Speech to the Committee for Auckland
It is great to be here today at this event as Minister for Auckland and Minister of
Let me start by acknowledging each one of you and thanking the Committee for
Auckland for hosting this event and inviting me to speak here today.
The Committee for Auckland has been a symbol of thought leadership for almost
two decades. Your contributions, particularly to the Royal Commission on
Auckland Governance and the Future Auckland Leaders programme, have played
a crucial role in shaping our city's path.
Addressing the challenges
Our Coalition Government was elected on a clear mandate: to get our country, and
Auckland, back on track.
The last six years of Labour have been tough for this city. Many promises were
made by the previous Government, but their absolute failure to actually deliver
anything meaningful has left Auckland worse off.
Whilst the state of the city report includes some notable achievements in the
space of work-life balance, economic sustainability, and student appeal, it also
contains some sobering reading about the severe challenges facing our
When it comes to crime, health outcomes, traffic congestion, and attracting
investment and innovation, Auckland has been going backwards.
Our plan for Auckland is focussed on the issues which matter most to
Aucklanders. We will lower the cost of living, we will restore law and order, and we
will focus investment on growing Auckland’s economy and increasing productivity,
particularly through our investments in transport.
To deliver this we need to work together with Auckland’s key stakeholders so that
we can make the most for Auckland and for New Zealand. We know that when
Auckland succeeds, New Zealand succeeds.
Our Plan to Turn Things Around
The task ahead of us is monumental, but we are determined.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon our government has
moved at pace to deliver on our 100-day plan.
We’re making great progress to deliver cost of living relief, return fiscal discipline
and common sense back into the public service, and refocus government on
addressing the issues that really matter to New Zealanders.
Cost of Living
First, I want to touch on an important issue that I know has been raised by many
businesses, families, and communities across this city, and that is the cost of
The Coalition Government is committed to delivering tax relief for New Zealanders.
We are progressing work to deliver meaningful income tax reduction in this year’s
Budget, relieving some of the financial pressure facing families and businesses by
allowing them to keep more of what they’ve earned.
For Auckland, as you would have seen yesterday, the Prime Minister and I
announced that we are axing the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax by 30 June 2024.
This is about reducing the cost of living for Aucklanders who have had to pay an
extra 11.5 cents per litre on fuel since the previous government introduced this tax
We’ve also acted to fight inflation by restoring the Reserve Bank’s single focus on
price stability, reducing the regulatory burden on businesses that can drive cost
increases and by restoring discipline to government spending.
Finance Minister Nicola Willis delivered a mini budget in December last year that
set the foundations of how our government is drawing a line under six years of
mismanagement and beginning to spend public money carefully and with a clear
It set out immediate Government decisions delivering $7.47 billion of operating
savings and additional revenue over the forecast period; reductions to potential
fiscal risks and work to drive future savings, revenue, and reprioritisation.
We know Kiwis are doing it tough as inflation and higher average tax-rates erode
household incomes. We’re determined to bring down inflation and let people keep
more of what they earn.
On the wider economy, Auckland is home to 34 per cent of New Zealand’s
population and delivers 38 per cent of our GDP. It is our most culturally and
economically diverse city, playing a pivotal role in New Zealand’s economic
The State of the City report rightly highlights that Auckland needs to have strong
outreach to the world and visibility in international markets. Trade Minister Todd
McClay has made important first steps in advancing key relationships with
Singapore, our most significant trading partner in South-East Asia and critical hub
for New Zealand supply lines, as well as India, a strategic priority for the Coalition
New Zealand has also moved closer to ratifying the New Zealand-European Union
Free Trade Agreement, with the first reading to bring the agreement into force
taking place in Parliament at the end of last month.
This free trade agreement will see an immediate $100m in annual tariff savings
upon entry in to force as well as an annual boost to GDP of up to $1.4b, and an
increase of exports to the EU by up to $1.8b.
We are going to be an outwardly looking Government, renewing relationships with
our existing partners, and building new relationships to help grow our economy.
This is all critical to the growth and success of Auckland.
Secondly, the State of the City report particularly acknowledges safety as an area
where Auckland is lagging, showing that crime is a concern that needs to be
Sadly, under the previous government’s soft on crime policies, we have seen a 33
per cent increase in violent crime. All too often we see it on the news, and on
streets, and in our communities. We’ve become numb to the statistics and that
Every New Zealander deserves to feel safe in their own home, community, and
And that starts with tackling the grip that gangs have on this city.
In our first 100 days, my colleagues Mark Mitchell and Paul Goldsmith are making
progress on dealing with gangs by introducing legislation to ban gang patches,
stop gang members gathering in public, and stop known gang offenders from
communicating with one another.
We will give Police more powers to search gang members for firearms, make gang
membership an aggravating factor at sentencing, and we’ve already abolished the
previous government’s prisoner reduction target.
