Delivering on ‘baseline’ activities

In developing the 2021–24 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), we first considered ‘baseline’ activities that must be funded in line with our legal and financial obligations and to maintain the system at acceptable levels of service as expected by the Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS). This includes:

  • financial commitments for projects that have already been approved for funding in previous NLTPs
  • scheduled payments under Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)
  • funding for the Rail Network Investment Programme (RNIP) – which is decided by Ministers and has a ‘first call’ on funding under both the Rail Network and Public Transport Infrastructure activity classes
  • funding to maintain existing public transport services
  • funding to help maintain the roading network at essential levels of service for safety, resilience and access
  • funding for road policing and road safety promotion.

In 2021–24, these activities accounted for about 90% of forecast funding from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

These activities all have a role to play in delivering on the four strategic priorities in the GPS, and also play a key role in delivering the four Government Commitments.

We have assumed additional Crown financing for the 2021–24 NLTP at a level that will allow our road network to be maintained at current levels of service. The costs of maintaining our state highways and local roads continue to rise and are forecast to require an increasing proportion of NLTF funding in future – increasing from about two thirds of available funds in 2021, to three quarters by 2031. This presents an increasing constraint on the number of new improvement activities that can be funded from the NLTF in the future.

We decide which new activities will be included in the NLTP in addition to the ‘baseline’ activities set out above, in line with strategic direction and funding allocations in the GPS.

We have targeted additional funding towards maintaining service levels and infrastructure for safety, access and resilience on the road network, ahead of considering improvements in these levels of service. This is important to mitigate the risk of avoidable deaths and serious injuries, disruption, and increased future costs as a result of declining levels of service in road maintenance.

A number of improvement activities are included for funding in this NLTP. This mix of included activities will deliver the greatest impact across the four strategic priorities, meet investment expectations for the four Government Commitments, target high priority activities across the various travel options, and help us to plan for the significant and transformational change that is coming, particularly in relation to emissions reduction.

Further additional funding or financing will be required outside of the NLTF in future NLTP periods to make significant progress on transformational changes, such as achieving a shift to public transport and walking and cycling at the scale and pace required to support emerging emissions reduction objectives.

The combined impact of these funding decisions is described below in relation to each of the four strategic priorities and the four Government Commitments.

Delivering on the strategic priorities


One person is killed and several people seriously injured in crashes on our roads every day. In 2020, 318 people were killed and almost 2,500 seriously injured. Each death and serious injury has a devastating and wide-reaching impact on our communities. This has a social cost to New Zealand estimated at $84 million per week or nearly $4.7 billion a year.

Road to Zero 2020–2030 is New Zealand’s strategy to guide improvements to road safety. It sets us on a path to achieve a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads. As a step towards this, Road to Zero sets an initial target of reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured by 40% by 2030. The strategy is being implemented through action plans, starting with the initial action plan for 2020-2022.

To support the Road to Zero strategy, the GPS 2021 includes a new Road to Zero activity class. This anticipates investing about $10 billion over the next 10 years targeted towards the interventions identified as key to achieving the reduction in deaths and serious injuries sought by the strategy.

Steady progress towards the Road to Zero 2030 target would mean about 600 fewer deaths and serious injuries per year by the end of the 2021–24 period, compared to 2018 levels. We intend to target this through a combination of the following:

  • safety treatments and speed management targeting 10,000km of road network across New Zealand where the highest concentrations of deaths and serious injuries occur. This will include 1,000kms of median barrier, with a combination of other corridor safety treatments, such as intersection improvements and speed limit reductions. It also includes road engineering to support speed reductions around urban and rural schools.
  • maintaining the number of existing dedicated road policing staff and non-dedicated police staff time undertaking road policing activities. These activities are focused on restraints, impairment, distraction and speed (RIDS) and aim to significantly increase enforcement activities, particularly targeting speed and drunk driving.
  • introducing a new speed management planning process and expanding the safety camera network. While work is underway to determine the full extent of the expanded camera network, Road to Zero indicates that the first phase could include the roll out of about 100 additional cameras (e.g. average speed, mobile, red light and fixed cameras).
  • encouraging more people to buy safe and clean vehicles and lifting the safety performance of the light vehicle fleet by supporting the development of policy to restrict the importation of one and two-star safety rated vehicles into the fleet
  • national, regional and local road safety promotion campaigns and initiatives targeting road user behaviour and raising public awareness of Road to Zero.
  • strengthening system leadership, support and coordination. Plus, monitoring and reporting on progress towards the Road to Zero target.
  • supporting the alcohol interlock programme by providing a subsidy for those that qualify for the installation of an alcohol interlock device in their vehicle.

