$28 billion plan to fix Auckland's transport unveiled

More than $28 billion will be spent fixing Auckland's transport network over the next decade, Auckland Council and the Government have announced.

"We will be building vital projects including light rail, Penlink and Mill Road, heavy rail and bus upgrades, safety improvements, and more dedicated cycle lanes," Transport Minister Phil Twyford said on Thursday, unveiling the new Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP).

Although it's more than the $26.9 billion the previous National Government planned to spend, Mr Twyford said the funding shortfall has been narrowed thanks to the council's planned regional fuel tax, which will come into place later this year.

"These much-needed investments are made possible by a $4.4 billion funding boost resulting from the Auckland fuel tax, increased revenue from the National Land Transport Fund, and Crown Infrastructure Partners contributions.

"This plan is funded to deliver the projects we are committed to. The previous ATAP report, released by former Transport Minister Simon Bridges in August 2017, had a $5.9 billion funding gap. National had no plan to fix that fiscal hole, which would have meant the projects they promised couldn't have been delivered."

The difference between National's ATAP and this one is it now has a "greater focus on the broader health, safety and environmental benefits enabled by transport", according to the Ministry of Transport website.

"The updated package is expected to encourage a stronger shift towards public transport usage, a higher proportion of journeys by bike, more urban development around rapid transit corridors, improved safety outcomes and reduced environmental harm."

Fuel tax vs rates rise

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the fuel tax will avoid a 13 percent rates rise. He told The AM Show on Thursday morning Aucklanders are "realistic" about the need to pay for better transport infrastructure, and repeated that at the midday announcement, made at Newmarket train station.

"Alternatively, to do nothing would see Auckland become increasingly gridlocked."

Even $28 billion isn't expected to be enough, however.

"ATAP represents a significant increase in investment in our transport network, but we still need to find innovative ways to fund further development such as PPPs, special purpose vehicles or infrastructure bonds," said Mr Goff.

The $1.8 billion set aside for light rail will need outside investment, he said, which is currently being sought.

Around $800 million has been set aside for funding of the East-West Link - less than half the previous estimate of $1.75 billion.

Auckland will get only 38 percent of the National Land Transport Fund over the next decade, despite growing much faster than the rest of the country. Around 55 percent of all population growth in New Zealand over the next 10 years is expected to be concentrated in the Auckland region.

"You can't keep growing your population at a rate faster than almost any other developed city in the world, then not put the money into infrastructure to make sure people can get around it. That's been the problem," Mr Goff told The AM Show.

The Penlink roading project will be a toll road, Mr Twyford confirmed.

Projects funded by the latest ATAP revision include:

  • the City Rail Link and improvements to the northern motorway
  • light rail
  • eastern busway (Panmure-Botany)
  • Airport-Puhinui State highway upgrade
  • faster, more reliable and more efficient bus services
  • Albany-Silverdale bus improvements
  • lower-cost East-West Link to address key freight issues in the area
  • Papakura-Drury motorway widening
  • The first phase of the Mill Road corridor
  • Penlink (tolled)
  • walking and cycling programmes, such as Skypath
  • safety improvements
  • new infrastructure to "enable greenfield growth"
  • network optimisation and technology programmes
  • rail network improvements including electrification to Pukekohe, more trains and track upgrades.

The full ATAP proposal can be read online (PDF).