We’ll begin work to crack down on serious youth offending, strengthen policing in
our communities and continue to back the frontline of Police. We’re committed to
giving our cops the tools and resources they need to get the job done.
Addressing the long-term causes of crime is a big task, but our government is
determined to put public safety back at the heart of the criminal justice system.
That means ensuring there are real consequences for crime and keeping serious
violent offenders from creating more victims. These changes will mean a safer and
more prosperous Auckland.
Transport: Setting a New Direction for Auckland
Thirdly, transport is pivotal in unlocking Auckland’s economic potential and
enhancing the quality of life for its residents. The city's economic prosperity relies
heavily on a robust transport network that facilitates the easy, efficient, and safe
movement of people and freight across the region. This system is the backbone of
our urban environment, supporting daily activities and contributing significantly to
Auckland's vibrancy and dynamism.
However, recent findings have highlighted a critical area of concern. Connectivity,
as detailed in the State of the City Report, ranks as one of the lowest scoring
domains, underscoring a pressing need for improvement.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise. The previous government failed to start
and complete one single major infrastructure project while in office. There was a
lot of focus on projects like Auckland Light Rail, which did not deliver a single
metre of track despite over $220 million spent on the project, while there was very
little focus on the projects that we actually need.
Mill Road is a perfect example. This project has been started, rescoped, and
cancelled in more ways than one can count. In 2018, funding plans were allocated
so Auckland Transport could progress parts of the Mill Road corridor. The whole
corridor was announced as part of NZUP in 2020, it was then rescoped in 2021,
before being cancelled and funding diverted in 2023. This level of uncertainty for
critical road infrastructure, while projects like Auckland Light Rail went no-where,
does not benefit anyone.
As the Minister for Transport, I am acutely aware of the importance of this issue.
My focus is on now delivering the infrastructure that Auckland needs, allowing
Aucklanders to get to where they want to go, quickly and safely. This commitment
isn't just about improving travel times; it's about enriching the lives of Auckland
residents by improving our transport network to make it more accessible and
While Labour talked big on transport in Auckland, they delivered very little.
Previous National Governments have a track record of delivery. National delivered
the Waterview Tunnel and the Victoria Park Tunnel, we electrified the Auckland
rail network, and started – and will finish the City Rail Link. We are proud of our
track record of delivering both the roading and public transport infrastructure that
Acknowledging the essential role of transport in Auckland's ongoing development,
our Government will prioritise the delivery of key infrastructure projects aimed at
alleviating congestion, boosting productivity, and building a transport network that
is not only more reliable but also resilient.
These efforts are not just investments in roads and rails; they are investments in
Auckland's future, ensuring that our city can continue to grow and thrive
sustainably. By focusing on these critical areas, we are laying the groundwork for
a transport system that meets the needs of Aucklanders today, while also
anticipating the demands of tomorrow.
Upcoming Government Policy Statement on Land Transport
To make this happen, I am currently writing a new draft Government Policy
Statement on land transport as part of our 100-day plan, which will be focused on
building and maintaining New Zealand’s transport network.
This GPS is not just a document; it's a blueprint for refocusing the New Zealand
Transport Agency (NZTA) and, by extension, Auckland Transport (AT), on the
basics: building and maintaining the roading network to support economic growth,
reliable public transport and delivering a safe network which makes efficient use of
every dollar spent. We are moving away from the previous government’s
untargeted approach to a targeted strategy that addresses the core needs of our
The Roads of National Significance are back on the agenda, underscoring our
commitment to critical infrastructure that supports economic growth and regional
development. Our directive to refocus NZTA and AT is clear: we are prioritising
projects that deliver real value to commuters and businesses alike, ensuring that
our cities and regions are well-connected and that our economy thrives.
A Comprehensive Pipeline of Work
Our transport strategy encompasses a broad pipeline of work, focusing on both
immediate improvements and long-term developments. Maintenance and fixing
potholes are immediate priorities, ensuring that our roads are safe and reliable.
But our vision extends far beyond these basics. We are laying the groundwork for
a future where transport infrastructure supports and enhances our way of life,
rather than detracts from it.
I’ll be shifting our focus for transport investment from the current narrow, three-year,
short term thinking, to a more ambitious and aspirational 10-year framework. This
will help give certainty and stability to our delivery partners both in the local
government and construction sectors.
Priority projects we have identified include Mill Road, East West Link, a
Northwestern Rapid Transit network and setting a vision for a four-lane connection
between Whangarei and Tauranga to unlock economic growth in the upper North
Introducing New Investment in Transport Infrastructure
The heart of our transport policy is the investment in infrastructure that meets
today's needs and anticipates those of tomorrow. But to do this, we need to be
open to alternative ways of funding and financing infrastructure.
