When is a toll road not a toll road?

Written By: - Date published: 9:36 am, June 22nd, 2016 - 37 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, infrastructure, local government, national, public transport, same old national, spin, tax, transport, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

A pattern is emerging where for doctrinal reasons National opposes something but is then forced to back down after the analysis of the problem has been completed.

The City Rail Link is an example. For years National have decried it and insisted that it would not happen. Then they put this crazy road block in front of it requiring patronage figures and growth in downtown employment to exceed certain levels.  Sure the patronage figures are important but why was there the requirement for downtown employment growth?  It does not matter why they are catching a train if someone catches a train there is one less car on the road.

But the Government held out and held out and held out. It was only after pressure was brought on them by developers who actually saw the sense in what was proposed and were prepared to build in anticipation that they changed their mind.

Then this happened.

John Key City Rail Link

And we are now seeing the same sort of behaviour in relation to tolling or taxing of Auckland’s roads.

There is this train wreck of an interview (haha pun intended) from yesterday between John Campbell and Simon Bridges.  Bridges shows that annoying ability to dominate time wise an interview and not respond properly to some very fair questions.  But clearly this is a backdown.

One of the early steps National took after winning office was to remove Auckland’s regional fuel tax.  The idea of the tax was that all motorists would pay up to 9.5c per litre every time they filled their tank up and this would go to transport projects.

The tax would have raised a fairly significant amount of money and projects like the city rail link could have been started and accelerated.  Instead of this the Government forced Auckland to impose a retrograde fuel tax where a pensioner living in Piha had to pay pretty well the same amount as Sky City towards Auckland’s transport infrastructure.

And the Government has always been philosophically opposed to a fuel tax or a toll.  Its position was that there would not be tolling of the motorways or a regional fuel tax.

The Government has clearly changed its position with the release of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project Report which sets out future funding options.  The report is interesting in that the word “toll” is not mentioned at all nor the word “tax”. “Variable Network Pricing” the phrase du jour is mentioned 16 times.

The Government is trying to say it is not a tax, rather an attempt to address congestion.  The subtlety of this distinction is not one that I understand.

It is talking about using technology to assess how much should be collected but I believe this should be reconsidered.  A fuel tax would approximate this result and also punish those with gas guzzler cars.  It would also avoid the cost of the technology needed to assess road usage.  It is simple and effective.

But at least we are now at the stage where the Government has backed down and reversed a previously held position that was starving Auckland of vital funds.  Shame they did not do this earlier …

37 comments on “When is a toll road not a toll road?”

  1. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster) 1

    I heard that interview on Checkpoint, and couldn’t believe what an insufferable, jargon spouting, blind-sided prick Simon Bridges is. Variable network pricing – what a joke!
    A toll is a toll is a toll and no amount of fancy rewording can make it not a toll – as John Campbell laboured to point out.

    • Greg 1.1

      Veitch should be a lesson to men to not let an ex partner into your house late at night,
      =wanting to talk!! And to change your locks.
      sorry for the off topic post, but it is an important lesson.

      • Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster) 1.1.1

        I’m sorry, but I don’t at all understand your comment. If you have mistaken me for the other Tony Veitch, please read the brackets which follow my name!!!

  2. Greg 2

    This is where our living cost rises, while our real wages are stagnant.
    It will cost Key the election.
    National only win elections when there is a minority turnout of voters.

  3. McGrath 3

    Taxing Auckland’s roads will only serve to piss off National’s primary voting base. Expect to see a slide in the polls.

  4. save nz 4

    Personally feel the money should come from Government and Council corporate welfare budgets.

    1.2 Billion in failed IT overspends from Auckland council on the National Government’s rammed through Supercity and a fortune in councils lawyers and PR ‘experts’ should be the first to go. Likewise the government has plenty of funds for Saudi bribes, Sky City, TPPA junkets and CHCH convention centres then they can cough up some of our taxes for Auckland infrastructure that should have been spent with our taxes in the first place. A stamp duty and tax on non residents holding assets here could also help. Why should locals have to subsidise roads and transport for people not paying income tax here? Yes they do pay rates BUT by having so many non residents not contributing in any other way then it is robbing the country of taxes they could have had if a resident lived and worked there. Of course then you have the problem of Kiwis who are forced out of the country to earn real wages or have a decent job so it is a difficult issue.

