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‘We’re for heavy rail’: Auckland airport link falls victim to coalition spat

“Every program has got to stack up, be fiscally sound and it’s got to work,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“We’ve always been for heavy rail in this country. Light rail is a plan that the costs have blown out massively … it is not going to happen in the immediate term.”

Greens leader James Shaw called it a “slap in the face to Aucklanders”.

“I’m always disappointed in New Zealand First,” he said.

The country’s parliamentary numbers are delicately balanced, with the Ardern government requiring the support of both their right-wing and left-wing partners to pass legislation.

While NZ First is around the cabinet table with major posts and a coalition agreement, the Greens hold minor ministries and operate with a confidence and supply deal.

As such, NZ First has been blamed for blocking a number of proposals, including a capital gains tax, raised emission vehicle standards, an ocean sanctuary, rent relief during the pandemic, and legal recognition for transsexuals.

Shaw, who is also climate change minister, suggested the Greens would think twice about dealing with NZ First again.

“I have faith in the Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with Labour. I don’t have faith that NZ First are able to uphold their own coalition agreement,” he said.

“Any party should be very mindful about that going into government in the next term.”

The result is embarrassing for Labour, which has presented the project as one of the answers to Auckland’s notoriously terrible congestion.

Labour Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he had two “credible and deliverable” proposals to fund and build the link but “government parties were unable to reach agreement”.

Ahead in the polls: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ahead in the polls: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.Credit:Getty Images

“The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election,” Twyford said, setting the stage for Labour to campaign for a mandate to build the route.

The light rail proposal will now go to the people at the election on September 19.

Labour and the Greens will campaign for it, while NZ First and the opposition National party will campaign against it.

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Ardern’s Labour is currently streets ahead of National in the polls, while the Greens are likely to return to Parliament and NZ First are on track to miss the 5 per cent threshold and lose representation.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff, a former Labour leader, lashed out at the news.

“I am disappointed … as I am sure many Aucklanders are too. It is frustrating that after three years, disagreement within the coalition has held this process up,” he said.

“We expect the incoming government to act quickly and decisively to outline its proposal to get light rail built.”

AAP

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