Hamilton to Auckland transport corridor 'near top of list'

Waikato's transport corridor to Auckland is a priority for the Labour-led government.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has called mayors from Waikato and Auckland to the Beehive to discuss the commuter rail plan, in the most concrete sign yet of central government support for an Auckland Hamilton link.

Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waikato Regional councils will meet with New Zealand Transport Agency bosses, Waikato-Tainui, Auckland Council and KiwiRail for a 2-hour hui at Twyford's Beehive office on February 26, said Hamilton-based Labour List MP Jamie Strange.

"It will be with Minister Phil Twyford particularly, as minister for housing and transport, and Nanaia Mahuta," Strange said.

"The Minister is keen for investment in our region around transport particularly rail but roading and housing as well."

Waikato Regional Council included commuter rail in its draft long term plan in January. Hamilton City Council has already made investment in a park and ride site and want 75 per cent of funding, for the proposed interim service, to come from central government.

The meeting will look at integrating light and heavy rail with roads and housing to capitalise on Hamilton and Waikato's growth.

The transport corridor between the cities offers huge untapped potential, Strange said, and will be an important location for the government's KiwiBuild programme which aims to roll out 100,000 new homes in 10-years with half of them in Auckland.

Collective work done with Waikato councils - the Waikato Plan and the Future Proof document - have mapped a path for central government to follow.
"There is a strong sense of unity in our region among councils. This certainly building on what's been done there."

The Labour-led government is prioritising rail between Hamilton and Auckland. In a list of rail projects government is looking at, the Hamilton to Auckland corridor is "near the top of the list", he said.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said things are moving in the right direction.

"I'm confident we will get there," King said. "It's something central government wants and Hamilton City Council is working very closely with neighbouring Waikato District and Waikato Regional councils and between us all, I think we are all aligned."

Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston said the transport corridor is a strategic look at opportunities that could open up for the region.

"Everything is dove tailing nicely, Livingston said. "Central government is looking for support and direction and it's working, from a timing perspective, ideally."

Spokeswoman for rail advocate group The Rail Opportunity Network Susan Trodden is not surprised by the meeting but is moving faster than anticipated.

"Government are really wanting to make it happen this year, as promised, and now it's been built into the 10-year plan for the regional council, and Hamilton City Council are committing time and money and space, there is the opportunity to step forward," Trodden said.


From Stuff.co.nz