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Council won't commit to fund light rail

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/10/2016

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff won't commit to paying half of the $1.36 billion cost to bring forward Auckland's light rail project, even questioning if the council should have to pay anything at all.

Labour leader Andrew Little announced his intention on Sunday to bring forward a 13km rail project connecting the CBD and Mt Roskill, promising $680 million to do so.

He revealed Auckland City Council would stump up the remaining funds, but admitted that part of his plan was subject to negotiation.

And negotiate is what Mr Goff intends to do.

"It will be carrying far more passengers than many other roads around New Zealand that are funded 100 per cent so we'd want to negotiation between the Labour Party position of 50 per cent funding and what would currently be paid for a road of national significance by central government, which is 100 per cent," Mr Goff told RNZ on Monday.

Labour's plan has also come under fire from the government, which currently has the project on the table for between 2028 and 2038.

National has questioned whether the announcement is a political bribe timed to coincide with the Mt Roskill by-election on December 3.

"This is taking pork-barrel politics to a whole new level. If this is the sticker price for a Labour Party by-election campaign, all the other electorates across New Zealand will be asking for their $1.4 billion," National by-election campaign chairman Steven Joyce said.

But Mr Little says it can't be a bribe because it's a National policy and his commitment is to bring it forward because it is "urgently needed".

"Either National never had any intention of building light rail, or they have dropped it out of a kneejerk opposition to Labour policy," he said on Monday.

Labour's transport spokesman Phil Twyford also offered a more specific timeline on Monday, telling TV3's Paul Henry programme it would happen in the first decade of a Labour government, "as soon as it can be financed".

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