Current Alerts and Notices (View all)

Road conditions(2) Swimming pools notice(1)

Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti
Green pattern.

Key Transport Challenges for Dunedin

It is clear there are a number of challenges that will affect Dunedin’s transport network, and how people and businesses will choose to travel and to move goods. Some of these challenges are national or global and many cities around the country and the rest of the world are faced with the same, or similar, challenges. Others are more specific to Dunedin due to factors including our geography, socio-economic conditions and the nature of our existing transport network.

2.1 Road safety

Dunedin’s risk ranking

Road safety is a major challenge for Dunedin. Table 1 shows the areas and user groups in which Dunedin has particularly high risk when compared to other territorial authorities (TAs) across the country, as identified in the NZTA’s Communities at Risk Register (CARR). The CARR has been developed by the NZTA to identify communities that are over-represented in terms of road safety risk. The CARR is based on the key areas of concern outlined in Safer Journeys and should be the focus of safety investment decisions.

For overall road safety risk, the CARR ranks Dunedin as having seventh highest risk out of New Zealand’s 67 TAs and unitary authorities in 2013. This is a slight improvement from a ranking of third highest in 2011. Dunedin’s overall risk level is the highest of all the major urban centres in New Zealand, with only a few low-income rural North Island TAs ranked as having higher overall risk.

Table 1. Dunedin’s risk ranking for each Safer Journeys areas of concern, relative to the rest of New Zealand.

Communities at Risk Register7
Dunedin’s national risk ranking in 2013
Safer Journeys area of concern Dunedin’s risk ranking out of the 67 TAs and unitary councils in New Zealand
Intersections Highest risk
Young drivers 2nd highest risk
Older road users 3rd highest risk
Motorcyclists 3rd highest risk
Pedestrians 3rd highest risk
Cyclists 5th highest risk
OVERALL RISK RANKING 7th highest of 67

As shown in Table 1, the CARR highlights that areas of particular safety concern in Dunedin are intersections (particularly urban intersections), young drivers, older road users, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists. These are the key areas of high risk in which Dunedin is under-performing relative to other similar cities.

The cost of poor road safety in Dunedin

The CARR is based on fatal and serious injury crash data and investment is increasingly targeted at reducing these types of crashes, because they incur the highest social cost. ‘Social cost’ means the total cost of road crashes to the nation, including loss of life and life quality, loss of productivity, medical costs, legal costs, and vehicle and property damage costs8. The Ministry of Transport estimates the average social cost per crash to be (in June 2012 prices):

  • $4,445,600 per fatal crash
  • $772,000 per serious injury crash
  • $85,000 per minor injury crash.

Figure 3 Figure 3 shows that road crashes in Dunedin over the five years from 2008 to 2012 had a total social cost of $581 million9.

In Dunedin, fatal and serious injury crashes make up approximately 60% ($348 million) of the total social cost, even though they only account for approximately 7% of the total number of crashes. This is because the social cost of deaths and serious injuries is much higher than for minor or non-injury crashes. In the 12 months to May 2013, Dunedin’s fatal and serious injury crashes cost approximately $75 million. For many serious injury crashes, the costs are on-going as they result in long-term healthcare needs. This cost is higher still when the casualty is a young person who may need on-going support and health care for the rest of their lives.

Figure 3. Social cost of all crashes in Dunedin from 2008 – 2012.Figure 3. Social cost of all crashes in Dunedin from 2008 – 2012.


Research has identified that the traffic environment around schools is one of the most complex road transport environments, and is the most complex traffic environment normally encountered by children10. Schools are unique among traffic generators in that they create a large spike in vehicle movements in concentrated areas twice a day, for a short period of time. This vehicle movement corresponds with a peak in vulnerable road user activity, with high numbers of children and parents walking, cycling or scooting in the school area. This creates a major challenge for children who struggle to read this complex traffic environment, including unpredictable vehicle movements as a large number of cars travel at erratic speeds and pull in and out of parking spaces.

The research highlights that the transitory nature of traffic around schools has tended to hide the risks this situation presents to all users, but especially to children. Environments around schools, first and foremost, need to be safe for children.

More generally, children and young people have different transport needs and different behaviours to those of adults. Adequately and safely providing for this, particularly around schools, is important. Overcoming these challenges and ensuring on-going safety for children and all road users around schools is likely to require creativity, new thinking and a co-operative approach between schools, parents, pupils, the Police and the DCC.

