A $28 billion transport programme has been unveiled for Auckland in what's been described by the Government and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff as the country's largest ever civil construction programme.
Its backers say the work will help create a 21st century transport network for the city.
"Together, we will invest $28 billion over the next decade to unlock Auckland's potential. We will be building vital projects including light rail, Penlink and Mill Rd, heavy rail and bus upgrades, safety improvements, and more dedicated cycle lanes," said Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
The investments are made possible by a $4.4b funding boost resulting from the Auckland regional fuel tax (RFT), increased revenue from the National Land Transport Fund, and a new funding mechanism, Crown Infrastructure Partners, Twyford and Goff said at Newmarket railway station.
Earlier today, the Herald reported the Government will fund two major new roading projects in Auckland.
One is Penlink, in the north, providing a new connection between the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Northern Motorway. Motorists will pay a toll to use the road - a measure National has criticised as a "triple whammy" for motorists.
The other project is Mill Rd in the south, improving the connection from Manukau through Takanini to Drury.
Both roads have been favoured projects of the former National-led Government. But until today they did not feature among the key elements of the Labour-led Government's transport strategy for the city.
Projects in the joint Government-Auckland transport programme, known as Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), include:
• Committed projects like the City Rail Link and Northern Motorway improvements.
• Light rail, or modern trams.
• Eastern busway (Panmure-Botany).
• Airport-Puhinui State Highway upgrade, including a high quality public transport link to an upgraded Puhinui railway station.
• Bus priority programme, to more rapidly grow Auckland's bus lane network and support faster, more reliable and more efficient bus services.
• Albany-Silverdale bus improvements.
• Lower cost East West Link to address key freight issues in the area.
• Papakura-Drury motorway widening.
• First phase of the Mill Rd corridor.
• Penlink road (motorists will pay a toll to help fund this).
• Walking and cycling programme to expand the network and complete key connections, such as Sky Path.
• Significant programme of safety improvements.
• New transport infrastructure to enable greenfield growth
• Network optimisation and technology programme to make the best use of our existing network.
• Rail network improvements including electrification to Pukekohe, additional trains and other track upgrades.
"This plan is funded to deliver the projects we are committed to," Twyford said.
"The previous ATAP report, released by former Transport Minister Simon Bridges in August 2017, had a $5.9 billion funding gap. National had no plan to fix that fiscal hole, which would have meant the projects they promised couldn't have been delivered.
"This $28 billion plan will help ease the awful congestion that has been caused by a decade of under-investment. We will create a congestion-free rapid transit network and boost other alternatives to driving to help free up the roads, enable growth, and improve safety for drivers and others."
Goff said: "ATAP balances the need to deal with Auckland's immediate and pressing transport needs, as well as being transformational for the future.
"ATAP reflects the need for efficient roading for green and brownfield housing development, new transport corridors and major arterial routes. But as Auckland grows we need to move from a focus on roading to a more balanced approach that promotes public transport and active transport networks.
"Auckland has to contribute its share and the regional fuel tax allows us to do that. The more than $4 billion expenditure it unlocks is critically important to progressing a better transport system for Auckland.
"To raise the same sum from rates would result in a total rate increase of over 13 per cent this year. Alternatively, to do nothing would see Auckland become increasingly gridlocked.
"New forms of revenue such as an RFT to invest in our transport network and light rail to supplement buses, ferries and heavy rail are critical for an efficient and effective Auckland transport system. Auckland's growth means additional investment in these areas is vital for us to tackle congestion problems," Goff said.
"ATAP represents a significant increase in investment in our transport network, but we still need to find innovative ways to fund further development such as PPPs [public-private partnerships], special purpose vehicles or infrastructure bonds."
ATAP includes $1.8b in funding for light rail. A work programme is under way to leverage sources of investment capital outside of ATAP for light rail, and an announcement will be made soon.
Under ATAP, Auckland is expected to receive 38 per cent of the National Land Transport Fund over the next decade, proportionate with the region's growing share of New Zealand's population.
However, Goff says that this "still falls short of Auckland's projected 55 per cent share of the country's population growth over the next decade".