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: simon bridges
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.
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 …