The big blowout on Auckland’s Central Rail Loop announced yesterday will probably add another half billion to the Government’s bill and pose real challenges for the Auckland Council.
And the man most likely to become its next Mayor is willing to abandon his own party’s long held positions to do a major flip flop to deal with those challenges.
With the announcement of the funding for the Central Rail Loop and the report expected today of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), Auckland’s transport blueprint for at least the next 30 years will be in place.
The CRL is a major victory for Mayor Len Brown, and Beehive Ministers are also crediting him with the agreements that have been reached within the ATAP project.
And yesterday he was ecstatic at the formal agreement which he called a historic milestone.
“Central Government and Auckland Council are now in clear agreement that the CRL is at the heart of dealing with the city’s growth, with propelling our economy, and creating a future Aucklanders deserve,” he said.
The centre-right Auckland Future group welcomed the news.
But Labour MP and leading Mayoral candidate, Phil Goff, is not happy with a billion dollar blow out in estimated construction costs for the loop, and he’s not happy with the way the Government has managed it.
“If all the central agencies thought the $2.4 – $2.5 billion was sound before, what has changed?” he says.
“We are owed an explanation on that.
“And we are owed some from of assurance that these latest figures are not going to be as rubbery as the earlier figures.”
Finance Minister, Bill English, was apparently not surprised at the cost blowout.
A spokesperson for him told POLITIK that the initial estimate of the cost of the project was always expected to change once more detailed work was done, and the revised estimate was based on a more thorough understanding of the scope of the project.
She said the Crown’s share would be financed through the usual budget process.
I can’t see any upside to this. It is clear that this sis going to cost something close to $5b by the time it’s all done and dusted. Just like Bill English, I know this is the nature of these things. It’s a huge hole in the ground that we’ll pour money into for years to come. And for those outside of Auckland, I’ve told you for a long time you’ll be paying for it too.
Call me a cynic, but I get the feeling National just sees this as another economic stimulus opportunity. When immigration tapers off, as they expect it will, they need something else that pumps money through the Auckland economy.
It is leaving a confusing political landscape where it is very hard to decide who to vote for. By the time you agree with Phil Goff and not with National, what the hell happened?
– Richard Harman, Politik