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Freight in the Waikato region

Freight travelling through the Waikato region

Freight travelling between Waikato, Auckland and Bay of Plenty represents over half of New Zealand’s freight movements, with freight moving to and from the Waikato projected to increase by more than 50 percent in the next 30 years. The Waikato region has excellent road and rail links to the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga for imports and exports, and the completion of the Waikato Expressway in 2019 will also improve connectivity to Auckland International Airport.


The Freight Information Gathering System

The Ministry of Transport has developed the Freight Information Gathering System to provide an overview of freight movements around New Zealand, including containerised freight, rail freight, and bulk coastal freight.

The Freight Information Gathering System builds on information currently provided by Statistics New Zealand while making valuable new information on freight movements available for the first time. It includes information on freight travelling to, from and through the Waikato region.

Reports are released four times each year, and follow a consistent collection methodology to allow for tracking movements and trends across time. More information regarding the Freight Information Gathering System related reports can be found here.

The upper North Island freight system

The upper North Island is critical to New Zealand’s economic success, generating more than half of the country’s gross domestic product and containing over half the population. The Waikato region is a nationally significant juncture for freight and transport and good connections to the large and growing populations of Auckland and Tauranga as well as the central North Island.

The Upper North Island Freight Story was undertaken by central and local government transport partners from across the upper North Island area in 2013 to help better coordinate investment in freight infrastructure and reduce the cost of doing business in New Zealand.

The Freight Story identified seven critical issues for the upper North Island freight system, and produced a shared evidence base to support future land transport planning and investment in the upper North Island.

More information regarding the Upper North Island Freight Story key findings and the shared evidence base can be found here.

Freight demand

The National Freight Demand Study undertaken in 2013 is New Zealand’s most comprehensive study of freight movements. It provides a snapshot of New Zealand’s current freight task and a forecast of what New Zealand’s future freight task will look like over the next 30 years. The study outlines freight movements by commodity, mode and region.

The study predicts that by 2042 New Zealand’s freight task will increase by around 58 percent in tonnes, and by 48 percent in tonne-kilometres. That is a large increase, taking the total freight task to the equivalent of about 67 tonnes each year for each person in New Zealand.

The freight movement also reflects the changing population and economic activity of the country, and the rate of increase is expected to be disproportionate across New Zealand. Auckland’s freight task, in tonnes, is forecast to increase by around 78 percent, and Waikato’s by more than 50 percent.

The projected increases in the freight task underscore the importance of completing the existing programme of roading improvements. These roading improvements respond to today’s transport pressures and make it easier for New Zealand to manage an increase in the future freight task.

The study is based on interviews with producers throughout New Zealand and transport operators in all modes – land and sea.

More information on the National Freight Demand Study Report published in 2014 can be found here.

Future freight scenarios

The Future Freight Scenarios Study undertaken by the Ministry of Transport in 2013 looks at the impact the trend to larger international container ships could have in New Zealand. In 2012, only three percent of New Zealand’s import and export container movements were on ships bigger than 4,000 TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units). This year that figure has risen to 35 percent. The study explores the impact of this trend in the future, and the possible move to a hub and spoke port network that may result.

A hub and spoke port network is a network where some ports service international container ships (hub ports), while other ports do not have international ship capability (spoke ports), but act as feeders to the hub ports. This type of network is akin to New Zealand’s existing airport network.

The study considers:

  • what the trend towards larger ships could mean for freight costs
  • whether the road, rail and coastal shipping networks would require investment to add capacity to avoid bottlenecks
  • whether there would be any impact on New Zealand’s wider economy.

More information on key findings from the Future Freight Scenarios Study published in 2014 can be found here.

International freight transport services

The Government asked the NZ Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into international freight transport services in 2011.As set out in the Terms of Reference, the key high-level questions for the inquiry are:

  • what are the factors influencing the accessibility and efficiency of international freight transport services available to New Zealand firms; and
  • are there opportunities for changes in New Zealand’s infrastructure and regulatory regimes that could increase the accessibility and efficiency of international freight transport services for New Zealand firms?

In its final report, the Productivity Commission has made a number of recommendations aimed at improving international freight services following extensive research, analysis and engagement.

The report noted that “Trade matters a great deal for New Zealand’s standard of living. Freight costs are built into the prices New Zealanders pay for everyday imported goods and the returns exporters receive for their goods.”

In total, New Zealanders pay about $5 billion a year for freight costs – that’s around 2.7 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP in 2010.

Information on this inquiry undertaken in 2011, including the final report, can be found here.

More information regarding an investigation into the upper North Island port system undertaken in 2012 can be found here

Research on Freight Hub/Inland Port development

In 2013, Waikato Regional Council (Waikato RC) sought to better understand current and future freight flows, land-use and infrastructure needs. Current and future development of freight precincts and inland ports in the Waikato will significantly influence these movements. The Waikato RC commissioned Aurecon to produce a report outlining the functions of freight precincts and inland ports (in particular) to assist in informing Council’s position on future needs.

This report contains the results of the desktop review into functions of inland ports and freight precincts, how different products could influence design and function, how inland ports and freight hubs are important for efficiency, what factors influence their effectiveness, and what ways inland ports and freight precincts are likely to change freight movements.

More information on key findings from the Research into Freight Hub/Inland Port development in the Waikato region published in April 2013 can be found here.

Freight images