Transport sector: A case study of sector-level performance

Transport plays a critical role in supporting New Zealand’s social, economic, cultural, and environmental well-being by enabling people, businesses, and communities to connect and access what they want and need. Central government spends about $7-8 billion on the transport system each year. To build and maintain the public’s trust in the transport sector, it is vital that the public and Parliament have confidence that this money is being spent well.

Why we did this

To build and maintain trust and confidence in the public sector, it is important that Parliament and New Zealanders understand the value they are getting from public spending and how the government is performing.

Although the performance of individual agencies is important, issues that matter to Parliament and New Zealanders often relate to outcomes at a sector level. We did a case study of the transport sector to assess how public reporting can enable an understanding of performance at a sector level.

We chose the transport sector because we thought there are particular ways in which they report on their performance, major initiatives, and outcomes that other sectors could learn from. We also wanted to identify how the transport sector could improve how it reports on its performance more generally.

What we looked at

Given the complexity and breadth of the transport sector, we focused only on land transport for this case study.

Specifically, we looked at whether transport agencies' reporting gives an integrated view of what outcomes the sector wants to achieve and how it is aiming to achieve these outcomes through its activities1 and resources. Our assessment focused on the meaningfulness of performance reporting. We did not focus on whether there are robust processes and controls over the data underpinning performance and measures, though we recognise that this is vitally important to the quality of performance information.

We looked at the broad reporting that is publicly available, including annual reports and other public reporting. We did our analysis in the first half of 2023. We acknowledge that aspects of what we looked may have changed since then.

We developed an assessment framework to examine performance reporting at a sector-level and tested it with the transport sector (see Appendices). Our assessment drew on the key principles and qualitative characteristics for service performance reporting by the public sector.

Overall reflections

Providing meaningful reporting on how the public sector is making a difference for New Zealanders can be complex and challenging.

The outcomes that matter to New Zealanders often span across a sector. Meaningful reporting on these outcomes needs to have clearly defined outcomes at a sector level, measures for assessing progress towards outcomes, clear strategies and plans for achieving the outcomes, and consolidated and integrated reporting on what is being delivered and achieved.

What we found

We found several examples of good practice performance reporting that other sectors can learn from, including:

  • a clearly defined set of meaningful outcomes and outcome indicators (such as the Transport Outcomes Framework and indicators) that are relevant to the public and the performance of the sector;
  • advanced reporting (such as the Road to Zero monitoring report) in some outcome areas that provides a consolidated, integrated view of progress the transport sector is making on these outcomes; and
  • meaningful and consolidated reporting on what is being achieved for some key activities and areas of spending (such as the Rail Network Investment Programme).

What could improve

We also found opportunities for the transport sector to improve how it demonstrates its performance, such as:

  • providing a consolidated, and integrated account of how the sector intends to achieve its outcomes and reporting on what progress is being made across all outcomes of the Transport Outcomes Framework;
  • addressing gaps in how the transport sector reports on outcomes that are relevant to Māori and indicators that reflect te ao Māori perspectives; and
  • improving the quality of reporting and performance measures for key activities.

1: Activities encompasses strategies, plans, initiatives, and programmes of work.