Last week the government delivered their first budget and while there’s been plenty of other discussion about the main aspects of it, I was particularly interested to look at what it meant for transport.

Before getting into too much detail, the chart below shows at a high level where transport funding is going.

As you can see, one of the big changes over the last few years has been the rise in funding from outside the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) for roading projects, in the form of loans and direct grants. It’s also hard to see in this graph, but one of the big losers here will be emissions reduction, which has seen funding slashed for the coming years.

The Budget itself is not normally a huge source of transport news, as most of our transport funding is dictated via other processes such as the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) which influences how the National Land Transport Fund (transport taxes) is used.

The draft GPS which came out in March was the most extremely ideological version we’ve seen. A final version should be released this month – and while I don’t expect the key policies in it will change (such as the push for lots more Roads of National Significance), hopefully some of the other language will be at least toned down a bit, such as trying to prevent multi-modal projects.

That said, there were a few things that did stand in the Budget when it comes to the future of transport.

RoNS Acceleration

The biggest item by value that caught my eye was $1 billion to “accelerate the delivery of the Roads of National Significance and major public transport projects“, with Transport Minister Simeon Brown saying:

“This funding includes a billion-dollar increase over that signalled during the consultation on the GPS on land transport. This funding has been secured to accelerate the delivery of priority projects including the Roads of National Significance.

“We want construction firms to know that this government will get on and build roads and we have prioritised funding in place to make this happen.

The fact sheet attached to the press release doesn’t give a lot of information as to what projects this will go towards:

An additional $1 billion for NZTA to accelerate the delivery of the Roads of National Significance and major public transport projects. This will be delivered through the National Land Transport Programme and is in addition to the more than $20.7 billion funding package already confirmed in the draft Government Policy Statement on land transport. The GPS funding package already includes a capital grant of $3 billion, which combined with the additional $1 billion lifts the Government’s Capital Investment in Transport through GPS 2024 to over $4 billion over the next three years.

Given most of this next batch of RoNS look to have extremely poor economic benefits, pouring an additional $1 billion is just throwing good money after bad.

There is also quite a bit of hypocrisy from the government here. They spent their time in opposition (and so far in government) complaining about the use of consultants on projects like Auckland Light Rail and Let’s Get Wellington Moving. But where do they think this Budget money is going to go, in order to accelerate their projects? Those same consultants will be at the trough to gobble that billion up.

Rail Funding

Far more interesting and somewhat surprising, was the rail investment, which was announced in two separate categories

  • $266.9 million to upgrade and maintain the metropolitan rail networks in Auckland and Wellington
  • $200 million to support KiwiRail to carry out maintenance and renewals on the national rail network

Metropolitan investment 

Kiwirail’s Auckland Rail Network Rebuild (RNR) has been ongoing for about a year and a half now, and while the disruption has been frustrating, it’s critical to get caught up on some of the decades-old backlog of track maintenance – including replacing the foundations under the track – before the opening of the City Rail Link. The last thing we want is for such a transformational project to open, only for users to be put off by slow and unreliable services like we’ve experienced so much this year.

Looking west towards Meadowbank

This work was originally estimated to cost about $330 million, but was later topped up by a further $75 million. However, as we learnt a few months ago, that still wasn’t going to be enough to complete the Western Line west of New Lynn and the Southern Line between Otahuhu and Papakura. At that time, Kiwirail said they needed an additional $150 million to complete those sections.

The budget delivers the funding to do that, with Kiwirail explaining the investment as:

Budget 2024 includes $159 million to complete Auckland’s Rail Network Rebuild and $107 million for overdue track renewals in Auckland and Wellington and assistance covering council contributions.

Mr Reidy says the significant investment will help to raise network condition and support passenger and freight growth.

“We fully appreciate the Government’s need to manage spending and are thankful for this healthy investment in rail – which will be going where it is most needed.

“There is a lot of maintenance required each year on both the Auckland and Wellington metro networks, which are mostly used by commuter trains. The networks include complex track structures, overhead power, signals and complicated telecommunications systems. Historically metro maintenance has been underfunded, creating a backlog of renewals work that has resulted in faults and issues that cause disruption for commuters.

“The Rail Network Rebuild in Auckland is addressing the highest priority issues and is crucial for allowing more frequent trains across the city once the City Rail Link opens in 2026. We have already completed rebuild work on the core network, and the funding in Budget 2024 will allow us to finish the job, replacing aging track foundations and improving drainage on the outer parts of the metro network.

“In addition, the Government has committed funding to cover other needed historic track renewals in both Auckland and Wellington and is topping up Auckland Transport (AT) and Greater Wellington Regional Council’s (GWRC) annual contribution to network maintenance for the coming financial year (FY25).

