Super City mayor-elect Len Brown last night gave his support to the Government's $1.6 billion "holiday highway" from Puhoi to Wellsford despite promising Aucklanders his first priority would be improving rail services.

"Clearly the Government have got the bit between their teeth in terms of Puhoi to Wellsford," Mr Brown said. "It's a road of national significance. I'm not going to get myself overly involved in that debate."

He was speaking after hosting Prime Minister John Key at a "first date" dinner at Manukau City Council where the two leaders dined on poached salmon and discussed some of the big issues facing Auckland.

Mr Key said he made it clear that certain things were important to the Government, including the Puhoi-to-Wellsford roading project.

It was something National campaigned on, it was important to Northland as well as Auckland and it fitted into the Government's national plan, he said.

On Monday, Mr Key poured cold water on Mr Brown's ambitious plans for rail, saying there was no "free lunch when it comes to any of this stuff" and ratepayers would have to pay to fast-track rail.

Last night, he acknowledged Mr Brown was running Auckland and it would be "quite wrong for us to assume we are", but central government overlapped in terms of responsibilities and funding.

"Where that's the case, then central government as a player at the table is entitled to express its views. But I think we can do that in a constructive way working together," Mr Key said.

Mr Brown said he hadn't rolled over on the Puhoi-to-Wellsford project, nor was it a case of public transport going to the back of the queue.

"What I've been saying is that this has been determined by the government as a road of national significance. There are so many other issues I want to discuss and debate with them.

"Everyone knows what my primary priorities are outside the roading network and that is we really get some major go-forward in terms of investment in rail and public transport, " Mr Brown said.

The meeting came on the same day as new figures showed public transport patronage has continued to climb in Auckland. Passenger trips for August were 7.8 per cent higher than the same month last year.

The number of bus trips rose by 7 per cent and rail journeys jumped by 17.2 per cent. The number of rail trips - 842,000 - was the second highest monthly figure ever recorded.

Ferry trips, however, fell by 1.3 per cent.

Even without double-tracking and fast electric trains, rail patronage has soared since construction of the Britomart terminal in 2003 - from 2.5 million to 8.7 million a year.