Minister keen to press ahead with light rail in Auckland

From Morning Report, 7:19 am on 29 October 2021

The government and Auckland Council have just released their recommendations on Auckland's controversial light rail plan, a year after New Zealand First put a halt to the project. 

There are three options, a tram running from central Auckland to the airport, underground tunnels and a hybrid of the first two with a tram running underground from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill before coming up to street level.

Option three is the expert group's preferred choice and comes at a cost of $14 billion.

Transport Minister Michael Wood told Morning Report it's a big cost but it's worth it.

"It is a very significant investment. This is one of the reasons we set up the establishment unit to run up a robust indicative business case, so we could clearly see the costs and the benefits and understand whether they stacked up.

"The unit has determined that yes it as a significant investment, but that the benefits stick up, and there are more benefits than costs.

"Ultimately, with these kinds of investments there's no free lunch, as the residents said on the clip before I came on, we should have been investing in this sort of infrastructure decades ago in Auckland and our bigger cities, we didn't, and I don't think we should keep kicking the can down the road."

He doesn't want to wait around for bipartisan support for the project.

"The lack of that can hold us back in my view, we campaigned on this, we received a clear mandate for this last election, for decades we've had underinvestment in high-quality public transport, and we need to develop a full network for Auckland as well. This is about how we also get rapid transit to the North Shore, and the northwest, it's stage one of a broader plan.

"So, I'd love to get broad support for that, but it's really important that Aucklanders are sent this message, there's been a lot of talk, a lot of planning, it's time to start getting on with it."

Wood said the project would be one of the largest in New Zealand's transport history and if approved would be finished in the 2030s.

The recommendations will be considered by Cabinet by the end of 2021.

"I won't predetermine the decisions that my colleagues will make there but we now have a clear recommendation from an independent, well informed group, that this is a necessary investment for Auckland to move forward, with a clear manifesto commitment that we have made over two election cycles," Wood said.

"I'm strongly committed to it."