Transport in New Zealand: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Auckland Harbour Bridge, one of the main transport links of the country.

Transport in New Zealand, with its mountainous topography and a relatively small population mostly located near its long coastline, has always faced many challenges. Before Europeans arrived, Māori either walked or used watercraft on rivers or along the coasts. Later on, European shipping and railways revolutionised the way of transporting goods and people, before being themselves overtaken by road and air, which are nowadays the dominant forms of transport. However, bulk freight still continues to be transported by coastal shipping and by rail transport, and there are attempts to (re)introduce public transport as a major transport mode in the larger population centres.

Historically very car-dependant, as of 2010, transport funding in New Zealand is still heavily dominated by money for roading projects - the National government proposes to spend $21 billion on roading infrastructure after 2012, yet only $0.7 billion on other transport projects (public transport, walking and cycling). This has been criticised by opponents of the current government strategy as irresponsible, in light of increasing fuel prices and congestion.[1] Government has claimed that their priority on roading is in line with New Zealander's favored travel modes, and as being the most promising in terms of economic benefits.[citation needed]


Road transport

A bullock wagon in the Canterbury region in the 1880s. Their tracks later often formed the first roads.
State Highway 1 in South Auckland.

The State Highway network, which provides the backbone road traffic infrastructure connecting New Zealand towns, is administered by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The majority of roads and streets are managed by city or district councils. Some roads are under the control of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, airport authorities, port authorities, and others.

New Zealand has left-hand traffic on its roads.



The road network of New Zealand has its origins in the tracks and paths used by both Māori and Europeans in their early travels through New Zealand. Several major Māori tracks were known, such as the western coastal track was used along the whole length of the North Island, and the track on the East Coast, which however left the coast near Castlepoint and rejoined it near Napier. In the South Island, another significant track existed down the east coastwith tributiary tracks following streams up to the mountain passes to the West Coast.[2]

Initial roads, such as the Great South Road southwards from Auckland, were often built by the British Army to move troops, and were constructed to a comparatively high standard.[2] Early sheep farming required few high-standard roads, but the strong increase in dairy farming in the late 19th century created a strong demand for better links on which the more perishable goods could be transported to market or towards ports for export.[2] In many cases, later roads for motor vehicles follow paths used by bullock carts[3] which followed tracks made for humans. These in turn in some cases became highways - with attendant problems all over New Zealand (but especially in the more mountainous regions), as the geography and contours of a slow-speed road laid out in the first half of the 20th century usually do not conform to safety and comfort criteria of modern motor vehicles.[4]

Early road construction was both hindered and helped by rail transport during the first half century of European settlement. Authorities were reluctant to expend large amounts of capital on more difficult sections of a route where there was a hope that a railway might instead be built. However, where railways were constructed, roads often either preceded them for construction or quickly followed it when the newly accessible land started to be settled more closely.[2]

While its origins began some decades earlier, the New Zealand Highway system was strongly extended after World War II. The first motorway was built in the environs of Wellington and opened in 1950, between Takapu Road and Johnsonville.[5]


New Zealand has a State Highway network of 10,895 km (5,974 km in the North Island and 4,921 km in the South Island, as of August 2006) of which 170 km are motorways. These link to 82,000 km of local authority roads, both paved and unpaved. The state highways carry 50% of all New Zealand road traffic, with the motorways alone carrying 9% of all traffic (even though they represent only 3% of the whole State Highway network, and even less of the whole road network).[6][7]

The maximum speed limit on the open road is 100 km/h, with 50 km/h the common limit in residential areas. Speed limits of 60, 70, and 80 km/h are also used. Speeds are often reduced to 30 km/h beside roadworks, but there are few areas of the country's road network where speeds below 50 km/h are mandatory at all times.


Historically, most roads in New Zealand were funded by local road authorities (often road boards) who derived their income from local rates. As the need for new roads was often most urgent in those parts of the country where little rate income could yet be collected, the funding was at least partly dependent on national-level subsidies, for which much lobbying was undertaken.[2] Many acts and ordinances were passed in the first decades of the colony, but lack of funds and parochialism (the desire to spend locally raised money locally, rather than use it to link different provinces) hindered the growth of the road network. This lack of larger-scale planning eventually led to increased public works powers given to the Central Government.[8]

Today, all funding for state highways and around 50% of funding for local roads comes directly from road users through the National Land Transport Fund. Road user revenue directed to the fund includes all fuel excise duty on LPG and CNG, around 55% of revenue from fuel excise duty on petrol, all revenue from road user charges (a prepaid distance/weight licence that all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and all non petrol/LPG/CNG vehicles are liable to pay) and most non-ACC revenue from motor vehicle registration and licensing fees. In addition, in the last three years the government has increasing allocated additional funds to land transport, to the extent that today the total expenditure by the New Zealand Transport Agency on land transport projects exceeds road tax revenue collected. The remainder of funding for local city and district roads primarily comes from local authority property rates.

