Government looks for cross-party support on second Waitematā Harbour crossing but parties take critical view of announcement

The National Party says it supports a second Waitematā Harbour crossing but is questioning Labour's ability to deliver "given their track record". 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Transport Minister Michael Wood want cross-party support on the major infrastructure development, warning every time the details of such a project change, there are delays to when it's built and ready for use by Kiwis.

Five scenarios were unveiled by Wood on Thursday morning for what he referred to as "one of the most significant city-shaping projects" for Auckland in the coming decades. 

Each of the proposed options includes walking and cycling links, light rail connections, and more resilience for private vehicles and freight.

"A new rapid transit connection from the city centre to the North Shore will fully integrate with other projects including Auckland Light Rail and rapid transit to the Northwest to allow people to travel seamlessly across Auckland," Wood said.

Feedback will now be collected on each of the scenarios, with a preferred option for the crossing expected in June. 

It was also announced the intention is for construction to begin in 2029, earlier than what was previously expected.

National previously proposed a second harbour crossing as well. In its 2020 election policy, then-leader Judith Collins said work on a new road and rail tunnel would begin in 2028.

Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown on Thursday said National supported a second crossing but questioned Labour's "ability to deliver given their track record". 

He pointed to the cancellation of the Auckland Cycle Bridge and delays to light rail, which the Government said this month will be rolled out in stages. 

Brown also said the announcement appeared to be a "desperate attempt to distract from their failures".

"National is the party of infrastructure," Brown said. "In Auckland, we delivered the Waterview Tunnel, upgraded the North-Western and South-Western motorways, electrified the Auckland Rail Network, and left Labour with a pipeline of Auckland infrastructure projects which they haven't completed."

He said National "believes projects delivered are much more important than projects announced".

The ACT Party wants to know what's changed to prompt the Government to get on with the project now. 

"No one will deny another crossing over the Auckland Harbour would be a great thing," said leader David Seymour.

"But what have they done to make an early crossing possible other than wishing? When did they start working on this change? If it is possible, why didn't they do it earlier?

"Hipkins appears to be taking a leaf from the Ardern playbook, making ad-hoc populist infrastructure decisions in the leadup to an election."

The Government announced last November a survey to get people's views on alternative options to get across the harbour. This is the next step in that process.

The Greens said rail, walking and cycling should be prioritised, not more car lanes which "will make congestion and climate change worse". 

"Now is the time to be building climate-resilient, affordable, inclusive communities with clean and reliable transport connections at their heart. The options released today are extremely disappointing," said Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokesperson for transport.

"The Government must prioritise climate action for any second crossing, as well as expanding rapid transit across the city."

"It is crucial the Government gives people the tools they need to access reliable, affordable, low-carbon alternatives to cars."

Speaking to media after the announcement, Hipkins said he didn't expect there to be "any shortage of cross-party political support for a second harbour crossing". 

"The key thing is we've just got to get on now and make sure we're making that happen," he said.

"We know from our experience across multiple governments of dealing with other big infrastructure projects like this, and Transmission Gully in Wellington is a really good recent example of that, that these projects take a long time and you need to see them through from start to finish.

"Between making the decision to go ahead with Transmission Gully and cars actually driving on it, was more than a decade. We've got to make sure we're locking in a commitment here to make this happen. Our government is absolutely giving that commitment."

He said every time an incoming government "decides to change the plan, that's simply going to result in more delays".

"We want to make sure that we're getting on with it."

Wood said it is "beneficial" to build political consensus on these types of projects.

"They always take a number of years to deliver and will often cross different spans of government. So we'll keep working on that. At the same time, we're not going to be held back from making the decisions that our city and our country needs for this kind of infrastructure."

He said last year the Government formally wrote to the National Party to have conversations about the development of a mass rapid network, but hasn't had a formal response.