Hold off on ridiculing the Government for scratching their light rail plans and starting again. This decision deserves praise.
It takes a certain amount of courage to admit you've got it wrong and need to go back to the drawing board, especially when you know it'll open you up to ridicule. And that's exactly what's happened. Critics are having a field day.
That's the Government's own fault. Light rail is a broken promise. The first promise Jacinda Ardern made as Labour leader in 2017 was that light rail would be up and running by 2021. Far from that, there isn't even a shovel in the ground in 2021. Light rail is a symbol - a bit like KiwiBuild but not quite as bad - of the Sixth Labour Government's inability to deliver.
Naivety and inexperience is no excuse for Labour wasting 3.5 years and at least $5 million taxpayer dollars. But going to back to the drawing board is worlds better than the alternative, which was them pushing ahead with a tram down Auckland's already-congested-enough Dominion Rd.
This idea - if done properly - could shape Auckland for decades to come. This line could become just the first in a light rail network that gets rolled out across the city. If Labour has the vision, they come back in six months with a plan to turn this one line into something closer to Auckland's version of the London Underground or the New York subway over time.
That's not crazy talk. That's what NZ Infra hinted at when it offered to help build the light rail in 2019.
Auckland's now got to the stage where it needs something like that. Aucklanders need an alternative to getting in the car or on the bus. No one's going to argue it's easy to get around the city. No one's going to tell you the transport system works. For years it's been the one thing we all can agree we hate about Auckland. Our roads are maxed out. We can build more, but they will also be maxed out pretty quickly.
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Auckland is still growing and will probably end up bigger than any of us can imagine right now. Statistics NZ predicts our city of 1.7 million will hit 2 million by the 2030s. It won't end there.
Really, we need to build now for people yet to arrive. Which is why former Transport Minister Phil Twyford's original idea had to be scrapped. It was self-limiting having trams and cars battling it out on a thin strip of inner-city road. It wouldn't be long before we were looking for the light rail equivalent of clip-ons to expand the capacity.
New Transport Minister Michael Wood says he's open to reconsidering the route. He says he's open to considering using tunnels. It would add years and cost to the build, but it would be worth it.
We will never regret building something bigger and better. We will regret doing it half-pie or not at all, just like we should now regret not doing it when former mayor Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson first suggested its equivalent back in 1973 at a now-paltry cost of $273m.
Wood is already impressive. That announcement can't have been easy to make. Sure, it would've helped that he had a couple of places to deflect blame. He threw gentle shade at Twyford for failing to consult Aucklanders properly. He threw less subtle shade at New Zealand First for refusing to approve light rail at Cabinet level.
In time, we'll all be grateful to NZ First for stopping Twyford. They could - thanks to their greater experience in government - see he had no clear plan, was way off the mark with his $4 billion cost estimation, and was going to stuff it up badly.
And in time we may well also thank Wood for starting this again. He's taken a risk. His reputation is tied to this now.