Re­gional fuel tax ruled out


Trans­port Min­is­ter Phil Twyford marked his first day in the job with a pledge that Welling­ton will not face an Auck­land-style re­gional fuel tax to fund trans­port projects.

What is less clear is whether the new Gov­ern­ment will re­main com­mit­ted to Na­tional’s multi­bil­lion-dol­lar road-build­ing plans around the re­gion.

Labour sig­nalled in its man­i­festo that it would re­view the scale and tim­ing of planned trans­port projects with high costs.

Some fear that could put an end to the fi­nal stretch of mo­tor­way ex­ten­sion from taki to Levin, and the ad­di­tional in­ter­change planned for the Ka¯piti ex­press­way near Peka Peka.

Twyford said it was too soon to make de­tailed com­mit­ments – but he was clear the Gov­ern­ment would not extend Auck­land’s fuel tax to other parts of the coun­try.

‘‘Auck­land is pretty ex­cep­tional, given the acute growth pres­sures and the scale of the prob­lem ... and the ur­gent need to gen­er­ate rev­enue,’’ he said last Mon­day.

He was speak­ing as some in the Welling­ton re­gion wor­ried about the new Gov­ern­ment’s plans for ma­jor road­ing projects.

The Welling­ton North­ern Cor­ri­dor in­cludes Trans­mis­sion Gully and the two sections of the Ka¯piti ex­press­way – one com­pleted, one un­der way – with a com­bined cost of about $2 bil­lion. A fur­ther sec­tion north of taki, likely to cost in ad­vance of $100 mil­lion, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Na­tional MP Nathan Guy, whose taki elec­torate cov­ers much of the Ka¯piti Coast and Horowhenua, said the com­mu­nity was in a ‘‘state of flux’’ over the sec­tion north of taki.

There was a ‘‘spaghetti junc­tion’’ of pos­si­ble routes, and home­own­ers would be un­able to sell till the fi­nal route was de­cided, he said.

He also feared for the fu­ture of plans to add a cy­cle­way along­side the ex­press­way to taki, and an ad­di­tional in­ter­change near Peka Peka.

Twyford said he had not yet been briefed on the de­tails, so could not com­ment.

‘‘I’ve had an ini­tial brief­ing across the en­tire port­fo­lio ... but haven’t yet been briefed on the de­tail of any par­tic­u­lar projects.’’

He ex­pected work to con­tinue as planned on the Let’s Get Welling­ton Mov­ing ini­tia­tive, to im­prove trans­port through the cap­i­tal, but be­yond that he said: ‘‘It’s too early to say. I can’t speak defini­tively on it.’’

The NZ Trans­port Agency would not com­ment on whether the north­ern cor­ri­dor work would go ahead as planned.

Spokesman Andy Knack­st­edt said the agency ex­pected to dis­cuss trans­port pri­or­i­ties with the new Gov­ern­ment. ‘‘It is not ap­pro­pri­ate for us to pro­vide spe­cific com­ment ahead of those dis­cus­sions.’’

Greater Welling­ton re­gional coun­cil­lor and en­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee chair­woman Sue Ked­g­ley said it was time for pub­lic trans­port to be pri­ori­tised af­ter decades of gov­ern­ment fo­cus on roads.

‘‘All over the world, peo­ple have worked out the quick­est way to de­stroy the liveability of a city is through traf­fic grid­lock, and build­ing a whole net­work of mo­tor­ways that would in­crease the grid­lock is just go­ing to cre­ate ad­di­tional prob­lems.’’

Ka¯piti Coast Mayor K Gu­runathan said it would be ‘‘ab­so­lutely short­sighted’’ if the new Gov­ern­ment moth­balled the fi­nal sec­tion of the ex­press­way.

‘‘It would link Levin, the whole Horowhenua area, right through to Welling­ton. That’s what you need.’’

He said the ‘‘whole pack­age’’ of the road­ing cor­ri­dor made sense, de­spite many see­ing the need to in­vest more in rail in­stead.

‘‘Peo­ple have got to re­alise that elec­tric ve­hi­cles are com­ing. So roads are crit­i­cal – in fact the car­bon emis­sions from elec­tric cars are re­ally mar­ginal.’’

Re­gional coun­cil chair­man Chris Laid­law was dis­ap­pointed at Twyford’s call to rule out a re­gional fuel tax.

‘‘Sooner or later, there is go­ing to have to be an in­come source for the rapidly in­creas­ing price of pub­lic trans­port projects,’’ he said.

‘‘We can’t hope to af­ford all of the projects that are in the pipe­line. There’s go­ing to have to be some give some­where.’’

A fuel tax was not ev­ery­one’s favourite op­tion, but it was one worth con­sid­er­ing, he said.

‘‘If it can work in Auck­land, then it can prob­a­bly work ev­ery­where else.’’ O¯

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