Cabinet Minister Phil Twyford holds two powerful portfolios which are critical to Auckland's success: housing and urban development; and transport.

Twyford — a former journalist and union organiser — honed his leadership skills while executive director for Oxfam in New Zealand and later as the NGO's global advocacy director in Washington DC.

He known to be personable, persuasive and has already been marked out as one of the rising stars in Cabinet.

But he will have to deliver on some very big challenges — housing Aucklanders (at scale) and ensuring new transport infrastructure is built to a tight timetable — to make the transition from being an Opposition politician to a minister who "gets stuff done".


A key challenge will be to bring the private sector on board when it comes to stumping up funds to underpin Auckland's growth. Local infrastructure and housing construction firms are keen to dominate this business.

But if Twyford wants to mount a step-change in the pace of Auckland's development he could usefully ensure more international firms, including those from China, are invited to take part.

Twyford has indicated the Government has a broad housing reform agenda and is taking the first crucial steps towards "fixing the crisis".

The Government plans to stop the mass sell-off of state housing and wants Housing NZ to be a "world class public housing landlord".

"While there is something deeply unsettling about our country's current inability to house its own people, I do take courage from what I believe is a widespread view that the current situation is intolerable and has to be fixed," he said recently.

But it is within Auckland that the challenges are particularly acute.

In briefings to the incoming Government it is obvious that officials are concerned that Auckland has now reached saturation point when it comes to absorbing growth.

"Auckland is not performing as well as expected for its size and in comparison to other primary cities around the world. There are opportunities to increase productivity but only if supply constraints — especially transport and housing — are resolved," they said.


Other ministers including Shane Jones who holds the infrastructure portfolio and Jenny Salesa who holds building and construction will be strongly involved in solving Auckland's issues.

The National Government suggested the transport funding deficit in Auckland was $5.9 billion. The Ministry of Transport has suggested fuel excise duties and road user charges may have to be raised.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson talked up the use of infrastructure bonds on Monday.

But Treasury is concerned at the ability of that avenue to fill the gap. Treasury says while public capital has an important role to play, attracting greater third-party capital underpinned by revenue streams would also help to overcome current disincentives to investment facing current providers.

"This also means risks and costs involved are borne by the most appropriate sources, while infrastructure providers are able to get a sufficient return on their investment."

This will be no easy feat given the well-known difficulties some NZ construction firms have faced in recent times.

Twyford says the Government's agenda is also about nation-building. "It recognises we have a crisis, and is bold and broad in response. It has the courage to tackle deeply entrenched problems that have been allowed to fester for too long."

He has three years to make an impact.