The Public Transport Industry


Overview of public transport in New Zealand

In New Zealand it is the responsibility of regional councils and in Auckland, Auckland Transport (AT) to manage the delivery of public transport in their regions through contracting private operators to provide bus, train and ferry services. Regional and city councils are responsible for the provision and maintenance of public transport infrastructure. Central Government supports the provision of public transport through transport legislation, strategic direction, operating policies and investments in service and infrastructure provision.

Buses are the predominant form of public transport in New Zealand, representing 114 million annual journeys, or approximately 75% of total public transport journeys nationwide. The predominance of buses in New Zealand’s public transport system has been influenced by past investments in bus infrastructure by Government and Councils and by New Zealand’s urban layout, with relatively sparsely populated urban areas suiting the wide coverage offered by bus networks. Bus infrastructure expansion has been an attractive choice for both Government and councils in meeting public transport demand as, unlike rail, new bus route services require little infrastructure and available land, and can be implemented quickly at a relatively low cost. The Auckland region has recently been responsible for nearly all of the growth in New Zealand’s urban bus sector, driven by very strong inwards migration, a rapid expansion of the city’s urban boundary and high levels of tourism.

New Zealand’s bus networks are largely operated by private bus route service providers, with Canterbury being the only region with a major bus operator that is currently council-owned. Buses are generally owned by the operators themselves, while depots are owned by a range of parties including the operators, councils and other private investors.

The central Government is responsible for setting policy objectives for land transport in New Zealand, including public transport objectives. Funding for public transport is provided by a combination of contributions from Government via the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), contributions by regional councils, largely funded by rates, and revenue received from public transport operations, largely from fares. Service planning, which encapsulates roles such as the planning of routes, timetables, fares, signage and service procurement is the responsibility of regional councils and AT. The public transport networks are largely operated by private providers, who contract with the regional councils and AT to provide services in a particular region. It is then the responsibility of councils and AT to monitor the performance of the public transport operations in their respective regions.

The public transport regime in New Zealand recently transitioned to the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM), which was legislated in 2013. PTOM is a combination of planning, funding and procurement tools aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public transport in New Zealand. PTOM aims to increase collaboration between the bus, rail and ferry operators and local Councils to incentivise growth in the commerciality of New Zealand’s public transport networks. Today, all regions in New Zealand other than Christchurch have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, to PTOM, with new contracts issued in line with the new regime.