The future of NZ Transport Infrastructure

Article written by Andrew Body – Director & Sector Lead Transport

What can we expect – post-election – for transport infrastructure in New Zealand?  How different could things be depending on the election outcomes?

We’re now in that time when our political parties set out their plans should they be able to form a government post-election. In the tables below, we give some thought to understanding what might apply in a new term from a transport infrastructure perspective and the possible direction for the industry over the next three years.

There are actually many similarities between the transport policies of our major parties. Whether the next Government is Labour-led or National-led, there is likely to be an increase in design and construction activity, in an already charged sector. Both parties set out ambitious programmes of road and public transport investments, with anticipated spending billions of dollars over existing budgets. While there are some differences in the named projects, both parties are committed to significant improvements to New Zealand’s infrastructure to improve safety, efficiency and resilience issues. Both parties see the need for improvements in both road and rail systems and the wider infrastructure to support improved public transport in urban areas, and back the additional spend and completed infrastructure to drive better (particularly economic) well-being outcomes for New Zealander’s.

Where things start to diverge is in the influence that partners could bring to the table. A National/Act combination could see the use of innovative financing options, private sector involvement, more use of toll revenues and even electronic road pricing. The aims of introducing these tools and approaches would likely be to accelerate investment, enable the private sector to play a larger role in decision-making on investing and maintaining, and create long term pipelines of projects for industry to plan around. While public transport, rail and non-vehicle options would continue to be developed, there would likely be a strong emphasis on improving the ‘roads of national significance’.

Conversely, with a Labour/Green combination we could expect to see considerable emphasis on investment in rail, active transport, the electric fleet and all forms of public transport with the aim of more trips not being dependent on the private vehicle. Spending on key roads connecting economic, educational and social centres would continue, but likely with more of a focus on safety investments, rather than capacity enhancements.  A Labour/Green government would be expected to tip more of the increased funding into infrastructure that works with, and helps create, residential density along key corridors, with the balance of spending in urban areas more heavily weighted towards walking, cycling and public transport improvements.

We will not, of course, know in any detail what the next three years will hold until some time after 14 October 2023, but it is fair to say that things are not going to slow down.  Both main parties recognise that transport is just one part of the large infrastructure deficit faced in this country, and that significant improvements to improve social and economic well-being are required.  There will be an even bigger programme of works to deliver, and the demands for innovation to save time, cost and disruption in delivery with smart leadership of projects will be even stronger. Vitruvius is ready, to support our clients, in whichever direction.

Key projects by Party


The Labour Party has an overall agenda to upgrade New Zealand’s transport system to make it safer, cleaner, more resilient and efficient – for now and future generations to come.  Through the recently-released Government Policy Statement, Labour sets out a programme of 14 key nation-building projects to improve connectivity and keep the country moving over the coming decades:

  • Warkworth to Whangārei – State Highway 1; Te Hana to Brynderwyns, Warkworth to Wellsford and Whangārei to Brynderwyns
  • Auckland Northwest Rapid Transit
  • Auckland third and fourth rail line expansion
  • Avondale to Onehunga rail link
  • Level crossing upgrade and removal – Auckland and Wellington
  • Cambridge to Piarere – State Highway 1
  • Tauranga to Tauriko – State Highway 29
  • Wellington CBD to Airport – second Mount Victoria Tunnel and upgrades to Basin Reserve/Arras Tunnel
  • Wellington CBD to Island Bay – Mass Rapid Transit
  • Napier to Hastings – four-laning State Highway 2
  • Nelson (Rocks Road) shared path – State Highway 6
  • Richmond – Hope Bypass – State Highway 6
  • Christchurch Northern Link – State Highway 1
  • Ashburton Bridge – State Highway 1

The aim is that these investments include a balanced mix of public transport and roads, to reduce congestion, manage emissions, improve safety, grow the economy and open up areas for housing.

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National’s Transport for the Future policy includes:

  • Roads of National Significance:
  • Initial stages of National’s long-term vision of four lanes from Whangārei to Tauranga, driving growth in the upper North Island economic zone.
  • Projects to tackle congestion and reduce travel times, including Mill Road in Auckland, a second Mt Victoria Tunnel in Wellington, the Hope Bypass in Tasman, and the Woodend Bypass north of Christchurch.
  • Roads to unlock urban housing growth including Southern Links in Hamilton, Petone to Grenada and the Cross Valley Link in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, and the North West Alternative State Highway in Auckland.
  • Better Public Transport:
  • A rapid transit network for Auckland, with public transport corridors in the North West, Airport to Botany, and completion of the Eastern Busway.
  • Improvements to increase capacity and reliability on Lower North Island train services for passengers and freight.
  • Rebuilding regions and improving resilience:
  • Priority projects to reconstruct transport infrastructure damaged during recent floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, enhancing long-term resilience in flood-affected regions.
  • Upgrades to existing transport infrastructure in Ashburton, Queenstown, Otago, and Southland.
  • A National Infrastructure Agency to coordinate government funding, connect domestic and offshore investors with New Zealand infrastructure, and improve funding, procurement and delivery.
  • Innovative funding and financing tools to boost investment in infrastructure, and create investment opportunities for ACC, the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver funds.

National, City and Regional Deals to partner with local Government to create long-term pipelines of regional projects.

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ACT’s policies are less about specific projects, and more about new tools, institutions and approaches to fund, finance, own and operate infrastructure include:

  • Introduction of a toll road system, using private sector financing and expertise to get new roads built faster and to maintain existing roads quicker and more effectively
  • Introduce Electronic Road Pricing, which is used around the world to manage demand and/ or fund new roads.
  • Transform NZTA and Kiwirail into Crown Infrastructure Companies, more comparable to Chorus, regulated private networks required to provide a service to customers using the flexibility and discipline of a business.
  • Make it easier for (local) communities to create off-balance-sheet infrastructure special purpose vehicles (SPVs), which can borrow to fund infrastructure.

Share 50 per cent of the GST revenue raised from new residential construction in their region with councils so they could invest in infrastructure.

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The Green Party is prioritising investment in rail, active transport, electric vehicles and public transport to assist towns, cities and rural areas become less car-dependent and eliminate the use of fossil fuels for transport.  The Green Party’s plan includes:

  • Transform public transport networks, including building light rail in Auckland and Wellington, and providing comprehensive bus lanes in all cities.
  • Invest in nationwide rapid rail for passengers and freight, to connect regions and major cities, and contribute to economic development, and decarbonisation.
  • Increase the accessibility of e-bikes for people on low incomes by rolling out community hire schemes through marae, community centres, and educational institutes, together with targeted subsidies.
  • Extend Community Connect to provide free fares for students and apprentices, community service card holders, everyone under 18, and all Total Mobility card holders.
  • Enable the direct provision of public transport, services by regional councils, by replacing the Public Transport Operating Model.
  • Create safe walking and biking routes for every school through more pedestrian crossings, and lower speed limits near schools.
  • Require road and street maintenance projects to consider improvements to active and public transport infrastructure, such as cycleways and busways.
  • Encourage transit-oriented development (TOD) and other forms of increased residential density along rail and other high quality public transport corridors.
  • Build surface light rail through key routes in major cities.

Ensuring that necessary zero-emission heavy vehicles are affordable (in comparison with diesels), through tax incentives and funding.

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