Transport minister Phil Twyford was quite excited yesterday afternoon. "We're changing the world," he told the Herald. And, he added, "It's going to mean a quantum shift in the way we invest in Auckland."

He was not wrong. The obvious changes to transport funding are that public transport and active transport (walking and cycling) will get substantially more money, at the expense of the former government's Roads of National Significance (RONS). But there's a lot more to it than that.

One big change is that the Land Transport Fund will now cover spending across all land transport modes. This means the new transport strategy should be able to fully integrate planning for roads and rail, public transport and private use, existing bus and rail services and the proposed new rapid transit network.

To measure the significance of this, consider Auckland's wildly successful Northern Busway. It was built with special funds from the Crown, not through Land Transport funding, and the stations were paid for by local councils. That piecemeal approach is no longer.


It's not just "improvements to quality and frequency" of public transport but, he said, also "possible fare reductions".

Whatever it takes: "We need to make it worth their while for people to get out of their single-occupancy cars."

Further down the track he expects to introduce "demand pricing", which means charging private vehicles on the roads at busy times and/or in busy areas.

But the minister played down another big change, which is to clearly anoint the NZ Transport Agency in Wellington as the lead agency in Auckland transport planning.

"It's not really a downgrading of Auckland Transport," he said, adding that he didn't see it as a particular threat to the authority of Auckland Council either.

But it's hard to see it any other way. Wearing his other hat, as Minister of Housing, Twyford has already signalled he will establish a new Urban Development Authority to take the lead role in getting houses built in Auckland.

We saw something very similar in the way his colleague David Parker took over the lead role in negotiating a good solution to the question of where the America's Cup syndicates should be based.

This transport move is strike three. Clearly, the new government is not going to wait for the agencies of the supercity to come up with bold new plans for solving our overlapping the infrastructure crises. They're going to step in and do it themselves.


Still, nothing happens overnight. Twyford told the Herald the new funding would allow all the planning and consenting for light rail from downtown Auckland to the airport, with "shovels in the ground" before the end of their first term.

That's a year or two slower than everyone was hoping for, especially if that project is to have relevance for the America's Cup in 2021.

Second priority, for rapid transit, will be a new busway linking the airport through Puhinui and Manukau, to Flat Bush, Botany and Howick. "That's the great forgotten part of Auckland's transport needs," said Twyford, and he's certainly not wrong about that.

Safety has the top priority, nationwide. "Look at it this way," said Twyford. "For half the cost of the former government's East West Link, between Penrose and Onehunga, we could put a median barrier on every kilometre of state highway in New Zealand."

National's transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says the new plan will strip $5 billion in roading projects out of the regions.

Twyford denies that. "Those old RONS weren't in the regions, they were in the larger provincial cities," he said. "And they took 25 per cent of the total transport spend, but they were going to carry only four per cent of the traffic."

Twyford said the government's vision was to use transport funding to help "unclog the cities and kickstart the regions". It's the right goal. We're going to hold them to it.