Auckland was amalgamated to provide integrated future planning and allow the City to speak with one voice; and that is exactly what is happening.
Auckland has spoken loud and clear on the need to solve its transport challenges and it appears the Government is listening.
I welcome the Government’s announcement to co-fund our major transport priorities in the Auckland Plan – the centerpiece of which is the City Rail Link (CRL).
Along with the electrification of rail, the CRL will double the capacity of the existing rail network and slash travel times.
Our first electric train arrives at the newly opened Wiri Depot in September for testing and driver training, and electric trains will be in service next year.
With the new trains coming online we will be well positioned to commence the build for the CRL, given we are well underway in protecting and preparing the route.
We are also well into the discussion of how Auckland will pay for its half of these major transport infrastructure projects.
The independent Consensus Building Group has spent eight months taking a long, hard look at the transport funding gap Auckland faces. Its recommendations, which reflect the thinking of 17 of Auckland’s most influential community and business stakeholders and feedback from thousands of Aucklanders, will be presented to Auckland Council this month.
I have long been confident that the Government would back the City Rail Link. Yes, there may be differences of opinions over some details, but the robust examination and discussion of different perspectives is a hallmark of a constructive relationship.
Genuinely hearing and discussing different perspectives is also at the very heart of local democracy.
Auckland Council is now analysing and discussing the input it has received from Aucklanders in the largest public engagement exercise in New Zealand local government history, on our draft Unitary Plan.
Over 11 weeks, about 15,000 Aucklanders attended public information events and by the close of the public feedback period in May, we had received nearly 23,000 responses.
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and I have been clear from the start that the draft plan would be changed to reflect the feedback we have received from our communities.
People have put a lot of thought and time into their feedback – telling us why they do and do not support different parts of the plan, and offering considered alternatives to the details they would tweak.
What is apparent is that Aucklanders understand the challenges we are facing and the need to manage our growth in a balanced way over the next 30 years. They understand that we need the tools to provide current and future Aucklanders with real housing choices for all ages and stages of life. They also understand that without those tools, we are not fit to meet the challenges we face.
It has been one of the most intensive periods of engagement that I have witnessed in my political career – and the final shape of the plan will be stronger for it.
Later this year, we will publish the final draft plan and notify it for formal consultation, when Aucklanders will have the opportunity to make formal submissions.
Len Brown is Mayor of Auckland City. He is seen here with boxes of submissions and opinions received from the people of Auckland on the City’s Unitary Plan. Picture by Jay Farnworth Auckland Council