Youth climate advocates Generation Zero have welcomed the Government's move to push ahead with a light rail link between the city centre and Auckland Airport, but emphasised that funds currently marked for high-emissions roading projects should be diverted to accelerate its delivery.
"The news that light rail is back on track is both exciting and long-overdue. This project is key to creating a decarbonised, city-wide transit system sorely needed for Auckland to meet its climate obligations," says spokesperson David Robertson. "Better yet, it will provide generations with a well-connected, future-proofed transit option."
Generation Zero began its campaign for light rail down Dominion Road back in 2016, citing the mode's value for money, low-carbon nature, and its capacity to shift Aucklanders away from car dependency. The group reiterated its preference for light rail over an off-road light metro. The former option could be built quicker and for cheaper, enabling other lines to the Northwest & North Shore to be constructed sooner.
The project would see a street-level light rail line, separated from general traffic by kerbs to ensure delays are avoided. It would run from the city centre, along Dominion or Sandringham Road, before moving across to Māngere and onto the airport precinct as a grade separated line, where it would connect with the incoming Airport to Botany rapid transit link.
The high-capacity line would enable more housing to be built along key transport corridors already booming with construction. Māngere and Mt Roskill are the focus for 10,000 houses each, led by Kāinga Ora, on top of significant private development. Light rail would complement this intensification, and with major bus lines on routes like Symonds Street and Dominion Road approaching maximum capacity, alleviating congestion is especially important.
In this latest announcement, Transport Minister Michael Wood outlined the Government's commitment to greater collaboration with affected communities, Auckland Council, Tangata Whenua, and advocates, with a six-month deadline for delivering its design recommendations to Cabinet. This approach would take a holistic view, emphasising the project’s effects on the environment, communities, transport access, and urban form.
At present, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) earmarks $1.8 billion in initial funding for the rapid transit line. The Ministry of Transport indicates that it may apply for further financial backing from the Crown to complete the project.
Last week, climate coalition All Aboard Aotearoa - of which Generation Zero is a part - filed a judicial review against the Government over its decision to fund the Mill Road motorway proposed for southeast Auckland. The proceedings allege that the Government failed to adequately consider its climate commitments under the Zero Carbon Act and the Paris Agreement in opting to back the new motorway.
Another Generation Zero campaigner, Theodore Heeringa, emphasised this initiative's relevance to today's announcement. "Part of our Mill Road campaign is to highlight how money marked for polluting motorways could instead be spent on decarbonisation. With this in mind, ATAP funds for Mill Road and other similar proposals should be reallocated to further finance and speed up light rail's delivery."
“Tāmaki Makaurau’s crises of climate, housing, and congestion demand we deliver more rapid transit services like light rail.” Heeringa said. “Moving forward, we hope that the Government commits to completing this project as soon as possible, so that Aucklanders present and future may enjoy the public transport network they deserve.”