The passenger rail connection between Hamilton and Auckland is one of a number of priority projects of the Hamilton to Auckland Corridor Plan, a joint iwi-council-central government initiative.
The Future-Proof initiative signed off on August 15 by government ministers, local mayors and mana whenua will see the Waikato, Waipa, Matamata-Piako and Hamilton councils work with the Waikato Regional Council, and Auckland City Council, together with the Government and local iwi to improve the way the area will grow.
The NZ Transport Agency and Waikato District Health Board were also represented at the signing at Hampton Downs.
Apart from rail, the groups will work together on a variety of issues, including housing and other transport as well as walking and cycling trails.
At the core of the corridor are the Waikato River and the Waipa River, the Main Trunk Line and the Waikato Expressway.
Also known as H2A, Hei Awarua ki te Oranga stretches from Papakura in the north to Cambridge and Te Awamutu in the south.
The plan also includes the possibility of extending future rail links to places such as Cambridge and Te Awamutu.
Māori Development and Associate Housing Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the partnership aimed to unlock the "significant growth potential in Southern Auckland and the Hamilton-Waikato metropolitan area, underpinned by new rapid and commuter rail connections".
"The transport network will direct where much-needed housing will be developed and connect our people to growing employment opportunities in both the Waikato and Auckland," she said.
Hamilton would be poised to become an "even higher growth but affordable urban centre", she said.
"Strategic planning will protect and enhance the quality of both regions' natural environments, as well as their cultural heritage.
"It will boost supply of affordable housing options to the communities that need them most," Ms Mahuta said.
Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it was the first time two regions in New Zealand had joined with the Government to implement such a plan.
Huntly just the start
Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion says upgrading the Huntly railway station will be a major transformational opportunity for Huntly.
"Having the passenger train stop in Huntly will have huge potential for the future growth and development of the town.
"The opportunities presented by the proposed transport hub at the Huntly station and its future relationship with the Waikato Expressway will be something that the council will be further exploring through the Huntly and Surrounds Spatial Plan."
Mr Ion says the Government's funding announcement is the first step towards getting a properly functioning passenger rail service going in the corridor.
"Council is committed to working with Government to explore future rail options that will link Te Kauwhata, Mercer, Pokeno and Tuakau into the Auckland network.
"We're also working on implementation of the Hamilton-Waikato Metropolitan Mass Transit Plan which will better connect our communities.
All of this will be dependent on ongoing Government funding support," Mr Ion says.