This is mostly stages 3A and 3B and the area where the third main is being built in the graphic below.

Getting the network as up-to-date as possible is very welcome. Now if only we could also see some decent funding to remove the level crossings and restore local connections (especially for active modes) at those locations.

National Network Investment

Perhaps even more surprising given the rhetoric in the GPS, is that the government are giving Kiwirail an additional $200 million to improve the wider rail network, with Kiwirail saying:

“The $200 million top up for the RNIP lifts the next two years of committed funding for the national network to around $900 million, meaning similar levels of funding to now will continue.

“We have new locomotives and wagons arriving in the next few years to replace much of our aging fleet. This continued Government commitment to the network is an important part of delivering reliability for our customers and growing rail freight in New Zealand.”

The devil will be in the detail, though, as a new Rail Network Investment Plan is due – and the concern is the government will focus it on only a few core routes, potentially putting at risk some existing parts of the rail network.

This shows a more detailed breakdown of where rail funding is going.

Was there anything else transport-related in the Budget that stood out to you, whether by inclusion or exclusion?

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  1. In terms of multi-model projects, National Party MP for Ōtaki, Tim Costley, is indicating that the Ōtaki to north of Levin (Ō2NL) highway project will not have a shared path beside it. His view, presumably mirroring Simeon Brown, is that these shared paths are not used. This is despite much evidence to the contrary. It would be a tragedy if this new expressway was built without a shared path.

    1. Interested to know where Tim Costley MP indicated his views on the possible shared pathway Otaki to Levin. (I’m a Kapiti resident). Couldn’t find anything on Costley’s facebook page.

      1. He discussed it at an Otaki Community Board meeting at which a member of Kapiti Cycle Action attended.

      2. At a meeting in Palmerston North, Simeon Brown mentioned cycleways a couple of times as examples of things that NZTA would be able to “descope” from RoNS as part of their new powers (not the 4-laning though).

      3. If this is built as an expressway as opposed to a motorway,it will be allowed cyclists,pedestrians and animals,just like the Waikato Expressway.

    2. Well, if they don’t build one, we’ll just have to ride in the middle of the bloody road, won’t we?

  2. I wonder if the government is fully aware of what building unfrastructure costs,sure you can remove cycle lanes,but it won’t make a material difference to the billions required. A rule of thumb should be that any new RONS project that starts with a 1or 2 in the first column ,is grossly underfunded.l quite like the idea of PPS,being involved in road building,they will bring the “market” to the governments “wishful thinking”.

    1. More numbers start with 1 than any other digit, it is the e of numbers, so I don’t think you can conclude that.

        1. My mistake, Euler’s number of course. I forgot about Euler’s constant being a different number!

    1. Yes, yes it does

      Not that the government really wanted to read the actual evidence (like some commenters on here), but the CCD for a start was reducing emissions, and making a useful change.

      Reducing not just emissions, but pollution which kills New Zealanders every year, as well as reducing our dependency on importing fuel from overseas seems like very good idea to me, but not one that this government cares for.

    2. Luxon made a big thing before the election about spending lots of taxpayer money on providing charging stations across all the road network. It’s not so much about putting the chargers in, it’s about getting enough kWh to them all. This probably won’t be through NLTF, so it may take some searching through the budget to see where that spending is placed.

  3. Infrastructure we need, principally in the water pipes of our larger populated townships; with Aucklanders in a better far better position due to Watercare and the Great Poo Pipe (Interconnector or whatever the less banal have named it). We also get a subway / tube / underground section of railway.

    Wellington and Botany might not like us so much, but we are still where people want to live, and one day may grow into a real city, with people, not just persons (I am yet to define the difference between people and persons but it is based on 4 year old and 7 year old understanding of English Grammatical Notions…rhymes with locomotion!)

    Trains will always be the coolest, safest, sexiest / most romantic, rock n roll method to travel, and releasing persons from the prisons of their private motor vehicles is a very exciting future to consider; but only for us that are truly dedicated to the cause. Because because because

    bah humbug

  4. Nothing interesting really. Just more grandstanding from National is that they like building big roads and nothing else matters.

  5. A shared path cost would be tiny in the scheme of things next to a motorway. Just sounds like petty ideology.

    1. The “shared path” that runs from Takanini to Papakura is a massive engineering structure that looks like it was built to take army battle tanks.
      Given that you would be hard pressed to find anyone actually using this white elephant, the costs per user, even to just pay the holding interest costs for the works, must amount to hundreds of dollars a trip.
      The country has been broken by such virtue signalling BS from the Red Queen’s 6 years of economic ruin. It is high time that economic reality takes the lead. Walkers and cyclists don’t transport the nation’s goods.

