Local elections: Leading candidates Efeso Collins, Wayne Brown butt heads over future of Auckland's public transport

Auckland's leading mayoral candidates are butting heads over the future of public transport.

Voting is currently open to decide who will replace incumbent Phil Goff as mayor, with voting closing at 12pm on October 8. 

Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins and former Far North mayor Wayne Brown faced off on Tuesday morning on AM, pitching their plan to boost bus usage. 

Brown said any suggestion of making public transport free is financially irresponsible and said the focus should be on speeding up services.

"Nothing is free, just somebody else pays and I don't think that is what is going to get people onto the buses."

Wayne Brown wants to speed Auckland buses up instead of making them free.
Wayne Brown wants to speed Auckland buses up instead of making them free. Photo credit: AM

He also raised questions over whether making it free would actually increase its use. 

"Pensioners get buses for free now and they don't particularly catch them more than any other class of people," Brown told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"What will get people onto buses is if you speed them up by using the very IT that he [Collins] doesn't want to spend to bring up our signals network, so the lights know the buses are arriving and they'll go green just enough to get the bus through. 

"If you're sitting in the traffic and the bus is now 5km ahead of you because of that, you might think that it's time to get out of the car."

But Efeso Collins is pushing fares-free transport city-wide, which he said will cost $256 million per year. 

"We're going to take it from existing budgets that already are at work now for Auckland Transport - that's a bucket of around $2 billion. So it's just reprioritising those costs and moving that money across," Collins told AM. 

Efeso Collins is pushing for free public transport for Auckland.
Efeso Collins is pushing for free public transport for Auckland. Photo credit: AM

Auckland Transport has warned the cost of free public transport could rise to $500 million by 2030, but Collins said it's a "great problem to have".

"It's a great problem to have because we want more people out of their cars," he said. "We are decongesting the roads and they're on the buses and the trains, so it's going to do really well for our community." 

Both candidates were given 30-seconds to pitch to the Auckland public about why they should be the next mayor. 

"I'm really interested in a climate-resilient society," Collins said. 

"I'm in it for my children and their generation. So we've got to be future focussed and I believe I provide the collaborative, constructive leadership that Auckland needs today." 

Brown focused his pitch on his track record. 

"I've got a good track record of fixing big messy organisations in financial trouble, which describes the Auckland Council fairly well," he said. 

"They can rely upon me to get on top of costs and service delivery so that Aucklanders become proud to be Aucklanders again."

Collins is leading the race for the top job by a smidge in a new poll commissioned by his campaign. 

The poll, commissioned by Talbot Mills for Collins' campaign, was released on Saturday and has Collins at 27 percent and Brown closely behind at 25 percent, with those who are unsure being excluded.

People who were unsure made up 34 percent of those polled, with 740 voters polled when those who are unsure were removed. 

When people who are unsure were included in the poll, Collins sat at 19 percent and Brown at 17 percent with a margin of error of 2.8 percent. 

Watch the full debate above.