2.2 Volatile fuel prices

Fuel prices have been volatile for several years (as illustrated below in Figure 411) and are expected to continue to be so in the future. Fuel price volatility is likely to lead to changes in travel behaviour and people’s choice of mode, but also land use and population movements and the cost of maintaining, renewing and developing transport infrastructure. The New Zealand government’s policy direction for transport, Connecting New Zealand, identifies that “fuel prices are expected to rise with continued volatility, and this will impact on demand for transport and for new fuel technologies.”12

A 2010 report from the New Zealand Parliamentary Library identified that “Low-cost reserves of oil are being rapidly exhausted, forcing oil companies to turn to more expensive sources of oil. This replacement of low-cost sources of oil with higher costs sources is driving the price of oil higher”13. The report highlights that this shift from low-cost to high-cost oil has been a key factor driving price increases over the past decade. The report suggested that world oil production capacity will remain relatively stable till 2015 but demand will continue to rise, leading to supply crunches and oil price spikes, with the International Energy Agency and the US military having identified that more supply crunches are likely to occur due to rising demand and insufficient production capacity. It also points out that “New Zealand is heavily dependent on oil imports and will remain so for the foreseeable future”.

In this global context, New Zealand will be exposed to the effect of these supply crunches and price fluctuations. Despite the rising fuel prices New Zealand has experienced over the past decade, researchers point out that the New Zealand public has not felt the full effect of rising global oil prices due to a corresponding increase in the value of the New Zealand dollar. If the value of the New Zealand dollar was to drop the price of petrol ‘at the pump’ would increase further14.

Figure 4.Figure 4. The price of petrol in New Zealand has been increasing for several decades, and most dramatically since 2000.

In New Zealand, the transport sector is responsible for 86% of total oil consumption, with road transport using 87% of that total. In addition to the oil-based fuel used in motor vehicles, our roads themselves are also oil-dependent. Bitumen, the binding agent used in asphalt road surfaces, is an oil-based product which also increases in expense as oil prices rise. This means, in the absence of more cost-effective alternatives, the cost of maintenance and renewal of existing asphalt roads will increase, as will the cost of building new roads

In 2010, the DCC commissioned a ‘Peak Oil Vulnerability Assessment for Dunedin’15. This report identified that personal car travel consumes nearly 75% of the fuel in Dunedin. The report also highlighted that, because non-car travel options are available for at least 60% of these trips it is likely that in the long-term “…non-productive and non-critical uses of oil…”, that is those uses for which alternatives are available, “…will come under the most pressure to change” in the event of future fuel price or supply challenges. In the short term, continual fluctuations in fuel prices may cause residents to make moderate changes to their travel behaviour (making fewer trips, less often and for shorter distances), and/or to their transport modes by choosing lower energy options such as walking, cycling (either conventional or electric), car-pooling or using public transport. The report also highlighted that Dunedin can expect moderate growth in the use of alternative fuels (such as electric vehicles and bio-fuels) as well as lower cost transport modes such as mopeds, electric bikes and motorbikes.

A challenge for Dunedin is to be adaptable and responsive to the demands and requirements of these new technologies, as disussed in the following section.

Dunedin also has a large rural area with remote rural communities. Many of these communities rely heavily on private motor vehicle transport to connect with their local centre, central Dunedin and the various goods, services and social and economic opportunities on which they depend. Fuel price volatility is therefore likely to have a major effect on Dunedin’s rural communities. For many of these more remote communities, a high degree of self-reliance and community self-help will be necessary to retain access to goods and services in the event that fuel costs increase16.

Figure 5.Figure 5. New Zealand has one of the highest levels of car ownership per capita in the developed world

Figure 6.Figure 6. Most Dunedin residents travel to work in a private vehicle

Figure 7.Figure 7. Household access to cars in Dunedin as identified in the 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses

Figure 8.Figure 8. Vehicle kilometres travelled in Dunedin per annum rose sharply from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, but have been levelling off since 2004

2.3 Technological development

There have been significant technological improvements over recent years leading to improved fuel efficiency and improved options for non-fossil fuel based travel. A study undertaken for the NZTA in 2008 identified that “Improvements in vehicle technology may be expected to mitigate the impacts of rising fuel prices by reducing the sensitivity of travel demands to increasing fuel prices17. This report highlighted that improvements in vehicle technology generally fall into one of two key categories: improvements in fuel economy and alternatives to oil. Examples of technologies that improve fuel economy are widely available on the New Zealand market and include common rail diesel vehicles, hybrid diesel electric vehicles and ‘High Efficiency Vehicles’ (HEVs) (such as the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris). Examples of technologies based on alternatives to oil that are currently available include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and electric powered two-wheelers (generally scooters and bicycles). The 2010 report ‘Peak Oil Vulnerability Assessment for Dunedin’ identified that HEVs are likely to make up a greater proportion of Dunedin’s vehicle fleet in the medium to long term. As of November 2012, there were approximately 60 BEVs registered in New Zealand18, however models such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Holden Volt and Nissan Leaf, are all available on the market and costs are decreasing all the time. It is generally accepted that the number of such vehicles, as well as electric powered two-wheelers, will continue to increase.