Vehicle fleet

One of the earliest counts/estimates of motor vehicles in New Zealand had them at 82,000 in 1925. This soon increased to 170,000 on the eve of World War II in 1939, continuing to 425,000 in 1953 and increasing to 1,000,000 in 1971.[9] Today, the New Zealand vehicle fleet (as of June 2006) counts 3,226,614 vehicles, an increase of 2.42% compared to the previous year. Of the fleet, 2,232,915 were cars and 408,757 trucks.[10] The mean age of a New Zealand car (as of end of 2006) was 12.1 years, with trucks at 12.7 years.[11]

Most cars sold in New Zealand are used imports, of which 94.6 per cent come from Japan.[12] In 2006, 123,390 such vehicles were registered, compared to 76,804 brand new vehicles first registered in New Zealand.

The three most popular new cars in 2006 (excluding sales of ex-overseas vehicles) were the Holden Commodore (5,375), the Toyota Corolla (5,297) and the Ford Falcon (4,199).[13]

Passenger services

Transport by bus services form the main component of public transport services in New Zealand cities, and the country also has a network of long-distance bus or coach services, augmented by door-to-door inter-city shuttle vans, a type of shared taxi.

The first widespread motor vehicle services were shared taxi services termed service cars; a significant early provider was Aard, operating elongated Hudson Super-Six Coaches[14]. Aard was taken over by New Zealand Railways Road Services in 1928,[14] The road fleet of New Zealand Railways Corporation was privatised in 1991[citation needed] with the long-distance business still existing as Intercity, having more recently incorporated Newmans Coachlines. Another former extensive coach business was Mount Cook Landlines, which closed in the 1990s.[citation needed] Internet-based is building another nationwide network, partly as a reseller of several smaller bus operators' capacity.[15][16]

Intercity and Tourism Holdings Ltd are significant sightseeing / tourism coach operators.


Cycling on Lake Road, North Shore City, prior to the introduction of cycle lanes

Cycling in New Zealand is carried out for commuting, racing and recreation. While relatively popular as a sport, it is a very marginal commuting mode, with the share hovering in the low single percentage digits in most major cities. This is blamed on very hostile attitudes of motorists towards cyclists[17], and relatively low levels of funding by both central and local government[18]. Except for postal delivery, cycling on footpaths is not permitted.[19]

Road safety

In 2005, 405 'road users' were killed in New Zealand, while 14,451 were injured. The age group most represented in the death and injury statistics were the 15-24 year olds. The most typical causes of death or injury were "head-on collisions (while not overtaking)" as well as "loss of control (while cornering)".[20] In terms of deaths per 10,000 population, the most dangerous areas were the Waitomo District (110 deaths) and the Clutha District (89 deaths). Larger cities were comparatively safe, with Auckland City having 36 deaths per 10,000 population, Manukau City 22 deaths, Wellington 24 deaths and Christchurch 29 deaths while Dunedin had a very high rate of 63 deaths.[21]

The total road deaths in New Zealand are comparatively high. The fatality rate per capita has been quoted as being twice the level of Germany's, and blamed on aggressive driving behaviours and insufficient driver training.[22]

Also a significant issue in New Zealand is drunk driving, especially of young drivers, which is made particularly problematic due to New Zealand's low drinking and driving (respectively) laws. In the late 2000s, reports from Auckland indicated that the rate of drunk driving by under-20-years-olds had rising 77% within three years, with similar increases in the rest of the country. Many drunk drivers already had convictions for previous drunk driving.[23]

Rail transport

Wellington was for a long time the only city of New Zealand that retained a well-patronised commuter rail system. Only in the 2000s was there a (continuing) resurgence in Auckland's commuter rail patronage, driven in great part by new investment in infrastructure.


