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It also enables physical mobility and brings people closer to the social and economic opportunities associated with education, employment, healthcare and markets. Improving access across the transport system is about providing safe, easy and affordable travel choices, ensuring the network is resilient at its critical points, keeping people and communities connected, and getting goods to market efficiently and on time. Ensuring access is critical for growing New Zealand’s economy and social wellbeing.

The NLTP has been developed in recognition that urban areas and regional New Zealand face different access challenges and require different investment approaches.

Metropolitan and high growth urban areas are better connected and accessible

GPS 2018 supports investment in liveable cities by improving walking, cycling and public transport and by increasing transport choice.

With the increasing growth of our urban centres, the transport system faces challenges in providing adequate access to social and economic opportunities. To sustain and improve access, particularly in high growth areas, the Transport Agency needs to be smarter in how it manages, operates and prioritises investments in the transport system.

The Transport Agency is taking a lead role in supporting urban growth and development by working with local government to expand public transport networks, increase the frequency and quality of services, and improve connections to public transport hubs. The Transport Agency is also investing to extend existing walking and cycling networks, establish better connections to public transport hubs, and improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

This will help make towns and cities more accessible and liveable by reducing reliance on cars, providing more transport choices, easing congestion in urban areas, supporting people to be active, enabling people to get to their destinations more efficiently and decreasing the environmental impact of the transport system.

With effective planning, our streets are not just places to pass through, but are hubs for connecting people, bringing communities closer together and enabling a range of transport choices.


GPS 2018 has an initial special focus on Auckland given its scale and that it has the strongest population growth in New Zealand.

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest urban area and home to about 1.5 million people, one third of New Zealand’s population. Auckland’s population has increased by over 250,000 people since 2010, and is expected to grow by up to 1 million people over the next 30 years.

To meet the challenges posed by this growth, a joint initiative between government agencies, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, known as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), has been created to develop an integrated strategic approach to managing Auckland’s transport system over the medium to long term.

ATAP calls for a mix of approaches to support planned residential and commercial growth with transport services and solutions that enable people and businesses to physically access the destinations or services they need without undermining the wellbeing of local and wider communities. This approach is based on three integrated components:

  • Making better use of existing networks.
  • Targeting new investment to the most significant challenges.
  • Maximising new opportunities to influence demand.

A central part of this approach is investment in rapid transit to unlock critical housing and urban development opportunities, giving communities better access to jobs, health, education and recreation. This includes delivering light rail between the city centre and Māngere.

The NLTP also includes investment in the infrastructure and operation of the public transport network as patronage continues to grow. This includes extending the Northern Busway and supporting the introduction of more electric trains to provide a modern, integrated public transport system with seamless connections.

Key corridors around the city will continue to have strategic importance, especially as the city grows and changes. The Northern Corridor Improvements project will complete the connection for the Western Ring Route to the north, the Southern Corridor Improvements will result in a safer route between the city centre and the south, and the Transport Agency will continue to build the 18-kilometre extension of the Northern Motorway (SH1) from Pūhoi to Warkworth.

This investment approach will improve access across Auckland and support the city to grow in a smart way, with new communities being safely and effectively connected by a range of transport choices.

Approach toward improving access in regional areas

In the regions, investment is targeted at establishing better interregional freight and tourism connections, supporting economic growth by improving access to labour, supplies and markets.

Investent will improve the resilience of regional state highways, particularly in high-risk locations and in areas prone to road closures because of their unique geology and topography. Work will include replacing end-of-life bridges and targeted infrastructure improvements on key freight and tourism routes to minimise disruption from unplanned events such as extreme weather and rock fall.

The Transport Agency is also responding to the effects of climate change and sea level rise on communities and infrastructure in low lying coastal areas, and investigating options to strengthen alternate routes to deliver appropriate levels of service in the event of network disruption.

The Transport Agency is also supporting the regions to continue to extend access for high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs) in regional areas to allow fewer trucks to transport more freight.

Reliable movement of freight and enhancing visitor journeys

GPS 2018 supports investment that is supportive of regional priorities such as the movement of freight, enhancing visitor journeys and increasing resilience.

Over the last three years the Transport Agency has supported the increased uptake of 50MAX trucks, which have an additional axle to carry up to 50 tonnes with minimal additional impact on infrastructure. Almost all local roads and state highways are now available to 50MAX, and more than 10,000 permits have been issued to freight operators.

About half the state highway network has been opened up to HPMVs over the last three years, particularly in areas where there are limited options to transfer freight to use other transport options, such as rail or coastal shipping. HPMV sections allow fewer trucks to transport more freight, which not only helps the economy, but also reduces congestion and improves safety by removing trucks from the roads.

There is continued support for freight customers and operators during the next three years by extending the HMPV network and working with local government to upgrade local and regional roads to form an integrated transport system.