In addition to new vehicle technology, a range of computerised applications, broadly termed ‘Intelligent Transport Systems’ (ITS), are also playing an increasing role in improving safety and efficiency and mitigating the effect of recent fuel price increases and future price volatility around the globe. According to the European Union, ITS are “advanced applications which… enable various users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated and ‘smarter’ use of transport networks”19. ITS “…integrate telecommunications, electronics and information technologies with transport engineering in order to plan, design, operate, maintain and manage transport systems” and are capable of making  a “significant contribution to improving environmental performance, efficiency, including energy efficiency, safety and security of road transport”20. New Zealand already has some examples of ITS in place, for example helping aircraft into airports, and telling public transport users when their bus or train will arrive21. Though ITS does not currently play a significant role in Dunedin’s transport system, according to the Ministry of Transport ITS technologies are on the threshold of much wider application and the Ministry is currently consulting on their future application in New Zealand. At the time of writing, the Ministry of Transport is also trialling an application of ITS in partnership with a private provider to assess benefits for more efficient freight movement. The findings of this trial will contribute to a greater understanding of the role ITS might play in the future of transport in New Zealand and Dunedin.

The extent to which such technologies might mitigate the impacts of fuel price fluctuations or increases is difficult to quantify for several reasons. New Zealand’s vehicle fleet is ageing compared to other developed countries. A Massey University study has shown that “The average age of vehicle fleet in New Zealand has increased from 12 years in 2008 to 13 years in 2012. Between 2002 and 2012, the average age of vehicles in New Zealand was approximately 12 years, compared to about 10 years in Australia and the USA, and eight years in Canada”22. This has an impact on the extent to which technological advances in efficiency permeate into the New Zealand fleet. Additionally, while vehicles have been becoming more efficient, New Zealand households have, until recently, had increasing rates of car ownership and have driven increasing numbers of kilometres, also countering the positive effects of greater efficiency on fuel spend. It has also been identified that many of the fuel efficiency gains over the past decade have been balanced by increased ownership of larger vehicles, such as Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs)23. Over time, the New Zealand light vehicle fleet will become increasingly fuel efficient, on a per kilometre basis, as older, less efficient, vehicles exit the fleet. However it is not clear what the overall effect of this will be given that it will be affected by other factors such as the rate at which older vehicles exit the fleet, the type and size of newer vehicles entering the fleet, the amount of vehicle travel being undertaken, the cost of fuel and changes in household income. Due to this uncertainty, the impacts of fuel price volatility are considered to be a challenge even in light of improvements in fuel efficiency and new technologies.

It appears that such technological progress is likely to play an increasingly important role in Dunedin’s transport system in future therefore a key challenge for the DCC will be to keep in touch with rapid developments and maintain a close dialogue with the transport sector regarding new technology. Remaining flexible and responsive will be critical in the event that changes or improvements to our transport system become more viable, or necessary, as a result of improving technology.

2.4 Private motor vehicle dependence

New Zealand is one of the most car-dependent countries in the world. As shown in Figure 5, car ownership levels in New Zealand are particularly high compared to most other developed countries. Consistent with this, Dunedin is dependent on cars, with relatively low rates of public transport or active mode (walking and cycling) use. This is shown in Figure 6, which outlines the main means of travel used by Dunedin residents to get to work, taken from the 2006 census.

Not only does Dunedin have a high rate of car use but Dunedin households have increasingly had access to more cars over the past 15 years (as illustrated in Figure 7). Over the ten years from 1996 to 2006, the number of households that did not have access to a car decreased from 6897 to 5007. Similarly, the number of households with only one car decreased over this decade as more households acquired two or three (or more) cars.

This increasing car ownership has also correlated to an increasing amount of vehicle travel. Figure 8 shows the sharp rise in vehicle kilometres travelled in Dunedin from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.

Since the 1950s, transport planning has generally made a priority of providing for private motor vehicles. This was driven by new social and economic opportunities arising out of the post-war economic boom, the availability of cheap fuel, and the increasing availability and affordability of cars (particularly with the rise of cheap imported vehicles since the 1970s).

Much of Dunedin’s transport network has been developed in this context of increasing vehicle use and private travel, and in anticipation of a degree of city growth which, largely, has not occurred. This has insulated Dunedin from many of the transport problems that bigger cities face, especially in regard to urban sprawl, congestion, pollution and car parking. This has benefitted private vehicle use and helped make Dunedin very accessible by car. Well maintained roads, generally ample parking (though there are localised parking issues in areas such as the tertiary and medical precincts), low traffic volumes and free-flowing urban street environments with no significant congestion all contribute to Dunedin’s relatively short vehicle travel times.

While there are many benefits associated with motor vehicle transport for those who have access to a car (and wish to use one) this has also, unfortunately, contributed to some transport problems, as follows.

Car prioritisation and Dunedin’s transport network

Research identifies that where vehicles speeds are higher, and where little provision is made for active modes, road safety is generally compromised24. In keeping with this, partly due to wide, high-speed urban street environments (such as the one-way system, Andersons Bay Road, Princes Street, and Hillside Road) and poor provision for other modes (such as buses, walking and cycling), road safety has suffered in Dunedin. Dunedin’s poor road safety record is discussed in detail above in Section 2.1. Poor provision for non-car modes is itself both a cause and a result of the lack of demand for these modes – even extending, historically, to underinvestment in the rail network for freight or passenger movement.

