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Infrastructure blog

IPW: New Zealand government reviews transport strategy and planning system

15 March 2024

In this week’s Infrastructure Policy Watch, New Zealand’s government proposes new transport priorities and targets faster infrastructure delivery.

IPW: New Zealand government reviews transport strategy and planning system
The government wants to invest in public transport infrastructure and road maintenance. Image credit: Shutterstock

New Zealand transport strategy targets growth and resilience

New Zealand’s minister of transport has published a new draft Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS) for consultation.

The GPS outlines the government’s plans for investing in land transport over the next decade.

The GPS must be reviewed every three years. This update follows New Zealand’s change in government last year.

The new coalition government is prioritising economic growth and productivity, infrastructure maintenance, and resilience, safety, and value for money.

It wants to invest around NZ$7 billion a year over the next three years towards those priorities.

This includes up to NZ$2.1 billion for public transport infrastructure and additional funding for road maintenance.

Road programme reintroduced

The revised GPS also reintroduces the Roads of National Significance programme. This will channel investment towards 15 new roads in various strategic corridors.

The government says these are needed to reduce congestion and help achieve its transport objectives.

It wants new road pricing models, such as time of use charging, and moving all vehicles from fuel excise duty to road user charge to contribute to delivering the programme.

Other potential reforms include shifting from three to 10-year National Land Transport Programmes to align with local government plans and provide greater certainty.

Prioritising delivery

The GPS also includes a statement of the minister’s expectations for how the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will action the government’s priorities.

It calls for the NZTA to focus on improving delivery, core business responsibilities and value for money.

Following a consultation period, the final GPS is expected to be in effect by July.

The ICE’s view

It’s no surprise that the new government is continuing to prioritise resilience following several natural disasters in New Zealand last year.

But it’s also putting more emphasis on efficiency and roadbuilding to drive economic growth and productivity.

Whatever outcomes are being sought, setting out a clear strategic direction is essential.

In the UK, the government has also shifted the transport planning landscape by updating the National Networks National Policy Statement.

This should ensure planning decisions for road and rail align with net zero and the government’s wider objectives.

New Zealand’s approach also highlights the benefits of an overarching strategic plan, as the ICE highlighted in our work on developing a national transport strategy for England.

However, recent polling by the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission (Te Waihanga) suggests the challenges policymakers may face to deliver their vision.

Te Waihanga is examining how infrastructure can be funded fairly.

For transport, its polling found no public consensus about which of the options presented to fund road investment was the ‘fairest’.

The Enabling Better Infrastructure (EBI) programme highlights how a clear strategic vision, outlining the benefits of investment, can help secure buy-in and persuade the public it’s worth the price.

Faster consenting targeted in New Zealand

New Zealand’s new government has also put forward legislation to speed up delivery of key strategic infrastructure.

This was a key part of the National Party’s election campaign.

The new government wants to cut red tape and lower costs to make it easier to deliver the projects needed to reduce New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit.

These could include new housing and renewable energy projects.

The Fast Track Approvals Bill has been agreed by the Cabinet and opened to public submissions.

It would create a new process for approving infrastructure considered to have regional or national significance.

This will include a ‘one stop shop’ to fast track a range of environmental approvals.

A new expert panel will review the project in detail within six months.

Its role will be to recommend whether a project should be approved and what conditions may be required to manage adverse effects.

The final decision on whether to proceed with the project would then be taken by the ministers of infrastructure, regional development and transport.

The ICE’s view

Infrastructure is key to addressing many societal challenges.

The scale and pace of the net zero transition, adapting to climate change and improving people’s social and economic prosperity all depend on the right infrastructure.

But high inflation means governments will need to deliver more with less.

It’s no surprise then that New Zealand’s isn’t the only government targeting planning reforms to improve efficiency.

The UK government has also announced changes to streamline planning decisions for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

In both countries, the reforms aim to balance the long-term, wider benefits of projects with the need to manage environmental and community impacts.

The ICE will continue monitor their implementation.

In case you missed it

  • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE