Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, in partnership with Ngā Iwi Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, have embarked on this crucial phase in the planning and delivery of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant city-shaping project in coming decades, the Waitematā Harbour Connections project.

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will provide for a fully multi-modal solution investigating future options for people wanting to drive, walk, cycle, transport freight, take the bus or travel by light rail across the Waitematā Harbour, connecting people to transport options across the region.

Planning work will look at how all modes need to cross the harbour in the future, what new infrastructure is needed to cater for these modes, where it will go, and how we make the best use of our existing infrastructure including the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

This is a transformational project, the significance of which will be felt far beyond Auckland.  It is a nationally important, high-volume, strategic corridor providing substantial local, regional and national benefits.

A key part of Auckland’s growing rapid transit network

Waitematā Harbour Connections is a key part of expanding Auckland’s future rapid transit network. Rapid transit is already moving thousands of people every day around the region and now we’re working on the next stages to improve transport choices and make Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland a better place to live now and for future generations.

Rapid transit is a type of fast, frequent public transport that carries large numbers of people using a variety of modes including rail, metro and buses that operates on specially built corridors separated from other traffic, providing more reliable, uncongested routes.

Investing in high capacity, high quality, rapid transit is critical to developing a modern, connected region, providing people with faster, safer and more reliable trips and reducing carbon emissions. Rapid transit enables housing and business growth and is the catalyst for neighbourhood regeneration and people-friendly streets, unlocking the region’s growth potential.

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will investigate options to provide light rail to move people across the harbour between the city centre and North Shore. It will connect with Auckland Light Rail to provide seamless travel options between the North Shore and employment hubs at Auckland Airport and areas of housing growth in Mt Roskill, Onehunga and Mangere, along with other future rapid transit corridors to the Northwest.  Planning across all rapid transit projects will be coordinated to ensure Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland has a fully integrated transport network for future generations.

Auckland Light Rail(external link)

More sustainable transport choice

More transport choice and reducing reliance on private vehicles will help the Government and Aotearoa New Zealand’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.  The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will align with the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), which describes how we are going to meet emissions budgets and make progress towards meeting the 2050 target. This includes reduced carbon emissions, reduced embodied carbon emissions and ways to build resilience in the transport network. It’s already apparent that sea level rise is affecting the section of Northern Motorway from Esmonde Road to the bridge, so any new or improved existing infrastructure will be future proofed to cater for increasing natural environmental events. 

To provide more transport choice for people wanting to walk or cycle across the harbour, this project will investigate future long-term active mode connections to tie into the wider walking and cycling network.  This will be a fully integrated approach and walking and cycling will be considered along with all other modes to assess how to make the most of the existing and new infrastructure.

Urban development opportunities

An essential part of this project will be to recommend ways to integrate transport improvements with quality urban development and land use outcomes. The places this project will pass through will become vibrant, diverse, centres and neighbourhoods, focused on quality transport routes, enabling people to have more choice in housing, employment, education, and other services.

Resilient connections

Efficient, reliable, safe, and resilient freight transport – within cities, between regions and to ports – is vital for a thriving economy.  As 40% of travel through this corridor is not Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland-bound, this project will provide greater connection for the whole Upper North Island and unlock significant value for the entire country.  It is a nationally significant, high-volume, strategic corridor providing substantial local, regional, and national benefits and a key route for the nation’s freight network, which relies heavily on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge and wider network to transport goods across the country.

The current Auckland Harbour Bridge structure is also coming under increasing operational pressure, affecting the resilience of the bridge and the wider network, and these pressures are forecast to increase further as population, employment and freight needs continues to grow.  Unexpected incidents such as crashes and high wind events mean the bridge and wider network are increasingly compromised, causing disruption for all users of the bridge.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge carries most major services and utilities, such as power, telecommunications and water and we will look at how we integrate these services into any new or existing infrastructure to continue to support these essential connections.

About this business case phase

An experienced Alliance technical team will prepare an Indicative Business Case (IBC) to look at a range of options and recommend a way forward for all transport modes – future walking and cycling, light rail and road connections. The recommendations will include the form, function, route and timing of future cross harbour connections, whilst also looking at existing resilience issues and urban regeneration opportunities.


This phase of technical work started in late 2022 and a recommended way forward will be determined mid-late 2023, with completion of the IBC expected in early 2024. 

Although the long-term solutions may take some time to deliver, Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi is already progressing enhancements to the Northern Busway to help keep up with growing bus patronage and ease pressure on the motorway network.

Previous 2019/2020 business case phase

The previous business case in 2019/2020 recommended a programme of investments and this upcoming phase of planning work will build on these findings. Key components of the programme were:

  • Further investigate options to optimise existing infrastructure and delay the need for major investment (eg by influencing growth patterns or using road pricing).
  • Upgrade and enhance the Northern Busway over the next few years to increase its capacity, reliability and overall service quality into the future. A Detailed Business Case further investigating Northern Busway enhancements has been completed by AT and funding for implementation is now being sought.
  • Develop an additional rail-based rapid transit connection for the North Shore (including across the Waitematā Harbour to the city centre), that supplements and integrates with the upgraded Northern Busway and the wider public transport network to provide more public transport travel options.
  • Improve roading connectivity to address resilience issues and growing all-day congestion on the state highway system, including the Auckland Harbour Bridge. 

The previous 2019/2020 business case document is available to view on the Technical reports page.