Government remains undecided on response to NZ Super Fund proposal for Auckland light rail

Government remains undecided on response to NZ Super Fund proposal for Auckland light rail

National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith says he thinks the government is struggling to come up with a water tight business case for the Auckland light rail project.

And Goldsmith says that's why there are delays in finalising the project proposal.

“I think they are having trouble putting together a business case that actually stacks up,” Goldsmith says. 

It’s over 12 months since the New Zealand Super Fund presented a proposal to the government to fund Auckland light rail project in conjunction with Canadian partner CDPQ Infra.

NZ Super Fund CEO Matt Whineray told www.interest.co.nz last year that it had proposed what it called a public-public investment (PPI) model, as opposed to a public-private partnership (PPP). Under the proposal NZ Super Fund and CDPQ Infra would fund, design, build and operate the light rail network.

Goldsmith says the fact the Government won’t be able to build the first stage of the line from the CBD to the Mount Roskill in time for 2020 election indicates the problems it’s having with the project.

“I don’t know exactly what they (NZ Super Fund) came up with. But there’s a decision to be made there between a normal procurement approach like the CRL project, or what the NZ Super Fund has put forward.”

The NZ Transport Agency’s (NZTA) is leading the development of the Auckland light rail programme with the support of partners, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport (AT) and HLC, a wholly owned development subsidiary of Housing NZ. Last month NZTA head of light rail Carl Devlin said it couldn’t finalise its business case for the project until Transport Minister Phil Twyford and the Government finished their deliberations on the NZ Super Fund proposal.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the government is still looking at the NZ Super Fund’s offer.

“Announcements will be made in due course. Once decisions are made, NZTA will be able to complete the business case.”

A spokesman for the NZ Super Fund says it remains committed to the project, but it is still waiting to hear from the government with its response to the proposed model for delivering the project. And the fact it is participating in a competitive procurement process, which is commercially sensitive, means it is unable to provide specifics about how its proposal has developed since it was submitted last year. 

“We are committed to partnering with Government on the light rail project and remain an active participant in the current procurement process. Our proposal has been developed with the support of international and local experts and is focused on fresh thinking and achieving the best long-term mass transit and urban development outcomes for Auckland.

"It’s important to note that our plans aren’t finalised and will ultimately depend on extensive public consultation. We believe that light rail has the potential to be transformative for Auckland’s urban development and public transport network.”

Under the project proposal first outlined by Twyford in 2017 two light rail lines would be established in Auckland. One leading from downtown Auckland out to the airport at Mangere, while a second line would run from the central city along State Highway 16 to Kumeu/Huapai.

Twyford has estimated that the Auckland that project would cost about $6 billion, making it the biggest transport project in New Zealand history.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

19 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

I think this shows that Mr. Twyford is really out of his depth. As we have seen his failings increase, especially in Kiwibuild, he has become even more arrogant and even more insular.

The light-rail project will be transformational for Auckland and we need a transport minister that can get the job done. Light-rail has been kicked around for decades and the consistent failures of governments (local and central) is the reason why transport in Auckland is not ideal to say the least.

I think the government, like many other stakeholders, doesn't see a lot of value in such a large-scale project. For these funds to recoup their initial investment along with expected blowouts on rising construction costs and delayed timelines with a tidy rate of return, the fares will have to be set a much higher levels than what can be seen as transformational for local passengers.
I attended a forum recently where local community reps argued that a better public transport system will magically solve all economic woes facing Auckland city. I feel a lot needs of effort needs to go into reducing red tape and fixing our broken local councils before we go out and waste more money on such massive projects which clearly we are unable to deliver on.

Yes we need to reduce waste and reduce red tape but that is not mutually exclusive to investing in infrastructure. I also dispute that there is not a lot of value in such a large scale project and that is why the Super Fund is interested in a PPI. Better PT will not of course magically solve all the issues facing Auckland but it is a critical component of that. Doing nothing is what we did to get where we are now and doing nothing in the future will ensure Auckland sub-preforms. This project is important and will greatly benefit all of Auckland not just that use the light rail. Like the Northern Busway, which was predicted to be a white elephant, once the light rail is built we will wonder why it wasn't built decades earlier.

As a user of your existing rail system, the average electric train speed is closer to the turtle than the cheetah.
Now this is not rocket science, as they have done this in 1896 in London, Liverpool and Budapest.
What is the reason for the goslow trains here in Auckland ?

Slow trains because of the dead-end bottleneck at Britomart with trains using (and queuing for) the same lines to enter and exit. The CRL will double the capacity (and presumabley the speed).

pathetic. Consult and do nowt government.
Winston, I am afraid, ex national but drags them to Right all time.
Super offer indeed.
God forbid government should invest in infrastructure at record low interest rates when bond markets are screaming for safe investments.
Utter stupid obsession with not scaring horses or looking radical to centre no nothings.
20% government borrowing. OECD being about 80%
Inadequate tax base = no revenue to do anything.
Inadequate borrowing ditto.
Coalition = faff and dither and don't upset Winston.
And they want to give him a 4% rep lifeline??

