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Chapter 4: Transport

At a glance

Transport in New Zealand

New Zealanders value their mobility. We rely on transport to access work, educational, social, and recreational activities. Transport also underpins New Zealand’s economic prosperity by enabling the movement of people and goods, and connecting New Zealand to international markets.

Road transport is the central element of New Zealand’s transport system, reflecting our small pockets of population and comparatively large land area. In recent years, New Zealanders have become increasingly reliant on road transport, and the number of vehicles per person is growing; we tend to buy larger vehicles and use them more.

Impacts of transport

Our extensive use of cars and trucks is putting pressure on the environment and human health.

  • The consumption of fossil fuels creates exhaust emissions that negatively affect our air quality.

  • Run-off from roads negatively affects our waterways.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from our transport fuels contribute to climate change.

  • End-of-life oil, tyres, and vehicles require careful disposal.

Vehicle kilometres travelled

The number of vehicle kilometres travelled on New Zealand roads has more than doubled since 1980, indicating that New Zealanders have become increasingly mobile. The car is the largest contributor to total vehicle kilometres travelled.

In 2006, New Zealanders travelled over 39.2 billion vehicle kilometres. Between 2001 and 2005, the vehicle kilometres travelled on New Zealand roads increased for all vehicle types. In 2006, however, the vehicle kilometres travelled for all vehicle types decreased slightly from the previous year.

New Zealand’s vehicle fleet

In 2006, 61 per cent of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet was more than 10 years old. This represents a 4 percentage point increase in age from 2001.

New Zealand’s vehicle fleet is dominated by ageing, petrol-fuelled vehicles, although the share of diesel vehicles on the road has increased 3 per cent between 2001 and 2006. The number of diesel vehicles in the fleet increased by 39 per cent over the same period.

Vehicle ownership in New Zealand has more than tripled since the 1950s. In 2005, the number of vehicles per person was 0.7, the fifth highest rate of vehicle ownership among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Other modes

Shipping is an essential component of New Zealand’s transport system. In 2006, 99.5 per cent of New Zealand’s total export cargo (by weight) left from seaports. Transportation by ship can have a lower ‘carbon footprint’ than comparable air and road transport.

Air transport is another key component of New Zealand’s transport system. In 2005, more than 8.61 million passengers travelled to and from New Zealand by plane.

Present and future management

Increasingly, transport planners are recognising the impacts of transport on the environment. They are putting more effort into increasing the use of public transport, encouraging people to walk or cycle, designing our urban spaces to minimise the need for motorised forms of transport, and encouraging people to buy and use more fuel-efficient vehicles.

These issues will continue to remain a focus for transport planning. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport – a major contributor to emissions – is likely to drive greater effort to improve fuel efficiency and increase the use of biofuels and alternative means of powering vehicles, such as electricity.