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Published: 2013-04-03 00:00:00

More than 55 per cent of New Zealand’s freight, accounting for half New Zealand’s gross domestic product, travels through the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. With freight volumes expected to double by 2035, 10 partner organisations have been working together over the past 12 months on the Upper North Island Freight Story to help inform decisions on investment in freight infrastructure and boost economic growth.

The Story has been developed by the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance (UNISA) – comprising Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils, Whangarei District Council, Auckland Council, and Hamilton and Tauranga city councils – in collaboration with Auckland Transport, KiwiRail and the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA). 

Together the partners have been working on initiatives to reduce the cost to do business in New Zealand, through an upper North Island lens. The partners have also worked with industry, freight operators, ports and local government during the Story’s development. 

“Billions of dollars are spent on transport and infrastructure every year, so it is critical for the Waikato, as well as for New Zealand, that collaboration occurs across the upper North Island on significant strategic issues,” said Waikato Regional Council chairman, Peter Buckley. 

“With 25 per cent of New Zealand’s freight tonnage travelling through the Waikato, understanding how the freight sector works enables sound decision-making into the future. 

“Waikato Regional Council is keen to work with the organisations involved in development of the Story to help create the right conditions for economic growth,” Cr Buckley said. 

Identifying new ways of moving freight more efficiently through the upper North Island ensures that transport priorities identified in the Waikato Regional Land Transport Strategy and by Waikato industry are considered within an upper North Island context, Cr Buckley said. 

Improving freight efficiency will also help reduce the cost of goods for all New Zealanders while increasing the competitive advantage of our country’s importers and exporters. 

The organisations involved share the view that to plan and invest smarter and deliver better certainty for industry and investors, they need to understand the picture at an upper North Island scale, and work together on the critical priorities that will add the most value. 

“The efficient movement of freight through the upper North Island is vital to New Zealand’s economic success. This partnership is an example of the kind of collaboration and joined up thinking that we’ll need to see more of in the years ahead to deliver the high performing transport system that New Zealand needs to grow and prosper,” said Geoff Dangerfield, NZ Transport Agency’s chief executive. 

KiwiRail chief executive, Jim Quinn said, “In delivering an efficient freight network for New Zealand it is important that we work together with other network and land use providers to find integrated solutions. Because rail is such an integral part of the country’s freight networks it is an important opportunity to work across the sector to better understand freight flows and industry requirements into the future.” 

During development of the Story, seven critical freight-related issues were identified. Already a number of actions have been taken to address them, with further actions for the partners agreed. The critical issues include:

  • a lack of shared and accurate data to support consistent decisions
  • regional understanding of significant industrial land use
  • a lack of strategic integrated land use and transport planning and investment
  • key strategic road and rail network constraints. 

Representatives from across multiple sectors were asked to identify and rank the critical issues they believe are limiting New Zealand’s ability to reduce the cost to do business, particularly from an upper North Island perspective. The Upper North Technical Working Group tested the significance of each issue at an upper North Island scale and then created a shared evidence base for each of the critical issues identified to go forward in the Story. 

The UNISA mayors and regional chairs endorsed the Story on 22 March 2013. Visit for a full copy of the Upper North Island Freight Story and Shared Evidence Base documents.