23 May 2024

Te Huia train funding: 'Auckland is being a little bit precious'

5:47 am on 23 May 2024
The first Te Huia commuter train from Hamilton to Auckland arrives at Papakura on Tuesday morning.

Auckland Council has been repeatedly asked to become an funding partner in Te Huia. FIle photo. Photo: RNZ / Gill Bonnett

Supporters of the Waikato to Auckland train Te Huia say Auckland Council is not doing its part to support the passenger service.

Waikato Regional Council (WRC) first asked Auckland Council to become an funding partner in Te Huia nine months ago, when giving feedback on Auckland Transport's draft Regional Public Transport Plan 2023-2031.

WRC followed this request up seven months ago, during a presentation to Auckland Council's Transport and Infrastructure Committee.

In March 2024 WRC submitted again, this time to the draft Auckland Council Long Term Plan, suggesting that Auckland contribute the same amount to Te Huia as Waikato.

"This would enable a reduction in the national contribution to 51 percent (an aspiration of government) and protect WRC's stated maximum local share contribution at 24.5 percent," the WRC submission said.

NZTA Waka Kotahi announced last week it would be progressively lowering their contribution to 51 percent.

Auckland Council and Auckland Transport both confirmed that at different times the organisations have been asked to help fund Te Huia. In a joint statement they said at present Auckland Council and Auckland Transport would not be funding Te Huia.

"This will be reviewed as part of the Regional Public Transport Plan update, which is to be undertaken next year in the context of the finalised Regional Land Transport Plans for Auckland and Waikato. However, funding is constrained and any additional budgetary considerations that are beyond the Long Term Plan 2024 will need to be made by Auckland Council."

Public Transport Users Association chair Niall Robertson believed that as 22 percent of Te Huia passengers were Aucklanders, Auckland should pay a portion of the subsidy.

"I think Auckland is being a little bit precious about this because they actually don't care too much about regional transport," he said.

Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have rejected this assessment.

"As set out in the Regional Public Transport Plan, Auckland Transport is supportive of improving inter-regional public transport options to make it easier to travel long distances without relying on a car," they told RNZ in a joint statement.

Robertson thought the situation highlighted the need for a national public transport authority to co-ordinate and develop interregional public transport.

"That's not really very popular with modern governments," he admits.

In its submission to Auckland Council's draft Long Term Plan, Waikato Regional Council sited the example of New Zealand's other regional rail service, Capital Connections, which runs daily between Palmerston North and Wellington.

It is jointly funded by both Horizons and Greater Wellington Regional Council ratepayers.

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