We need to create liveable places that work for everyone by creating a transport system that works for people of all ages and abilities.

Our cities can be places where everyone can easily and conveniently reach the people and places that are important to them. They can be places where people of all ages and abilities have better, more affordable low-carbon options to get to where they need to go to safely.

Therefore, it’s important we create a transport system that’s fit for the future. One that doesn’t lead to ever-increasing congestion, reduced access, or increased emissions.  One that is safer, healthier and more equitable for everyone across the motu.

Waka Kotahi has a crucial role to play in supporting Aotearoa New Zealand in the shift towards a low-emission and climate resilient future. Our vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) reduction programme is a significant part of this journey.

The VKT reduction programme is one of three delivery programmes under the Waka Kotahi Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) programme and is being led by the VKT reduction team.

Emissions reduction plan

When the Government released Te hau mārohi ki anamata, its first ever Emissions reduction plan (ERP) for Aotearoa New Zealand in May 2022, it set out actions needed across every sector of the economy to reduce emissions.

Emissions reduction plan(external link)
The transport sector has an important role to play in delivering the ERP that calls for a 41 percent reduction in emissions from the transport sector by 2035 (from 2019 levels). Three focus areas will support this and VKT reduction specifically targets point 1:

  1. Reduce reliance on cars and support people to walk, cycle and use public transport.
  2. Rapidly adopt low-emissions vehicles.  
  3. Begin work now to decarbonise heavy transport and freight.

It’s important that we take responsible and pragmatic.

Why reducing VKT by the light fleet is important

Two-thirds of transport emissions come from the light vehicle fleet. Reducing reliance on fossil-fuelled vehicles is at the heart of the transport emissions challenge. We cannot rely on decarbonising the vehicle fleet quickly, as international supply constraints mean we are unlikely to be able to access enough electric vehicles (EVs) to rely on this pathway.

Improving urban form, offering better transport options and using other demand management levers to reduce VKT is vital. Most of this reduction needs to happen in our largest towns and cities, where people are more likely to have transport options other than travelling by car. These measures can also deliver significant benefits beyond emissions reductions – such as improving travel choice and accessibility, better health, safety and less congestion.

Planning for VKT reduction

The Government has committed to several actions in the ERP to reduce reliance on cars, and support people to walk, cycle and use public transport.

This includes development of plans and programmes in our major urban areas to reduce total light fleet VKT in our largest towns and cities. 

Specifically, the ERP tasks Waka Kotahi to:

  1. Revise Waka Kotahi’s national mode-shift plan (Keeping Cities Moving) to ensure nationally led activities align with the pace and scale of VKT reduction and mode shift required in urban environments. 
  2. Partner with local authorities to develop urban VKT reduction programmes for New Zealand’s major urban environments (Tier 1).

Note: Tier 1 urban environments are Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

Waka Kotahi has been allocated $22.5 million under the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 2022 to progress these initiatives.

Urban VKT reduction programmes

Waka Kotahi is supporting councils from our largest urban areas (Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch) to develop urban programmes aimed at creating a better range of transport options and reducing reliance on cars.

These urban environments are subject to the greatest population growth, but also have the greatest capacity to achieve VKT reduction by increasing the accessibility of lower emissions transport options for people, such as cycling, walking and public transport.

The urban programmes will outline a pathway to create urban transport systems where cars aren’t the only option available or prioritised; and the transport solutions need to make sense for each place and for the people that live in them.

To support Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch councils in the urban programmes development, Waka Kotahi has created technical guidance Urban Programmes: Less Traffic, More Choice (Part A and Part B) to assist Tier 1 councils in the preparation of urban reduction programmes.

Part A – the framework for urban programmes [PDF, 1 MB]

Part B – practical steps for urban programmes [PDF, 1 MB]

Our national plan

The VKT reduction team, in collaboration with key stakeholders, has developed a draft national plan More choices, less traffic – a plan to create better cities for people while reducing emissions.

The draft plan sets out what is needed to meet the national VKT reduction target and what Waka Kotahi will do to help achieve this target in partnership with others.

The national plan will remain in draft until it is reviewed by the Minister of Transport and approved by the Waka Kotahi Board.

Research and resources

A curated list of research and evidence to support VKT reduction programme planning which includes Rationale, Background, Evidence, Planning, Implementing, Monitoring, Evaluating.

Supplementary resource: research and evidence [PDF, 227 KB]