5 Dec 2016

Motorists at odds with Goff over transport funding - survey

7:23 am on 5 December 2016

Auckland Council should think again before reinventing the wheel when it comes to charging people for the city's transport infrastructure, the AA says.

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Auckland mayor Phil Goff says an interim transport levy currently being paid by Aucklanders is "grossly inequitable". Photo: 123rf.com

A survey of the organisation's members found that they would "grudgingly accept" new ways to fund the transport system, but a levy which is already being charged has more support.

This puts those AA motorists at odds with new mayor Phil Goff who has described the Interim Transport Levy as "grossly inequitable."

Aucklanders currently pay the $114 levy as part of their rates and will do so for another 18 months.

Mr Goff has told the council's Finance and Performance Committee that mid-2018 will be the end of the road for that levy.

"The interim transport levy, which expires in 2018, heavily advantages businesses as opposed to residences. I don't intend to change the Interim Transport Levy because I intend that we should eliminate it in 2018."

Mr Goff told the committee he wanted a better system that would help fill the $400 million annual shortfall in the city's transport infrastructure investment.

He said the levy was unfair and did not raise enough money to plug that shortfall.

An elderly person who barely uses their transportation system pays the same as someone who uses motorways at peak hour, he said.

A person on minimum wage or pension also pays the same effective rate as our biggest corporations.

AA spokesperson Barney Irvine disagreed because a survey by the organisation of its members showed people found the levy palatable.

"The amount of money is probably one that is realistic for most households, and the fact is ... people have adapted to the new costs and adapted into their budgets."

Mr Irvine said continuing with the levy would generate a big chunk of the funding gap, as it allowed the council to borrow more because of the increased revenue.

He said while no system was entirely fair, the levy had its advantages.

" Even if one of these new approaches were deemed to be fairer, you have to weigh that up against the difficulties of setting up a regional fuel tax of a motorway charge, just as an interim solution."

"We're not opposed to these new tools being brought before the public, but we want to make sure that the questions are being asked and we're not leaping into it," he said.

The editor of the Transport Blog, Matt Lowrie, agreed with the AA that the interim levy was working and should be continued in the medium term.

He said everyone benefited from the transport system whether they use a car a lot, or just a little.

"Transport has always been paid out of a mixture of rates and fuel taxes and so not everyone uses it but everyone benefits from the transport system in some way, whether it be people delivering it to them or people going places."

There was support across the board for the continuation of the levy from public transport advocates and motoring advocates, Mr Lowrie said.

In a statement, Mr Goff said a fuel tax was not new or complicated, and would be simple and easy to administer.

But Mr Irvine said AA members preferred the levy to a fuel tax and the council should think very carefully before making changes.

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