The Ministry of Transport has a strategic leadership role across the transport system, with responsibility to ensure all modes – land, sea, air and rail – continue to meet New Zealand’s needs into the future. Our purpose is to ensure that our transport system helps New Zealand thrive, and we have set ourselves a challenge, to “Create the environment to double the value from transport initiatives”.

To achieve this, we need to understand what New Zealand’s economy might look like in the future, what kind of transport system New Zealanders will want and need, and how this could might be managed, provided and funded. Our transport network, regulatory framework, and funding systems are all components of this, and we need to be prepared for change.

Central and local government invest more than $4 billion annually in the land transport system. This system is governed by 270 pieces of legislation, regulations and rules, emits around 18 percent of New Zealand’s carbon equivalent emissions, and imposes a social cost of more than $3 billion a year as a result of fatal and serious crashes. These are no small amounts. Every transport infrastructure decision has an influence on the future, affecting further demand, supply, behavioural choices and the follow-on impacts these have on society, the environment and our economy. We have been asking ourselves some hard strategic questions, so that we can prepare for the unknowable changes and challenges that are ahead for New Zealand and our transport system.

2015-16 strategic policy programme

The Ministry is currently undertaking two strategic policy projects, looking at how transport might be regulated in 2025, and the public transport system in 2045.

Regulation 2025

Regulation 2025 has considered how the need for regulation might be different in 2025, and what tools will be available to shape behaviour.

This project explored both the potential impact of technology on the transport systems, and the degree to which we as a society might be willing to adopt new technologies. The project’s key question was whether we could simply adapt the current regulation to meet future needs, or if we would require a new regulatory system to respond to the future transport system. The project looked at ‘regulation’ in its broadest sense, including legislation, rules, education and social norms, and is examining all transport modes (road, rail, aviation, maritime and active transport).

Public Transport 2045 (PT 2045)

This working paper explores the long-term future of public transport in New Zealand’s cities, in a world where transport technologies and services are rapidly evolving. It is intended to provoke dialogue, and to challenge the assumptions that public transport in thirty years’ time will look only slightly different from what we are familiar with today—or alternatively, that it has to look completely different in every way.

This working paper includes the following.

  • Views on public transport: A summary of prevailing views on the future of public transport in New Zealand, based on interviews with transport experts and stakeholders.
  • Four future scenarios: These scenarios do not describe what the future will be like. Instead, they envision how automation and urbanisation could affect urban transport in the future. We used these scenarios to explore implications for public transport and our cities.
  • Insights from the futures: Implications of increasing automation and shared mobility for our public transport systems.

Read more on PT2045


2014 strategic policy programme

Strategic questions

We have focused our attention on three strategic areas. We do not offer definitive solutions – each project is about exploring future possibilities and probabilities, and potential effects on the New Zealand transport system. It is vitally important that we consider these tough questions and spark these conversations across the transport sector.

The three questions we looked at were:

  • How will New Zealand’s economy perform in the future, and what are the implications for transport?
  • How could or should our transport system evolve in order to support mobility in the future?
  • How could or should we fund our transport system in the future?

Each of these questions has been developed into a formal project, led by a Strategy Director. Project teams were drawn from Ministry staff who engaged closely with a wide range of stakeholders to explore each of these questions.

The information contained within these pages of our website sets out a high level overview of the conclusions of each project, followed by the next steps for the Ministry and how we believe this work can be carried forward to benefit the transport sector and New Zealand as a whole.

A full list of resources and outputs can be located on each project page.

Economic development and transport Future demand Future funding

How will New Zealand’s economy perform in the future, and what are the implications for transport?

Linking image to Economic Development and Transport page

Read more....

How could or should our transport system evolve in order to support mobility in the future? 

Linking image to Future Demand page

Read more....

How could or should we fund our transport system in the future?

Linking image to Future Funding page

Read more....

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What have we learned?

Throughout this programme of work we have sought to understand the trends, influences and changes in society that will impact on the New Zealand transport system. Through our infrastructure investment, funding regime and the regulatory framework we are continually making choices that affect the future of the system. These choices are based on our beliefs about the future, and the more we know, the better our choices will be.

We are well placed

New Zealand has a good transport system that is largely meeting demand. Our current system provides New Zealanders with good levels of accessibility and contributes towards conditions for good economic growth. Our funding system works, hypothecation (ring fencing transport funding) allows certainty for planning, and we have good and effective revenue tools for our current conditions. We can expect that these will continue to perform well for the short to medium term.

