Transport Minister Simon Bridges has flagged a potential expansion of public transport outside main cities.
The possibility was raised in papers, issued today, which confirm a Government plan to invest $38.7 billion over 10 years in land transport, mainly from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.
That is the same overall amount as indicated in a draft Government policy statement (GPS) for transport issued in June by his ministerial predecessor, Gerry Brownlee.
It will require further annual increases in fuel taxes, including 3c a litre next July.
But although roads will take almost 75 per cent of spending over the next 10 years, Mr Bridges has approved a potential maximum average increase in public transport spending to 3.5 per cent a year, compared with 3 per cent proposed by his predecessor.
He said in a Cabinet paper that the adjustment followed submissions from provincial councils concerned that the focus of funding was on main urban centres, precluding public transport service development in mid-sized and small towns.
"I also propose that GPS 2015 makes it clear that, where there is sufficient demand, new or expanded services may be able to be supported in areas outside the major urban centers," Mr Bridges said.
He said the document would also direct funding for the first time towards regional improvements, providing up to $90 million a year to non-urban areas to develop their strategic transport networks.
The document finalised by the minister sets Government funding bands for each year to 2025.
It is now up to the Transport Agency to determine annual budgets within those ranges for categories including state highway improvements and maintenance, and Government subsidies to territorial councils for local roads, public transport, walking and cycling.
Although roads will continue to take almost 75 per cent of budgets over the 10 years, the Government has decided to ease the pedal off the rate at which new highways are built.
It wants spending on them to keep increasing, by an average of 4 per cent a year, but that is slightly down on a 4.6 per cent growth rate indicated in the previous Government transport policy statement in 2012.
Mr Bridges said the updated statement reaffirmed the Government's commitment to continued development of high-quality connections between key areas of production, processing and exports.
That means pressing on with its roads of national significance programme, which includes a further $2.45 billion investment in Auckland's western ring route and its merger at Albany with State Highway 1.
All other transport categories are to received higher annual increases in spending, including the maintenance of state highways (average 3 per cent a year), local road improvements (4.3 per cent), public transport (3.5 per cent), walking and cycling (3 per cent) and road policing (1.9 per cent).
Mr Bridges acknowledged most submissions received on the draft policy statement sought more money for cycling.
But although he has declined to adjust the budget on that point, he said a Government commitment of $100 million from asset sales over four years for urban cycleways outside the normal land transport budget would help to provide up to $193m for walking and cycling improvements between now and 2018.
He said the Transport Agency had also identified $80m of walking and cycling investments in association with projects in roading and other budget categories.
Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the policy statement represented "a huge misallocation of resources" by directing the lion's share of funding into new roads when the use of motor vehicles had stopped growing.
Minimum Government funding over 10 years / Maximum Government funding
State Highways $16.3 billion / $23.4b
Local roads $6.04b / $9.1b
Public transport $3.2b / $4.6b
Walking/cycling $171 million / $390m
Regional improvements $695m / $925m
Road safety promotion $331m / $396m
Investment management $575m / $634m
Road policing $3.02b / $3.5b