      1. I hate to be one that has to break it to you but that project was consented and designed when the previous National Government was in power.

        1. Please, don’t let facts get in the way of ChrisBs crusade – he doesn’t have much else to do.

      2. 1. describing it as running from Papakura to Takanini continues to be wildly misleading… it runs from the Papakura on ramp (which isn’t really in Papakura) to the Takanini off ramp (which isn’t really in Takanini), i.e. from Hingaia to Manurewa. You’d have a devil of a time trying to use it to get to Takanini because there’s no bridge on the northern side of the inlet.

        2. I was literally just on it forty minutes ago and saw three cyclists, two going my way and one the other

        For something that has absolutely no viable use case other than exercise or tourism, it has a lot of people using it at all hours of the day.

        1. Lastest AT cycle counts show that there were 4,143 for the month of April 2024. About the same amount for months leading up to that too, January was 5,373. Yes, once these sections are more connected up I would expect more use, just like our roads go almost everywhere.

        2. This comment is probably going to seem really down on the Southern Path. I have a lot of issues with it, yes, but they come from a place of love. Yeah, sure, I mostly use it to look at the pretty views and think that as it stands that’s all it’s good for, but it could be more.

          Obviously disconnection is a large part of the Southern Path’s problems. Putting a bridge over the motorway on the northern side is, for example, really a disconnection issue when you think about it. I hate to imagine how much that would cost to put in given the seeming prices of bridges but I really do believe it’s essential that it is.

          Similarly, at its start there’s no attention been given to getting over the motorway. That feels like a particularly large missed opportunity as one of the few things you could argue it’s suitable for as a commuting route is going from Conifer Grove (which has three separate entrances to the Southern Path) to Rosehill College, i.e. the college Conifer Grove is zoned for. Actually it’s worse than I thought because Waiata Shores is also zoned for Rosehill. This will largely be fixed if the southern extension goes ahead as planned.

          However, save a northern extension or bike lanes on the Great South Rd heading north, I think largely its alignment works against it. The Southern Path caters for brand new suburban sprawl at Waiata Shores, 20th Century suburban sprawl in Conifer Grove and 2010s sprawl in Hingaia (aka Karaka). It does have that bridge to Pahurehure, which therefore also connects Hingaia and Pahurehure, but Pahurehure is, in practice, more houses as well. Sure, there’s some business activity (and a medical centre) at Waiata Shores and there’s a cluster of shops around the petrol station (incl. Taco Bell, KFC and McDonalds) in Hingaia but the fundamental reality is that because it’s not connected to Takanini and is about 1.5km (as the crow flies) west of Papakura, functionally it’s essentially the only A to B journeys it provides for are where A and B are houses in those four sprawlburbs.

          The southern extension is also going to link up with some sprawlburbs: the extensive and dramatic Park Green and Auranga subdivisions. Yeah, it’s not going to be far from what I feel we already need to start calling historic Drury but at the moment (historic) Drury remains tiny. As far as I can tell, there’s no intention to push the southern extension further south. Okay, I get it, what’s the point of going all the way to Bombay? There’s nothing there but businesses! But there’s yet another sprawlburb located right next to the motorway in Ramarama (Drury South I believe it’s called) and I don’t see any signs of anyone putting in the bike lanes that would link that to Drury along Waihoehoe and Fitzgerald roads.

          (At the moment, the southern extension is also heading into Rosehill College’s zone but there are plans, I don’t know how soon, for a new college in Auranga.)

          Obviously cycling infrastructure shouldn’t be designed for the Great Commuter but I do feel like expensive and highly visible infrastructure ought to have some commuter functionality. At the moment, that’s not the Southern Path. So, how to fix that?

          Going further north would help, I think. The advantage of extending the Southern Path would surely be creating a link as far as Manukau but I don’t know how practicable building that would be. Bike lanes on the Great South Road would make it more useful for getting to Manurewa’s centre. Building that bridge to Takanini would surely help, too.

          In terms of links with Papakura? I guess pushing proper bike lanes up Beach Road and then down Settlement Road as far as Hunua Road, and then pushing down Hunua Road would be a sensible idea. There’s plenty of industry down that way. And then if there were bike lanes on the Great South Road, that Beach Road connection would open up Papakura a lot better.

          There’s two other issues with the Southern Path. Firstly, I feel like its existence is being used to avoid fixing the situation on the Great South Road, which consists either of “nothing at all” or “try not to die” painted lanes that may or may not still be visible. Secondly, it’s a shared path. If my doomsaying turns out to be wrong and actually it’s taken up by a lot of people, it’s only 3m wide and it’s not necessarily easily expanded to handle the pedestrian/cyclist and cyclist/cyclist conflicts that popular use would have. This is particularly worth keeping mind given that some of these sprawlburbs are still undergoing expansion.

