Who is responsible for public transport in New Zealand

A number of different groups of people are responsible for some aspects of public transport. This article gives a quick outline of who they are, and what they are responsible for.

Ministry of Transport

This is a government department, which is responsible for "ensuring our transport system helps New Zealanders thrive".

They don't actually run the public transport system - but they do get everyone to agree about how it will work.

The "Public Transport Operating Model" (PTOM) is the official name for the current agreement for urban bus and ferry services. It was agreed by the governement in 2011, and started operating on on 13 June 2013. It aims to:
  • Make public transport services more commercial - ideally so they don't need any subsidy, and
  • Convince everyone that public transport is priced efficiently and that if someone could provide a better or cheaper services, they can do this.

It is a "planning, procurement and business development framework". This means it describes how planning will work, and how subsidies will be given out.

It asks regional councils, bus and ferry companies to be "partners" in planning and running public transport services, to help them to "deliver... affordable urban bus and ferry services that people want to use."    ref: Public Transport Operating Model (18-March-2015)

And it gives permission for tenders to provide public transport services to be judged on price and on other factors, including the company previous performance. (In the past, because they were spending government money, people letting government tenders have to choose the one with the lowest price).

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)

This is a Crown entity and is responsible for "promoting safe and functional transport by land, including the ... driver and vehicle licensing and investigating rail accidents". Some of the things it does are:
  • Guiding regional councils about their public transport work
  • Approving the process for how regional councils let contracts for subsidised public transport services
  • Paying for infrastructure (eg bus-stations, cycle-lanes)
  • Monitoring how public transport overall is working, and researching ways to make it better
  • Planning and funding transport for people with disabilities (Total Mobility) and people over 65 (SuperGold).

Regional councils  (and Auckland Transport)

These are local government organisations, and have to do these things for their area:
  • Make a Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) - planning for all types of transport (public and private)
  • Make a Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) - planning for the types of public transport services that are needed, and how to pay for them (including government subsidisies in some cases).
  • Monitor the region's transport network
  • Provide information about public transport
  • Build public transport infrastructure (eg bus station, shelters)
  • Register passenger services that are available to the general public and will pick-up or set-down in the area.

The last point, about "register passenger services .. " is particularly interesting. The Ministry of Transport guidelines more-or-less say that anyone who had vehicles and drivers that meet the legal requirements can register and thus operate a service. But some regional councils (at least) are clear that they have the right to refuse to register a service - and that if they decline to register a bus service, it may not pick up or set down passengers in the area. One example of the approach which a council uses to make decisions like this is found here

As well as these central rules, some councils have local aims too, eg promoting carpooling, cycling and walking to reducing vehicle emissions - these are agreed by the elected regional councillors.

Bus companies and ferry companies

Companies which actually run public transport services are responsible for:
  • Running the bus and ferry services as agreed with the regional council
  • Talking to the regional council about what changes are needed to the public transport system, and work with them to make these changes

Other companies

There are many other companies who run some parts of the public transport system in New Zealand.

They include shuttles, bicycle-hire, taxis, aeroplaces, tourism companies, etc. The licencing and operating rules are different for each of them: some have other government agencies which set rules about how they work, while others (eg bicycle hire) have almost no rules to follow.