It’s a massive win for the Greens, for Labour, and Auckland. National has caved to the pressure from local government, from business, and from its political opponents. With the polls so close (recent outlier notwithstanding) National couldn’t afford to go into 2014 opposing the CRL when Aucklanders want it and the opposition is mobilising it as an issue, including the Greens’ ‘re:connect’ campaign.
There’s plenty of outstanding issues. How much funding will the government put up? When will the CRL be built? Will it be a PPP? Will National try to slip in a Puhoi to Wellsford PPP at the same time? Are they going to stuff around with the alignment of the tunnel? (I suspect they’re going to drop the Warkworth to Wellsford part of that RoNS as part of the trade-off, which would be great)
But this is a win for the Left, no doubt. It’s a huge backdown from a government that has spent years and years saying that rail is dead and we don’t need the City Rail Link. As recently as a few months ago, Gerry Brownlee was dismissing yet another report that said the CRL was the only way to keep Auckland moving.
Key has clearly had to override his numbskull transport minister in the interests of politics – he couldn’t go into the next election arguing that a four lane highway in the middle of nowhere was more important than the CRL that all the Auckland establishment and the opposition is calling for, not if he didn’t want to risk a couple of percent of the party vote by pushing Aucklanders away.
Great work by everyone who has forced National into this u-turn.