    If worse comes to worse a petrol tax is better than tolls, because it is quick, cheap to implement, simple and effective, easy to remove and does not cause pollution and more congestion but will help it.

    However one of the reasons Kiwis hate more taxes is that there are so many hidden taxes in everything you do that more and more pilling up means more people have less money to live on.

    Deflation is happening due to neoliberalism, where the majority of the population are being robbed of money in every aspect of their lives from education to holiday pay, going to the .1% and stored in various ways to avoid tax in their tax havens.

  5. Ad 5

    +100

    A lot more to go before this turns into actual policy.
    But if they go for the option of multiple entry-point tolls across the network, then they have generated a massive price signal against urban sprawl. People will be able to calculate in short order what their toll costs per week, and add that to the mortgage.

    If Bridges is so easily persuaded by facts that have been staring them in the face for a while, there’s even hope for Smith.

    Very keen to see the Greens and Labour responses to this.
    And the Mayoral candidates responses, if they’re feeling bold.

    • save nz 5.1

      Personally feel Labour and Greens should keep out of it. National caused the crisis and let them be the one announcing the petrol or toll taxes. Why should the left be always the one with bad news?

      Lab/GR throw the issue back to the Natz, and say they would not have interfered in the policy from the democratically elected Mayor of Auckland in the first place.

  6. ianmac 6

    When is a toll road not a toll road?
    When is Bulk Funding not Bulk Funding?
    When is a drastic housing shortage not a crisis?
    When is a true Key statement not a true Key statement?

  7. One Two 7

    Vehicle tracking via tolls are the preferred option of those who own the government of any given day in NZ

    – High cost to implement
    – Long term contracts
    – Cattle control

    Removing the fuel tax was a precursor to longer term objective

    • save nz 7.1

      @One Two – also the surveillance aspect appeals to them.

      • One Two 7.1.1

        Yes that would be the ‘vehicle tracking’

        It is reasonable to assume the contracts are agreed , if not signed

        Aucklanders are going to be tagged & tracked for making journeys on roads paid for many times over 24*7

        No viable alternative is in place to choose, and many have no discretion about work location or hours they must make the journey to work

  8. Jack Ramaka 8

    More taxes on people who can not afford them where has this Government actually spent the $108 Billion it has borrowed since it came to power?

  9. Mr Bridges wants the road pricing offset by reducing other charges, purely as a mechanism to reduce peak travel.

    Mr Brown wanted it as a revenue stream. This government still wants to force Auckland to privatise assets, etc, before they allow the region other long-term funding methods for infrastructure including transport.

    Transportblog has many (complex) posts on the topic of pricing:
    http://transportblog.co.nz/?s=road+pricing&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

  10. b waghorn 10

    Time and time again national is the fool that does in the end what labour were trying to do at the start.

  11. M. Gray 11

    Another idiot out of his league and a master of spin learned from his mentor the PM

  12. Please excuse my ignorance – if there is a toll on cars/fuel in Auckland and the money raised was used to vastly improve public transport for Auckland then that would be good?

    Is the issue the use of the money raised from a toll or the fact that there IS a toll?

    • Sacha 12.1

      If it was invested in congestion-free alternatives like separated busways and decent transit interchanges with rail, road tolling could accelerate progress. So would electing a government not hell-bent on throwing most of our transport money at provincial motorways as if climate change isn’t bearing down on us.

      Bridges and his bosses like Joyce and English will only agree to tolling if petrol levies and diesel charges are reduced at the same time, preferably in ways that transfer most benefit to their donors in trucking and construction and the financing of such.

    • M. Gray 12.2

      Why should people pay tolls when many are already paying high rates and taxes Where has our assets sales money gone? Another tax yet we were promised by our PM no more taxes and how many taxes has he introduced since he promised.

  13. Adrian 13

    Electric vehicle numbers are owing to grow substantially over the next ten to twenty years but do not get caught in fuel taxes but still need infrastructure to run on, how do they pay their share?.
    The only option is the current clumsy diesel road tax regime if like me you think constant monitoring of where you and your vehicle are is state surveillance that has gone too far.

