30 Apr 2018

Two weeks to have a say on Auckland fuel tax

4:58 pm on 30 April 2018

Auckland's regional fuel tax has been given an initial green light by councillors, paving the way for just a fortnight of public consultation.

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Photo: 123RF

All but two councillors decided to seek the views of the public on how the $1.5 billion dollars raised would be spent over the next decade.

The council has to take a final vote on the 11.5 cents-a-litre tax at the end of the month, but the National Party has already pledged to scrap it if re-elected in 2020.

The debate was surprisingly short - just 18 minutes - following nearly an hour arguing over whether a footnote should be added to make it clear the tax was unrelated to the government's proposed lift in fuel excise tax.

Manurewa-Papakura ward's Daniel Newman backed the consultation but said he would prefer instead to increase property rates by a further 14 per cent to raise the same amount of money.

"I would sooner pass that cost on to the ratepayer such as Housing New Zealand in my ward, than the tenants in my ward who are going to have to pay at the pump," he said.

Albany ward councillor John Watson also backed it, but found it ironic that those least likely to be hit by the tax could be the main beneficiaries.

"[In] inner-city suburbs ... there's a lot more choice in terms of trains and buses," said Mr Watson.

"It's a rather an unusual feature that those people won't be asked to contribute - the same with people who can afford to drive electric cars."

Aucklanders will have to be quick and engaged to have a say.

The full consultation document will only be available only online, or to read at council facilities.

One of the tax's biggest contributions will be to a road safety push aimed at cutting deaths and injury, along with a third batch of electric trains, and new bus links to the airport.

Some councillors were struggling to get their heads around the tax and where it would go.

Rodney ward's Greg Sayers was one of only two councillors to vote against the proposal going out for public consultation.

He mistakenly thought most of it was to fund light rail projects, which will in fact be paid for by the government.

The regional tax was backed by councillors from some of Auckland's poorest areas, such as councillor Josephine Bartley, who represents communities such as Glen Innes in the Maungakiekie Ward.

"I know the cost that this is going to put on a lot of families - a lot of low-income families, families who live in cars," she said.

"I see the point in why we have a regional fuel tax, because it's about the future and about progress and I know that my community support that."

Earlier in the day, National leader Simon Bridges said the regional fuel tax was not needed and his party would scrap it if it's re-elected.

"We've got a situation at the moment with rising revenue, with hard-working Kiwis not needing to pay another new tax," Mr Bridges told Morning Report.

"Actually if you manage things well, if you don't have the wrong kind of spending, you can do infrastructure and you don't need new taxes."

Transport Minister Phil Twyford responded by pointing to the breadth of support among Auckland councillors today, including six he said were aligned to the National Party.

"They've stood up for their communities, for their constituents, who are stuck in gridlock," he said.

As Aucklanders have a quick say on the tax, government officials are drafting the enabling legislation which is expected to be passed by parliament in late June, just weeks ahead of the tax taking effect from 1 July.

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