Tolls on hori­zon

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

TOLLS on new mo­tor­ways are as sure as “day fol­lows night,” says Auck­land mayor John Banks.

Mr Banks says the re­gion faces a huge in­fra­struc­ture bill over the next two decades, in­clud­ing the $1.89 bil­lion Waterview Con­nec­tion.

“Given this huge ex­pense, tolls on strate­gic mo­tor­way links like State High­way 20 are in­evitable, as day fol­lows night,” he says.

Com­plet­ing the mo­tor­way net­work will help kick­start Auck­land’s “splut­ter­ing” econ­omy.

But Mr Banks says it would be “lu­nacy” to com­ment on how much mo­torists could be ex­pected to pay.

“I’m acutely aware that it’s a fine line be­tween hav­ing a toll that stops peo­ple us­ing the road and hav­ing a toll that is fair and rea­son­able,” he says.

Most Auck­lan­ders who spoke to the Cen­tral Leader this week say a $1 or $2 charge would be ac­cept­able if it helps com­plete the mo­tor­way quickly.

But Ron­ald Casey is con­cerned how much would be soaked up in ad­min­is­tra­tion costs.

“I re­ally think it should be free, but the costs of th­ese projects are ridicu­lous,” he says.

Anne Sh­effield says a $2 toll would be rea­son­able, de­pend­ing on how it’s charged.

“If I come out of my house and Waterview and get on the mo­tor­way, I don’t want to pay tolls for that,” she says.

“But if peo­ple come all the way from Manukau and go straight over the har­bour bridge, I think they should be pre­pared to pay.”

Mick Abra­ham says tolls are ac­cept­able.

“Some­body’s got to pay for it, and it doesn’t al­ways have to be the tax man.”

The Waterview Con­nec­tion would link State High­way 20 with the north­west­ern mo­tor­way, com­plet­ing the west­ern ring route.

The New Zealand Trans­port Agency has con­firmed its pref­er­ence for build­ing a tun­nel be­tween Mt Roskill and Waterview, at a cost of $1.89 bil­lion.

Moves to­wards us­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to build and man­age the mo­tor­way has raised the ques­tion of tolling.

A steer­ing group set up to con­sider a PPP, or pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship, re­ported this week in favour of work­ing with the pri­vate sec­tor.

Un­der a PPP, the land could be leased to a pri­vate op­er­a­tor for up to 35 years.

At the end of the con­tract, the fa­cil­ity is usu­ally re­turned to the gov­ern­ment or lo­cal au­thor­ity.

Trans­port Min­is­ter An­nette King has asked for more in­for­ma­tion be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion in Oc­to­ber or early Novem­ber.

Of­fi­cials have also been asked to look into how much could be raised through tolling.

The steer­ing group’s ini­tial re­port in­di­cates tolls could cover a rel­a­tively small pro­por­tion of construction costs.

But Green Party MP Keith Locke says charges are in­evitable if the pri­vate sec­tor is in­volved.

“Around the world PPP roads are al­most al­ways toll roads. It is hard to see how it would be dif­fer­ent here.”

He says the charges would be un­pop­u­lar with Auck­lan­ders be­cause of the lack of good pub­lic trans­port al­ter­na­tives.

The Auck­land Busi­ness Fo­rum says moves to­ward New Zealand’s first PPP are a “pos­i­tive step for­ward.

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