    • Sacha 13.1

      Individual electric vehicles are not a big part of the solution. They just conform to the selfish libertarian preferences of the current govt and its brethren. Only proper separate public transit options can move enough people without paving the whole region.

      • Andre 13.1.1

        Individual electric vehicles are identical to petrol or diesel vehicles in terms of congestion, so not at all part of the solution. Networked driverless vehicles could play a small part in reducing congestion, but yeah, the big opportunity is public transport separated from roads.

  14. The roads are congested due to too much immigration allowed by National. Many are rich immigrants that can afford to pay a million bucks for a house and others are being brought in to lower our wages even further. First, Kiwis have been tossed out of home ownership and it now seems they now want to make us pay again to use the roads to get to our job that already has a pay rate far below living costs. It seems Auckland is fast becoming the land for the rich.
    Why should Kiwis pay to use badly exisitng congested roads? It’s already painful enough for people traveling on Aucklands main motorways to get to their low paid jobs as it is without having another living expense whacked on top of it. This is yet another penalty being palmed onto on Kiwis. Whilst the rich can afford to live in central Auckland and avoid these tolls, the average Kiwi in Auckland has been forced to live further out due to the housing crisis. Motorways for them are the only way to commute too and from their low paid jobs. They will be the ones paying for tolls, not those living in the nice expensive central suburbs like Herne Bay, Grey Lynn and Parnell.
    If National don’t want to stop immigration into an already congested city then all those Auckland employers that refuse to move out of Auckland will need to start contributing towards transport costs to ease its congestion. If they want to do business in a hard to get to congested city then it’s about time they started paying for that privilege. It seems business is getting off scott free and the costs for excessive immigration into an already congested city are getting pinged onto little Joe Aversge. I am sick and tired of it. Quite simply, if the government insists on allowing immigration to be so high then it’s business who needs to be contributing more rather than little Joe Average.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      If National don’t want to stop immigration into an already congested city then all those Auckland employers that refuse to move out of Auckland will need to start contributing towards transport costs to ease its congestion.

      I’ve said for awhile now that businesses should be paying their employees full transport costs and time for to and from the job. Watch how fast the demand for more sprawl drops if we do that and how fast the government starts building efficient public transport.

  15. Das 15

    Sorry, a bit busy and can’t look at the documents yet but can someone comment on whether something like variable network pricing would work beautifully and maximise returns for a public-private partnership?

  16. Richardrawshark 16

    Doesn’t Bridges refusal to call it a TOLL say a lot.

    Been the banner for this party ” Whatever your thinking I can assure you your wrong”

  17. TC 17

    Bridges embodies the spinning smarmy arrogance resident in sonkys cabinet dealing room.

    His ability to BS with confidence and fill the space with waffle makes him a high flyer in this regime.

    • In Vino 17.1

      Yes, he worries me. He is a university graduate who seems incapable of coherent expression – only convoluted gobbledygook. (Mind you, Lockwood-Smith was a bit that way..)

      But if he is an articulate man who is deliberately talking cacklemush, he could be very dangerous because he will be ‘misunderestimated’..

  18. Draco T Bastard 18

    But at least we are now at the stage where the Government has backed down and reversed a previously held position that was starving Auckland of vital funds. Shame they did not do this earlier …

    Increasing the cost of using cars would cause cars to be used less. This in turn would cause National Party donors that rely on cars for their profits to lose some of the income that they think that they’re entitled to.

    In other words, the market system in action.

    Once you’ve analysed what National say about pricing across the years and across multiple products/resources then the only possible thing you can say is that National absolutely hate the market system. Carbon tax/ETS? No, that would cost people more and so we can’t have that even though the whole point is that it would cost more and drive down usage.

    The reason for that hate is always the same – profits. A decrease in use would result in a decrease in profits. And that’s self-reinforcing as the decrease in profits causes the business to push prices up even more resulting in even less use and less profits.

  19. mac1 19

    Toll Road Rings National Bells

    National fears for the bell tolling
    One peal at a time for them
    To the electoral grave a-rolling;
    We chorus a carillon amen.

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