Indicators at a glance - Transport

This section summarises the latest Environmental Health Indicators about transport and health in New Zealand.


Transport can impact on our health through a number of ways: road traffic injuries and deaths, air pollution, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and barriers to accessing services due to a lack of transport. 

Active transport (e.g. walking and cycling) and public transport have positive health benefits, such as on mental well-being, physical activity and cardiovascular health. 

Indicator Key findings
Road traffic injury deaths and hospitalisations
  • The number of road traffic injury deaths increased from 2013 (253 deaths) to 2019 (352 deaths). 
  • Both the mortality and hospitalisation rates for road traffic injuries have climbed year-on-year since 2014.
  • Motorcyclists were at a far higher risk of injury or death per distance travelled and time spent travelling.
  • Males, young people aged 15–24 years, Māori, and people living in more deprived areas generally had higher rates of traffic injury deaths and hospitalisations.
  • Waitematā, Auckland and Capital & Coast DHBs had the lowest mortality rates for traffic injury in 2012–2016. In 2018, the lowest hospitalisation rates for traffic injuries were also in Capital & Coast DHB. 
  • The number of traffic injury deaths for children aged 0–14 years decreased from 2007 (29 deaths) to 2016 (12 deaths).  
Household travel time by mode of transport
  • Between 2015–18, 82.8% of all annual travel time was spent in private motor vehicles. A further 11.6% was spent using active transport, while 4.2% was spent on public transport.
  • There has been little change over time in the proportion of time spent on different transport modes.
  • The Wellington region had the highest proportion of travel time spent using active and public transport
    (27.6% of all travel time), while Gisborne had the lowest share of time (3.3%) spent using these modes.
Main mode of transport to work
  • In 2015–18, travel by private vehicle accounted for 79.9% of the time New Zealanders spent travelling to work every year, most of which was spent as the driver of a vehicle, as opposed to a passenger.
  • About 15.7% of commuting time was spent using active transport (walking, jogging or cycling). A further 6.5% of commuting time was spent on public transport.
  • There has been little change in the use of all transport modes over time.
  • The Wellington region had the highest combined use of active and public transport to work. 
Active transport to and from school
  • In 2019/20, less than half (42.4%) of children aged 5–14 years used active transport (such as walking and cycling) to and from school.
  • There has been no significant change in the use of active transport among 5-14-year-olds in over 10 years, from 2006/07 to 2019/20.
  • Children in Northland, Wairarapa and Tairāwhiti District Health Boards (DHBs) had a lower use of active transport to school in 2014–17 than the national rate. 
Unmet need for GP services due to lack of transport
  • In 2019/20, 1.6% of children and 2.7% of adults had a medical problem but did not visit a GP due to a lack of transport, in the past 12 months.
  • There has been little change in these rates since 2011/12.
  • Lack of transport was a major barrier to accessing GP services for disabled adults, with one in nine people affected in 2019/20.
  • There were higher rates of unmet GP need in Māori (6.6% of adults and 3.0% of children), Pacific (6.6% of adults and 5.8% of children) and people living in high deprivation areas (4.5% of children and 5.9% of adults).
  • Rates of unmet GP need due to a lack of transport were highest in Northland, Hawke's Bay, and Counties Manukau DHBs in 2014–17.
Motor vehicles
  • In 2019, there were about 4.4 million motor vehicles in New Zealand, the highest number ever.
  • There were 818 light vehicles per 1,000 people in 2019. This represents one of the highest car ownership rates in the world
  • Light electric vehicles accounted for 2.7% of all light vehicle registrations in December 2020,compared to 0.1% in December 2014. While registration rates for electric vehicles are rising, they made up only 0.45% of the light vehicle fleet in 2019.
  • The average age of the light vehicle fleet increased from 11.8 years in 2000 to 14.1 years in 2019.
Health burden due to road transport

Road transport was estimated to be responsible for 650 deaths in New Zealand in 2012. 
These deaths included:

  • 308 deaths due to traffic crashes
  • 218 deaths due to particulate matter (PM10)
  • 65 deaths due to nitrogen dioxide exposure
  • 59 deaths due to noise pollution.
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