Boaties want a break from regional fuel tax
Boaties are firing a shot across government bows over the multimillion dollar impact of the Regional Fuel Tax. Marine industry leaders say it’s “clearly unfair” that recreational boaties must pay twice to fix problems on the roads — once when they fill their cars and again when they fill their boats.
Designed to fund congestionbusting projects, the Regional Fuel Tax (RFT) will net about $7m a year from some 220,000 boaties, the NZ Marine Industry Association predicted.
The majority own trailer boats, rather than more upmarket craft moored in marinas.
The association reached its forecast using “industry accepted figures”. It said Aucklanders were already paying a huge chunk of the $102m collected nationally as excise duty and GST on fuel for boats.
Operators of commercial vessels can apply for refunds on the RFT but recreational users cannot.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the arrangement was part of a review of fuel levies.
The 11.5 cents a litre RFT was introduced on July 1. Charged on petrol, diesel and biofuel, it’s designed to raise $4.3 billion over 10 years for projects such as light rail to the airport and new roads.
The Marine Industry Association estimated the annual cost to boaties will range from about $58 for petrol-powered dinghies to $230 for moored launches and large rigid hull inflatables.
“Getting out on the water is a national pastime,” said association executive director Peter Busfield. “We believe it’s not in the best interests of Kiwi families to make time spent in the family dinghy or weekends heading out to go fishing an unaffordable hobby.”
The new tax could also have “harmful consequences” for businesses.
“The Auckland recreational boating industry contributes significantly to the national economy.
“Many of our member companies across the country build and service boats bound for Auckland; with a large number of them dealing with the smaller vessels that make recreational boating in New Zealand so accessible to people from all walks of life.”
Recreational fishing lobby group LegaSea agreed the tax could hit the number of everyday Kiwis who could afford to run boats.
“How many more barriers can we design to batter down participation? It will drive us back to the couch and the mall,” spokesman Scott Macindoe said.
“It adds to the heavy, dreary sinking lid of indifference and hostility from government. Nothing comes back to recreational fishing.”
Busfield said the RFT would be easier to swallow if it meant extra money being returned for marine environmental projects, boating safety or extra marine facilities.
Under $9m a year was returned to the sector through boat safety education and related activity.
The Hauraki Gulf was the largest “park” in Auckland and the council was making little effort to improve access, he said.
Auckland Council said it had a rolling schedule to repair or renew boat ramps. Such projects required specialist engineering work which was costly and funded from local budgets.
The Ministry of Transport advised Twyford a refund system would be needed for non-road uses of fuel.
Like “personal marine craft”, operators of aircraft, forestry and road-building vehicles are among those who are ineligible.
Twyford said the Cabinet based the rules on existing regulations around refunds for excise duty and GST on fuel.
The “outdated” regulations had been a problem for successive governments and he had ordered a full review.
The Ministry of Transport is on track to complete the review by the end of next June.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he had always believed all nonroad use of fuel should be eligible for a rebate. “I welcome the Minister of Transport’s review of the rebate scheme and I look forward to progress being made on this issue.”
The Marine Industry Association represents around 470 companies, including boatbuilders, equipment manufacturers and marinas. It organises the Auckland On Water Boat Show, on this weekend at the Viaduct Events Centre.
The Marine Industry Association estimates the annual fuel tax cost to boaties will range from about $58 to $230.