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Saturday, April 17, 2021

New unit to set Auckland light rail on right track

Transport Minister Michael Wood has announced the establishment of a unit to progress Auckland’s light rail project.

Minister Wood said the previous process didn’t involve Aucklanders enough.

“There’s wide-ranging support for rapid transit but Aucklanders felt shut out of the project. Today I’m drawing a line under that and involving Aucklanders from the get-go,” he said.

“Light rail is a critical investment to develop a modern, connected mass-transit system in New Zealand’s largest city, supporting jobs, growth, and housing.

“Without decisive investment in mass transit Auckland will choke on its own growth. Light rail will support growth in Māngere, Onehunga, and Mount Roskill in particular, connecting these communities and giving people the option to leave the car at home, which will help reduce congestion and emissions.

“As the new Transport Minister, I’ve been tasked with getting the project moving and I acknowledge Aucklanders were shut out of the previous process. We’ve had calls for Government to involve communities and stakeholders – I’ve listened and this is what we’ll do.”

The Government has tasked an Establishment Unit with a six-month work programme including:

  • – partnering with Māori;
  • – engaging with stakeholders and communities;
  • – developing a business case so evidence-based decisions can be made on mode and route, providing cost estimates, and funding and financing options which includes looking at value capture;
  • – determining the best form for the delivery entity, which will be either City Rail Link Limited or a new joint venture with Auckland Council.

“The Establishment Unit will be led by an inclusive governance board, involving an independent chair, local government, key agencies and community and Māori representatives. Taking this inclusive approach allows for a strong focus on engagement – which is crucial to getting the best outcome for Auckland,” the Minister said.

“Involving Auckland Council is critical, so the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Auckland will work with me and the Minister of Finance to oversee this work. 

“Once the Government receives the advice from the establishment unit at the end of the year, we will make the key decisions on route, mode, and delivery entity. We will then be able to give the public certainty on issues like cost and timeframes.              

“I know some would have liked me to announce a shovel-ready project today, but I also want to be absolutely certain that the plan we move forward with is the right one. That’s why this fresh start is involving Aucklanders and doing the work alongside them.

“Our vision for Auckland is to create a vibrant connected city that’s easier, cleaner and safer to get around – light rail will help make that happen. The city centre to Māngere line will be a backbone that eventually will link with the North and North-west, forming a rapid transit network that fully integrates with other forms of transport across the city.”

He said today’s announcement meant that the community would be involved in helping to develop the most significant city-shaping piece of infrastructure since the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

“While the establishment unit will get started from today, in the coming weeks I intend to announce the appointment of the independent chair who will work with Aucklanders on this project,” Mr Wood said.

The Establishment Unit will be housed within Waka Kotahi and be a collaboration between central and local government, drawing on expertise from a range of agencies including Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, the Ministry of Transport, Kāinga Ora and others.

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