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Labour conference looks to election

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/11/2016

The Labour Party's plan to deliver light rail to Auckland within the next decade has already dominated speeches at its annual conference.

As many as 600 delegates are expected to attend the three-day event in Auckland to mark the party's centenary with the theme "backing the Kiwi dream".

It's also about looking ahead to next year's general election.

"Enjoy the discussion, enjoy the engagement but be prepared to leave here to campaign completely, committedly (sic) to a victory for a Labour-led government in 2017," president Nigel Haworth said in opening remarks on Friday night.

The party welcomed a number of special guests including Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei.

Phil Goff, the former Labour cabinet minister, provided the civic welcome, addressing the party as Auckland's new mayor.

He used his speech to support Labour's proposal to bring forward the $1.3 billion CBD to Mt Roskill light rail project, but to also resist the suggestion Auckland City Council should pay half the cost.

"We have local government legislation and an absence of revenue sharing that treats Auckland as it were a borough or perhaps a provincial city when we are in fact an international city facing incredible growth in population size where infrastructure cannot be funded out of rates and it cannot be funded out of borrowing because we have restrictions on our debt to revenue ratio we're almost at," he said.

"We have to have a change so that this city can afford to make the investment in infrastructure that it needs to make to deal with the problems that stand in the way of the contribution we can make to the country as a whole."

Labour leader Andrew Little was last to address the crowds, and did so only briefly with his big address still to come on Sunday.

He said the party was ready to step up and confront the tough issues and offer New Zealand a sense of hope.

"Let's be clear about what cause we champion. It's the cause of more opportunity for everyone. It is about a fair shot, a fair chance, a fair go at the Kiwi dream," he said.

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