Auckland Council officials conjured up a whopping $500 million from their budget yesterday, and they didn't do it by cutting spending on parks, libraries, potholes or any other services. That's a formidable achievement, although it also begs the question: how come it was so easy?

The money will be used to pay the council's half share of the billion-dollar blowout in costs at the City Rail Link (CRL).

None of the councillors was happy about it. That CRL is a hole in the ground they're pouring money into: $2.2 billion, including the new $500m, and who knows if there'll be more to come. That's the council's half share in the full $4.4b the project is now expected to cost. The Government picks up the rest.

But as councillor Christine Fletcher said, "I think we all agree this is the most important project before council at