Auckland mayor Len Brown is urging the Government to agree before the election to an earlier start on the city's downtown rail tunnel.
A report for the Auckland Council by the consultant firm PWC says the Government should drop inappropriate targets for rail patronage and downtown employment, and back an early start to the $2.8 billion project if growth trends are on track.
The Government has said a start earlier than 2020 could happen only if rail patronage and city centre employment hit pre-determined targets. Mr Brown wants a start to the City Rail Link (CRL) late next year or in 2016.
The report says the Government based its targets on the City Centre Future Access Study, which had a much narrower scope than a full assessment of the viability of the CRL.
Mr Brown argues that new central city property developments unveiled along the rail tunnel route underline the need for a start earlier than agreed by the Government in July last year.
He told a transport conference on Monday the rail link will be needed before the patronage and employment targets can be met, and the Government should be more flexible.
"If we are on trend and on track, then why wait 'til 2021 to confirm that in fact there is a significant lift in public transport and train usage in our city. Why not just clear the decks and jump in behind the private sector with the type of investment they are making around the precinct properties."
It seems clear the Government's call on the CRL is now a political one, rather than reflecting official advice.
A Ministry of Transport report on the CRL has been released in full by Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee eight months after being sought by Radio New Zealand, and only after the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman.
That advice to Mr Brownlee in April 2013 was that the access study "does not support a case for construction ... in the early 2020s, but becomes stronger closer to 2030."
Three months later Prime Minister John Key announced Government backing for a start in 2020, or earlier if the set targets were met.
The CRL has been Mr Brown's top priority since being elected mayor in 2010, at which time the Government was cool on the project. Last July's commitment from the Prime Minister was a significant shift in the Government's position, and Mr Brown is now seeking another shift, on timing.
Four months out from September's general election, both the Labour and Green parties support the Auckland Council's wish to start building the CRL by 2016.