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Inter-regional public transport is now easier
The new Sustainable Public Transport Framework is law in Aotearoa. It makes inter-regional public transport easier. But what does this really mean?
Back in June 2023, I wrote about how the flow of water could determine access to public transport. This article pointed out that the then-proposed Sustainable Public Transport Framework kicked the issue of inter-regional public transport to touch.
Well, there’s good news on that front and some even better news.
Firstly, numerous submitters to the Land Transport Management (Regulation of Public Transport) Amendment Bill, implementing the Sustainable Public Transport Framework, including myself and Malcolm McCracken on behalf of Future is Rail, pointed out that there was no sound public policy rationale for treating inter-regional public transport any differently than intra-regional public transport. Especially given that many regional boundaries are aligned with river catchments, meaning that the flow of the water could determine whether or not you have access to public transport.
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This led to the following change in the legislation which was recently adopted by Pāremata Aotearoa/ New Zealand Parliament.
The deletion of this one line in the final legislation means that public transport that crosses a regional boundary is no longer by that very fact considered to be an ‘exempt’ service, and therefore not subject to the objectives and policies of any applicable regional public transport plan. This is a big positive step forward.
According to the select committee’s report “By removing the automatic exemption for inter-regional services, our hope is that councils would be able to collaborate more easily to provide inter-regional services. To support this aim, we think that if a regional council wished to propose an interregional service, it should be required to consult with relevant local authorities in the other regions the service would operate in. We recommend amending clause 15(2) to provide for this.1”
It does this by extending the consultation requirement for Regional Public Transport Plans. According to the legislation “if the regional council proposes to plan, procure, or operate an inter-regional public transport service, all relevant local authorities in the other regions in which the service is proposed to operate.2”
This should simplify the process, as recommended in the Future is Rail submission, so that one region can be the lead agency for services operating in more than one region, so long as they consult all relevant local authorities in that region.
The legislation also requires inter-regional services to be part of a unit for procurement purposes, which effectively means that such inter-regional services would operate under the Sustainable Public Transport Framework in the same way as intra-regional public transport services.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of cautionary notes. The legislation applies prospectively, not retrospectively and requires Regional Public Transport Plans to specify inter-regional public transport services that are 'integral’ to the public transport network. So will take some time to achieve full effect.
But overall, the final form of the legislation will make it substantially easier to plan inter-regional public transport, supported by there being a funding category in Te Tauākī Kaupapa Here a te Kāwanatanga mō ngā waka whenua 2024/ Draft Government Policy Statement on land transport 2024 to extend and improve inter-regional public transport services. This is all good news for Aotearoa/ New Zealand.
Final Report (Land Transport Management (Regulation of Public Transport) Amendment Bill, Transport and Infrastructure Committee, Pāremata Aotearoa/ New Zealand Parliament page 4.