ACT, National hit out at light rail's 'wasted spending'

Source: 1News

The ACT, Green and National Party have all weighed in on the Government’s transport announcement on Friday, which includes Auckland’s promised light rail.

The light rail between the airport and the city is set to be partially tunnelled, with works to commence in 2023. The Government has also committed to an additional Waitematā Harbour crossing, and has brought forward planning to integrate with other transport and housing plans.

Building light rail to Auckland's airport has been plagued with issues. In June 2020 the multi-million-dollar transport project was halted until after the September election.

More than six months after the election, new Transport Minister Michael Wood said the project was getting "back on track".

Speaking just before today's announcement ACT’s transport spokesperson Simon Court labelled the project “a disaster”.

Auckland to get partially tunnelled CBD to airport light rail

“We've spent four years trying to figure out how to make a political promise from Jacinda Ardern work. In the meantime, we've seen billions of dollars moved away from road building, projects cancelled, rescoped and deferred, fuel taxes increased, and regions neglected. New Zealanders deserve better."

Court claimed much of New Zealand would have to foot the bill for the project, which Transport Minister Michael Wood today confirmed could cost up to $14 billion. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said central Government would carry most of the financial burden of the project.

“Although the focus was on a value capture tax on property owners, that will only raise between $2 and $3 billion of the $14.6 billion needed,” Court said.

National was also critical of the Government’s spending, and whether the project would come to fruition.

“Today we hear the Government is going to spend another $50 million on a business case. That’s $100 million of taxpayers’ money spent before they’ve even got spades in the ground,” National’s infrastructure spokesperson Simon Bridges said.

“If it ever goes ahead it will be at least $15 billion of wasted spending.

“Their light rail dream is just that – a dream. There is a big difference between making an announcement and executing it.”

The Green Party was supportive of the project, though uncertain on the accessibility of underground stations.

Green Party transport spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said by partially going underground the Government would need to ensure underground stations were accessible and welcoming to all communities.

“We also missed an opportunity to ensure the main corridor is people friendly. In the short term, cars will still dominate the spaces above ground. With urgent action on climate required, we need to seize every opportunity that allows us to support people to a sustainable future."