There is a total of 3,898 km of railway line in New Zealand, built to the narrow gauge of 1067 mm. Of this, 506 km is electrified (2002 data). The national network is owned by the New Zealand Railways Corporation trading as ONTRACK, a state-owned enterprise. The national network consists of three main trunk lines, seven secondary main lines and during its peak in the 1950s, around ninety branch lines. The majority of the latter are now closed. Most lines were constructed by government but a few were of private origin, later nationalised. In 1931, the Transport Licensing Act was passed, protecting the railways from competition for fifty years. The transport industry became fully deregulated in 1983. Between 1986 and 1993 the rail industry underwent a major overhaul involving corporatisation, restructuring, downsizing, line and station closures and privatisation. In 1993 the network was privatised, and until 2003 the national network was owned by Tranz Rail, previously New Zealand Rail Limited. The Government agreed to take over control of the national rail network back when Toll Holdings purchased Tranz Rail in 2003. In May 2008 the Government agreed to buy Toll NZ's rail and ferry operations for $665 million[24] and renamed the company KiwiRail.

Operators and services

Bulk freights dominate services, particularly coal, logs and wood products, milk and milk products, fertiliser, containers, steel and cars. Long distance passenger services are limited to three routes - the TranzAlpine (Christchurch - Greymouth), the TranzCoastal (Christchurch - Picton) and the Overlander (Wellington - Auckland). Urban rail services operate in Wellington and Auckland, and interurban services run between Palmerston North and Wellington (the Capital Connection) and Masterton and Wellington (the Wairarapa Connection).

For most of its history, New Zealand's rail services were operated by the Railways Department. In 1982, the Department was corporatised as the New Zealand Railways Corporation. The Corporation was split in 1990 between a limited liability operating company, New Zealand Rail Limited, and the Corporation which retained a number of assets to be disposed. New Zealand Rail was privatised in 1993, and renamed Tranz Rail in 1995. In 2001, Tranz Rail's long-distance passenger operations, under the guise of Tranz Scenic, became a separate company; Tranz Rail chose not to bid for the contract to run Auckland's rail services, and the contract was won by Connex (now Veolia Transport Auckland). Proposals to sell Tranz Rail's Wellington passenger rail services, Tranz Metro, did not come to fruition, although the division became a separate company in July 2003. In 2003 Tranz Rail was purchased by Australian freight firm Toll Holdings, which renamed the company Toll NZ.

The only other significant non-heritage operator is the tourist oriented Taieri Gorge Railway in Otago, which runs regular passenger trains on part of the former Otago Central Railway and some on the Main South Line.


The Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand coordinates the work of approximately sixty heritage railways and rail museums. Most of these are operated by groups of volunteers and have a historical or tourist focus.

Water transport

Mail steamer Mariposa casting off in Auckland in the 1880s, with a paddle steamer ferry in the front.

New Zealand has a long history of international and coastal shipping. Both Maori and the New Zealand European settlers arrived from overseas, and during the early European settler years, coastal shipping was one of the main methods of transportation,[25] while it was hard to move goods to or from the hinterlands, thus limiting the locations of early settlement.[2]

The two main islands are separated by Cook Strait, 24 km wide at its narrowest point, but requiring a 70-km ferry trip to cross. This is the only large-scale long-distance car / passenger shipping service left, with all others restricted to short ferry routes to islands like Stewart Island/Rakiura or Great Barrier Island.

New Zealand has 1,609 km of navigable inland waterways; however these are no longer significant transport routes.

International shipping

Historically, international shipping to and from New Zealand started out with the first explorer-traders, with New Zealand waters soon becoming a favourite goal for whalers as well as merchants trading with the Maori and beginning European colonies.

In the 19th century, one of the most important changes for New Zealand shipping - and for New Zealand itself - came with the introduction of refrigerated ships, which allowed New Zealand to export meat to overseas, primarily to the United Kingdom. This led to a booming agricultural industry which was suddenly offered a way to ship their goods to markets around the world.

Larger, deeper-draught ships from the middle of the 19th century made dredges a common sight in shipping channels around New Zealand, and tugboats were also often bought to assist them to the quays, where electric or hydraulic cranes were increasingly used for on- and off-loading. However, manpower was still needed in large amounts, and waterfronts were the hotbeds of the industrial actions of the early 20th century.[26]

In the 1970s, containerization revolutionised shipping, eventually coming to New Zealand as well. The local harbour boards wrought massive changes on those ports selected (after much political wrangling) to handle the new giant vessels, such as Lyttelton and Auckland Port. Gantry cranes , straddle carriers and powerful tugboats were built or purchased, and shipping channels dredged deeper, while large areas of land were reclaimed to enable the new container terminals. The changes have been described as having been more radical than the changeover from sail to steam a century before.[27]

