2 Nov 2017

Ardern and Goff talk Auckland issues: 'We need light rail'

12:50 pm on 2 November 2017

The Labour-led government has confirmed it will fund its part of the Auckland transport commitments it made during the election campaign, including light rail to the airport.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

The two former Labour Party colleagues Jacinda Ardern and Phil Goff met at the Beehive this morning as Prime Minister and Mayor of Auckland.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford, who holds the housing and transport, also attended the meeting.

There was plenty to talk about, based on Labour's election promises and the wish list from Auckland, including light rail to the airport, a regional fuel tax, the future of the port and the handling of the government's house building programme.

After the meeting, Ms Ardern said she could confirm the government's funding commitments for Auckland, and that the proposed East-West link motorway would be scrapped.

She said while the government recognised it would have to contribute, they also discussed what the Auckland Council could do to find efficiencies.

"So that it is in a position to fund to a greater degree what it's able to. Aucklanders know there are problems we need to resolve, the regional fuel tax allows us to do that and that's a mechanism we've been happy to offer to Council to enable them to deliver these projects."

Mr Goff said at the moment there were 800 new cars on Auckland's roads each week, which was unsustainable.

"I've looked around at different models around the world, it is very clear Auckland has to have a mass transit system. We need to have light rail."

That was the only way to combat the congestion and gridlock in Auckland, he said.

"It's a matter of timing, and of course what Auckland can contribute, and with a regional fuel tax over a 10-year period, we can contribute somewhere between $1.2 and $1.5 billion dollars."

Without a regional fuel tax, he said ratepayers would face rates hikes of up to 15 percent, or a congestion tax which in London was about $21 a day.

He said the average cost of the fuel tax would be about $2.60 a week.

It would cost up to $2.5 billion for light rail to the airport, said Mr Goff.

Mr Goff said a targeted rates increase for properties whose value rose as a result of infrastructure upgrades was something the government and the Council were committed to exploring.

"I think in principle it's fair that if you're getting a massive uplift in the value of your property that you make a contribution to the infrastructure that lets that happen."

Improving the city's water quality was also discussed.

Mr Goff said research, due to be released this weekend as part of the Swim Safe programme, would show the degree of pollution that occurred each time rain caused many of the city's beaches to be unsafe to swim in.

"We have a joint commitment to do something about Auckland's water quality," he said.

The National government introduced Special Housing Areas (SHA), under which consents for new house builds would be fast-tracked.

Mr Goff said the SHAs have not delivered the number of houses Auckland needed.

"Nobody is building affordable housing in Auckland at the moment and that is creating a crisis for lower income families."

He said Kiwibuild, under which 5000 new houses are planned for Auckland, would make a "massive difference".

Auckland Council's property development company and the government would have to work together on this initiative, said Mr Goff.

"What Council can do without government is incredibly limited, what we can do together is more than the sum of the different parts."

Ms Ardern said that was the aim of the Housing Commission, and the government was looking towards a partnership with local government and property development, with house prices in Auckland still averaging $1 million.

"We are not building enough homes in the affordable space in the range people are demanding, we have a crisis in the market and are simply not meeting that demand."

The future of the Auckland Port also came up, with Ms Ardern saying she has always opposed any expansion, as the Port reveals its '30 Year Plan'.

But Ms Ardern said whether or not Auckland Council could have Maori wards was not something they discussed.

"I'm not going to pre-empt a request that hasn't been made to us officially from Council, we haven't had that conversation."

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