New rule supports communities and councils to improve safe and sustainable transport options


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says today’s announcement that the Government will progress the Reshaping Streets package of legislative changes will give councils more options to improve urban spaces and encourage safer and more sustainable travel.

Reshaping Streets will enable communities and local authorities to work together to modify their existing streets to provide more space for people of all ages and abilities to move around, whether they’re biking, walking, using public transport or driving.

The rule gives councils options to pilot (trial) street changes to inform future permanent changes, support local neighbourhood street events, and better manage traffic in places that are important for community life like town centres, in neighbourhoods and around schools.  

“The legislative changes in Reshaping Streets will enable communities and councils to work together on the best solutions for our local streets, delivering on the country’s goals for emissions reduction and safer streets while providing better tools for councils to deliver change on the ground,” said Kathryn King, Urban Mobility Manager. 

A key feature of the rule will enable councils to pilot, or make short-term changes to streets, as a new form of public consultation. This allows stakeholders in the community to test different street layouts and features and provide feedback which can be used to adapt features and inform future permanent changes.  

“Waka Kotahi already partners with councils to conduct street pilots via our Streets for People programme. The programme allows communities to be directly involved in the way a project is created, delivered and adapted, giving local people a say in designing the places that are important to them. The rule changes will give Councils a clear framework for piloting street changes.,” said Kathryn King. 

The new rule also makes it easier for communities to work with councils to restrict traffic on local streets, from the short term through to permanent restrictions that make local streets quieter and more pleasant places to be.  It also enables street events for a few hours at a time to allow children to play and neighbours to gather. These events are known as Community Streets or referred to internationally as Play Streets.  

“These events give children additional opportunities for active, free play which is critical for their health, wellbeing and cognitive development. Events like this also help strengthen neighbourhood connections and build resilience,” says Kathryn King.  

In addition, the Street Layouts rule includes provisions that councils can use to manage traffic more effectively. For example, councils will be able to work with schools, and communities to restrict traffic on some streets during pick-up and drop-off times. This will make streets around schools safer for tamariki/children. 

“This rule will make things clearer and provide better tools for councils to make necessary changes on the ground. Our streets need to better reflect our present and future needs so everyone can use them to their full potential, in turn building stronger connections within our neighbourhoods, feeling safer when cycling or walking and contributing to a more sustainable future and greater economic wellbeing for us all,” says Kathryn King.  

Public consultation on Reshaping Streets took place in 2022. Around two thirds of submitters generally supported or strongly supported the changes, and feedback from submitters, including those who did not support the changes, has been incorporated into the final Rule.  

The Government has delivered the first part of the Reshaping Streets package by creating a new ‘Street Layouts’ land transport rule. Councils can start using this rule from mid-August.  

More information about Reshaping Streets and Streets for People can be found on the Waka Kotahi website: 

Land Transport Rule Street Layouts 2023 – Key provisions  

Street Pilots 

  • Pilots are short-term changes used to test different street layouts and features so that communities can experience these changes in real time and provide feedback. Pilots allow communities to be more involved in the process of changing their streets. This process allows for continual improvement of the design while it’s in place. How the design works in practice and community feedback can then inform future permanent street changes. 
  • In Aotearoa, councils have been piloting street changes through programmes such as Waka Kotahi’s Streets for People programme (2022-2024). This programme aims to utilise existing road space to create safer and more accessible environments for walking and cycling and reduce vehicle speeds and volumes to improve safety.
  • To do this, councils have been using provisions from legislation that is outdated (the Local Government Act 1974). Those provisions were not designed with pilots in mind. This rule change will create a clear framework to enable local authorities to run pilots, with appropriate safeguards.
  • Street pilots are a form of consultation – they are not a way to avoid or remove consultation requirements.  

Community Streets 

  • The rule enables councils to create Community Streets (also known as Play Streets). These are small, resident-led events held on quiet neighbourhood streets during the day, usually for 2-3 hours.
  • During these events, streets are opened to people by restricting traffic. This creates a safe area on the street for people to meet and play on.
  • Allowing children to play outside together has enormous benefits for their health and wellbeing, and activities like these are great for strengthening community connections.

Filtering and restricting traffic 

  • The Rule enables councils to restrict or limit traffic, including to prevent streets or parts of streets from being used as thoroughfares. For example, councils can use signs or physical barriers to restrict some types of vehicles from passing through one end of a street. This can make streets better for residents, and safer for people walking and cycling, while concentrating traffic flows on major routes.  

School Streets 

  • The rule enables councils to restrict traffic on streets outside and around schools during school drop-off and pick-up times. This can make it safer for kids to walk and bike to or from school – or even just to make the last part of their journey to/from the school gates after they have travelled in a vehicle. 
  • People will still be able to drive their kids to/from school if they want to – they might just need to park their vehicle a short walk away from the school gates. 
  • School Streets are common overseas, including in the United Kingdom and Europe. This is the first time there has been provision for School Streets in New Zealand legislation.
  • Councils will have to consider a variety of factors when enabling School Streets including alternative drop off points, bus routes, traffic levels and guidelines from schools and Waka Kotahi.

Further changes 

  • Further changes were consulted on as part of the Reshaping Streets package of regulatory changes including making the process for creating pedestrian malls more consistent with other types of street changes, and simplifying the process for creating transport shelters (eg bus shelters, as opposed to bus stops). 
  • These changes have not been enacted in 2023. In the next term of government, parliament will consider these changes as part of amendments to the Government Roading Powers Amendment Bill.