The Government is spending $16 million to scope and cost the next phase of light rail in Auckland, which National says is becoming a "gravy train" for consultants.
Last month, the multi-national engineering and design firms Arup and Aurecon were named as the preferred bidders under an alliance model to do the detailed planning and design work for the $14.6 billion project.
The cost of this work by the two firms is still being negotiated, but $16m has been set aside by Auckland Light Rail Ltd to work with Arup and Aurecon "to scope and cost the work to develop the next phase of the project".
National transport spokesman Simeon Brown said Aucklanders will be shocked to learn the Government is about to spend another $16m on another consultancy report which will scope the next piece of consultancy work on light rail.
"It's a light rail gravy train for consultants, while taxpayers continue to foot the bill," he said.
However, Auckland Light Rail programme director Tommy Parker said such spending was common practice under an alliance model to work through the tasks, risks and opportunities and confirm a price for the main works, which he expected to take until February.
Arup, Aurecon and their sub-consultants are already underway on the main work while negotiations take place on the cost, which remains commercially sensitive at this stage, Parker said.
The alliance is expected to take 18 months to finalise the route for light rail, the location of stations, develop the corridor business case, look at how the system will be built and prepare the consents for construction.
"This is the biggest infrastructure project we have done in NZ," Parker said.
The latest spending follows a report this month showing more than two-thirds of the money spent on Auckland's light rail project has so far gone to consultants and no funds have yet been spent on construction.
Written questions from Brown to Transport Minister Michael Wood revealed that to date, almost $66m has been spent on the transport project.
But Wood said: "Projects of this scale require significant planning, investigation, engagement, design, and approval/consenting at the front end before construction work can begin."
Wood said early work was expected to commence in 2023.
Brown said Labour had first promised to build light rail from Auckland's CBD to Mt Roskill by 2021.
"Not only have they failed to do this in the five years since they came to office, but all they have done is spend millions of taxpayer dollars on consultancy reports," he said.
National has promised to scrap Auckland light rail if it wins next year's general election.
Wood said continuing with the project was a priority for the Government and was confident the investment in the alliance would help set light rail up to transform how people commute in the Super City.
Since mid-2018, the scope and cost of light rail have changed from a project at street level, costed at $3.7b along a 24km route, to a part-tunnelled, part street-level project, costed at $14.6b in an indicative business case.
The Treasury has said it could ultimately cost $29b.
Light rail could also be discussed at today's first meeting between Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
On the campaign trail, Brown opposed light rail, arguing no one had explained what the problem was that needed fixing and criticised Wellington-initiated projects being imposed on Auckland.
On election day, Brown also said: "Let me be very clear: Wellington's job is to listen to what Aucklanders say are our priorities, and to fund them - not impose ideological schemes like the $30b airport tram, untrammelled housing intensification and Three Waters on a city that doesn't want them."