In some areas, such as the Warehouse Precinct south of Queens Gardens, or around the University campus, provision for private motor vehicles has also meant amenity, pedestrian connectivity and, in some instances, surrounding land use value has suffered. In addition people are increasingly requesting provision being made for other modes (specifically walking, cycling and public transport) rather than a continuation of the previous focus on providing primarily for cars.

Car dependence and parking

A recent study of the impacts of DCC’s 2009 Parking Strategy identified that “Two statements that appeared repeatedly in the interviews was the desire by people in Dunedin to park right outside where they are going”, and that “…Dunedin people expect parking to be free. Many of the responses in the CBD survey show a tendency to lump these two together – convenient and free is the desired parking state”25. This parking demand increases the volume of traffic in destination areas as well as the amount of traffic circulation and distraction as people drive around looking for a convenient on-street parking space. This all has a negative effect on road safety (particularly for vulnerable users in the central city) and urban amenity. Demand for free and convenient on- and off-street parking in the Central City and some centres is difficult to cater for with the existing levels of car use in Dunedin. It also conflicts with other priorities and objectives, such as providing pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and improving the safety and amenity of the urban environment.

Car dependence and schools

Dunedin’s culture of car dependence also contributes to issues around schools as many parents choose to drop off and pick up their children by car and attempt to do so as close to the school gate as possible. This is a result of the priority that has been given to car transport and the common concern among parents and caregivers about the safety of their children walking and cycling. The car traffic around schools can be a safety hazard for children and creates a barrier to them using active travel modes, despite the fact that many children would prefer to cycle, scooter or walk to school, as evidenced by DCC school travel surveys (as discussed above in Section 2.1).

Car dependence and rural communities

Car dependence is also a challenge for Dunedin’s rural communities. Many of Dunedin’s rural communities are not served by public transport and distances are often too great for walking and cycling to play a significant role in connecting these communities to the social and economic opportunities provided in centres or wider Dunedin. These rural areas generate much of Dunedin’s produce for export, which is largely dependent on road-based motor vehicle freight movement, namely trucks.

These factors have all contributed to a culture (widespread in countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States) in which private car and truck use has come to be seen as the social norm, and use of long-standing modes such as public transport, walking, cycling and rail have come to be seen as ‘alternative’ modes26. Any change to this culture would involve a change in people’s perceptions of social norms.

Additionally, despite Dunedin’s high level of car ownership, the proportion of Dunedin residents that do not have access to a car is also higher than the national average and, in a city that has prioritised the demand for car travel, the travel needs of these residents have not traditionally been well provided for. This issue is discussed in more depth in Section 2.8 ‘Social Exclusion’.

Car dependence in a future of volatile fuel prices

Despite the prevalence of car use in Dunedin there is a clear correlation between the popularity of private car travel and the cost of fuel. As outlined earlier in Section 2.2, it appears the cost of transport fuel will continue to be volatile for the foreseeable future. This is already having an effect on how much people are choosing to drive.

As Figure 8 illustrated, the amount of vehicle travel in Dunedin is no longer increasing at anywhere near the rate it had been prior to 2004. In some years (such as 2004, 2006 and 2012) there have even been decreases in vehicle kilometres travelled. This change is consistent with trends seen across New Zealand as a whole. The Ministry of Transport has identified that total annual travel in New Zealand was steadily increasing until 2006 (up 13% from 2001 to 2006), but in the period since then high oil prices and economic recession have led to a decrease in travel (down 1% from 2007 to 2011)27.

On a nationwide basis, car ownership also steadily increased until 2006 and has since plateaued and slightly declined, and, while cars still make up the vast majority of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet, the biggest increase in recent years has been in the proportion of buses and motorcycles/mopeds in the fleet. This increase in the number of buses and motorcycles/mopeds has been matched by a corresponding increase in the amount of travel being made by buses and motorcycles/mopeds, and a decrease in the amount of travel being made by private cars28. All these trends correlate to the increased cost of fuel and economic downturn experienced since 2006, which highlights the need to plan for alternatives when price volatility is predicted to continue and possibly increase.

How these trends unfold in the future will confirm whether this change is a short-term interruption in an otherwise general increase in car ownership and kilometres travelled, or alternatively, if it represents a more permanent departure from the pattern of increasing car dominance that has occurred over recent decades. Whatever the case, the indication is that while private car travel has long been dominant and provision has been made to accommodate this demand, in a prolonged period of increasing fuel cost, active modes and public transport are likely to become increasingly desirable.

