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Kerre Woodham: Who should pay for roads?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Fri, 9 Feb 2024, 1:33PM
Photo / Alex Burton.
Photo / Alex Burton.

Kerre Woodham: Who should pay for roads?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Fri, 9 Feb 2024, 1:33PM

Now, last year, National promised that, should it become the government, it would among other things scrap the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax, and yesterday they did just that.   

Since the 1st of July 2018, Aucklanders have paid an additional 11.5 cents per litre tax on fuel, over and above what the rest of the country pays. Of course, the rest of the country may well feel the effects of that when it comes to the cost of petrol that will be passed on by freight carriers and the like.  

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown didn't like it when National made the promise then, and he certainly doesn't like it now. Simeon Brown though says Labour said that Auckland needed the fuel tax to deliver light rail. That was back in 2017. They haven't delivered on their major infrastructure projects, while Aucklanders continue to pay more at the pump. That's according to Simon Simeon Brown, the Transport Minister.   

Mayor Brown says, well, hang on a minute. Yes light rail is a complete and utter fiasco (he didn't say that - I did), but the revenue from the Regional Fuel Tax, half of which is sitting in the bank, is committed to a $1.4 billion Auckland Infrastructure project, the Eastern Busway, which will carry 30,000 people a day between Auckland's South East and Panmure station. So that money is going to be used even though it's sitting in the bank. It is earmarked for a project. There are going to be buses and cycleways and without that money those projects look to be in doubt.  

Northern Infrastructure Forum coordinator Barney Irvine told the Mike Hosking Breakfast this morning, the Auckland regional fuel tax may be gone, but there are other ways to fund roading projects. 

 

IRVINE: “Transport projects often generate a whole lot of increase in property value and the and the surrounding areas.” 

HOSKING: “You want to go down that track, do you?  See I don't know about that. Because I live near a bus stop, you’re going to tax me?”  

IRVINE: “Oh, look, there's more to it than that, but the issue is that, yeah, there is a lot of value to be generated there, that gets generated there, whether it's the process of moving from farmland to suddenly land that that's designated for higher use, massive increase in property value and we’re just not tapping into it.” 

 

So, a novel way of introducing a tax.  

So all of those people who are now living around the Northern motorway extension —recently opened to great fanfare, and everybody enjoys driving on it; I love driving on it when I'm heading north— all of those people who live around there should suddenly pay more in rates because they've got a better roadway right next to them.  

All the people on the poor, benighted Meola Road project who are suffering now, all those people living in Point Chev who are suffering now, should pay more in rates because all of a sudden a busways opened up, and cycle ways have opened up, and it becomes a more attractive and desirable area to live, because there are many accessible ways to transport yourself from point A to point B.  

That was just one of the options mentioned by Barney, but interestingly, an Infrastructure Commission survey conducted recently looked at different ways of funding infrastructure and asked the respondents what they thought was fair. No means of paying for roads was considered fair by the majority of respondents. So, they thought it was fair enough that user pays when it comes to electricity, user pays when it comes to water, but the majority said there was no fair way to pay for roads. I always thought user pays was about the fairest way you could get. When you've got somebody who was living in a house who doesn't have a vehicle, who very seldom (and this is probably those who are retired), very seldom makes long trips, doesn't need it for business, doesn't have a car, why should they pay for roading infrastructure?  

Those who do use the roads often, those who do need the roads to conduct their business, shouldn't they pay? What is fair?  

I mean the road to fairy isn't going to provide them. We're not going to suddenly, magically have a big hairy chested muscular being in a high viz vest, and tight shorts, and work boots appear and deliver roads overnight, at no expense to anyone. And they all work perfectly, you don't have to rip them up again.  

That is not going to happen. That is pie in the sky.  

So I'd love to know what you think is a fair way of paying for infrastructure, in this case specifically, roads. And not just roads. Roads have now come to mean more than that. Roads mean bus lanes. Roads mean pedestrian crossings, roads mean cycleways, in the modern parlance. We're more talking about projects rather than roads.  

So, transport infrastructure, how do you want to see that paid? I would love to see too, greater scrutiny on how that money is spent. The Herald found that Auckland Transport is spending on average $470,000 to install a pedestrian crossing. And when you're looking at the latest fiasco in Auckland —the Meola Road Project— 29 raised crossings. 29. How long is that strip of road?   

I used to live in the area for 20 odd years. Used the Meola Dog Park every day, and incredibly, for someone as distracted as I can be, I managed to cross that road, and back again, four times a week for 20 years without getting hurt. Without getting hit. without even coming close. Maybe it's an old-fashioned skill to be able to cross a road safely. There have been, as far as I can see, no major incidents on Meola Road, but people fear there might be, hence 29 raised crossings at $470K a pop! Come on!  

As the Herald found, GJ Gardner can deliver a new home for $365 - doesn't include the land but come on. So yeah, raise money for roading infrastructure, and by that I don't just mean the roads, I do mean the buses, I do mean the cycleways but let's have a look at how you spend the money too.  

You know, we really don't mind paying for infrastructure and we've had this discussion before. It's the wastage that really rips our shorts. 

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