No date set for start of light rail construction - Transport Minister Michael Wood

Transport Minister Michael Wood isn't committing to a start date for construction on Auckland's long-awaited light rail project, but says "no one is more committed" to getting it started than he is.

"I'm an Aucklander, I have to work my way through the traffic like you and everyone else," he told The AM Show host Duncan Garner on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday the project, first mooted in 2014, was rebooted - previous attempts to get it started reportedly held up by Labour's former coalition partner NZ First. But rather than pushing ahead with previous plans, a six-month consultation will be undertaken on a new plan.

"What we will have at the end of this year is a clear indicative business case that tells us the route, the mode, who should deliver it... and indicate costs," Wood said.

The exact timeframe will be decided on by a delivery unit established at the end of the consultation. 

"It would be my hope that we can get sods turned in this term, but we have to let that unit do its work."

Auckland Business Chamber boss Michael Barnett says while everyone "wants the same thing - an integrated [transport] system" - he fears a repeat of the disruption caused to inner-city businesses by the construction of the City Rail Link. 

"Hopefully they'll be looking at the mode, they'll be looking at the routes, they'll be looking at the process and they'll look at finance. Hopefully that's going to provide a better delivery platform than what we've had in other projects... 

"I think this is going to be a frustration, especially for business... it was a Government policy in 2017, and now they're asking for more time to re-engage and make sure they've got it right. That is going to be frustrating." 

Wood said even with the urgency of getting Auckland's traffic fixed, it's vital they get it right. 

"It will be the most complex engineering project, transport project in Auckland for a very long time. It is going through an existing built-up city area with businesses and people living there... It won't be super-quick and it will be a big investment that we have to make. 

"But it's a 100-year investment, and if we don't start making these calls now, Auckland will choke on its own growth." 

It won't just be a train to the airport either, he insists.

"The proposal is to have the route going from the city centre to the airport. We are a little bit conscious to not always describe it in that way, because this is about building a connected-up rapid transit system across the city. It's not just about people travelling from Queen St to the airport. Some people will do that, but in many cases it will be different from that. In many cases people will connect to different parts of the network. 

"This is also the spine on which we can build a further network - looking at places like the northwest and North Shore, who desperately need enhancements to their public transport network as well."