        3. There’s zero change of the cycleway being extended south of Drury interchange in the next decade, I’d say. And except for Drury South, I agree, the only users would likely be the rare cycle tourist who wants to really “do it all” rather than have his bike transported between trails.

          However, the cycle paths between Drury and Takanini (built and coming) are far from useless. They simply aren’t complete yet, and neither are many of the suburbs they will connect. To say “lets not build them because they won’t see huge demand on Day 1” is to do the Harbour Bridge fallacy all over again. You need a network to get usage, and you can’t easily tack on paths to a motorway later, when every interchange or bridge would have to be rebuilt and land acquired later if it’s not allowed for at the beginning.

          Full disclosure – I have both cycle advocacy history and professional (transport consultancy, albeit not for govt) involvement in the area.

          And the new suburbs, while I certainly can’t disagree that they are greenfield and not very intensified – well, at least they do all come with pretty good bike infrastructure (connecting up the disconnected bits of this new infra is the challenge).

        4. “it’s only 3m wide and it’s not necessarily easily expanded to handle the pedestrian/cyclist and cyclist/cyclist conflicts that popular use would have. This is particularly worth keeping mind given that some of these sprawlburbs are still undergoing expansion.”

          I am surprisingly chill on that aspect. And I was the driving force or separating the Kingsland cycleway because of the issues between cyclists and pedestrians when I was still very active in Bike Auckland.

          Why am I chill? Well, for good and “bad” reasons – basically, unlike the Kingsland section and closer in in the Isthmus, the reality is that those suburbs down there ARE too low density and too far apart to generate significant pedestrian numbers. Walkers will always be limited to some recreational users, joggers, parents out with a stroller. I don’t think you will see large walking school buses or people walk-commuting. So if the usage grows (which I think it will – if we connect the paths up properly) the majority of the path users – especially during peak commuting hours – will be people on bikes and e-scooters, and very few peds. So these paths can in my view stay shared without too many issues for the coming decades, even if numbers lift up a lot. Perfect? No. But there’s in my view more important places to fund bikeways (and separated bikeways) than on these “out of centre” motorway paths. There’s a big extra cost in space and structures if you go from 3m shared to 5-6m separated.

        5. @Whirlsler Yes, these paths are pretty much standard tack on to new state highway projects so not necessarily where people are going to cycle or connect to in big numbers.

      3. Ah but when there is absolute mayhem and chaos with a gridlocked motorway or adjacent road where a shared path is present, Emergency services use the shared path. This is the case in Europe and Scandinavia

  6. “Given most of this next batch of RoNS look to have extremely poor economic benefits, pouring an additional $1 billion is just throwing good money after bad.”

    National has spent months trying to portray themselves as prudent fiscal managers and then with a few pen strokes they show demonstrably that they aren’t.

  7. On a point of accuracy, the caption on photo should say “Looking west towards Kohimarama” not Meadowbank.

  8. I really enjoy the Greater Auckland newsletter. However, I’m a bit taken aback by your wording regarding “consultants at the trough”… I think you can do better than using such inflammatory language.
    Who in your opinion should design and consent the transport projects (roads, rail, active mode – they all need consents)? Neither Waka Kotahi nor Auckland Transport (or its Wellington equal) have the in-house expertise (and would have to run a substantial permanent staff if they had). I assume you agree that any project should be well designed, safe and as environmentally sustainable as practicable. Who in your opinion should make sure that happens?
    I agree with your article but I disagree with your portrayal of consultants implying they’re greedily feeding at a trough! (Fir disclosure, I’m one of those consultants helping to design transport projects and know how much work goes into them…)

    1. Sadly, it’s the language used by politicians when they say that projects are costing too much and that clients aren’t being prudent. Then they say that Govt Departments and Councils need to cut down their operating costs and cut their directly employed staff – by employing more consultants to do the same work.
      When you have cut to the bone already, the next cut needs a bone saw.
      I think we all know what work really costs.

    2. Good. So, you are milking the cow? with no value added?
      Optioneering to waste taxpayers time?
      How much did the last government spent on light rail for example?

      All we get from consultants are unbuildable drawings, powerpoint presentations, out of this world tender and assumptions.
      We would rather have a builder who knows what they’re doing and manage the designers to get the most out of them. (Not sitting there charging for every email response)

  9. Good to see some extra topup money going into rail. Pity we have a system where additional funding has to be give like this, rather than an ongoing planned stream of truly upgrade work with funding for it.

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