The importance of improving Dunedin’s safety record, and ensuring Dunedin’s on-going accessibility, in light of economic, fuel price, and population-related challenges, will require reducing dependence on fossil-fuel powered motor-vehicles and increasing travel choices. Achieving this may entail changes to the way in which we allocate space to different modes on the transport network, including on-street parking, and may require increased priority being given to non-car transport modes. It may be difficult to obtain funding subsidies for some of these changes if they do not align with central Government investment priorities. There may also be resistance from some road users as the city adapts to new approaches.

The private motor vehicle will continue to play an important role in Dunedin’s transport system for the foreseeable future, and will continue to be the preferred mode for most residents and businesses for some time to come. Therefore, provision for cars and trucks will remain a central part of Dunedin’s transport network. However, increasing interest in cycling and strong feedback from the Dunedin community about the need to improve public transport and increase the use of rail for freight suggest that the social norms regarding private vehicle use may be shifting as the benefits of other options become clear and these modes grow in popularity.

2.5 Population trends

In keeping with the national trend, Dunedin’s population is ageing, with a high and growing proportion of people aged over 65 years, while the population of the key working age group (15–39 year olds) is predicted to remain static. The 65-plus group is projected to increase by 54% over the next 20 years, increasing from 13.2% to approximately 20% of Dunedin’s population. Dunedin’s ageing population will affect demand for modes of transport and drive changes in travel patterns as older people tend to make greater use of shared transport, public transport and mobility scooters. There will also be increased demand for greater accessibility to healthcare services and community facilities.

Better pedestrian environments that cater for those with mobility impairments, using wheel chairs and mobility scooters will also be important to ensure accessibility for an ageing population. Figure 9 demonstrates where the highest concentrations of older people live in Dunedin.

Dunedin also has a high proportion of 15–24 year olds (21.8% in Dunedin compared to 14.6% nationally). This is because Dunedin is home to about 28,000 tertiary students of whom about 80% (22,400) are from outside Dunedin. This presents an on-going transport challenge in regard to providing for this group’s transport needs and choices, and because young people are over-represented in Dunedin’s crash statistics. The areas in which high concentrations of young people live in Dunedin are shown in Figure 10.

Figure 9.Figure 9. The areas of central urban Dunedin with the highest proportion of residents aged 65 and over.

Figure 10.Figure 10. The areas of central urban Dunedin with the highest proportion of residents aged between 15 and 24 years.

Figure 11.Figure 11. Percentage of households with no access to a motor vehicle (fuller maps available at

2.6 Multi-agency responsibilities for transport

Several organisations are responsible for both the provision and funding of different components of Dunedin’s transport network. The DCC is responsible for most of the Dunedin transport system, including local roads and the infrastructure associated with them (such as footpaths, cycleways, bridges, etc), provision of parking and bus stops, road safety planning and engineering, traffic signals, and land use planning.

The Otago Regional Council is responsible for the provision of public transport services, the Regional Land Transport Programme and also owns Port Otago, while the NZTA manages the state highway network and associated infrastructure such as state highway intersections and cycleways. The statutory corporation KiwiRail, and Dunedin’s Taieri Gorge Railway, own and operate the rail system through Dunedin. Road policing is core business for the New Zealand Police and the Police play a key role in maintaining public safety and reducing road trauma, through the road policing programme and enforcement of land transport law.

A range of community organisations, volunteer interest groups, institutions and private landowners also influence the nature of Dunedin’s transport network. Such stakeholders have a variety of different mandates, objectives and priorities, which can be complimentary to, or in conflict with, the priorities of the DCC, other organisations or the wider community.

Achieving a fully integrated system can be difficult in this multi-agency environment. Despite this challenge, the DCC continues to work in constructive partnerships with these agencies and organisations toward delivering an integrated safe and efficient transport network that supports an accessible and connected city.

2.7 Public health issues

There is a range of adverse health effects from transport, stemming from vehicle emissions, contaminants, noise and crashes. These can affect people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Studies commissioned by the Ministry of Transport highlight that approximately 400 people per year die prematurely as a result of vehicle emissions nationally. Vehicle emissions are estimated to have a social cost of approximately $1 billion per annum, a figure that puts the invisible toll of deaths related to vehicles emissions at a similar level to the much more widely recognised road toll. The studies identify that Dunedin incurs an annual social cost of $35 million from vehicle emissions29.

In New Zealand in recent decades, there has been a rise in obesity30. While it is difficult to determine the extent to which transport choices contribute to obesity, evidence of a link between transport and health has been established showing that active transport plays a significant role in improving health. It is also recognised that many of the health benefits associated with being physically active are more pronounced in those who engage in active transport when compared with those who participate only in leisure-time physical activity.

Urban sprawl and planning that favours car travel over active transport (such as walking and cycling) are increasingly recognised as important contributors to the obesity epidemic in developed countries31. As described above, Dunedin’s transport environment supports efficient car travel very well. This presents an obstacle to uptake of active modes, limiting their ability to help reduce increasing health problems.

