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Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)
Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)

AucklandOctober 30, 2017

How to calm down if you’re mad at the Auckland fuel tax

Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)
Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)

If you’re anything like the Herald’s readers, you’ve spent most of the last week weeping about Labour’s fuel tax. Hayden Donnell provides some good reasons to rein in your grief.

Labour has announced it will raise taxes on fuel in Auckland by roughly 10c a litre, and everyone is freaking out. People are screaming that they won’t pay an extra cent in tax to fix Auckland’s broken public transport system, which is broken because for decades people have been screaming that they won’t pay a cent more tax to fix it. Many of them would rather leave the city than pay the cost of an extra coffee every week for something resembling a functional rail network.

The rage has been stoked by National Party MPs. Their actions are a sobering glimpse at the party’s strategy for the next three years, which seems to be rallying an army of Herald and Stuff commenters and riding into Parliament atop a tidal wave of pure idiocy.

The good news though is that everyone can calm down. I’ve taken the time to address all of your fears individually.

Judith Collins

If you’re Judith Collins, and you oppose “trolleys” going to the airport, you need to remind yourself your own Government supported “trolleys” to the airport in its transport plan for Auckland. The only difference between Labour’s plan and your Auckland Transport Alignment Plan (ATAP) is the timeframe. ATAP set the finish date on light rail at roughly 30 years from now. Labour wants to fast-track it.

But maybe you’ve familiarised yourself with your own Government’s policies and you still feel a roiling rage over trolleys. “If trolleys are so great, why won’t they pay for themselves?” you think as you dissect a series of still-squirming lizards on your kitchen bench.

If that’s the case, maybe remember the Roads of National Significance your Government funded. All of them cost more money than they earned, then kept costing money, and continue to cost money today. Think of the East-West Link, which your Government promised to fund despite the fact it was literally a gigantic black hole sucking in wads of cash.

Light rail to the airport has a better business case than any of those projects. So maybe consider that you’re either a gigantic hypocrite or it’s not fiscal prudence you’re concerned about.

David Seymour

If you’re David Seymour, come to realise that this is one of those arguments that seems smart on the surface but reveals itself to be pant-crappingly stupid after roughly four seconds’ thought. It’s kind of like arguing that if people buy cigarettes, the tax on their cigarettes should go toward helping them buy more cigarettes.

People are paying the fuel tax because decades of underfunding and backwards-looking transport policy have left them with little choice but to drive. That’s bad because roads are a good way to use space inefficiently and warm the planet, while paying a lot of money at the same time. The fuel tax will help give people another option.

Even if this is unconvincing, you could reflect on tax as a whole. Is it normal for someone who’s not sick to pay tax so that people who are sick can get care? For people who aren’t in school to pay for children to get education? Is it actually kind of normal to pay tax for things you don’t personally benefit from?


Your house rose in value by an average of 85% in the four years to 2016. Think of the $4-10 extra you spend each week on fuel as giving up roughly 2% of the annual untaxed profit on your house to make sure people who don’t have houses can at least take an electrified train home to their uninsulated garage.

If that thought enrages you, it’s possible you own more than one house, and are one of the…

Property investors

You’ve made approximately $4 trillion in untaxed capital gains in the last 10 years, systematically pricing lower income families out of the market, and now you’re shouting about how a fuel tax will hurt “low income families”. Have you no shame, sir?

Herald commenters threatening to leave Auckland

Ah crap, you’re right! The fuel tax is going to ruin your life! Leave now!

Mid-to-high-income non-homeowners

This will cost you like half the price of the avocado on toast you love to eat instead of saving for a home deposit, you insufferable latté-drinking, podcast-listening, AA-calling excuse for an adult.

Low-income families

This seems fair. The fuel tax could hurt low-income families, especially in the period where public transport infrastructure is still being developed. Targeted road tolls could be a fairer option, but they’re costly and time-consuming to implement. However, Labour is also raising the minimum wage, which should have flow-on effects for low-income earners, and extending Working For Families. Both could help people get through the time while the Government is still busy making up for the borderline criminal negligence of past administrations.


The Spinoff Auckland is sponsored by Heart of the City, the business association dedicated to the growth of downtown Auckland as a vibrant centre for entertainment, retail, hospitality and business.

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