Transport Minister Simeon Brown has announced a significant increase in public transport funding, which he describes as a record investment. The New Zealand Transport Agency has confirmed a 41% increase in funding for public transport services and operations over the next three years compared to the previous allocation. This means that the total budget for public transport will rise from $1.38 billion to $1.95 billion once final allocations are confirmed in late August.

Regions like Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay are set to receive substantial boosts in funding, with increases of 89% and 116% respectively. This translates to an increase from $1.95 million to $3.69 million for Gisborne and from $8 million to $17.5 million for Hawke’s Bay. Minister Brown emphasized that the government is committed to supporting public transport to offer more travel options for New Zealanders and to provide reliable services to commuters nationwide.

In addition to the funding increase, Minister Brown also announced the introduction of contactless debit and credit card payments for public transport use through the National Ticketing Solution. This new system will also include digital payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay on phones and smartwatches. The aim is to make public transport services more convenient, user-friendly, and consistent for passengers. The roll-out of this service will begin in Auckland later this year, followed by Christchurch in early 2025, and all other regions by the end of 2026.

Despite the positive developments, Labour transport spokesperson Tangi Utikere expressed concerns about the government’s decision to reduce free and half-price travel options during a cost-of-living crisis. However, he acknowledged that the implementation of a national ticketing system has been a long time coming and is a step in the right direction for improving public transport accessibility.

Overall, the increased investment in public transport and the introduction of new payment options are expected to enhance the overall public transport experience for passengers across New Zealand. By providing more funding and modernizing payment methods, the government aims to encourage greater use of public transport and reduce reliance on private vehicles, ultimately benefiting both commuters and the environment.