Transport infrastructure lasts far longer than the short to medium term, and we need to ensure we are providing a system that is flexible and responsive to support changes in user demand, means of access and funding channels. Our work shows that most of the land transport network is currently sufficient.

... but there are challenges ahead

While we have seen a flattening of demand, the location of that demand is changing, increasing pressure on cities without increasing the revenue base to support changes to the shape of the network.

Although demand has been flattening, we must consider the effect of demand returning to a growth pattern. This would create new pressures for the transport system.
The cost of maintaining the system continues to rise at a rate which is faster than the economy is growing. This adds to the importance of making sure new investments in infrastructure can be strongly justified.

Historically we have seen vehicle kilometres travelled increase in line with GDP, providing a clear basis for investment where there is constrained capacity on our roads. This relationship is no longer as clear. It may be that virtual access is replacing physical access in some areas.

Wider benefits for regions are a good justification for investments to be made in transport infrastructure in the regions. However, our work has found that without other investments in the region, transport investments alone are unlikely to drive regional economic growth.

Fairness in funding is a matter that will come into the spotlight. The current land transport funding regime remains an effective way of raising revenue. But increases in petrol excise duty (at some point in the future) to compensate for increased vehicle efficiency will mean an increasing disparity of contribution between those with efficient and those with non-efficient vehicles.

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We can (and should) choose our future

The Ministry must continue to focus on these potential future challenges. The future is not something that will ‘just happen’ to us. We shape our future through the choices we make. In view of this, we should recognise and embrace our role in shaping the future of New Zealand. We need to have a robust debate about what we as a nation want from our transport system. This debate around the future of the transport system needs to be held in collaboration with central and local government, and the major players in the transport sector.

We need better data and modelling capabilities

In order to inform a discussion on the future transport system for New Zealand, we need better information on the current system and its users. We also need to be able to test the effectiveness of changes to the system before making new investments.

The Ministry must grow its capacity to process and use information. Solid data and trend analysis is key to being able to provide good guidance to the government and we must continue to improve our skills in this area.

As a start to this, in these strategy projects, we have developed new models for demand, economics and revenue that will support the debate. These need to be taken forward and continually improved so that we can more effectively forecast changes, and also assess the implications of planned interventions.

The debate should start with our economy and social access

As we think about our future we have recognised that we need to consider access, not just mobility. Accessibility doesn’t necessarily require a physical transport solution – it can be achieved through a mix of good transport, good urban design and good use of technology. This can be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle, of which the Ministry of Transport only holds one piece. We need to engage more with those responsible for holding the other pieces in order to debate and decide the new requirements for accessibility, in addition to providing a long-term vision for our preferred future.

Achieving our preferred future

A sector and government-wide vision of our preferred future will enable us to set clear goals and targets. These goals will underpin future investment decisions and work programmes across the transport sector.

Our aim, throughout these projects, has been to better understand the influences that shape the future and the tools required to meet future challenges, so that we can continue our role in ensuring that the transport system helps New Zealand to thrive, and that we create the environment to double the value from transport initiatives. There is more work to be done but we are well on our way.

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Next steps

Through these projects, we have produced a raft of materials which help us to understand economic growth and its relationship to transport, and how to deal with uncertainties around future demand for transport. We will be making this information available for others to use as a resource to consider the implications for local transport systems.

We will also engage with other government departments and local government to take forward the debate on accessibility and future needs for New Zealand.

The suite of tools that we have produced will also inform the development of GPS 2018 as we explore the possibilities for developing a national transport model and engage the transport sector in discussing the options for future investment in transport.

Our aim from the outset of this programme of work has been to enhance strategic thinking across the Ministry and transport sector. This is an ongoing commitment and each project has led to a new suite of questions and areas that warrant further investigation. We invite you to join in this quest.


The Ministry would like to express its thanks to its strategy directors, who led these projects: Professor Caroline Saunders, Professor Paul Dalziel, Professor Glenn Lyons and Dr Doug Wilson. We are very grateful for the time, effort and care that they put into delivering these projects.

The Ministry would also like to thank the more than 100 contributors to this work from across central and local government, stakeholder groups and academia. Their contributions have significantly assisted us to form our views, and we appreciate the level of interest, input and advice we have received. We look forward to working with these stakeholders as we further explore the future of transport in New Zealand.

Read more about Economic Development and Transport

Read more about Future Demand

Read more about Future Funding

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These papers are presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.


All reasonable endeavours are made to ensure the accuracy of the information in these reports. However, the information is provided without warranties of any kind including accuracy, completeness, timeliness or fitness for any particular purpose.

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