Jacinda Ardern meets Auckland Mayor Phil Goff for the first time as Prime Minister this morning – and projects to transform New Zealand’s biggest city are on the agenda.
The meeting on the 9th floor got under way after Goff and Ardern hugged. Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford are also at the meeting.
Housing, transport, moving Ports of Auckland and how to meet infrastructure pressures to cope with Auckland’s growth – running at about 50,000 new residents a year – will be discussed at the meeting in Ardern’s Beehive office.
Goff is a former Labour Party leader and Mt Roskill MP before becoming Mayor of Auckland a year ago, and he will be expecting the new Labour-led Government to offer greater support for the city.
Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford has already confirmed the Government will clear the way for a regional fuel tax on Auckland motorists to help fund a multibillion-dollar investment in light rail to the airport and West Auckland.
Twyford pledged an immediate start on modern trams to Westgate as well as trams from the airport to the Auckland CBD.
The confidence and supply agreement with the Greens included the $3 billion tram project from the CBD, up Queen St and down Dominion Rd to Mt Roskill where it will join SH20 to the airport, but did not mention trams to West Auckland.
The Government will change the law to allow Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax, likely to be set at 10c a litre.
Goff – and his predecessor Len Brown – have long pushed for a regional fuel tax to boost the council’s constrained budget for new infrastructure.
The new Government has also said it will sit down with the council and renegotiate a joint government-council 10-year transport plan, known as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (Atap).
This will determine the Government and the council’s share of the costs and how to plug a $6b funding gap in the plan.
Housing will also be near the top of today’s agenda. The new government is promising to build 10,000 houses a year through its KiwiBuild programme, and many of those will be in Auckland.
Twyford has said he is very interested in work being done by Infrastructure New Zealand for a satellite city centred round the small settlement of Paerata, north of Pukekohe.
Also up for discussion is the future of the Ports of Auckland.
New Zealand First wants container operations moved to Northport near Whangarei by 2027, but that pledge was watered down in coalition negotiations with Labour. The coalition agreement included a feasibility study on the options for moving the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration.
Goff has said the port eventually needs to move, but that will be a lengthy process and there are strong arguments for keeping the new port within the Auckland region.
Meanwhile, the Council-owned port company today revealed a 30-year plan for the 77ha it owns, including a 13m piled concrete extension at the end of Bledisloe Wharf.