We expect this investment to provide a reduction to the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, making significant progress toward the Road to Zero target. This would mean about 750 fewer people would be killed and 5,600 fewer people would be seriously injured on our roads over the next 10 years.

Safety outcomes are also delivered through a range of other activity classes, including where investment supports a shift from private vehicles to public transport and through the road maintenance activity classes.

Better travel options

With continued growth forecast in our main urban areas, our transport system faces challenges in being able to meet this demand and provide safe, reliable travel choice. It is no longer sustainable to keep building new roads - we need a transport system that reduces the need to travel by car, encourages increased travel by shared and active modes, and enables the uptake of low emission vehicles.

In GPS 2021, funding for public transport – buses, trains and ferries – is split into two activity classes: public transport services and public transport infrastructure.

The NLTF continues to fund metro rail activities to support public transport in Auckland and Wellington. This builds on investment in the 2018–21 NLTP in transitional rail activities under a dedicated activity class.

The new Public Transport Infrastructure activity class will continue to fund the completion of committed transitional rail activities, as well as new metro rail activities in Auckland and Wellington. This will include activities within ATAP and LGWM, and inter-regional rail connections, such as the new Te Huia service between Auckland and Hamilton and the Capital Connection from Palmerston North to Wellington. Investment in heavy rail infrastructure will also support inter-regional tourism.

Rapid transit, by bus or rail, is recognised as critical for compact urban development in our fastest growing urban centres to support growth, while ensuring the transport system is sustainable – low emissions, better for people and the environment, and resilient to climate change impacts.

We’re also working with local government to deliver new walking and cycling facilities, as well as making public transport easier to access and use, with better connections, a greater frequency of services and bus prioritisation to reduce travel times and make it a more attractive form of travel.

Real-time travel information is critical so people can make informed choices about how they move about our main cities. It lets them know about delays, roadworks, bus/train arrival times, and journey times for both our roads and public transport.

We’re also working on integrated ticketing and easy payment options to enable seamless journeys for those who travel using a variety of different ways, and/or who use public transport in different cities. One “ticket” for all travel which is easy to top-up is the future.

COVID-19 taught us that people want their communities to be safe and easy to move around, whether walking, cycling, scootering or using future travel options. It showed us we can change the way we move around – the challenge is making those changes part of our daily routine.

The Innovating Streets programme supported councils to make street changes quickly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling them to widen footpaths, create pop-up cycle lanes and close off streets so people could exercise in a safe way.

Since then the programme has supported a further 70 projects delivered by 33 councils nationwide, all with the aim of encouraging people to walk or bike more. This has seen a drop in traffic volumes and speeds, making our streets more inviting and accessible to people.

We’ll be continuing to work with our partners to take this more agile, adaptive approach to street changes over the next three years to help accelerate the pace of change.

Spotlight on the Innovating Streets Programme

Improving freight options

For the land transport system to work most effectively, we need to ensure that road, rail and coastal shipping all play their part in moving freight around the country.

New Zealand’s economy relies on having access to a safe, reliable and resilient transport network. Post COVID-19, this is even more critical as regions adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and look at growth to off-set the loss of tourism while most borders remain closed.

Between 2012 and 2018, freight volumes grew 18% to about 280 million tonnes. Ministry of Transport data projects these will increase a further 11% in the next 10 years and 40% by 2053, driven by the needs of our growing population. This growth means that to reduce carbon emissions and ensure goods get to market on time, we need to look at new ways of moving freight.

In this NLTP period, we’ll look at opportunities to move freight using the best combination of road, rail and sea transport options. Increasing the use of both rail and sea will also improve safety and reduce emissions.

High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs) allow fewer trucks to transport more freight. This helps the economy grow, while at the same time reducing congestion, carbon emissions and improving safety on our roads. More than 8,200kms of our state highways are now capable of supporting HPMVs.

During the next three years, our investment will progress the Weigh Right programme which supports improved productivity, makes our road safer and protects the network from damage from overweight vehicles. Weigh Right uses electronic scales built into the road to weigh trucks as they travel the network. Potentially overweight vehicles are directed into Commercial Vehicle Safety Centres (CVSCs) for further testing and compliance checks.

