorway until Amberly in the north (or even the SH7 intersection) and south along SH1 – and possibly even more motorways. In terms of PT – I think they’ll talk a lot but I’m not really convinced they’re going to do a lot unless it’s council led dragging the gov like Auckland has had to do. NZTA/road building industry/developers are pretty happy to lead govs of whatever stripe for new roads, but we don’t really have a comparable PT lobby, with it generally being left to councils to advocate for.

          Chch/Canterbury/the South Island could relatively cheaply have a decent rail network if KR was knocked into line, as there are existing lines that go to almost all of the major nodes outside of the city (bar Woodend) – but again, it’s about political vision both from local and central gov – and central gov doesn’t seem to care about much more than where they live (Wellington) and what screams loud enough for them to not ignore.

          If we’re talking about who actually gets shafted, it’s Taranaki who gets the least both per capita and per GDP contributed.

    3. The problem isn’t the regional split; it’s that the great bulk (63.7%) of spending on ‘improvements’ over the next 3 years is for roads. Put that $6bn+ into public transport and cycling/walking and there’d be ample to improve all the regions. That and scrapping the tunnel plan is presumably how the Greens would finance their “Build surface light rail through key routes in our major cities”, as well as fare-free, cycle lanes, “rail services designed for regular inter-city transport”, etc.

  2. On first glance I don’t see the difference from what National announced. Its a similar list of projects.
    From IMF data, we have both the highest current account deficit in the OECD and the second bottom growth outlook in the entire world. The economy is stuffed.
    From latest Roy Morgan poll, Labour are on 24% and ACT on 18%.
    Labours policy announcements appear irrelevant.

    1. You really need to have a closer look, the Labour plan is mediocre but National’s transport policy is a disaster. And comes with huge funding or rather non-funding issues. Of the four PT projects they claim to support, two are already underway, the other two are non-funded vapourware. As for active transport, forget it, they propose to defund almost entirely.

      1. Labour mention active mode or similar about 30 times in their policy statement but its all waffle. No projects described, no targets around km of cycleway created, no plan to repurpose a lane on the harbour bridge, nothing to excite me. Last week Labour cut $50 million for supporting local councils to build walkable neighbourhoods and cycle networks, amongst other climate related spending cuts. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/labours-mixed-messages-on-communication-breakdown-with-greens?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1693264988-1
        Nationals policy statement at least describes a few projects albeit not particularly inspiring, e.g. A new seperated walking and cycling connection for new Mt Vic tunnel in Wellington, Melling Interchange and Penlink walking & cycling.
        As for the rest of the policy, all their Auckland projects are the same as National: Warkworth to Whangārei, Auckland Northwest Rapid Transit, 3rd/4th main, Avondale Southdown, level crossing removal.
        National adds Airport to Botany rapid transit, and completing Eastern bus way.
        Funding is a seperate subject to transport policy statements. Airport LRT by 2021 was vapourware.

        1. The big difference is that neither Labour or National will get in with a majority by themselves which means their coalition partners will demand further action. Labour will need the Greens if they are to make it back into power and that will mean more active-mode support and hopefully some good targets to go with that instead of the waffle.

  3. The cynic in me ,says these measures were announced to remove any pushback during election campaigning.lt highlights how much politicians view people’s transport options as vote winners.
    Surely the eye watering cost for little return will temper the thinking. By minimizing the safety aspects,the road builders are removing the one benefit of building new roads. Going on the word count reduction on the GPS statements over the years,in environment and safety,l expect the next GPS to have a box with a tick in it.

  4. Vote National if you want the projects delivered, with a surprise future tax to cover the magic beans.

    Vote Labour if you want to pay the tax now, and have no projects delivered but money still spent.

    Arguably the Labour option is better, at least they won’t build the high emission producing projects.

    1. The problem as I see it is this Labour government has to be thrown out, the sooner the better, so they can clean house and get rid of their incompetent ministers. Ideally only Hipkins, Sepuloni, Robertson and Woods would remain.
      But that means at least three years with National’s religious fundamentalists in charge and more of them in Parliament voting on conscience votes. I can’t be responsible for that so I just can’t vote. Someone else can be to blame.

      1. If I recall correctly, under bridges more cycle lanes were built than under Labour this time. However, Simeon brown is defintiely not bridges.

        I’m not a fan of either large party, I sit at some sort of frankestein monster between Act and TOP. So god knows what happens on election day.

