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¯