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Toll roads, consultation hold up transport bills

The issues of toll roads and consultation are holding up progress on the Land Transport Management and Road Traffic Reduction Bills, National’s transport spokesman Roger Sowry told Environment Waikato’s Regional Land Transport Committee this week.

Mr Sowry said reporting back of the Bill following submissions had been delayed by negotiations between Labour and the Greens on what was acceptable to the Select Committee. Outstanding issues included the onerous consultation requirements, tolling of existing transport infrastructure and the Minister’s role in tolling and concession schemes.

Transport Minister Paul Swain had said he wanted to change the rules on tolling, which was hugely contentious, Mr Sowry said. The Greens would not support tolling existing infrastructure, while local authorities said that unless they could, they would not get the leverage needed from public/private partnerships.

“What is included in the Bill is the ability to impose regional petrol taxes and for regions to capture the money.”

Auckland Mayor John Banks had called for a 10 cents a litre tax across New Zealand with the regions to decide how to spend the money, and all Auckland mayors had signed an agreement pushing for the tax to be included in the Bill.

“There is also an issue with borrowing. Transfund can borrow now but the issue is whether other entities can borrow and use Transfund revenue to pay off their borrowing. There is also a major campaign by businesses around New Zealand to bring back the economic efficiency priority in the Bill’s roading decisions, which runs head first into the Greens.”

Committee Chairman David Peart said the Waikato was less enthusiastic than Aucklanders about a petrol tax as the area had a lot of through traffic which would be fuelling in Auckland or Wellington, not the Waikato.

“It would be disappointing if a regional tax was imposed because it would indicate that Central Government should have increased the fuel tax.”

He said many Auckland motorway issues were caused by urban use of an inter-regional network, so that Aucklanders needed to stump up more money.

South Waikato Mayor Gordon Blake said consultation seemed to be “lengthy, convoluted and expensive” way at arriving at decisions. Local Government had a huge investment in roading, which was not being recognised with service. Other forms of transport should also be investigated, he said.

Mr Sowry said motorists would not be happy about subsidising transport such as coastal shipping with a petrol tax, when there were other ways of dealing with Auckland’s problems, such as a one-off lump sum.

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