        1. I still think TOP is the real compromise, if more voters only new. But its just so hard for smaller parties to get traction.

          They are the closest we have to a Teal party.

      2. Miffy – I hear you on the (lack of) choice. What a time to be alive…

        I guess it could be worse. We could be in the US. Sleepy/Stumbling Joe vs the Wall St Property Preacher.

  5. The correct investment would all be in climate weather resilient, carbon minimising infrastructure; otherwise known as trains, or trams, or light rail, or heavy rail, or trolley buses or Tereina.

    That neither of the major political parties are putting any effort into this is insulting to the inhabitants of this country.

    Life is about movement, community and space, otherwise known as trains, ferryboats and waka; plus the permanent things, popularly labelled as infrastructure.

    We are so many intelligent minds, why are we continually silenced?

  6. “That’s quite a big increase but I won’t be surprising if much of that increase gets eaten up in project cost escalation due to all of the mega projects the government are focusing on competing for the same resource.”

    As a consultant, I feel confident this will happen. With that much demand for skilled labour, there’s no way prices won’t skyrocket. It’ll also mean consultants won’t be available to work for peanuts on the local projects that are actually useful AND gov’t and consultants will be siphoning experienced staff from territorial authorities, even more than what’s happening now.

  7. Because the Draft GPS is not clear on exactly what is meant by the list of priority projects listed I checked with the MoT who confirmed that the final decision on which ones actually progress to detailed design and construction is up to Waka Kotahi. I am particularly concerned about endless delays in dealing with suburban railway level crossings – these were identified as an issue half a century ago and all the Auckland crossings were to be dealt with as part of the rapid rail project until Muldoon scrapped everything in 1976. So while I will make a submission on the GPS this week- we will have to do it all again when WK draw as up their own plans and put them out for consultation. This could be considerably delayed if National are calling the shots and set about completely redrafting the GPS

  8. Hi Matiu, Labour & National are treating their Supporters (Herds) as Sheeple’s not Peoples with intelligence on climate weather resilient, carbon minimizing infrastructure.

  9. It’s crazy the have light rail from owairaka to onehunga and also have the heavy rail Avondale to southdown line in their list also. There is no reason to have both side by side. Someone needs to buy these people a map.

    1. There’s every reason. The corridor exists and in a sensible country could go ahead without delay, it makes it easy to transfer from one mode to another and provides redundancy, which is sorely needed in the Auckland rail network.

      1. So when large parts of auckland have no rapid transit, you want to build a heavy rail line for billions and then a light rail line for billions more in the same corridor?. Why not add a monorail above the heavy rail and light rail to provide more redundancy?. And a subway underneath?.
        The heavy rail can take freight and passenger. There is no need for light rail also along the same corridor 10ft away.

      2. Unfortunately they have been sitting on the corridor since the 40’s and let Auckland grow and develop around it without sensible zoning, so going ahead without delay isn’t possible any more. A sensible country would have built it within 10 or 20 years and zoned it appropriately. Even if purchasing for potential future development could be a good idea, 80 years in advance and allowing residential development all around is a bit silly.

        1. I think that’s all easy in hindsight. In the 40s it wouldn’t have been apparent that auckland would grow to 1.5million or the auckland port may go to Northport.

  10. It’ll be interesting to see if ACT really mean what they say about mandating that economic and productivity impacts be considered as part of government spending. Does this mean they will refuse to support massive roading projects with poor cost-benefit ratios? Or will they ignore their own policy when it comes to transport?

    1. When it comes to transport, this just means that Treasury will be required to do speculative productivity fantasy maths in support of any road the Minister likes and NZTA will be required to pay attention to it when rubberstamping the project.

  11. The money page (48) is what counts in the GPS. It shows 63.7% of the ‘improvements’ money over the next 3 years going to new roads and safety (a large part of that 15.1% going to upgrades, as much as safety). Only 27.5% is going to public transport, 8.3% to walking and cycling and 0.5% to coastal shipping. At $20 to 50m a year, inter-regional public transport isn’t going to be transformed. Only the spending on new roads is going to be transformational and that in the wrong direction. Use the online survey to say what you think of it – https://consult.transport.govt.nz/policy/government-policy-statement-on-land-transport-2024/consultation/intro/.

  12. Labour = Dog Tucker

    They can promise magic buses and hover boards – who cares? They’re dead this year.

    So, we now have to make a Nats/Act/ New Zealand First govt work for us. Which one of those three has done the most for railways and public transport?

Leave a Reply

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