There is also a focus on ensuring heavy vehicles are not overloaded and freight operators pay their fair share of road maintenance. The Weigh Right programme will support a level playing field, helping to improve productivity and make our roads safer. Twelve Weigh Right sites will be installed in key locations by 2020, screening heavy vehicles that account for 46% of all freight kilometres travelled on our roads.

There will also be support for a multi-modal approach to key regional connections, with a particular focus on freight and tourism – eg to increase the movement of freight by rail rather than on roads; and to improve regional connections to key tourist routes.

Enhancing visitor journeys

The Transport Agency is enhancing visitor journeys across New Zealand and supporting ongoing growth in tourism. This includes working with partners to improve the resilience of interregional connections and key tourism routes, and carrying out a range of other enhancements.

In urban areas, the Transport Agency is working with councils to deliver a wide range of walking, cycling and public transport initiatives to deliver an integrated transport system that provides visitors with a range of safe and reliable connections to key local destinations.

There is continued support for the addition of new connections and routes to the New Zealand Cycle Trail. The Great Rides within the trail are popular destinations for recreational users, domestic visitors and international tourists alike, driving considerable economic activity and helping our regions to thrive.

The Transport Agency continues to invest in multi-agency Transport Operations Centres (TOCs) in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. These centres manage traffic flows during major events such as sporting fixtures and concerts, and provide real-time transport information that supports both visitors and locals to make informed transport choices.

A land transport system that enables transport choice and access

GPS 2018 supports transport and land use planning that reduces the need to travel by private vehicle.

Supporting multi-modal solutions

Through integrated land use and transport planning, the Transport Agency will ensure that there is a focus on supporting increased multi-modal transport choices for people in high growth areas.

Working with local government, this NLTP will deliver a wide range of walking, cycling and public transport initiatives in urban centres to provide transport choice, improve connections to social and economic opportunities, ease congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public health outcomes. The Transport Agency is supporting local government to deliver these initiatives by providing increased funding assistance and establishing National Priority Programmes to help bring forward activities that align with the government’s transport priorities.

Actively managing demand to reduce congestion and emissions, and encouraging a shift from single-occupant vehicles to public transport, walking and cycling, will support more liveable cities and thriving regions.

The Transport Agency will continue to harness and refine its use of technology to actively manage demand and make the best use of existing networks and services. The continual development of new technologies will continue to influence how the transport system and sector operates, creating new ways for people and businesses to access opportunities.

Digital technologies and customer insights also provide the Transport Agency and its partners with the ability to provide real-time information to commuters and tourists. This helps them make informed choices about when and how they travel, and helps redistribute demand to reduce congestion.

The NLTP investment in state highways includes projects that:

  • continue investment in multi-agency Transport Operations Centres and, with partners, seek new and innovative services to maximise throughput and predictability while minimising disruptions
  • invest in technologies that provide information and enable mode-shift or transport choices that reduce congestion on the roads.

A land transport system that is resilient

Providing and enabling reliable access is the basis of a well-functioning transport system. New Zealand’s transport system must be resilient, and able to quickly reconnect communities after crashes and natural events such as earthquakes and adverse weather (rain, flooding and snow). Resilience is about preserving and restoring access, making sure the transport system can absorb and withstand disruptive events by having planned alternative routes when key routes are closed, and ensuring transport connections are restored as soon as possible.

In our cities, public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure can play a significant role in improving the resilience of the transport system to disruptive events. Increased investment in these areas through this NLTP will make an important contribution toward providing alternative modes and routes to help people stay connected in the face of unplanned disruptions.

Strong and effective partnerships are essential to deliver a resilient land transport system. The Transport Agency is working collaboratively with other government agencies, and with local government through the Road Efficiency Group and other groups, to develop a shared resilience framework and programmes for better dealing with resilience challenges.

The Transport Agency is also supporting local government to improve the resilience of local and regional roads through a range of activities including slope stability improvements and bridge replacement projects, for example, and investigating options to strengthen alternate routes to deliver appropriate levels of service in the event of network disruption. It is also working with local government to respond to the effects of climate change and sea level rise on communities and infrastructure in low lying coastal areas.

The importance of improving the resilience of our state highways is underscored by the impacts of the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and the ongoing challenges of providing a resilient journey through the Manawatū Gorge.

While most state highways provide a good level of day-to-day of resilience, this is not always the case along regional routes that have a lower One Network Road Classification (ONRC), and in areas where there is a lack of viable alternative routes.

The 2018-21 state highway resilience component of the NLTP is largely aimed at preparedness and responding to the challenges of New Zealand’s geology and topography, while also responding to more gradual climate change impacts where and when appropriate. Specific components of the programme include:

  • constructing an alternative route to the SH2 Manawatū Gorge
  • managing risks on the Kaikōura coast and similar locations
  • replacing end-of-life bridges on the state highway network
  • a rock-fall prevention programme on key freight and tourism routes
  • scour protection near bridges to protect against damage
  • mitigating the impacts of climate change (extreme weather events and sea level rise) in vulnerable locations.

This resilience programme will continue to improve the reliability and availability of access to areas that are more prone to closures.