Petrol tax should fund rail electrification, not roads

The Greens will be pushing during the fine tuning by Parliament of the new petrol tax for the revenues to be put towards rail electrification and related public transport projects — and it will be urging that none of it should be going into new roads, the Green Party Auckland Transport Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“It’s great that the Auckland Regional Council, and the mayors of Auckland, Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore are all targeting electrification,” Mr Locke says.

“It would be ‘tolling by the backdoor’ to use any of the petrol tax for building new motorways such as the Western Ring Route. Aucklanders overwhelmingly rejected tolling for that purpose — and on the evidence of opinion polls, they would much prefer that any levies required be put towards a decent public transport system.

“It would undermine the necessary public backing for the petrol tax to also cover road spending.

“The Government is already spending too much on new motorways. Since 2006, Government has unveiled a massive $2 billion a year (and rising) road building programme. Months ago the Greens warned that this was a blank cheque commitment, since the Government has agreed to cover any subsequent cost blowouts — and those fears have now been confirmed by the ‘top up’ announced in this Budget, that adds a further $145 million over two years to the initial mammoth sums.

“Aucklanders increasingly understand that to reduce congestion we must have a decent public transport system, and that we have to play our part in combatting climate change. More trains, buses and ferries is the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not building more motorways for motor vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

“We would have preferred a Budget contribution to electrification, rather than requiring Auckland to put in a petrol tax to help to cover the costs – both the immediate ones and the cost of the interest payments on the required loan.

“The legislation on the regional petrol tax has yet to be negotiated with the parliamentary parties and the Greens will be fighting hard for it to exclude funding for roading purposes.

“We want the wording in the legislation tight so that the roading lobby can’t sneak their projects in under the tax,” said Mr Locke.