Tolls on horizon
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.