2.8 Social exclusion

Transport enables people to access work, recreation, education and social opportunities. Having reliable, affordable access to a variety of transport options is important if people are to make the most of Dunedin’s economic and social opportunities. Lack of access can cut people off from these opportunities, contributing to social and economic deprivation and decline in those areas or communities most affected. This process is often called transport  exclusion or transport poverty and tends to be more of a problem in bigger cities with expansive suburban areas and few transport options outside of private car use.

Dunedin is fortunate to have retained a relatively compact urban form with generally short travel times for cars, and public transport services to most of its urban and suburban areas. However, the short car travel times in urban Dunedin do not benefit everyone and many Dunedin residents face some level of transport exclusion. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as mobility impairments, age-related limitations (for the very young and their carers, as well as older people), low incomes and low car ownership. Despite Dunedin’s high car ownership and usage, approximately 5000 households in Dunedin (12% of the population) do not have access to a car and thus rely entirely on other transport options such as walking and cycling, public transport, ride-sharing and use of wheelchairs, mobility scooters and mobility taxis. Figure 11 shows the parts of Dunedin in which a significant proportion of residents do not have access to a car.

The layout and attitudes of Dunedin’s communities, our transport infrastructure, the cost of transport options, and people’s travel behaviours can all become impediments to mobility. The number of cars and trucks on the road, the speeds at which people drive, and the noise and emissions that driving creates can all disrupt access and limit people’s ability to make the most of these transport options. This also affects some of Dunedin’s rural communities where public transport provision is minimal or non-existent and dependence on increasingly expensive private motor vehicle use is high.

As discussed in Section 2.4, Dunedin has high car ownership and car travel is well catered for, while other modes have traditionally been neglected. This means Dunedin residents who do not have access to a car, or are otherwise limited in their ability to travel, are not well provided for by the current transport network. Perhaps most importantly, transport options need to be affordable, safe, reliable, and accessible to ensure Dunedin residents have equitable access to the economic, social, educational and recreational opportunities the city offers. In achieving this, Dunedin faces challenges, including local and central Government funding priorities and established transport behaviours and attitudes.

2.9 Infrastructure threats and constraints

There are a number of external threats and constraints which may have an effect on Dunedin’s transport infrastructure in the future, as well as various constraints that currently exist in the present network. This section provides an overview of some of the key threats and constraints facing Dunedin’s transport infrastructure that are presenting challenges to how the DCC might protect, maintain and develop transport infrastructure in the future.

Climate change

Rising sea levels and changing weather patterns as a result of climate change are expected to have an impact on Dunedin’s transportation network during the timeframe of this Strategy. An investigation by Professor Blair Fitzharris into the effects of climate change on Dunedin identified that low lying densely populated urban areas (especially South Dunedin), coastal areas and major transport infrastructure (including harbour roads, the railway, and Dunedin International Airport) are likely to be affected by rising sea levels32.

The Fitzharris report also identified that climate change is likely to lead to higher rainfall and more frequent, more severe, storm events. This has implications for Dunedin’s transport infrastructure and asset management. Such changes may lead to more frequent and larger slips, more flooding and wetter ground conditions, which could result in closures on key transport routes and increased risk of asset failures. The life expectancy of assets may also be reduced under these conditions. All of this is likely to mean rising maintenance, repair and renewal costs. The DCC and partner agencies, will need to plan ahead to appropriately meet these challenges.

The transport system also contributes carbon emissions which are a major cause of climate change. Industry, energy generation and transport in New Zealand produce more than 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (one of the major contributors to global warming) per year with about 40% of this coming from transport (mostly private cars). Reducing the use of fossil-fuel motor vehicles, particularly private car use, would help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas generated in Dunedin.

Transport lifelines

The Dunedin City Lifelines Project for civil defence identified that some of Dunedin’s key transport infrastructure lifelines are potentially vulnerable to uncontrollable events, such as natural disasters. The railway, Port Otago, Dunedin International Airport and the state highway network, as well as many of our local roads, are all key transport links on which Dunedin depends. All of these key facilities face some level of risk from events such as flood, storm surge, sea-level rise, earthquakes, slips and slumps or heavy snow. As mentioned above, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of these events (barring earthquakes). In such situations, some or all of these links may be cut off for a period.

The Railway system

The railway lines through Dunedin, particularly to Port Chalmers, contribute significantly to a more accessible and connected Dunedin, by enabling the movement of large volumes of freight off the road network. Rail also plays an important, and growing, role in freight movement for the regional and national economies.

Unfortunately, the railway’s current capacity is restricted due to limitations in signal phasing and a lack of passing bays on the line between Dunedin and Port Otago. This affects the ability of trains to use the line simultaneously in opposite directions, reducing the potential freight capacity of the rail line to the Port. South of Dunedin, a single rail line also operates between Dunedin and the North Taieri industrial area. This also limits the railway’s capacity for serving this regionally important industrial hub. A rail siding has been partially developed at the North Taieri industrial area enabling the transfer of some bulk goods, such as milk powder, from road to rail. However this facility has not been fully developed as an inland port thereby its role as a freight hub is also limited. In addition to the constraints listed above, the lack of a fully functional inland port is also a challenge to greater use of the rail network. Rail has the potential to carry more of Dunedin’s (and the lower South Island’s) freight load but these constraints currently limit this potential.

