Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told a mainly business audience today that a government led by her would reduce spending on some big roading projects to pay for its $3 billion light rail scheme.

The roading projects would be prioritised differently than under National leadership.

The planned $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion east-west motorway from Onehunga to Sylvia Park in Auckland would be downgraded. The 2017 business case didn't support a motorway running along the Manukau Harbour, she said.

Ardern said Labour had looked at traffic congestion charging and new tolls but found they didn't have the "immediate effect required for us to be able to invest in this huge amount of infrastructure".


Ardern was speaking to about 120 people at a breakfast meeting organised by an accountants' group, the NZ Asian Leaders group, and the Super Diverse Women group.

When asked about what motivated her to enter politics, Ardern delivered a potted history of her life, from growing up in Hamilton, Murupara and Morrinsville, to working in the British Cabinet Office and in the offices of NZ Labour ministers Phil Goff and Harry Duynhoven and former prime minister Helen Clark.

Her audience lapped it up.

Ardern answered questions ranging from immigration to mental health. She didn't announce any new policies, but affirmed her commitment to a number of existing ones.

On immigration, she said net migration would return to its 2008 level under Labour.

On jobs, she said Labour would offer young people on state support the opportunity of six months' paid work with state agencies such as the Conservation Department or with councils or non-government organisations.

Trade training would be boosted by paying the dole to apprentices for their first year on the job.

In health, a review of mental health services would be held, and youth health teams would be extended to all state secondary schools.


Pressed by a financial manager on how Labour would pay for its election promises, Ardern noted that the party had not voted for the Government's tax cuts and she referred to her announcement yesterday that Labour would allow the Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax.

"We are going to have to ask people to chip in," she said.