20 Oct 2022

Watch: PM speaks after meeting Auckland mayor-elect Wayne Brown

12:06 pm on 20 October 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to media after meetings with Auckland Mayor-elect Wayne Brown and new Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Simon Bridges.

She says her meeting with Auckland mayor Brown is her third meeting with a newly elected mayor - following Christchurch and Wellington - and in each case the meeting has been "relatively general".

"An opportunity to sit down and talk about where there may be shared priorities, and in each case there has been. I'd say the same for the meeting with mayor Brown."

She says she suggested to him it would be useful for key ministers in areas like transport, housing and infrastructure to sit down with the council once it is formally in place, and he is able to convene the council as a whole.

"The focus for me and our government is how do we work together constructively in the interest of all Aucklanders."

She says a big part of the agenda for the government include having "enough houses here in Auckland so everyone has warm, dry, affordable housing; decent transport options for Aucklanders, reducing congestion; and thirdly making sure that they're not seeing increases in their rates and water bills unnecessarily because we didn't fix infrastructure".

Three waters reforms

"I'm unwilling to stand by and see Aucklanders face increasing bills, and that is what is projected to happen if we don't do something about water infrastructure in New Zealand," she said.

"So I expressed to the mayor that in my view neither of us want to see that scenario, so let's keep working together. Otherwise I also just shared that the timetable for the legislation, it continues, so I'll be making sure that his team are aware of those timetables."

"We've been very clear here, I do not want to see a situation where we stand by and watch New Zealanders' rates bills go up. And that is what will happen if nothing is done about water infrastructure in New Zealand ... it's not something I believe is in anyone's interests so let's sit down together and make sure that we prevent that from happening."

She says the legislation is now before select committee and she expects to see recommendations from that for changes that can strengthen the legislation.

"But I made clear to the mayor that his speculation about three waters not going ahead would mean rates increases and I'm not going to allow that to happen ... my understanding is that it's already of course set that we'll see 7 percent [rates] increases, and the modelling suggests double in the future."

Housing in Auckland

"We have a housing shortage in New Zealand, we've had a significant housing shortage in Auckland," Ardern said.

"Auckland is an example though of where we have made progress and you can see that in even the rental data that's coming through. We're finally starting to see that relative to the rest of the country some of those increases in rent prices coming away in Auckland, and I absolutely believe that's because of all of the work that's been done on supply.

"But again, we are not there yet. There is additional work to be done, our focus has to be in Auckland though making sure that we do have intensification, it's along transport nodes, that it's high-quality and it's sustainable."

Housing and transport were expected to be the two key issues discussed by Ardern and Brown.

In a letter to the agency, Brown had previously said Auckland Transport needed to completely change its approach to better serve its communities.

Both housing and transport advocates had expressed had the pair would find common ground.

Bike Auckland chair Tony Mitchell told Morning Report what Brown was asking for echoed what his advocacy group had wanted for a long time.

Campaign for Better Transport hoped the pair would agree on the development of a compact city with a range of transport options.

Housing First wanted them to talk about solutions for ending homelessness.

Housing First programme manager Rami Alrudaini said, irrespective of their political views, both central and local government had key roles to play in increasing the housing supply.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transport Michael Wood said he was keen to hear about Brown's ambitions for a better transport network for Auckland.

"I want to clearly set out the government's objectives and key projects there and I'm actually sure we'll make good progress.

"We always want to make faster progress and one of the things he has brought to his role - he's expressed this clearly - is his determination to make faster progress and to do things as cost-efficiently as possible. Those are good things so let's work together on them."

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