Five ways the Labour Government will change Auckland

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff meets with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff meets with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

The new Government means big things for Auckland.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff could barely wipe the smile off his face, as he met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Beehive's ninth-floor boardroom. 

The new Government means his job will be just a little bit smoother. He'll have a little more money, a little more help with housing and - at least initially - an easier relationship with central Government.

This was the first time the Prime Minister had sat down to business with one of New Zealand's regional leaders - that's significant. 

Eight hundred people move to Auckland each week, so the country's largest city faces challenges providing the infrastructure for a rapidly increasing population.

So what does the new Government mean for Auckland?

Here are five ways Auckland will change under the Labour Government.

More trains

Labour's promised to deliver some major transport projects for Auckland, including light rail to Auckland Airport. It's doubled down on that promise too - as part of the Government's confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Greens, it committed to starting work on the project. 

Presumably, that means this term.

Other Labour promises include committing up to $30m toward the Skypath across Auckland Harbour Bridge. That's likely to be a project Aucklanders will get really excited about when it's completed. 

Cyclists will be able to cross the bridge inside a clip-on tunnel. It has novel-day-out factor and will be popular as a commuting option.

Large infrastructure projects are a very visible thing governments can point to as an example of change it's initiated.

That's why National claimed the Waterview Tunnel as an example of getting on with projects. 

The claim was half-true - it was completed on National's watch, but the tunnel aspect of the road was a Helen Clark Labour-Government legacy.

Petrol tax

While the Government's committed to some big Auckland transport projects, it expects Auckland Council to pick up a share of the bill. 

"We've acknowledged Auckland should have some skin in the game," Ms Ardern said, indicating an expectation that Auckland Council raise some serious funds itself. 

How much isn't clear yet, but the Government's promised to allow councils to introduce regional fuel taxes.

Struggling to fund some hefty infrastructure projects already, Auckland Council has jumped at the opportunity to charge a few extra cents at the pump. 

On his visit to the beehive, Mr Goff said the tax means the council can raise "something between $1.2b and $1.5b" over a 10-year period.

National's Judith Collins, who is back on the front bench as part of the Opposition's new strategy, was quick to criticise the tax.

Ms Collins predicted mayors across the country will want their own regional fuel taxes.

"How about Auckland Council and its Mayor learn to live within their means?" she asked on Facebook.

The thawing of the Ice Age

The days of tension with National are over.

The relationship improved slightly during National's last term. We saw the Government bring forward the City Rail Link after prolonged lobbying from Auckland Council, Opposition and urban transport groups. But Auckland Council and National continually hurled blame at each other over housing affordability.

You can see the thawing in the hug the Mayor and the Prime Minister shared.  They are old colleagues and Mr Goff was Opposition Leader from 2008-2011.

A hug between Mayor Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
A hug between Mayor Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

Ms Ardern insists the Mayor of Auckland and the Labour Government share "key priorities".

"I would categorise those as housing affordability, transport infrastructure, and also a shared view around the need to improve water quality in Auckland and generally in our urban centres," she said.

"Our relationship is strong. That will be important, as we work together to tackle those shared issues."

Mr Goff echoed: "What we can do together is more than the sum of the different parts. 

"I am really pleased that the objectives of the government are aligned with what Auckland Council believes are the critical priorities for Auckland."

Port wars

NZ First wants to move the Port.

The coalition agreement with Labour promises a study into options for moving the port, giving Northport - in words that Winston Peters almost certainly wrote himself - "serious consideration".

But on Thursday, Ports of Auckland dug in, proposing a 30-year masterplan that includes a wharf extension. 

Ms Ardern was adamant, saying she has "always opposed to port expansion at its current site".

Caught in the crossfire is Mr Goff, whose council owns the port.

It's clear who Mr Goff sides with. He said the study into moving the port "really counts for the future", downplaying the port's masterplan.

"It doesn't make sense for Auckland to make a decision in isolation to what the region and the country actually needs," Mr Goff said.

Heaps more houses 

The Government has made a huge commitment to building houses. It will have to find the land, money and people to build 100,000 houses over 10 years. 

Fifty-thousand of those promised homes will be in Auckland.

Some of the responsibility for those Kiwibuild houses will fall on the council's Panuku Development organisation, which is in charge of buying, selling and developing property for the council.

Mr Goff says Special Housing Areas "didn't deliver".

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

"It will make a huge difference to have Kiwibuild."

But no-one can deny building 5000 homes a year in Auckland alone will be a huge feat. National's suitably-named housing spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, will be watching very closely.