The 2018–21 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) concentrates in detail on the three-year period but also considers the 10 years to 2028.

Over the 10 years, investment in the land transport system through the NLTP is expected to be influenced by a range of factors that will not only shape travel demand, but also the supply of inputs used in the delivery of transport solutions. The significant forthcoming land transport issues that the Transport Agency is aware of are summarised below.

Factors shaping the use of the land transport system

Changes in population demographics

New Zealand’s population will increase over the next 10 years as people live longer and net migration flows remain positive. A growing population makes an increased number of trips to access employment, services and amenities, and also results in an increase in freight and business trips.

Population increases will not be evenly spread across the country.  Much of the forecast growth will be located in the upper North Island, with 73 percent of growth occurring in the Auckland region. 

Auckland’s forecast population growth over the coming decade will place considerable pressure on an already congested transport system, and there will be demand for additional transport infrastructure to service new homes and businesses in entirely new communities. 

The form of urban living will impact on transport.  With the increasing popularity of inner city living, demand for walking and cycling infrastructure, and public transport services will increase.

In contrast to Auckland and other growing urban areas, some parts of New Zealand are forecast to experience slow, low or negative population growth.

Increases in population size are expected to be reflected in a proportional rise both in the number of families as well as households. These dynamics are expected to result in two conflicting trends; an increased demand for more housing in established urban areas, and a greater need for more affordable housing located close to and on urban limits (with people trading off lower housing costs for higher personal travel costs).

Fertility rates are expected to continue to fall, resulting in further increases in the average age of people living in New Zealand.  As the population ages, demand will increase for a more accessible public transport and a safer transport system.  The arrival of new affordable and more flexible mobility services could also result in an increase travel demand for older age groups.

These factors are expected to lead to an increase in aggregate demand for travel, and to result in some modal shift from private vehicles to public transport, cycling and walking, particularly in fast growing urban areas, while a reduction in demand in other areas is possible. Improvements to make better use of the transport system, and increase viable alternatives to single occupancy vehicle travel, will be needed to ensure suitable access to economic and social opportunities.

This is particularly true for Auckland, which continues to experience significant delays in the transport system. Future land use planning and demand management will have a critical role to play in shaping travel demand here.

Changes in economic structure and performance

The services and knowledge sectors will remain the largest contributors to New Zealand’s economy over the next 10 years. Similarly, tourism and the primary sector will continue to account for the majority of export earnings.

In geographic terms the service sector is closely tied to the main urban areas, which are correspondingly expected to perform most strongly in GDP growth over the coming decade.

Current economic growth is driven by historically high levels of immigration (and comparatively low emigration rates) and strong tourism numbers. Both these trends are expected to continue, although net migration has slowed slightly in the last 12 months.

The manufacturing sector will be dynamic, reflecting the likely challenges of competing on price in a global economy, and searching out growth opportunities for differentiated products particularly where leveraged on medium to high-tech research and development.  Growth in mining and primary industries is currently flat and forecast to remain so.  Forestry harvests are expected to grow significantly in many parts of the country over the coming decade, increasing freight flows to ports and main production facilities.

Domestic influencers of the New Zealand economy such as construction activity and employment prospects, are expected to wane over the medium to longer term, with an expected net slowdown in growth.  While these structural changes will reduce the freight intensity of the New Zealand economy, output gains over the next 10 years will result in an increase in freight volumes.  Growth in domestic consumption, underpinned by increases in population size, will boost inter- and intra-regional freight movements, as well as import volumes.   

Most of the expected increase in freight will go by road, although rail will remain a key transport option for the movement of some bulk commodities and longer distance container movements. The provision of fit-for-purpose road, rail and shipping connections between key areas of production, processing and markets (both domestic and external) is essential. Growth is expected to be uneven, with Auckland and Canterbury predicted to experience the greatest increase in freight, followed by Waikato.

Larger vessels visiting fewer ports may increase competition between ports and add to the need for investment in port infrastructure.  This could increase pressure on road and rail networks to and from the ports as larger vessels load and unload.  Freight may also be required to travel longer distances over land to get to an export port, compounding pressure on road and rail networks.

Changes in technology

The pace of technological change is expected to accelerate across a number of fronts over the next 10 years.

The trend towards increasing types and levels of transactions through the internet will continue.  Mobile connectedness will increase dramatically, device and application costs will reduce and increasingly sophisticated robotics will emerge. Nano-technologies will increasingly find new applications within energy, transport, biotechnology, manufacturing and materials science.

There is likely to be significant uptake of geo-positioning technology into the vehicle fleet and embedded network technology - allowing access to real-time and geospatial information on road conditions and other journey time benefits, to road users. Logistics suppliers will make increasing use of technology to optimise freight transportation and warehousing and to utilise resources more fully.

Smartphones have changed customer’s expectations of transport providers. People now expect real-time, personalised and connected information that enables them to make the best transport choice for their needs.

