top of page
  • Exchange Cafe

James Llewellyn: Building a resilient transport future for Tairāwhiti

James Llewellyn has been working as a transport planner for 28 years and has a particular interest in sustainable transport strategies. James is currently working with the Gisborne District Council to support the development of the Regional Land Transport and Regional Public Transport Plans. These will inform the Council's transport investment strategy for the next 10 years.

Shannon Dowsing interviewed James for the Exchange Cafe on his recent visit to Gisborne. Our roads have been put under incredible pressure from severe weather events in recent years, and have failed to stand up to the reality of a changing climate. Shannon and James discuss what has led to the challenges facing our transport infrastructure today, and the opportunities to build towards a sustainable transport sector in Tairāwhiti.


  • Rebuilding resilient roading infrastructure in Tairāwhiti: The first priority needs to be fixing the damaged roading network and rebuilding in a way that can withstand severe weather events and other significant climate related challenges. Successive governments have failed to invest in maintenance and asset management, particularly in this region, and we are now seeing the consequences of this lack of investment.

  • Helping people shift to shared and active transport options: A challenge for transport planners is designing transport systems that support more people to use shared transport like buses, or active transport like walking and cycling. We have built our lifestyles around cars, and most cities and towns lack the infrastructure to support people to choose shared and active modes of transport.

  • Shifting to electric vehicles: The government has set an ambitious target for 30% of cars on the roads to be electric by 3035. This shift requires huge infrastructure investment, and needs cross sector governance. Currently, there is a lot of aspiration but very little detail on how this goal will be achieved.

  • Reducing our transport emissions as a country: Aotearoa NZ is in the top 10 for highest transport greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world. There is a huge requirement for change.

  • Interregional public transport is limited: In the UK, you can train almost anywhere. This is not possible in Aotearoa NZ. Our intercity bus service is expensive and not as comprehensive as it should be. The incoming government needs to create a long term plan for sustainable interregional travel across the country.


  • Increase the frequency and coverage of urban bus services: Nelson recently refreshed their bus network by upgrading to electric buses and increasing the daily services to every half hour. There was an instant 40% increase in bus usage. Gisborne needs to prioritise increasing the frequency and coverage of the current urban bus network.

  • Community led transport options for rural travel: Canterbury and Waikato both have excellent examples of community vehicle trusts that provide car or van services in rural areas. There is strong leadership in this region and it is well placed to implement a community-led shared transport system for the shared regional travel services.

  • Create safe, inclusive roads for walking and cycling: Gisborne is blessed with plenty of road space and a grid road system. There is a lot of opportunity to make better use of the existing road network to incorporate convenient, convivial, safe routes for walkers and cyclists.

  • Rethinking urban planning: The Christchurch rebuild demonstrates urban renewal that incorporates housing, transport and business to create a vibrant scene. The Gisborne Council’s future development strategy has the opportunity to align housing developments with strong public and active transport routes to link up the town, green spaces and beaches.

  • Prioritise from the bottom up: We need to return to a focus on regional development that is owned and operated by communities. In terms of transport, this means the devolution of power, funding and responsibility to Councils, communities and voluntary organisations that can work together to create sustainable transport networks that work for their needs.

  • Design joint solutions for resilient transport infrastructure: Integrate transport planning with other resilience systems such as land use to discover joint solutions that can better withstand the forces of severe weather. This includes, for example, using wetlands to store and slow water flow before it hits the roads.

This interview was recorded at Rāngai studio.

57 views0 comments


bottom of page