Road-versus-rail debate and ongoing housing crisis among hot-button issues political parties have targeted in an attempt to win over region’s voters as election day approaches.
Political parties are tailoring all manner of policies for Auckland, or more precisely at 1,030,125 enrolled Jafas, to win their vote.
And while transport is generally not top of people's radar in the polling booth, it's a big enough issue for the parties to offer a variety of solutions to the city's gridlocked roads and public transport failings.
These include everything from National's unashamed focus on roads, to the Labour and Greens commitment to an early start on the City Rail Link, to a promise by New Zealand First to fund 75 per cent of the rail link.
Throw in policies by the main parties to provide quick fixes for desperate home buyers and a $350 million school building programme by National, and there's lots to digest.
National's campaign director and Auckland-based list MP Steven Joyce says the ruling party see Auckland as not just the country's biggest city but is also at the table of Asia-Pacific cities and needs to continue to develop.
A big part of that, Joyce says, is steaming ahead on roads, rail, other public transport and cycleways, where National has announced $100 million over four years for new urban cycleways.
"We are certainly placing emphasis on roading and the other parties aren't," says Joyce, who points to 85 per cent of Aucklanders getting to and from work in their cars.
He says even with significant increases in public transport use, the number of people travelling by car will remain high, but that does not mean National is not investing in public transport.
Rail electrification and new electric trains have been funded by the National Government and a start would be made on the $2.4 billion City Rail Link in 2020, says Joyce, whose party has promised to fund half the project.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has hinted at an earlier start, but only for a short section of the route to go with the redevelopment of the Downtown Shopping Centre, pencilled in to start in 2016.
National's big election carrot is a start on the $760 million extension of Auckland's motorway network from Puhoi to Warkworth, derided by critics as a "holiday highway".
Work may start between 2016 and 2019 on the first stage of the "road of national significance" that will eventually extend to Wellsford.
Labour Transport spokesman Phil Twyford says National's "gold-plated" extension does not stack up and his party will spend $320 million to fix accident black spots and congestion pinch-points on the existing State Highway 1, and build a bypass around Warkworth.
Labour and the Greens would use savings from the extension to make an immediate start on the underground rail link, of which Labour will fund 50 per cent and the Greens 60 per cent.
"[I would] be down there the day after the election with my shovel, starting to dig a hole," Mr Twyford said.
Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said it was about time Auckland had a reliable, frequent, world class public transport system, saying the party would invest $2.2 billion in seven key public transport projects, paid out of funding set aside for motorways.
The Greens' public transport package includes a rail extension to Mt Roskill, electrification to Pukekohe, a bus lane on the Northwestern Motorway, extending the northern busway to Albany and Newmarket, better bus services to the Upper Harbour and extending the Ameti busway to Ellerslie and Manukau.
The package, Ms Genter said, was the most comprehensive public transport proposal by a major political party with a chance of delivering it.
"The biggest bang for our buck is investing in things that we don't currently have, like fast, frequent and convenient buses and trains, and safe walking and cycling," she said.
"That is the best way to free up the roads for those who need to use the roads and the best way to save time for Aucklanders."
New Zealand First has upped the stakes for an underground railway through central Auckland by offering 75 per cent Crown funding for the $2.4 billion project.
NZ First has leapt into the city's transport debate with a package of mostly rail projects, including an immediate start on the City Rail Link, extending electrification to Pukekohe and upgrading the rail line from Auckland to Whangarei and Marsden Pt port to take pressure off the busy Auckland and Tauranga ports.
The party would investigate suburban rail services between Auckland and Hamilton, supports rail to the airport, and accepts the need to introduce road pricing measures over time, especially for motorways and major arterial roads.
Transport spokesman Denis O'Rourke said NZ First was not like the Greens, which wanted to stop building major roads, but does want roads subject to stricter criteria.
Its policy includes developing "railways of national importance", of which the City Rail Link would "probably be our No 1 project and the very first thing we would want to do", Mr O'Rourke said.
Labour, Mr Twyford said, had a four-pronged strategy for Auckland - transport, housing, urban development and the Southern Initiative - a joint central and local government plan to transform the city's poorest communities.
Labour says it wants to unlock more urban development in Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Labour Party sees transport spending linked to land use, including plans to replicate the northern busway with a northwestern busway to Westgate and other growth areas out west.
Mr Twyford said Labour wanted central government to use its muscle to unlock urban development. Successful projects at Hobsonville and New Lynn could be replicated at six to eight other locations in Auckland, including Panmure, Onehunga and Avondale.
"The vision is mixed use, mixed income communities," said Mr Twyford, who confirmed Labour would continue National's policy of Special Housing Areas in Auckland to fast-track consenting processes.
Labour's $1.5 billion KiwiBuild programme aims to build 100,000 new affordable homes, mostly in Auckland and Christchurch initially, whereas National's HomeStart doubles the grant available to $20,000 to home buyers who have been in KiwiSaver for three years.
National is targeting Auckland voters with a $350 million funding boost to build nine Auckland schools and 130 new classrooms. Locations of the schools are to be determined but four are likely in the north of greater Auckland, three in the south and two in the west.
The party has also announced plans to establish a marine park for recreational fishing covering part of the inner Hauraki Gulf.
United Future is promising to build rail to the airport, at first from Papatoetoe, with 50 per cent funding from the Government, as its top transport priority.
The City Rail Link would cost four times as much, a spokesman said.
The party is also promising Aucklanders a referendum on the Unitary Plan at the 2016 local body elections to test support for the planning blueprint, and the focus on central city development.
The Conservative Party is offering referendums in pre-Super City council areas, like Rodney, to return to local governance if 67 per cent or more support the proposal.
The party also wants to look at options to bring forward a second harbour crossing, including a tolled bridge option, encourages the disposal of state houses to tenants, a clampdown on liquor outlets, and to get the former Manukau City Council's Control of Street Prostitution Bill over the line.
Act candidate for Epsom David Seymour said the party had no Auckland-specific policies, but was in favour of more user-pays for transport in the city, starting with high occupancy toll lanes. "At the moment we have a situation with our T3s [cars with three or more users] in bus lanes on Remuera Rd where we effectively do toll them," he said.
"We have people there operating cameras and the user fees are very, very high and they are called fines.
"We could increase the throughput on those roads as hot lanes and that would be a good start to proper pricing."
The Internet-Mana and Maori parties have no specific Auckland policies, but Internet-Mana's housing policy requiring all new housing developments of 10 homes or more to include at least 50 per cent of affordable homes would especially apply in Auckland.