Budget 2023: Michael Wood doesn't know how much public transport supply will expand despite increased demand expected

The Government can't give an exact figure on how much public transport supply is expected to increase from Budget 2023.

That's despite Transport Minister Michael Wood on Friday saying the demand was expected to increase by about 14 percent.

It comes after New Zealanders aged under 13 were given free public transport, and those aged between 13 and 25 half-price, in Thursday's Budget as part of the Government's cost of living support package.

In a statement on Thursday, Wood conceded public transport hadn't "always been reliable in the past year" and outlined measures the Government was taking to increase supply.

"The Budget enables public transport authorities to raise the base wage rate to $30 per hour for urban bus drivers and $28 for regional bus drivers, introduces split shift allowances of $30 per split shift and introduces penal rates for those working after 9pm," said Wood.

"This builds on our work in Budget 2022 which supported the implementation of wage increases to at least $28 an hour in most regions across the motu. This has helped to reduce the bus driver shortage from 860 in December 2022 to 560 now, with hundreds more drivers being recruited and trained.

"We're also putting money on the table for councils to restore public transport services to pre-pandemic levels. Public transport patronage has been increasing steadily since the pandemic but hasn't reached the same levels yet. 

"This funding will allow councils to consider reinstating cancelled services and minimise further service cuts to ensure Kiwis can access affordable, frequent and reliable transport."

The fare reduction, or the scrapping of fares altogether for under 13s, would start in July - with Wood saying the measures were expected to increase public transport demand by about 14 percent, based on "rough modelling".

But, speaking with AM on Friday, he did not know how exactly how much supply would increase - only saying the Budget would "give a significant increase".

 "We had a shortage of about 860 drivers, we're getting that right down at the moment," Wood told host Ryan Bridge.

"Our modelling is that we're able to cover what we need to with this."

Wood said, overall, Budget 2023 was "very careful".

He said the Budget was designed to support those feeling the cost of living pressures.

The Government was helping New Zealanders with paying "less if you have to go to the pharmacy… less on public transport and that support in early childhood education", Wood added.