In 1975, Mayor Robbie's Rapid Rail Plan for Auckland was killed off by the incoming Muldoon Government. It was a visionary plan for a high capacity, linked-up public transport network across the city.
The failure of central government to back the plan lies at the heart of many of the problems Auckland has faced in the ensuing decades – growing congestion, hollowed-out town centres, many people with little choice but to drive everywhere, and high levels of urban sprawl.
It's estimated that, pre-Covid, congestion alone cost the Auckland economy around $1.3 billion per year, which would be $65 billion over 50 years, assuming it doesn't get worse.
As Auckland grows to a city of over two million people, these problems will only increase unless we display the same sense of vision that Mayor Robbie did and develop the kind of linked-up public transport network that successful overseas cities of Auckland's size take for granted.
The Auckland Light Rail Project team has now announced its preferred options for the City Centre to Māngere Light Rail line, the first part of a broader network that will in time also connect to the North Shore and North-West Auckland.
When I announced we were getting the project back on track earlier this year, I acknowledged Aucklanders had been shut out of the previous process. That's why it is important that the Auckland Light Rail Group's report openly sets out the options to take the project forward, and the trade-offs between them.
Importantly, the report confirms that light rail is a necessary investment for Auckland to lessen congestion, reduce emissions, and to be the linchpin of a linked-up network, with all options having a positive strategic, economic, and business case.
Some have asked why look at this now given the difficulties of Covid and I want to acknowledge it's a tough time for Aucklanders.
I'm one of the 1.7 million staying home to help stop the spread of the virus. But this doesn't remove the long-term challenges that face our city. As vaccination rates get over 90 per cent and we move back to doing the things we love, we will once again be confronted with the issues of congestion and growth.
We can't kick the can down the road any longer - the clear message from Aucklanders is to get on with it. On top of this, it'll help Auckland's economic recovery by supporting up to 16,000 jobs.
There are three clear options on the table with different pros and cons. These range from a Melbourne-style modern tram to a London-style underground metro, with a middle option that is the modern tram with a tunnelled section from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill.
As Herald writer Simon Wilson has pointed out, there are obviously trade-offs to be made between metro and modern trams.
Metro is faster because the lines are fully separated from pedestrians and traffic, so speeds can be higher and you can move more people quickly. It also supports high levels of growth around stations.
Modern trams would have more frequent stops along the route and are at ground level, which means it's easier to hop on and hop off, and generally supports a lower overall level of urban development spread more smoothly along the route.
The likely disruption to business and communities is another factor. The tunnelled options will mean less disruption during construction for businesses on the surface.
Regardless of what option the Government decides, our intention is to provide a comprehensive support package for businesses from the outset, including direct financial support. This is something the previous Government did not do with the City Rail Link project and we've had to retrofit solutions to help businesses.
The investment required is undoubtedly significant. If we want quality infrastructure for our growing cities it needs to be paid for. A failure to take action now will only see the problems grow, and the future costs rise further.
A significant Crown investment will be required, and we will also explore alongside value capture from those who financially benefit from this large public investment, which could contribute $2-$3 billion of the overall cost. Achieving value for money is a key objective for the government as we make a final decision.
We've previously had people like Gary Taylor and Mathew Hooton argue in the Herald that we should be focusing on a metro system and I thank them for adding to the debate.
The tunnelled modern tram option is the Auckland Light Rail unit's recommended option as it provides a good balance between improving intensification, minimising disruption, and cost.
However, all the options stack up and we will be working through a final decision before the end of the year.
Forty six years after Mayor Robbie's vision for a frequent, linked up transport system for Auckland was quashed, it is time to get on with the job.
• Michael Wood is Transport Minister.