How low-traffic areas in Aotearoa’s cities can decarbonise transport, save lives, and create the connected urban communities we need in a post-pandemic future.

“During the Level 4 lockdown, many New Zealanders enjoyed how safe and friendly our streets and neighbourhoods felt with fewer cars during lockdown. We can all enjoy safe, friendly streets and neighbourhoods in future by taking the right actions now.”

WSP and The Helen Clark Foundation have released the second research report of their partnership, The Shared Path, which looks at the benefits Aotearoa would realise by substantially reducing traffic volumes in cities, and outlines what’s needed to deliver this.

Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Foundation, WSP Fellow and report author, says New Zealanders’ collective reliance on cars comes at considerable cost to the environment and society.

“The transport sector accounts for almost a quarter of our total climate emissions, and more than half of these come from private vehicles. New Zealand has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but this won’t happen without a substantial reduction in private vehicle use. We’ve also committed to zero deaths on the road yet the more we drive, the more we crash – we simply won’t achieve our goal without reducing the number of trips taken by car,” she says.

David Kidd, WSP Director Client Experience and Strategic Advisory, says Aotearoa needs to take strong action to tackle transport emissions, turning the tide from a 45-degree growth in emissions to achieve a 45-degree decline.

“We have a decade, possibly less, to achieve carbon neutrality in transport. Our current thinking needs a dramatic overhaul to achieve this and requires policy change across a number of sectors."

The comprehensive report recommends five key actions: 

  1. To rapidly roll-out low-traffic neighbourhoods in our cities, we’ll need to be ambitious, be tika (right and just), plan large areas together, and engage and listen deeply to communities.
  2. Communities can help by starting local conversations and building support for low-traffic interventions.
  3. Councils can help by developing city-wide transport emissions reduction plans that include low-traffic areas.
  4. Central government can help by creating a specific tool to make it easier to create low-traffic neighbourhoods.
  5. And we urgently need a national strategy to reduce transport emissions.

The Shared Path is the second in the Helen Clark Foundation's Post Pandemic Futures series of reports, aimed at stimulating new ideas, new policies and new ways of doing things in a post- COVID-19 Aotearoa. The first report covered the issue of loneliness and is available below.

Download Post Pandemic Futures Series: The Shared Path (8.2 MB)

For media enquires please contact:

Holly Walker (report author)
Deputy Director, The Helen Clark Foundation

Kate Palmer
WSP Senior Communications Advisor