Govt must pay for trains regardless – ARC
The government will be asked to cough up for Auckland’s electric trains whether a regional fuel tax is approved or not.
The region’s bid for a five cents a litre tax has been downsized to one cent in the face of skyrocketing petrol prices.
But Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee says if the legislation is still turned down, central government will be asked for the cash.
“If the bill does not succeed we’ll send out a clear message to both political parties that Auckland will not be dumped on again. Auckland has had a shocking deal in the past.”
A proposed five cents a litre tax earmarked to pay for electric trains has been ruled out for next year by Prime Minister Helen Clark.
The legislation change to approve the tax must be passed by Parliament.
Mr Lee says the new proposal for one cent a litre from next year, rising gradually to five cents, is still being considered.
“We’re just waiting on the passing of the bill.”
He says as fuel prices rise so does the need for fast, modern transport.
“The public will no longer tolerate the idea of Wellington, a much smaller city, having a government-funded, brand new electric system and Auckland having to make do with refurbished diesels.”
The regional council aims to have some of the network converted before the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
A fleet of electric trains to replace the diesel engines is estimated to cost $500 million.
But this week the council was forced to vote on an annual budget without provision for buying the new trains.
The budget had to be signed off by June 23, but the fuel tax legislation is still waiting for its second reading in Parliament.
The council says work on electrification continues and the fuel tax was only intended to fast-track the project.
The budget can be revisited if the tax is approved during the financial year.