After delays, Auckland's light rail project to get 'fresh start' with promise of better consultation

Source: 1News

Auckland's troubled light rail project is going back to the drawing board, with the Government seemingly admitting failure and promising better consultation with the public this time around.

In June the multi-million-dollar transport project was halted until after the September election.

"It is frustrating that after three years, disagreement within the coalition has held this process up," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said at the time.

However, more than six months after the election, new Transport Minister Michael Wood said the project was getting "back on track", admitting the previous process didn't involve Aucklanders enough.

"There's wide-ranging support for rapid transit but Aucklanders felt shut out of the project. Today I'm drawing a line under that and involving Aucklanders from the get-go," Wood said.

"As the new Transport Minister, I've been tasked with getting the project moving and I acknowledge Aucklanders were shut out of the previous process. We've had calls for Government to involve communities and stakeholders – I've listened and this is what we'll do," he said, announcing new changes.

The Government has tasked an "establishment unit" with a six-month work programme including, partnering with Māori, engaging with stakeholders and communities, developing a business case so evidence-based decisions can be made on mode and route, providing cost estimates, and funding and financing options which includes looking at value capture, and determining the best form for the delivery entity, which will be either City Rail Link Limited or a new joint venture with Auckland Council.

"Light rail is a critical investment to develop a modern, connected mass-transit system in New Zealand’s largest city, supporting jobs, growth, and housing," Wood said.

"Without decisive investment in mass transit, Auckland will choke on its own growth.

"Light rail will support growth in Māngere, Onehunga, and Mount Roskill in particular, connecting these communities and giving people the option to leave the car at home, which will help reduce congestion and emissions."

Wood said he would make the key decisions on route, mode, and delivery entity once the Government receives advice from the establishment unit at the end of the year.

"We will then be able to give the public certainty on issues like cost and timeframes," he added.

"I know some would have liked me to announce a shovel-ready project today, but I also want to be absolutely certain that the plan we move forward with is the right one. That's why this fresh start is involving Aucklanders and doing the work alongside them."

The establishment unit will get to work from today, with Woods expected to announce the appointment of the independent chair who will work with Aucklanders on this project in the coming weeks.