Govt undermining city rail plans - Lee

By Mathew Dearnaley

Photo / Chris Skelton
Photo / Chris Skelton

The Government is undermining Auckland's big rail projects by trying to abolish the 30-year transport strategy prescribing them, says a Super City councillor.

Transport chairman Mike Lee says legislation the Government wants to pass within nine months will annul the strategy, which was completed by a large regional committee last year, before the Super City amalgamation.

He believed it would "erase" the rail projects contained in the document, a claim denied by Transport Minister Steven Joyce.

"He is effectively annulling the regional land transport strategy and the projects in it which he has already opposed," Mr Lee said of the minister.

But Mr Joyce said transport strategy would be contained with land use intentions in a 30-year regional spatial plan, which the Auckland Council expects to sign before Christmas.

"The whole idea is that it is all integrated."

He said the Government would not stop the Super City from including the three big rail projects championed by Auckland Mayor Len Brown in the new plan.

These are the $2.4 billion central city tunnel, trains to the airport and a rail link across Waitemata Harbour to Albany.

But the Government would ultimately have to be convinced of the appropriateness of these before it would be willing to help to pay for them.

"No plan gets to write a cheque - that's why we are working with Auckland on the spatial planning process to try to get that alignment."

Mr Lee said the 2010 transport strategy, developed by a committee representing all parts of the region, was a statutory document that he saw no need to replace so soon.

"It's time to get on and do things - no one's going to be impressed with a new set of plans and strategies."

He accused the minister of being more concerned with "tinkering with process" than in providing Auckland with the public transport it needed.

"When it comes to the major projects, he goes into a fetal crouch."

The proposed legislation will make Auckland Transport take on the responsibilities of a regional transport committee even though all its board members are appointees rather than elected politicians.

Mr Lee believed the move would make Auckland Transport and its $1.4 billion annual budget less accountable to ratepayers and more beholden to the Government's transport priorities.

"In effect the minister is de-amalgamating transport as a regional democratic responsibility in Auckland," said Mr Lee, who is one of Mr Brown's three appointees to the organisation's nine-member board.

Labour transport spokesman Shane Jones said he had a lot of faith in the spatial plan but feared the transport CCO could become overloaded.

"It is expected to be an agency of delivery but if it also has responsibility for rehashing plans and strategies it could get into a state of paralysis."

- NZ Herald

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