Fully equipped CVSCs are already operating at Glasnevin (Waipara) and Paengaroa, with upgrades planned this NLTP period for Ohakea and Stanley Street in central Auckland. New centres will be established at Albany in north Auckland, Bombay in south Auckland; Mackays Crossing, Napier Port, Rakaia, Tauranga Port and Taupō to complete the nationwide network.

By sea

Coastal shipping has a role to play in transporting freight, such as cement, refined petroleum products and shipping containers. In time, investment from the NLTF is expected to help provide the freight industry with more choice in how they move goods to support a more resilient freight network. Moving more freight by coastal shipping will also help to reduce emissions and improve safety.

Activities to be funded under this activity class are yet to be identified. We are working with the sector to identify specific actions and activities for building a more resilient, sustainable and competitive domestic coastal shipping sector, and enable coastal shipping to play a greater role in moving freight.

By rail

Over time, investment in the rail network will provide a safer, more reliable and lower-carbon option for transporting freight. It will take time to improve the infrastructure and connections that will make rail a great way to move goods throughout the country.

During this NLTP, in line with the Rail Plan, our investment will be targeted to restoring the existing rail network to be resilient and reliable to support existing services and provide the platform for growth.

Investment will support the operation and management of the national rail network and an accelerated programme of repair and renewal of track rails, structures and signalling equipment assets. Where funds allow, small scale improvements will be undertaken to improve the performance and resiliency of the freight network, for example slope stabilisation and upgrading signalling equipment to the European standard.

Investing in rail supports the climate change objectives of the GPS, improves road safety and the wear and tear on roads by reducing road freight traffic.

By road

Today, 93% of freight in New Zealand is moved by road. Roads enable the rapid transportation of perishable goods, access to almost any town and the ability to quickly respond to changing demands. However, these journeys tend to be relatively short and localised. The average distance freight travels by road in New Zealand is 111kms, with 77% of all freight staying within the region from which it originates.

We need to increase the volume of freight carried by rail and coastal shipping to meet future demand and reduce emissions. However, any increase in rail and coastal shipping will be constrained by network limitations and the type of high volume, non-perishable goods that can be carried. This means roads will remain the main transport option for freight. Improvements to the state highway and local road networks, delivered as part of 2021–24 NLTP, will support the efficient movement of freight across the country.

Our investments will:

  • improve the safety and resilience of key freight routes with:
    • the completion of the SH1 Waikato Expressway to support Upper North Island freight journeys between Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga, as well as the lower North Island
    • coastal erosion protection works along the Katiki Coast and at Raupunga Bluff to support more reliable freight journeys between Dunedin and Christchurch, and Gisborne and Napier, respectively.
  • provide more efficient movement of freight between ports and distribution centres by:
    • establishing a logging freight hub in Marton for the removal of bark before transporting the logs by rail to other destinations
    • infrastructure improvements at ports to promotes a resilient coastal shipping network
    • feasibility studies and/or business cases for infrastructure projects which support the coastal shipping industry.

Spotlight on the Weigh Right Programme

Climate change

The climate change strategic priority in GPS 2021 focuses on:

  • Reducing land transport carbon emissions to limit the transport contribution to global warming
  • Improving the resilience of the land transport system to climate-related weather disruption and adapting to the long-term impacts of climate change
  • Reducing harm to people and the environment from land transport activities.

Reducing transport carbon emissions

The GPS 2021 climate change priority is focused on “transforming to a low carbon transport system that supports emissions reduction aligned to national commitments, while improving safety and access”.

The GPS signals that the transition to a low carbon transport system must be rapid, and that investment decisions must be consistent with the emissions reduction target recommended to Cabinet until emissions budgets are released in 2021. Emission budgets, and the policies required to achieve them, will be set by the Government through the Emissions Reduction Plan, expected to be released by 31 December 2021.

We’ll deliver these outcomes by implementing Toitū te Taiao – Our Sustainability Action Plan.

Toitū te Taiao – Our Sustainability Action Plan

We’ll also make investment decisions that support national commitments on emissions reduction.

The 2021–24 NLTP is positioned at the start of what will be a significant change in transport investment focus over time and as successive emission reduction budgets take effect. At this point in time we have certainty about the broad areas of focus for reducing transport emissions, but detailed policies and plans are not yet in place.

The broad areas of focus are likely to be:

  • supporting reduced need to travel by car and increased use of public transport, walking and cycling
  • supporting increased uptake of electric vehicles
  • supporting more efficient freight movement and freight vehicles.

