26 Jul 2011

Transport plan signals fuel tax increase

7:01 pm on 26 July 2011

A fuel tax increase of 3.5 cents a litre over the next two years is on the cards following the release of the Government's 10-year transport plan.

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding was released on Tuesday, detailing $36 billion worth of planned spending over the next decade, with increases for new state highways and public transport services.

The statement says the Government expects to increase fuel excise duty and road user charges, possibly by 2 cents a litre in 2012 and 1.5 cents a litre the following year.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says that is a projection of what might be needed and a decision on a fuel tax rise will not be made until next year.

The Automobile Association is not expecting oil companies to absorb the predicted tax increase and believes drivers will have to wear the cost.

Funding for state highways

The plan says there will be a steady increase in annual funding for new state highways, rising from just over $1 billion this year to up to $1.7 billion a year in 10 years' time.

The amount of money for public transport services also increases in that period but the funding for public transport infrastructure goes down.

Funding for policing the roads and road safety promotion stays at about the same level.

A Road Maintenance Task Force will be established made up of representatives from the Transport Agency, local government and the roading industry.

Mr Joyce says the task force will investigate ways to reduce costs in road maintenance and renewals without sacrificing quality.

Opposition parties critical

The Labour and Green parties say there is too much emphasis on roading projects in the Government's plan.

Labour's transport spokesperson Shane Jones says Mr Joyce's plan lacks innovation.

"I think he's creating tarmac trophies. I don't think he's allocating enough money for repairs and maintenance. He's certainly short-changing public sector transport at a time when patronage is definitely growing."

The Green Party says it is disappointing to see so much of the fund going towards roading, when people are looking for improved public transport services.