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Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop at the National party conference in June, 2023 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop at the National party conference in June, 2023 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 5, 2024

War on future potholes as public transport funding cut, tax and fees to rise for drivers

Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop at the National party conference in June, 2023 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop at the National party conference in June, 2023 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

$500m has been ring fenced for potholes as increased fees and tax hikes loom round the bend for drivers. Big roads will be back on track, while funding for cycling, walking and rail has been cut, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

$500m ringfenced for pothole prevention

According to a count undertaken by Toby Manhire in October 2022, the word pothole had appeared 69 times in local election candidate profiles on Policy.nz. He made the count after Simeon Brown launched a “pothole of the day campaign”, inviting people to submit photos of potholes and sign a petition. Yesterday, Brown unveiled the draft version of the Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport, which will now go out for consultation. $500m will be ringfenced for pothole prevention. Roads of National Significance (RONs) are back, with 15 new roads set to be delivered under the programme, although uncosted, with the draft plan highlighting the need to look to private investment and tolling revenue. The Herald has previously reported (paywalled) those roads were over budget by as much as $24b. As interest.co.nz’s Dan Brunskill notes, eight of the RONs would be connected to Auckland and three would be in the South Island. Environment Canterbury councillor Deon Swigg said on LinkedIn that he feels like the South Island “just is not a priority for this government”, noting the reduction in public transport funding and the number of projects within the South Island.

Funding for cycling, walking and public transport initiatives cut

As the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan reports, Labour planned to spend up to $3.2b on public transport infrastructure over the next three years. This has been cut by nearly $1b. Transport spokesperson for the Greens, Julie Anne Genter, described the plan as “extreme”. “It’s doubling down on the failed approach of last century and it will lead to more emissions, more congestion and higher transport costs for all of New Zealand,” she said.

Excise tax and rego fee increases

National scrapped the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax a few weeks ago. That ends in June. At the time, they said it would lower the cost of filling a Toyota Corolla by $5.75. Calculations by Stuff’s Glenn McConnell suggest Toyota Corolla owners in Auckland have about two and a half years to enjoy that saving. Despite criticising Labour for its plans to lift the fuel tax by 2026, National has done the same, with a later start date. As Brunskill writes, at the time, National said it could deliver its transport plan without the “heavy burden” of petrol tax hikes in its first term. “It did not say it would merely delay the hikes, nor that it would significantly increase motor vehicle registration fees,” he writes. There will a 12 cent increase to the fuel excise tax in 2027 with a further increase by 6c a litre in 2028 and 4c a litre each following year. In Coughlan’s report this morning, he notes that Brown doesn’t anticipate fuel taxes sticking around forever, with road user charges on the slate.

More cost of living crunch

Car owners will also pay an additional $25 next year in registration fees. That will rise by a further $25 in 2026. Brown said fees haven’t risen since 1994. The fines and demerit points fee regimes will also be reviewed. As the draft GPS notes, most of these have not been reviewed since they were set in 1999. To bring our fines for not wearing a seatbelt in line with Australia, the draft plan notes the fine would need to triple. Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the increase in fuel tax would be a “massive blow” to low-income households. Hipkins said the excise tax increase and increases to vehicle registration fees amounted to the government breaking its “no new taxes” promises. The cost of running a car, keeping it legal and getting a license has been noted as a barrier to employment opportunities, particularly for young people and particularly in rural areas which don’t often have reliable, late night or wide-ranging public transport options. Driver licensing fees went up last year for learner and restricted licenses, but the cost of resitting your tests was waived.

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