New forms of public transport may appear as new technologies enable shared mobility services such as ride-sharing and small bus services.  Shared mobility services could reduce traffic congestion and parking requirements, environmental impacts, and user costs by increasing vehicle occupancy.  Private operators are likely to have a key role in providing these services.

Data on travel patterns is a growing source of intelligence on customer needs and preferences, allowing better predictions of demand.  This will enable more intelligent approaches to dynamic pricing which will enable better utilisation of the transport capacity.

The telecommunications system, including advances in virtual reality technology, will increasingly enable people to access opportunities virtually, removing the need to travel for some activities.  Overtime these technologies may allow more New Zealanders to live outside the main urban centres.

The advent of affordable drone technology to transport will increasing blur the lines between air and land transport. The use of autonomous drones to deliver goods to a wide range of destinations, will drive changes in transport patterns, and the use of existing land corridors and nodes such as airports.

Being responsive to climate change

Climate change impacts will affect transport, directly and indirectly. More weather events could directly threaten physical transport infrastructure, while proactive measures to safeguard network resilience will require prioritisation of funding. Climate change could also indirectly affect transport by altering settlement patterns, what is produced in New Zealand and where.  While the exact nature of these changes is difficult to predict, climate change impacts will increasingly disrupt the transport system, resulting in greater demands for reactive and robust responses.

The Government has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Although there is currently no specific target for land transport emissions, additional actions will be necessary if New Zealand is to target a corresponding fall in land transport emissions of 30% by 2030.  These actions would be likely to result in greater demand for more efficient vehicles, a move from single occupancy vehicle travel to alternative transport modes and a desire to locate closer to transport hubs.  Greater integration of land-use planning and the transport system planning and investment will be required to ensure equitable provision of appropriate travel choices that support emissions reductions.

Provision of housing and liveable communities

In recent years the provision of housing has not kept pace with the demand generated by New Zealand’s growing population.  As a result, housing in New Zealand is amongst the least affordable in the world.  The Government is committed to improving the affordability of housing, by supporting large-scale housing developments in New Zealand’s largest and fastest growing urban centres.  The Government plans to invest $2 billion over the next 10 years to provide 100,000 new homes.

Transport supports urban growth through opening access to new housing developments and existing housing.  In turn the location of new homes will determine the levels of access for the occupants, and the demands that development places on the transport system. 

Ideally, transport needs to be closely integrated with land use planning to maintain and improve access long-term.  Particular attention needs to be given to the ways that transport shapes and is shaped by land use (e.g. the location and density of housing developments, and proximity to urban centres).  The need to travel long distances by single occupancy vehicles can be minimised by integrating land use and transport planning to provide proximity to a range of opportunities (employment, education, services etc.), and by supporting patterns of land-use development that can be effectively serviced by a range of modes.

In the main urban centres, provision of housing within the established urban areas will need to be supported by road, rail, public transport, walking and cycling networks working together to increase access to opportunities.  Where appropriate this includes options for the provision of rapid transit infrastructure to support transformational urban development.  

Response from the Transport Agency

The Transport Agency will respond to these issues by:

  • working in collaboration with central and local government, and with freight and wider transport stakeholders, to share information, agree priorities, align land-use and transport planning and, deliver one integrated system for customers
  • investing in sector research and in transport planning to help influence, plan and integrate land use and transport interventions that will cater for the most probable range of long term demands
  • applying the business case approach to planning and investment to ensure that problems and opportunities are clearly identified and agreed by all stakeholders at the start of the process, and that the full suite of modes and interventions (including non-transport interventions) are considered to get the best outcomes at best value for money
  • applying our intervention hierarchy which sets out that we first prioritise the maintenance and operation of our existing networks to ensure we make best use of what we already have, and then consider options for demand management, before considering any investment in new assets and services
  • identifying the function and fit for purpose levels of service and resilience required across the transport network, increasingly through the One Network Road Classification framework and network operating plans
  • providing choice within the transport network, particularly in main urban centres where population density and transport demands means system capacity is under pressure, and also where changing demographics, travel behaviours and technology are impacting the type of travel demanded
  • utilising technology to understand the opportunities and issues on the network, provide accurate and timely information so users can make informed decisions, reduce the costs of transport for users, and optimise the use and resilience of network capacity
  • work with the transport and technology sectors to enable customers to access all available transport choices through a single digital platform
  • providing transparency in the way the Transport Agency assesses projects and allocates funding across national and regional priorities for best value for money
  • exploring alternative funding sources and financial mechanisms to consider interregional, intergenerational and user equity with the transport network.
  • working in collaboration with central and local government and the transport and technology sectors to ensure that the regulatory settings are appropriate and responsive to support the adoption of new technology, while ensuring that all transport solutions offered to customers are safe, compliant and integrated with the transport system.