Activities for inclusion in this NLTP support these three areas of focus. Consistent with the positioning of the climate change priority in the GPS, many of these activities are also represented in investments for safety, better travel options and improved freight connections.

Within this NLTP, preference has been given to activities that support safety and access outcomes in ways that also make a strong contribution to reducing the need to travel by car; increasing the use of public transport, walking and cycling; and supporting more efficient freight movement. These activities will contribute to the short-to-medium term results of reducing transport sector emissions by 2031 and provide a platform for the significant new investment that will be needed to enable delivery of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan from 2022.

Adapting to climate change

The land transport system is increasingly challenged by climate-related weather events such as flooding. These events disrupt supply chains and impact on the ability of people and communities to connect with critical and lifeline services.

The land transport system is also exposed to risks of increasing sea-level rise. The national response to climate change adaptation is being led by the Ministry for the Environment and next year (2022) will see the release of the National Adaptation Plan.

For this NLTP, our climate change adaption response is primarily focused on maintaining and improving the resilience of the land transport system to climate-related weather disruption. We’re also engaged in planning for climate change adaptation and building our capability and evidence base in this area. We’ll undertake relevant actions identified in the National Adaptation Plan when it’s released.

Reducing harm to people and the environment

We’re required to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility when undertaking our functions. This includes consideration of activities for inclusion in the NLTP.

Many activities delivering on the GPS priorities for better travel options, improved freight connections and climate change will also deliver wider benefits for public health and the environment.

For example, activities that reduce the need to travel by car and increase the uptake of public transport, walking and cycling deliver a range of public health benefits including cleaner air, quieter and safer streets, and increased levels of physical activity which reduces exposure to health risks associated with sedentary living.

Environmental responsibility requires active consideration of how activities for maintenance and improvements are designed, taking care of indigenous biodiversity and water quality in particular and also considering resource efficiency and waste management. To this end, we’re finalising Te Hiringa O Te Taiao | Our Resource Efficiency Strategy. This strategy focuses on sustainable sourcing and use of resources, waste minimisation and reducing energy and carbon emissions.

Te Hiringa O Te Taiao – Our Resource Efficiency Strategy

We’ve also updated our policy on sustainability rating tools for use on improvement projects. Sustainability rating schemes assess the environmental and social credentials of activities. Our improvement projects over $100 million must complete certification under the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) for planning, design and construction.

Our improvement projects over $15 million are required to consider assessment under ISCA, and at a minimum must apply the principles contained in Toitū Te Taiao – Our Sustainability Action Plan, Te Hiringa o te Taiao – Our Resource Efficiency Strategy, and the Sustainability Rating Scheme Specification. Projects that we part-fund above $15 million must also consider assessment under ISCA, and at a minimum include at least one IS Accredited Professional (ISAP) for the duration of the project.

The Government also has its own Carbon Neutral Government Programme, which is applicable to Waka Kotahi. We’re exploring what transitioning to carbon neutral maintenance and improvements will require of our supply chain.

Activities in the 2021–24 NLTP that will deliver on the climate change strategic priority include:

  • Planning with our co-investment partners to shape compact development, enable low carbon travel options for mode shift and health benefits in main urban areas, and ensure resilient networks for people and freight
  • Supporting development of the National Charging Infrastructure Plan and the National Adaptation Plan
  • Supporting increased use of public transport, walking and cycling through improvement of existing and provision of new services, networks and infrastructure; making shared spaces safer and more attractive to encourage mode shift
  • Reallocating road space for shared and active modes to support more efficient, reliable and low emission movement of people and freight
  • Improving connections between shared and active modes to help people connect with and transfer between public transport, walking, cycling and ‘micro-mobility’ networks
  • Improving the safety and resilience of the rail network to support a shift from road to rail freight, and deliver inter-regional tourism benefits in some areas
  • Improving the efficiency of freight movement by improving connections between freight modes through inland hubs, and efficient transfer and storage; and investigating options for mode shift from road to coastal shipping
  • Supporting activities to increase the uptake of electric vehicles and electrify the public transport bus fleet
  • Supporting public health, biodiversity and water quality through investment in active modes, use of low noise surfaces and noise walls; protection and enhancement of habitats for important species, weed and pest management and control; erosion and sediment control, management of contaminants, engineered wetlands and traditional stormwater treatment.