OPINION: Senior Wellington journalist Georgina Campbell's fortnightly column looks closely at issues in the capital.
It's almost two years to the day since Wellington's $6.4 billion transport plan was announced and we know nothing more about its two biggest projects than what Phil Twyford said at the podium.
In 2019 the public was left with the impression Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) would deliver mass rapid transit from the city to the airport and a second Mt Victoria tunnel.
But what Wellingtonians actually end up with could very well be quite different.
Treasury officials warned something like this could happen before Cabinet endorsed the indicative package.
The proposed transport overhaul was so light in detail, Treasury did not support a recommendation for Cabinet to endorse it.
"Making an announcement at this stage carries significant risks, as it will raise public expectations of future investment before the costs and benefits of the package are fully understood."
Treasury instead recommended Cabinet merely note the package and invited then Transport Minister Phil Twyford to report back with more cost details.
In an email leading up to the decision, Treasury vented concerns the benefit of projects was largely unknown and that wasn't made clear in the Cabinet paper.
It even took issue with the use of a word cloud graphic which it called "anecdotal and emotive, rather than conclusive evidence of a need for these particular investments".
Fast-forward two years and Treasury's Budget Economic and Fiscal Update, published with Budget 2021 last week, says LGWM is shaping up to cost significantly more than first thought.
"The ability to deliver LGWM in full also relies on local government providing its own share. Due to competing funding priorities of local councils, it is possible that central government is asked to contribute funding to LGWM," the document said.
The end result could mean projects are scaled back, or the Government bails out LGWM.
The current funding deal is that the Government will foot 60 per cent of the bill while local government will contribute 40 per cent.
Current Transport Minister Michael Wood has said the Government remains committed to the programme, including its share of the investment needed to unlock Wellington.
But the competing funding priorities at Wellington City Council are a serious problem.
The council has already proposed a rates increase of 13.5 per cent, which could turn into 16 per cent.
The city's infrastructure is literally crumbling and there's no help in Budget 2021 for the council's $400 million social housing problem.
The council has already told Wood that LGWM is unaffordable in its current state, let alone a version which is significantly more expensive.
Auckland got a regional fuel tax implemented in July 2018 to fund transport projects that would otherwise be delayed or not funded.
Any hopes of a similar deal in Wellington were dashed later that year when Jacinda Ardern ruled out new regional fuel taxes while she was Prime Minister.
The Government is also considering congestion charging in Auckland, but not in Wellington.
However, partners can't work out how to deal with a cost escalation until they actually know what that number is.
According to requests for tender documents, draft indicative business cases for mass rapid transit and state highway improvements were meant to be completed by October 2020 and the final ones by March 2021.
In response to a written parliamentary question by Hutt South National list MP Chris Bishop, Wood said a draft business case for the second Mt Victoria Tunnel is now not expected to be completed and released until late 2021.
A LGWM spokesperson confirmed work on both indicative business cases was yet to be completed.
Following a "health check" of LGWM, which found the plan was at risk of failing, had leadership problems, and a detrimental culture, additional work was undertaken on the business cases.
Programme partners have reviewed objectives and how they are weighted, the spokesperson said.
"We also need to look at the project options and consider the interdependencies they could have with one-another, and the trade-offs involved in option combinations. This is complex, technical work which must be completed ahead of public engagement, so that we know that options shown to the community are feasible together."
Back in 2019, Twyford said Cabinet decided to endorse the indicative package, despite what Treasury said, because Wellingtonians had waited decades for this kind of transport investment.
That announcement itself was 10 months late. It feels like nothing has changed.