Auckland needs to work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with the Government if it's to find a way out of a massive budget deficit and fund its much needed transport plans, Mayor Len Brown says.
The city was gearing up for "one of the most important funding debates Auckland has ever seen, and maybe even the nation", he said today.
It needed to find $300 million-$400 million a year to fill a $12 billion funding gap, which would mean the difference "between steady-as-you-go typical Auckland or whether or not we're going to seriously invest in infrastructure to deal with the shortfall and to deal with the growth coming at us to build this city as a real economic powerhouse".
Mr Brown was speaking at the opening of the Road Transport Forum annual conference at the city's Pullman hotel this morning.
Tomorrow will see Labour's transport spokesman Phil Twyford, and Green's Julie-Anne Genter spell out their election policies, before Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee addresses the conference.
Opening the conference today, Mr Brown said Auckland continued to suffer from decades of under-investment in transport infrastructure.
"There's been a 'close enough is good enough' mentality but we're calling time on that one," he said. "It's the type of thinking that gave us a Harbour Bridge that we needed to add clip-ons to 10 years after we built the original."
It was time to invest fully in transport, he said.
"Bluntly, we need to decide do we want a transport package based on current funding sources, which is not at all appealing and won't deliver the city that we're aspiring to and we know we need. Or do we find new sources of funding and deliver the transport programme Aucklanders asked for through the Auckland plan and in successive elections.
"Current funding sources would deliver us a transport system that's half-way there. We need to be bold, innovative."
In November, the council would use the 10-year budget discussions to include talks about how to fund the future transport network.
He branded it "one of the most important funding debates Auckland has ever seen, and maybe even the nation, in terms of how we fund infrastructure going forward".
"Through this debate we need to get the Government shoulder-to-shoulder with us. We will require their help if one of the decisions from Auckland is that we need to go ahead with some private injection or network charge."
Finance Minister Bill English had been "reasonably receptive" to the city holding those discussions, he said, and he was "confident" they would emerge with a positive outcome for the city.
Several transport upgrade projects are planned for Auckland over the next 15 to 20 years, including a second harbour crossing, the city rail ink, and the east-west link, at an estimated cost of $10 billion.
Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer said Mr Brown knew he could no longer sell new tolling to Aucklanders so was dragging in the business sector and the Government to help.
"The problem for the mayor is his wishlist carries very little weight this general election. Auckland's sadly lost a lot of its bargaining power simply because the political parties are reluctant to be seen sucking up to him.
"He knows selling the likes of network tolling will be an impossible task for him as people have tuned out on him. He's now trying to drag in the Government and no doubt if he fails to convince the public, it will be everyone else fault," Mr Brewer said.
- additional reporting Bernard Orsman