Government agencies are boycotting an Auckland Council project aimed at building public consensus on how to plug a transport funding shortfall.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown's 18-member "consensus-building group" was to start its first two-day meeting at Eden Park this morning, but the Ministry of Transport and the Transport Agency have said they have no intention of joining.
"This is an Auckland Council project - for the council and its stakeholders," a ministry spokesman told the Herald yesterday.
"When the group has developed its proposals, government agencies may formally consider them further down the track."
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's office would not confirm a suggestion that the minister, who has poured cold water on Mr Brown's suggestions that road tolls or a regional fuel tax could help to fill a 30-year transport funding gap of $10 billion to $15 billion, had ordered officials to shun the exercise.
The council's immediate challenge is how to pay for a $2.86 billion inner-city rail tunnel for which it has not yet won any government funding, despite preparing to notify next month a land designation over its 3.5km route.
But Automobile Association spokesman Simon Lambourne, who will be on the panel, said he was extremely disappointed the Government was missing "a valuable opportunity to steer the transport funding debate in the right direction".
He said it was obvious the Government shared the AA's concern that the council was targeting motorists with funding options such as tolls, a fuel tax and higher parking fees.
He believed the consultation group had wide enough representation to rectify that by putting alternative options such as asset sales back on the table, but said it was "short-sighted and unwise" of the Government not to add its weight.
"If they are not observing the group and helping as it discusses a very important issue for Auckland," he said, "they are doing a disservice to Auckland and to the people who are trying to find a solution for our transport funding problems."