Active transport to and from school

This section presents statistics on school-children who use active transport (e.g. walking or cycling) to and from school.

For children, using active transport to and from school is an important way to get some physical activity each day. With the high child obesity rate in New Zealand, this is a relatively easy way to increase physical activity in children.

Dramatic drop in active transport use to school from 1989/90 to 2010–14

Children are much less likely to use active modes of transport to get to school in recent years than during the late 1980s (Figure 1).

The percentage of children walking to school dropped from 42% in 1989/90, to 29% in 2010–14. For cycling, the percentage dropped from 12% in 1989/90, to 2% in 2010–14.

The percentage of children who were passengers in cars increased from 31% in 1989/90, to 55% in 2010–14.    

Figure 1: Mode of transport used to get to school, by children aged 5–12 years, 1989/90 – 2010–14 (unadjusted prevalence, %)

Less than half of 5-14-year-olds used active transport to and from school in 2017/18

The following data come from the New Zealand Health Survey.

In 2017/18, 43.2% of children aged 5–14 years usually used active transport to and from school (Figure 2). This is about 273,000 children.

There has been no significant change in the use of active transport among 5–14-year-olds from 2006/07 to 2017/18.  

Figure 2: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, 2006/07 - 2017/18 (unadjusted prevalence)

Fig 2: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, 2006/07 - 2017/18 (unadjusted prevalence)

In 2017/18, 43.6% of boys and 42.8% of girls usually used active transport to and from school. There was no significant difference between boys and girls. 

Older children were more likely to use active transport to school

Older children aged 10–14 years were more likely to use active transport to get to and from school (49.1%), than children aged 5–9 years (37.7%) in 2017/18. 

Use of active transport is similar for ethnic groups and across neighbourhood deprivation

There were similar levels in the use of active transport to and from school in all main ethnic groups in 2017/18:

  • Māori children: 44.8%
  • Pacific children: 43.8%
  • Asian children: 43.1%
  • European/Other children: 42.8%.

There were no differences for Māori, Pacific or Asian children compared to their comparison groups.

There was no significant difference in the rate of active transport between the most deprived areas of neighbourhood deprivation (NZDep2013 quintile 5) and least deprived areas (NZDep2013 quintile 1).

Less use of active transport by children in Northland, Wairarapa and Tairāwhiti DHBs in 2014-17

Children in the district health boards (DHBs) of Northland (27.1%), Wairarapa (30.2%) and Tairāwhiti (34.8%) had the lowest rates of active transport in 2014–17 (Figure 4). These rates are significantly lower than the national rate.

Figure 3: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by District Health Board (DHB), 2014-17 (unadjusted prevalence) 

Fig 3: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by District Health Board (DHB), 2014-17 (unadjusted prevalence)

Information about the data

This webpage includes data from the following two sources:

Transport mode to school

Source: Ministry of Transport - New Zealand Household Travel Survey (1989/90, 1997/98, 2003–07, 2010–14) (TP007 Mode share of journeys to school).

Definition: Transport mode used by children aged 5–12 years who are full-time students and who travel to education from home, for journeys commencing between 6am and 9:30am. 

Active transport to and from school

Source: Ministry of Health - New Zealand Health Survey (2006/07, 2011/12–2016/17)

Definition: Children aged 5–14 years who usually travelled to and from school by walking, cycling or other non-motorised modes such as skates, among all children aged 5–14 years. 

Interested in more information?

Kylie Mason

Phone +64 4 979 3124 (ext 63124)
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