Auckland drivers face a potential double tax hike

Auckland drivers face a double tax hike under sweeping proposed by the government.

Photo: 123RF

It has spelt out how it wants to spend the annual $4 billion National Land Transport Fund – proposing to double spending on regional roads to make them safer as well as a 42 percent increase for upgrading local roads.

That would be partly offset by an 11 percent cut in spending on state highways. There will also be more money for public transport.

The government is proposing a fuel tax of between nine and 12 cents a litre, plus GST, over the next three years to help pay for the plan.

For Aucklanders, that would come on top of a 10 cent a litre regional fuel tax – due to take effect in July.

Matt Lowrie, who edits the transport blog Greater Auckland, said the city would be hit hard paying both taxes but he did not see a way around it.

“There‘s some realities we need to face and that is Auckland is experiencing huge growth so needs significant investment in infrastructure so both the road network and public transport network can keep up.”

He said the plan was the most balanced one in years with the cities and regions equally getting a mention.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had not broken its election promise to not introduce new taxes because the fuel tax was an existing excise duty.

Ms Ardern told Morning Reportexcise had routinely been increased over the years.

“Because we said we‘re not bringing anything new in. Yes, we canvassed a regional fuel tax for Auckland, this is not a regional fuel tax, this is excise.”

Ms Ardern said everyone knew Auckland‘s transport system was a “basket case” and the changes would improve lower-cost options for getting around.

Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones said the plan would help the regions thrive.

“For the provinces there will be a significant increase in attention to roads that have been neglected, that will include bridges.”

National Party transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross told Morning Report people in the regions would be paying more at the pump to fund trams in Auckland.

“I don‘t think that‘s good enough from this government.”

He said pulling funding from state highways meant fewer roads would be upgraded.

Mr Ross said $5bn that was previously earmarked for highway funding would have better connected the regions.

It was unfair that it was now going to be spent on transport in the main centres, he said.

The government was spending the same amount on safety initiatives as National had intended to spend, Mr Ross said.

Plan promising for the regions – Westland mayor

Westland District Council struggles with the pressure of welcoming hundreds of thousands of tourists every year while relying on a small local population to pay for road works.

Mayor Bruce Smith said there was also the wear and tear from the heavy trucks travelling to and from Christchurch.

“We have got some bridges that can‘t take a standard 50 tonne load truck, there are three on the way to Christchurch from the coast and there are two in south Westland.

“That means some of our key exporters like Westland Dairy can only send trucks with 70 percent of a load to the port.”

Mr Smith said the plan was promising for all regions and it was likely the council would make a submission to the proposal.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford is seeking feedback on the draft Government Policy Statement until 2 May.