Government unveils new south Auckland transport hub to cut airport commute stress

The Government hopes a new transport hub in south Auckland will make getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport a thing of the past.

It's the latest in a series of public transport unveilings, with new roads kicked to the curb.

The stress of driving to and from Auckland Airport is something even the mayor knows all too well.

"Many is the time when I've driven to the airport in my previous occupation, and I've hit the congestion and I've had that anxiety, 'I'm gonna miss this bloody plane'," Phil Goff told the crowd at the opening of the new Puhinui Station Interchange in Papatoetoe.

The $69 million project expands the existing station into a major hub.

The trip from Britomart will take 45 minutes. But it doesn't go all the way to the airport. Electric buses do the final stretch.

Goff and Transport Minister Michael Wood insist this isn't just a stop-gap until light rail finally gets here.

"Light rail is predominantly about the intensification of housing. It's not predominantly about the airport," explains Goff.

Services start on Monday, but Saturday was an opportunity for the public to take a look.

"Investing more in climate change ready infrastructure, it's the way to go," says Werner Pretorius, who drove down from the North Shore to check Puhinui Station out.

Carol Hole has been watching the construction over the last 22 months with excitement.

"Once I get my senior AT card, I'll be in," she says.

"I love going to the city!" says Levi Barrett, who was visiting with his family.

But not everyone was convinced.

"I thought there'd have been more parking here," admitted one punter.

But for others, there's a bigger problem than no parking.

The Government has cancelled or delayed a number of roading projects, including Mill Road and the State Highway 2 upgrade, and a Ministry of Transport document suggests there'll be no funding for major roads in the next ten years.

Automobile Association's senior infrastructure advisor Sarah Geard says it's "pretty concerning".

"What we know is the majority of travel is going to continue to be on the road network and therefore as the population grows we need to see the road network grow as well."

She says cancelling some roads could have unintended consequences for the climate-conscious Government.

"As there is more demand for travel in these areas, if there aren't roads there to provide for that travel, that can translate to more congestion, which can translate to more emissions."

The Transport Minister isn't ruling out new roads entirely.

"There will continue to be, where it is appropriate, investment in some new roads. The bar will be higher than it has been in the past because we have a range of other priorities," Wood says.

But he says the Government has moved on from the path of the past where investment solely went into roads.

"We need to get over this mythology that New Zealanders won't take public transport," he says.

"There's not some genetic disposition there that makes us different from people in other cities where public transport is taken at higher levels. It's about providing the infrastructure that works for people."

Because as the visiting Puhinui crowd proved: if you build it, they will come.