Politicians debate the issues that matter to Auckland and its people

Election debate features four MPs, all alumni, from across the political spectrum, on how to sort the big issues affecting Aotearoa’s largest city.

Auckland Matters moderator and debate panel.
Auckland Matters debate: from left, moderator Tim Murphy, co-editor Newsroom, Labour MP Shanan Halbert, National MP Simeon Brown, ACT MP Brooke van Velden, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo: Chris Loufte

When it came to one issue, sorting Auckland’s traffic congestion, each of the politicians in the election debate Election 2023: Auckland Matters, hosted by the University, agreed on the need to introduce congestion charging.

The debate featured four of the city’s liveliest politicians, Shanan Halbert, Simeon Brown, Chlöe  Swarbrick and Brooke van Velden, moderated by Tim Murphy the co-editor of Newsroom.

When Murphy asked each to come up with a way to reduce congestion that could be applied in the next five years, rather than the grand transport infrastructure schemes mooted for 20 years or more in the future, each politician, representing Labour, National, the Greens and the ACT party said Auckland’s traffic woes could be alleviated by congestion charging.

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said, “That would allow for more free-flowing traffic and people making conscious decisions about when they move around the city.” Shanan Halbert, the Labour MP for Northcote, said congestion charging and the current fuel tax combined would be the way to fund the city’s much needed upgrades in transport infrastructure.

Simeon Brown, the National party’s spokesperson for Auckland, said his party would introduce congestion charging but remove the regional fuel tax to relieve the rising cost of living.

Green Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick agreed on congestion charging, but said it had to be accompanied by reallocation of road space.“How about we use the infrastructure we already have in smarter ways.” Main arterial routes needed to have better bus ways and be made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The debate was robust but respectful, covering issues from poor infrastructure, the impact of climate change to how local government might find sustainable funding.

Introducing the debate held at the Fale at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Pacific, Associate Professor Jemaima Tiatia-Siau said,"The general election this year takes place at a time of global uncertainty. There is AI, geopolitics and climate change. These are global issues, yet they reach right into the lives of each one of us.”

She said it was the University’s role and responsibility to support the democratic process and as a key player in the response to the challenges facing Auckland and Aotearoa. She said that: "...among the four MPs we can expect one or more of them to be part of the government that is formed after New Zealanders have voted. There could well be cabinet ministers among them."

Te Pāti Māori and New Zealand First were invited to participate in the debate but did not send representatives.

Media inquiries: Gilbert Wong, gilbert.wong@auckland.ac.nz