Urban severance

Severance refers to parts of the city being cut off from other parts by infrastructure that creates a barrier to access. Severance can affect all modes but is most pronounced where it creates barriers for pedestrians and cyclists, who are often poorly provided for. The railway, the Strathallan Street – Wharf Street – Thomas Burns Street heavy traffic bypass and the one-way system all combine to create severance throughout central Dunedin. This is most pronounced where the one-way system runs through the University campus, reducing connectivity between the tertiary area and the central city, as well as between the central city and the Harbour, and the Warehouse Precinct south of Queens Gardens33. This severance not only reduces connectivity but also affects safety and usability for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, children and those using wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Severance also reduces amenity as these areas become traffic dominated, with high traffic volumes, speeds and noise. However, these roads and the railway are essential for the movement of goods through Dunedin and a key challenge is maintaining an efficient network while improving connectivity and safety, particularly for vulnerable modes.

Dunedin faces a particular challenge in that the topography of the city plays a key role in how this severance has come about. The location of Port Chalmers, the harbour and the hills surrounding the city have historically dictated where key transport corridors, such as the State Highways and the railway have been located. This means some freight traffic (and trains) have always needed, and will always need, to pass through the central city. This situation could only be avoided at great expense through the use of tunnels or bypasses. Such large-scale infrastructure is unlikely to ever be financially viable and may not even be technically feasible. However, while some freight traffic and the railway will therefore always be present in the central city, the way in which this is provided for, and how other modes are provided for in relation to it, is the key determinant of the level of severance it causes and its negative impact on other priorities for the city.

Limited space on many roads makes it difficult to accommodate all transport demands

Due to the narrow width of many Dunedin roads, it is not always possible to fully and safely accommodate all modes. This is a particular concern where there is insufficient space to safely provide for vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, and traffic on the same section of road. In such situations, it may be necessary to ‘pick a winner’, with modes that are not given priority properly provided for elsewhere. For example, SH88 to Port Chalmers has been identified as of critical importance for heavy freight vehicles accessing the Port. As there is insufficient space to safely provide for pedestrians and cyclists on this road, a fully separated shared path is being developed in the rail corridor. Such alternative options are not always readily available, so allocating safe space to provide for different modes can be a physical, financial and political challenge. Greater use of rail for freight could also form part of any solution to the problem of lack of space on the network, if the constraints identified in the paragraphs above can be addressed.

Protecting freight routes from inappropriate development

New development along key freight routes can also have a negative effect on economic productivity and safety by generating new pedestrian and traffic movements and parking demands that do not mix well with heavy freight vehicles. Such development can reduce the ability to move freight efficiently and safely to market. Ensuring key freight routes remain efficient and safe is a challenge and may require protecting such routes against inappropriate development.

The global economic situation

Since 2008, a global economic recession has led to a decline in discretionary income for many individuals, families, businesses and agencies. In the period since 2008, the trend of increasing vehicle kilometres travelled has flattened when compared to the more prosperous years of the previous decade. This is due to a combination of higher comparative fuel prices and people having less money to spend on transport. This has resulted in less fuel excise tax being generated and, therefore, less money available to invest in the transport system (increases in fuel efficiency may also contribute to this reduction).

However, due to greater prosperity in the past, communities have become accustomed to a certain level of service on the transport network. To maintain this expected level of service, transport controlling authorities throughout the country continue to draw heavily on the limited transport funding and the National Land Transport Fund is over-subscribed. This means the transport funding environment is more competitive and investment is increasingly targeted to central Government priorities. There is limited potential for new transport projects and declining levels of service may affect some aspects of transportation. This trend is expected to continue for some time.

This economic scenario also means that people’s spending is placed under increasing pressure in all aspects of life, not just transport. The decisions that the DCC makes in terms of investment in the transport network have an effect on the community that part-funds such investment through rates.

Central Government investment priorities

The bulk of Government transport investment is targeted toward highways, including the Roads of National Significance (RoNS). The RoNS are major highway projects aimed at reducing severe congestion and improving travel times in and around major cities. As an indicative figure, the RoNS are provisionally allocated approximately 39% of the total committed spend in the 2012–2015 NLTP (as at September 2012). Other than the Christchurch motorway projects, there are no RoNS in the South Island. More generally, central Government priorities are also focussed around the ‘golden triangle’ of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

The NZTA’s Statement of Intent 2012–2015 affirms that funding for improvements to public transport is being prioritised toward improving existing transport capacity and easing congestion in big cities, namely Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This indicates that funding for public transport improvements in Dunedin may be limited as it does not experience significant congestion. This congestion-targeted approach fails to recognise that better public transport also contributes to other outcomes, such as improved safety, especially if high risk road user groups (such as younger drivers and older road users) are targeted to increase their bus use.

