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South Auckland community leader calls out government after scrapped Light Rail plan denies local boost

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

A South Auckland community leader is unhappy with the Government’s decision to cancel the Auckland light rail project - saying a proposed station in the area would have been a game changer for the community.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu local chairman Tauanu’u Nanai Nick Bakulich said had the initiative gone through, the station stop proposed in the heart of Māngere would have attracted investment and an economic boost for the area and the people living there.

“It would have created a lot of jobs, which is good for local businesses. South Aucklanders have a huge skillset and intelligence. They’re architects and project managers.”

The coalition Government continues to deliver on its 100-day plan with the decision to cancel the Auckland Light Rail project. Tauanu’u is calling on government officials about a replacement plan.

How will the government stimulate economic development in the south, he asks?

“Our Māori and Pacific communities persistently endure inferior economic outcomes.

“Therefore, we must address immediately any obstacles that impede these communities’ access to education, vocational training, employment and business formation,” he said.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu is a diverse community made up of 59 per cent Pacific peoples, 19 per cent European, 19 per cent Asian, and 16 per cent Māori.

Its 10-year budget plan included quality economic opportunities for public safety, neighbourhood liveability, job creation and environmental outcomes.

Before this, rail infrastructure investment in New Zealand lacked a long-term perspective on its function within our transportation system. This resulted in short-term investment decision-making.

Auckland Light Rail and the airport precinct were pivotal initiatives that would have provided local communities with economic, employment, procurement and business prospects.

“Having the railway project would help Māngere’s position to promote cultural, environmental and creative assets through local and international tourism opportunities,” Tauanu’u said.

In June 2021, the then Transport Minister approved the first Rail Network Investment Programme. KiwiRail developed it based on GPS 2021 and the Rail Plan’s strategic priorities.

New Transport Minister Simeon Brown says scrapping the expensive project is part of the coalition agreements and we have taken swift action.

“Auckland Light Rail Limited has been instructed to immediately cease work on the project and to take the necessary steps to wind up the company,” he said.

Tauanu’u acknowledged that the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board’s goal was to improve the area’s economic opportunities and create more business.

They aim to help major developers like the Auckland International Airport and business associations to promote the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu as a desirable location for both employers and employees.

“We want to attract and retain businesses in our town centres and industrial areas.”

Hero Image: Tauanu'u Nanai Nick Bakulich is the chairman of the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board. Photo / Brett Phibbs

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