Auckland’s local political leaders are trying to prepare themselves (and the public) for some hard choices.
From the New Zealand Herald:
Aucklanders face paying to drive on city roads unless they are prepared to swallow hefty rates or fuel tax rises.
On Monday, an advisory group assembled by Mayor Len Brown is set to announce its recommended solutions to plug a $12 billion funding gap and fix the city’s ever-growing traffic jams.
The mayor says he will back whatever the “consensus-building” group recommends, even if that means tolling motorways or charging motorists to use arterial roads by 2021.
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief after the city’s roads again suffered gridlock for two out of the last three nights. …
In an interview in today’s Weekend Herald for a canvas investigation on the so-called City of Snails, Mr Brown referred to two road charging schemes as options to raise $400 million extra for roading and public transport in each of the next 30 years.
One is motorway tolls, and the other would involve setting up one or more cordons around the city, where passing drivers would be charged for using existing arterial roads.
The ideas were proposed by the Ministry of Transport in 2006 but were parked up after proving highly controversial among Aucklanders.
Many critics said such charges would be inequitable unless low-income earners gained far better public transport alternatives.
Mr Brown admitted there was “no way” he would have had anything to do with tolls or user charges on roading five years ago.
But although he still rated his chances of persuading Aucklanders to accept those as only “about 50-50 at this stage”, he was prepared to champion the cause, believing they shared his frustrations about transport challenges facing the city.
“My assessment is that Aucklanders have had about enough of our challenges as I have,” he said.
Asked if he would back congestion charges or tolls if the group recommended them, he replied: “Of course I’ll back it, and I’ll get out there.”
IMMEDIATE UPDATE: Just as I finish this post, another e-mail comes in from Scot Bathgate. “Sound familiar?” he asks.
Oh yes: the New Zealand government does to Auckland’s local leaders what our provincial government has repeatedly done to TransLink:
There will be no tolls or a regional petrol tax to pay for Auckland’s $2.86 billion city rail link, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee yesterday made the strongest statement yet by the Government to shoot down plans by Auckland Mayor Len Brown to introduce tolls to raise funds for his pet rail project.
This followed a council decision hours earlier to establish a “consensus building group” costing $1.1 million to focus on tolls and higher parking charges while keeping in mind other options, such as tourism charges.
The group, under the guidance of environmentalist and political activist Guy Salmon, will, among other things dine together monthly to “build relationships”.
But before the group has met to find a consensus to sell to the Government, Mr Brownlee has ruled out two of the main options – tolls and a regional petrol tax.
The minister said it was ridiculous for the Auckland Council to think it could use taxpayer-funded roads to raise its own funds.
The Government had said “no” to what was effectively a tax.
He also opposed congestion charges at peak hours, saying that internationally, congestion charges were used to deal with congestion, not to raise money.
Another sad case of a senior government, scared of reaction to anything that looks or smells like a tax, screwing around with a local government prepared to make some tough decisions, even if the senior government is not, when it comes to transit expansion. Road expansion, of course, will be fully funded by them – and forced through if necessary – without the need for some silly ‘consensus building group.’