However, containerisation made many of the smaller ports suffer, this being only later recovered somewhat with newer, smaller multi-purpose ships that could travel to smaller ports, and the loosening of the trade links with the United Kingdom, which diversified the trade routes. The time for river ports had gone however, and most of them disappeared, facing particular pressure from the new rail ferries, [27][26] In the 1980s, deregulation also involved and heavily changed the port industry, with harbour boards abolished, and replaced by more commercially-focussed companies. Many port jobs were lost, though shipping costs fell.[27]

Coastal shipping

As noted above, coastal shipping has long played a significant role in New Zealand. The industry has however faced a number of troubled times as well, such as during World War II when ship requisitioning caused shortages in the transport operation.[28] While many ports reopened after the war, they (and coastal shipping in general) faced huge pressure from rail.[26]

After cabotage was abolished in 1994, international shipping lines became able to undertake coastal shipping as opportune to them on their international routes to New Zealand. While reducing the cargo reshipment rates for New Zealand industry, this is seen by some as a heavy blow for local competitors, who, specialised in coastal shipping only, are less able to achieve the costs savings of large lines - these can generally operate profitably even without cargo on New Zealand-internal legs of their routes, and are thus able to underbid others. The law change has been accused of having turned the New Zealand business into a 'sunset industry' which will eventually die out.[29]

In the financial year 2003 / 2004 coastal cargo in New Zealand totalled around 8.6 million tonnes, of which 85% was still carried by local, and 15% by overseas shipping.[30]

In 2009, the National Party announced that funding for coastal shipping and supporting infrastructure, part of the "Sea Change" plan of the previous Labour government, would be cut to a substantial degree. The move was heavily criticised, amongst others, by the Green Party,[31] and the Maritime Union of New Zealand.[32]

Ferry services

Regular roll-on roll-off ferry services link the North and South Islands between Wellington and Picton, since 1962.[9] Interisland Line, a division of KiwiRail, owns the main inter-island ferry service, the Interislander. Two of the three ferries used by the Interislander, the Arahura and the Aratere, are rail ferries with special rail decks. The largest and newest ferry, Challenger (marketed as Kaitaki) came into operation in September 2005. A competitor service is operated by Strait Shipping Ltd, using ex-French ships Santa Regina and Monte Stello (not yet in service), under the 'Bluebridge' brand.

Depending on the vessel, usual transit time between the North and South Islands is between three hours and three hours twenty minutes. Faster catamaran ferries were used by Tranz Rail and its competitors. To reduce voyage times, Tranz Rail proposed to relocate the South Island terminal of its services to Clifford Bay in Marlborough, which would also avoid a steep section of railway. This proposal has been shelved since the takeover by Toll Holdings in 2003.

Smaller ferries operate in the Bay of Islands, Rawene (Northland), Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, the Marlborough Sounds and Lyttelton (Christchurch), and between Bluff and Half Moon Bay (Stewart Island/Rakiura).

Passenger ferry service also operated for many years between Wellington and Lyttleton (the port closest to Christchurch). This service was operated by the Union Steam Ship Company, and the passenger ferries typically operated an overnight service, although in later years the last of these vessels, the Rangatira, operated alternate nights in each direction plus a daylight sailing between Lyttleton up to Wellington on Saturdays (so as to get a balance of four sailings in each direction, each week). One of these passenger ferries, the Wahine, was lost in a storm as it entered Wellington harbor on 10 April 1968, with the loss of 51 passengers and crew. The final sailing of the Rangatira, which was custom built and entered service in 1972, was on 15 September 1976, after two money losing years (subsidised by the NZ government).[citation needed]

Ports and harbours

Merchant marine fleet

Ships by type 
bulk 3, cargo 2, container 1, petroleum tanker 2, roll-on/roll-off 1 (2002 estimate)
9 ships (1,000 GRT or over), totaling 69,685 GRT/106,627 metric tons deadweight (DWT)

Air transport


Christchurch Airport, the largest in the South Island.

There are 113 airports in New Zealand (2002 est.). The main international airport is Auckland Airport, which handled about 11 million passengers in 2005.[33] Christchurch Airport and Wellington Airport each handle about 4 million passengers per year.

