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Regional fuel tax ‘not preferred option’

Mayor Greg Brownless says Tauranga City Council only supports a regional fuel tax in the Bay of Plenty as last resort if central government does not step up to help fund much-needed infrastructure. File photo.

Tauranga City Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council have both made submissions supporting the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill, with the city council pushing for centres outside of Auckland to have the option of introducing such a tax sooner.

TCC’s submission asks, among other things, for regions outside of Auckland to be able to implement a fuel tax before 2021, to help speed up funding of much-needed local infrastructure.

However, Mayor Greg Brownless says it’s not his preferred option – the council is merely making a submission to take advantage of the fact the government doesn’t make such changes to legislation very often.

“I would prefer for the government to fund it all,” says Greg. “But if the government takes us down another track and we don’t have the option of a regional fuel tax, where will the money come from? Ratepayers can’t afford it, and the government isn’t being particularly free with money for our area at the moment.

“Will it come from tolls? We’re faced with some hard choices at the moment.”

He says it’s ‘crazy’ not to at least have the option available.

“We’re not pushing for a regional fuel tax, but if it becomes an option for everywhere else in the country, we should have it too.

“How many more years can we languish here with nothing happening? We’re wonderful at talking and group hugging, but I don’t see anything happening yet on these transport problems.”

Greg says if central government steps up with the funding, he would quite happily take a regional fuel tax off the table.

“If I was given an absolute commitment from either the current government or a potential future National government that they would fund our major road and transport projects, I would immediately withdraw this request. But we know 15th Avenue improvements were promised in 2008, and what’s happened? Nothing.”

Despite the submission from TCC, Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the government has no intention of changing the bill to allow other regions access to petrol taxes earlier than 2021.

“We prioritised Auckland because the previous government's policies left it a transport basket case.”

He says other councils including Hamilton and Christchurch have also expressed interest in taking advantage of the legislation.

National Party transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says although the Labour Party campaigned on introducing a fuel tax for Aucklanders only, the proposed legislation – coupled with the eagerness of councils such as TCC to adopt a regional fuel tax – means more New Zealanders could be hit with the tax ‘in the next couple of years’.

“Tauranga has joined the growing list of councils including Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington lining up to ask Mr Twyford for their version of Auckland’s regional fuel tax,” says Jami-Lee.

“They all want to impose the same addition of up to $15 every time a family fills up, thanks to the 11.5 cents per litre regional fuel tax increase and 13.8 cents per litre national fuel tax hike – and they can do it in the next three years because the government’s bad legislation allows them to.”

He says instead of going back to the electorate or passing a new bill for new taxes, the government is ‘simply slipping in the ability to tax motorists more across New Zealand into their Auckland regional fuel tax legislation’.

“Regional fuel taxes are an expensive and unnecessary experiment that impose steep costs on those who can least afford it.

“This is a government that has inherited a strong economy and increasing surpluses. There is no need for even more taxes on New Zealanders.”

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