Normally light rail projects are used to transport people short distances around medium to high density areas. Auckland City idiotically wants light rail to parallel mile after mile of motorways out to low density suburbs.

The Auckland business case will need to be a work of art, because the plan is to use light rail for the opposite of its normal justifiable purpose .

The first light rail is planned for down Dominion road to Mt Roskill and then the airport. Density in Mt Roskill is climbing & going to climb rapidly with the State housing renewal project. Bulldozing 100s (eventually 1000s) of old state houses on 1/4acre sections and replacing them with 4-6x as many townhouses in the same space.

Whether the people living in these houses will use public transport, and whether the light rail goes where they need to go is another question.

I still think light rail to the airport is daft, the original plan to extend the Onehunga line out to the airport makes more sense, particularly if you then keep that line going and connect up at Puhinui to avoid creating a deadend spur line. But doing thingsonce and doing them right seems to be beyond this and the previous Govt.

That bit down Dominion Rd to Mount Roskill is the only part of the light rail proposal that makes sense - an area that can attract people to live in high enough density to sustain passenger use. People can walk to and from a light rail network.

The rest of the proposal is to build adjacent to motorways. No one wishes to live next to a motorway. Auckland is building an urban transit that relies on short walking distance specifically where there will be the least walk up traffic available.

And yet tens of thousands of houses are going in West Auckland, besides the motorway where no one apparently wants to live. Government by anecdote is a poor substitute for actually providing infrastructure in areas that essentially have no access to public transport at all.

Motorway corridors literally have motorways in them, motorways are huge public investments in transportation infrastructure. Land adjacent to a motorway has access to all the bus services that can be carried and therefore some of the best served land in any area. Yet the higher density areas in West Auckland are removed from the motorway - Te Atatu (centred 1.5 km from motorway), Avondale (2 km), New Lynn (4 km), Henderson (4 km), Westgate (1 km).

The same North Western that is already gridlocked from 6:30am and the surrounding streets at a standstill? The same streets that anything you want to send down the motorway will have to navigate? The same motorway that can't handle current traffic levels and now has an extended peak in the mornings and evenings? The same motorway that doesn't have a busway like on the Shore, or indeed, in some places, any provisions for a basic bus lane? Nope, can't think of any reasons why we can't just keep firing more and more vehicles down there.

You heard it here first: Gridlocked motorways are a "public transport option".

I'd go with Goldsmith's speculation: that there isn't the ghost of a biz case, and everyone involved is desperately trying to come up with an announcement that won't sink their careers or lose them an election or a Party Vote percentage. So it's not so much an Enginering/Economist input, but Cosmetic Supply to a very large Pig.

Couldn't possibly be because the Nats were so short sighted that they didn't even include a busway in their SH16 and Waterview upgrade, thereby massively complicating any future projects in the area could it?

Another cluster f/// from Phil T.
Up there with his KB dream, and a high speed train from Hamilton to Auckland (chuckle)

Phil Twyford's commuting train idiocy.

Phil Twyford is financing lots of KB houses in Te Kauwhata. Phil Twyford has decided that the train will not stop in Te Kauwhata. The train service will also not stop in the commuter towns of Pokeno or Tuakau. In fact the only places this train will stop are Pukekohe (which has existing rail services) and Hamilton (which few people commute from).

https://i.stuff.co.nz/business/108292102/hamilton-to-auckland-passenger-...

time to rethink this whole thing, going down dominion road fine
then to the airport daft
why not go down manukau road
would they not be better just down the main roads
new north, great south , manukau, dominion road
then cross roads like mt albert and balmoral

this whole concept needs to be rethought with better planning

Part of the reason is because it's taking buses off Dominion Road - they can't all fit into town when they get there. You're going to end up with so many buses going down Dominion Road that they won't be able to stop to collect passengers. Also, there's more to Auckland than just the inner city suburbs.

The original 2013 AT plan for light rail was sort of that, there were to be 3 tracks from Mt Eden station and down Sandringham, Dominion and Manukau (i think). Eventually a linkage down Mt Albert to connect the routes as a grid. These would serve as underpinnings to a high degree of intensification in the area.

But today (in post-2016's much more sprawl orientated Auckland) lots of houses are being built miles away and intensification/density/low carbon footprint is not welcomed. Today Auckland needs to expand the carrying capacity of the motorway network to accommodate all the extra cars. So the new plan is to build in and increase the capacity of the existing motorway corridor.