With paved runways

total: 46
10,000 ft (3048 m) or more: 2
8000 ft to 9999 ft (2438 m to 3047 m): 1
5000 ft to 7999 ft (1524 m to 2437 m): 10
3000 ft to 4999 ft (914 m to 1523 m): 28
under 3000 ft (914 m): 5 (2002)

With unpaved runways

total: 67
5000 ft to 7999 ft (1524 m to 2437 m): 2
3000 ft to 4999 ft (914 m to 1523 m): 26
under 3000 ft (914 m): 39 (2002)


1 (2002), Auckland, Mechanics Bay


Petroleum products 160 km; natural gas 1,000 km; liquified petroleum gas (LPG) 150 km.

Overseas visitors

Nearly one-third of those surveyed in the International Visitor Survey in 2000 had used domestic air services; rental cars and coach tours were each used by one-quarter. Transport by private car and ferry were the fourth and fifth most common means of transport, ahead of scheduled bus and train.[citation needed]

Rental car was the preferred method of transport for visitors from Australia in 2000, by 30%. Next in importance were domestic air travel (18%) and private car (17%). Rental cars, private cars and ferries were the top three methods of transport for visitors from the United Kingdom and Canada. The popularity of private cars for visitors from Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada could be attributed to the high proportion of visitors from these countries who come to visit friends and relatives.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Petrol spike prompts call for more public transport spending". The New Zealand Herald. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roads - Development (from Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 1966 Edition. Accessed 2008-07-19.)
  3. ^ Why does Transit build roads where it does? (from the Transit New Zealand website. Accessed 2008-06-07.)
  4. ^ Road Engineering - Design of Highways (from Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 1966 Edition. Accessed 2008-06-07.)
  5. ^ When did New Zealand first have a motorway? (from the Transit New Zealand website)
  6. ^ How many kilometres of state highways are there? (from the Transit New Zealand website)
  7. ^ How long are New Zealand's motorways? (from the Transit New Zealand website)
  8. ^ Roads - Administration (from Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 1966 Edition. Accessed 2008-07-19.)
  9. ^ a b A Wheel on Each Corner, The History of the IPENZ Transportation Group 1956-2006 - Douglass, Malcolm; IPENZ Transportation Group, 2006, Page 12
  10. ^ Total licensed vehicles, by vehicle type as at year end June 2006 (from the Land Transport New Zealand website
  11. ^ Age profile of major vehicle types, by type and age group, as at year end 2006 (from the Land Transport New Zealand website)
  12. ^ Main countries of previous registration of ex-overseas (used-imports) cars (from the Land Transport New Zealand website)
  13. ^ Top 20 cars of 2006 (from the Land Transport New Zealand website)
  14. ^ a b Alexander Turnbull Library, Map New Zealand, Godwit/Random House, Auckland 2006
  15. ^ Decision, retrieved 2009-03-30
  16. ^ Cyclists fear the bash - The New Zealand Herald, Sunday 14 December 2008
  17. ^ Press release on funding levels
  18. ^ Rules for cycling in the Road Code; accessed 20 Dec 2009
  19. ^ Reported Injury Crashes 2005: Section 2 - Casualties and Crashes (PDF) (from the New Zealand Ministry of Transport)
  20. ^ Reported Injury Crashes 2005: Section 7 - Local Body Casualties and Crashes (PDF) (from the New Zealand Ministry of Transport)
  21. ^ Lousy NZ drivers blamed for high death toll - The New Zealand Herald, Monday 18 February 2008
  22. ^ Teen drivers drinking and driving more than ever - police - The New Zealand Herald, Tuesday 24 November 2009
  23. ^ "Rail buy back marks new sustainable transport era". 5 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  24. ^ New Zealand's Burning: Overview of coastal shipping 1885 - Arnold, Rollo, Victoria Press, Victoria University of Wellington, 1994
  25. ^ a b c "Ports and harbours - The Victorian era to 1960". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  26. ^ a b c "Ports and harbours - The Modern Era". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  27. ^ War Economy - Coastal Shipping (from Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45, BAKER, J. V. T.; Historical Publications Branch, Department of Internal Affairs Wellington, New Zealand 1965)
  28. ^ New Zealand Shipping (DOC) (from the 'New Zealand Shipping Federation' website)
  29. ^ Coastal Shipping Cargo - 2003/03 (PDF) (from a Ministry of Transport report, March 2005)
  30. ^ Shock funding cut to coastal shipping - Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand press release, 25 March 2009
  31. ^ Transport Unions say sole focus on road building in infrastructure package the wrong focus for New Zealand - Maritime Union of New Zealand website.
  32. ^ Auckland Airport in 2005 (from the official Auckland Airport website)

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2003 edition".

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address