By BERNARD ORSMAN
The Britomart project faces a cash crisis after Infrastructure Auckland's refusal to make a "reasonable" contribution to the $261 million transport centre.
Auckland Mayor Christine Fletcher said Infrastructure Auckland's proposal to give only $30 million to $35 million instead of the $91.5 million requested could not only "torpedo" Britomart but threaten a $1.3 billion regional transport plan to cure Auckland's traffic woes.
Without Britomart, the plan to have a mix of light rail in downtown and in the west, heavy trains in the south, and the busway on the North Shore all converging in the city centre would fail.
In a dramatic action, Mrs Fletcher yesterday sent a letter to Infrastructure Auckland board members only minutes before they met, pleading with them to defer a decision.
She accused Infrastructure Auckland of changing the rules, and said the council had legal advice questioning Infrastructure Auckland's process in dealing with the council's application for a $91.5 million grant.
Under the "new" rules, Infrastructure Auckland staff recommended a grant of between $29.8 million and $35.2 million.
Infrastructure Auckland chairman John Robertson and chief executive Richard Maher said the funding agency had not sprung any new rules on the council.
The criteria used to evaluate the application had been laid out "with councils' support" since Infrastructure Auckland was set up in October 1998.
Mr Robertson said Britomart was an important part of the $1.3 billion transport blueprint, but Infrastructure Auckland had only $410 million to allocate across the region.
He acknowledged that the council learned only yesterday how Infrastructure Auckland planned to allocate the $410 million in six transport categories, including a cap of $118 million for Britomart and about 60 other stations.
Mrs Fletcher said the council might not be able to get the money to proceed with Britomart, although she hoped the two public bodies would be able to sort out their differences after Infrastructure Auckland agreed to her request to defer its decision and hold talks.
The council is confident of receiving about $15 million from Transfund today, after applying for $25 million.
But even with $35 million from Infrastructure Auckland, Transfund's $15 million and $133 million of it own - a total of $183 million - the council faces a shortfall.
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By BERNARD ORSMAN