16 Jun 2020

Auckland light rail now a campaign matter, Peters says

7:31 pm on 16 June 2020

The New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says it is "clear as daylight" Auckland light rail will not get Cabinet sign off before the election.

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NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: Dom Thomas

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised light rail would be built from downtown Auckland to the airport within a decade in her first policy announcement as Labour leader ahead of the 2017 general election.

The project is also set out in the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Greens.

RNZ last week revealed the project was deadlocked however, due to coalition partner New Zealand First's objections - namely the project's cost and scale - as well as the potential involvement of the Canadian pension fund and investor, CDPQ.

The government's official line is that negotiations are on-going, but Peters today told reporters light rail will be left as a campaign matter.

"Given the timeframe we've got now, with about three months or less to go if you regard the time the early voting happens, then frankly this is a matter people and parties can campaign on," Peters said.

Given the limited time before the election and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, the project would not go ahead this term, Peters said.

RNZ reported last week NZ First had made its objections to the project clear in an email sent to Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

At the start of June, Twyford confirmed his office received an email on behalf of Peters regarding light rail on 29 February, but said it was not in the public interest to reveal its contents.

Twyford was today questioned about the email in the House by National's transport spokesperson Chris Bishop and reiterated it was not in the public interest to reveal its contents.

He said he had not read the email, but had read the attachment sent with it.

Twyford confirmed the attachment contained a statement of position from NZ First on the Auckland light rail project, but again said "it's not in the public interest to reveal the content of that message."

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