The Government is looking at a holistic approach to the delivery of transport
infrastructure, combining traditional and innovative funding and financing models
to ensure sustainable and effective project delivery.
We are a government that is open to road pricing – both tolling and time of use
charging. We are committed to working with Auckland Council to deliver a time of
use charging framework that will improve travel times and network efficiency in our
Another critical enabler of delivering transport infrastructure is leveraging private
sector involvement in project development. This promises to bring about a new era
of efficiency and innovation in how we build and maintain our transport network.
The Government will establish a new National Infrastructure Agency (NIA) to
connect local and offshore investors to transport projects, including our new Roads
of National Significance and major public transport infrastructure projects. Options
for alternative funding and financing arrangements should be considered for all
major new infrastructure projects.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop is working hard alongside other Ministers to
get this key agency set up so it can work closely with our infrastructure delivery
agencies, including the NZ Transport Agency.
Work is also underway to fast-track consents, which have previously been a longstanding
issue in delaying the delivery of projects. Fast tracking consents is a
significant step change which will provide certainty and confidence to the sector,
enabling it to invest in the capacity and capability needed to deliver these
Rapid Transit on SH16: A Priority Project
This Government's significant transport plan for Auckland builds on the success of
the Northern Busway, with rapid transit busways planned for the North West, East,
and a connection between the Airport and Botany, linking in with the existing rail
network at Puhinui.
A strong majority of 93% of people who provided feedback to the NZ Transport
Agency last year expressed their support for rapid transit along SH16 in the
northwest. That is why this government is prioritising this project. A dedicated
corridor for rapid transit on SH16 will revolutionise public transport in the
northwest, providing fast, reliable connections that support the region's growth.
The Government will be considering alternative funding sources to deliver these
major public transport investments, including ‘Build, Own, Operate, Transfer’
schemes and value capture. Delivering this critical infrastructure for Auckland
requires new ways of thinking and different delivery models to increase the speed
Our vision for public transport in Auckland is based on a joined-up approach that
will improve choices for Auckland commuters and enable them to travel more
efficiently. This approach will incorporate the completion of the City Rail Link,
started by the previous National Government, with these new world class rapid
Leveraging private sector involvement and utilising alternative funding and
financing arrangements will be critical to the delivery of this vision.
The Need for a New Harbour Crossing
The concept of an additional harbour crossing has long been a topic of discussion,
with the understanding that enhancing connections to Auckland's North Shore is
crucial for the city's development. The Government recognises the importance of
this project for Auckland's future and is committed to supporting additional vehicle
lanes to create a more robust harbour connection.
The previous government's eye-watering $56 billion plan for a secondary harbour
crossing was fraught with impracticalities, leading to more questions than
solutions. In contrast, this Governments focus on delivery and action. The draft
Indicative Business Case (IBC) for the Waitematā Harbour Connections project,
developed by NZTA, represents the most significant land transport proposal in
New Zealand's history. As such, it demands a careful, measured approach to
ensure its success.
That last government’s project was unachievable.
That is why in my communications with NZTA, I have emphasised the importance
of pursuing options that enhance the Northern Busway and overall harbour
However, consistent with our commitment to getting back to basics, we have
decided not to continue work on active mode options or the proposed light rail
Auckland Council, through previous local Councils have built a well utilised
Northern Busway, and we intend to build on its success.
Our focus remains on delivering practical, achievable projects that benefit
Aucklanders and contribute to the city's long-term connectivity.
City and Regional Deals
The Coalition Government agrees that exploring how central government partners
with local governments on infrastructure delivery is essential, and that’s why the
Government will be developing national, city and regional deals.
There is already strong interest from local councils, infrastructure developers and
business groups on their potential.
We need to make sure that city and region deals are fit for purpose and deliver for
our communities. They also need to build on the partnerships central government
already has with councils, businesses, and others.
Already we have begun constructive conversations with the Auckland Mayor on
how Auckland Council and central government can work together to deliver for
Aucklanders. Maintaining this constructive relationship will be key to Auckland’s
We have committed to working with Auckland Council to deliver a time of use
charging framework that will improve travel times and network efficiency in our
city; we will continue to work closely with the Mayor and Auckland Council on an
Integrated Transport Plan that delivers key infrastructure for Aucklanders; and we
will be reviewing the way in which parking fees and traffic offences are set in our
Commitment to Delivery
This Government is all about delivery. We are committed to not just planning but
executing these plans to bring about real, positive change in Auckland and across
New Zealand. The challenges we face are significant, but we are up for it. We are
making the tough calls, prioritising the well-being of our communities, and focusing
on long-term solutions to deliver economic growth and prosperity.
In conclusion, the significance of Auckland to New Zealand's future cannot be
overstated. As Minister for Auckland, I am fully committed to addressing the
challenges we face, in partnership with you, the business community, and all
Aucklanders. Together, we can get Auckland back on track.