Walking and cycling funds cut back in final transport strategy

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has released the Government's final transport strategy. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Walking and cycling is the biggest loser in the final version of the Government’s 10-year transport strategy, with its funding increase more than halved from initial plans.

The final government policy statement (GPS) on land transport, released on Thursday afternoon, outlines the Government’s strategy for the next 10 years.

This GPS is the successor to the previous government’s 2015 statement, and follows a draft version sent out for consultation in April.

Big changes between the draft and the final document include a drop in the funding boost for walking and cycling projects, slashed to 116 percent from 246 percent.

Other areas to see their increases cut are local roading projects, dropping from 22 percent to 17 percent.

The Government had previously talked up its increase in local road funding as part of its shift in focus away from its predecessor's Roads of National Significant projects towards roads where most journeys take place. Up to $6.2 billion will be available for regional road and local road upgrades.

The 11 percent decrease in funding for state highway improvements is unchanged. This equated to $9.5 billion in funding for state highways.

Other funding changes include investment management, which supports the transport planning of NZTA and local government, which has seen its funding increase fall from 31 percent to 27 percent.

The big winner from the final statement is public transport, which has seen its funding increase rise from 46 percent in the draft to 68 percent.

Funding for the promotion of road safety and the promotion of public transport has also grown, from an 81 percent increase to 99 percent.

Petrol excise duty will still increase as planned, with the first 3.5 cent per litre jump slated for this September and further 3.5 cent increases in 2019 and 2020.

Road user charges are also slated to increase. Aucklanders will still pay an additional 10 cent per litre regional fuel tax.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford stood by the increase, saying they were needed to fund the plan.

“This will cost the average family 83 cents a week this year, rising to $2.50 a week by 2020,” he said, although economist Sam Warburton told Stuff the figures took no account of the fact that poorer people drove less and averaged the funding increase across everyone.

Poorer people who drove would therefore be hit harder than Twyford claimed, Warburton said.

The Government received 942 submissions on the draft statement.

In a response to the feedback, the Government said there was support for the concept of mode neutrality, but some felt the draft statement favoured public transport, rail and active modes over vehicle travel.

Increased funding for public transport and the drop in funding for state highways, along with a reduced funding increase for local roads, suggests the Government has not taken this particular criticism to heart.

The Government said local government submitters were concerned about the decrease in state highway improvements, which they felt could lead to a drop in safety and access outcomes.

Overall, Government will increase transport investment from $3.6 billion a year to $4 billion in 2018/19. It will rise to $4.7 billion a year by 2027/28.