The extent to which changes can be made to the rail network and state highways in Dunedin is directly driven by the Government’s priorities. The long-term maintenance and improvement of the local road network is also strongly affected by how central Government wishes to invest. The current Government Policy Statement (GPS) funding allocation for local road maintenance (see section 1.1) has not increased in line with inflation. This means that, in real terms, local authorities like Dunedin have diminishing funding for maintaining local roads, requiring increased prioritisation of network maintenance, a rise in rates or a reduction in service levels. Over time, this may even necessitate the managed downgrading of some lower priority infrastructure to allow for more critical upkeep of high priority infrastructure. As this eventuates it will be both a financial and political challenge. These priorities and challenges are likely to change as governments change over the lifetime of this Strategy.

One Government priority area in which Dunedin does feature highly is safety. The ‘safe system’ approach which the Government has adopted through the Safer Journeys strategy intends to make New Zealand’s roads increasingly free of serious injury and death. With Dunedin’s poor safety record, this focus on investing to improve safety is a very positive direction. However, the GPS does not specifically allocate funding to safety improvements, rather safety components are expected to be included in other highway or local road expenditure. In addition, the current GPS shows a reduction in funding for a number of activity classes (such as walking and cycling) in comparison to the previous (2009) GPS, placing more pressure on a need for local responses.


  1. Data taken from NZTA ‘Communities at Risk Register’,
  2. Ministry of Transport (2012) Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries. June 2012 update.
  3. NZTA:
  4. Paine, M.; Henderson K. and Faulks, I. (2007) Improving the safety of kiss and drop zones at schools: The Stay Safe Rangers at Balgowlah Heights Public School. ACRS Conference: Infants, Children and Young People and Road Safety 2007.
  5. Ministry of Economic Development (2012) New Zealand Energy Data File. Prepared by Energy Information and Modelling Group of the Ministry of Economic Development:
  6. Connecting New Zealand (2011) Online:
  7. Smith, C. (2010) The Next Oil Shock? Parliamentary Library Research Paper.
  8. Krumdieck, S. (2010) Peak Oil Vulnerability Assessment for Dunedin, EAST Research. Prepared for Dunedin City Council, p.9.
  9. Otago Regional Land Transport Strategy 2011: i
  10. Donovan, S. et al (2008) Managing transport challenges when oil prices rise. NZTA Research Report 357 – August 2008.
  11. Jackman, A.(2012) Alternative energy expo comes to Wellington. The Hutt News, 21 November 2012
  12. Official Journal of the European Union (2010)  Directive 2010/40/EU Of The European Parliament And Of The Council of 7 July 2010 on the framework for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in the field of road transport and for interfaces with other modes of transport. Online:
  13. Official Journal of the European Union (2010)
  14. Ministry of Transport (2013) Online:
  15. Masters, H. (2013) Average Age of vehicles in New Zealand. Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand, Issues 10 & 11, June 2013. Massey University.
  16. Donovan, S. et al (2008) Managing transport challenges when oil prices rise. NZTA Research Report 357 – August 2008.
  17. Litman, T. and Fitzroy, S. (2009) Safe Travels – Evaluating Mobility Management Traffic Safety Impacts. Injury Prevention, Vol 15, Issue 6. Online:
  18. Arron, N. (2011) Dunedin City Council 2009 Central Business District Parking Strategy and its Effects on the Retail Sector. Unpublished thesis. Master of Science: International Planning and Development, University of Wales: Cardiff.
  19. Maat, K.; van Wee, B. and Stead, D. (2005) Land use and travel behaviour: expected effects from the perspective of utility theory and activity-based theories. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 2005, Volume 32, pp.33-46.
  20. Ministry of Transport (2013) The New Zealand Vehicle Fleet: Annual Fleet Statistics 2012.
  21. Ministry of Transport (2013) The New Zealand Vehicle Fleet: Annual Fleet Statistics 2012.
  22. Fisher, G.W. et al (2002) Health effects due to motor vehicle air pollution in New Zealand. Report to the Ministry of Transport; and Kuschel, G. et al (2012) Updated Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand Study. Prepared for Health Research Council of New Zealand, Ministry of Transport, Ministry for the Environment and NZTA.
  23. Ministry of Health (2008) A Portrait of Health. Key Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
  24. Mackie, H. (2009) I want to ride my bike: overcoming barriers to cycling to intermediate schools. August 2009, NZTA Research Report 380.
  25. Fitzharris, B. (2010) Climate Change Impacts on Dunedin. Prepared for the Dunedin City Council.
  26. For more information on the Warehouse Precinct see the Dunedin Central City Plan and Warehouse Precinct Revitalisation Plan,

Still didn't find what you were looking for?