Petrol tax hike annoys drivers in Bay

By Genevieve Helliwell

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"Frustrated" and "annoyed" are words Bay motorists are using to describe a new petrol tax that will see the cost of fuel increase by nine cents over the next three years.

Petrol tax is set to rise by three cents a litre at the start of July and will continue to rise three cents a year for the next two years.

Petrol-dependent companies and motorists will feel the pinch at the pump, which is estimated to cost the average motorist an extra $45 per year.

Papamoa man Busby Hobson said the price of petrol was "much too high" and the new tax was unnecessary.

"It's just another frustration. Petrol is too expensive, rent is too high, the cost of living is high. I can say I'm honestly thinking about moving back to Australia."

He moved across the ditch about nine years ago and returned home two years ago.

"It's just better over there in terms of cost of living and better petrol rates too."

The Customs and Excise (Budget Measures - Motor Spirits) Amendment Bill was announced by Finance Minister Bill English in December and passed under urgency on Saturday night, by 67 votes to 26.

Under the legislation, the total tax take (including GST) from one litre of petrol will be almost $1 when the changes are fully implemented in July 2015.

The money raised is set to go into the Government's Land Transport Fund.

Bay motorist Lee Jack said the increased tax would not influence her driving habits and she would not be more inclined to ride the bus because "buses are not reliable enough".

Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee told Parliament that, even following the increases, New Zealand would have the fifth lowest rate of petrol tax in the OECD.

A Transport Ministry official estimated the increase in excise tax would cost each driver an additional $45 annually.

Gull general manager Dave Bodger told the Bay of Plenty Times the increase in petrol tax would be frustrating for motorists and three cents could make a big difference to a person's budget. But from an administration point of view, the tax would would improve the quality of New Zealand's roads.

Tauranga Mount Taxi administrator Jacqui Coffey said there were no plans to increase taxi charges as a result of the new petrol tax. She said about half of the company's 50 taxis were hybrid vehicles and used "a lot less" petrol than normal cars, therefore customers were unlikely to see a flow-on effect.

Prime Minister John Key told TV One's Breakfast show yesterday the Government was receiving less tax revenue from motorists due to fuel efficiency improvements in modern vehicles.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the tax take from motorists was down due people using their cars less. "It is absurd to use the revenue from the petrol tax hike to build more motorways when New Zealanders are switching to public transport. Public transport is where investment is needed."

AA PetrolWatch spokesman Mark Stockdale said an annual tax increase for fuel was not unusual. "Usually the excise tax increases every year, in the past it's been about two cents per litre.

"It's a necessary evil and in part it's due to the Government boosting its transport infrastructure programme and also declining tax revenue over time because of improved fuel economy of the [national] fleet."

Unfortunately, the tax increase also penalised motorists on low incomes who could not afford to upgrade their vehicles and tended to own older, less fuel efficient cars, Mr Stockdale said. However, it was likely most motorists would not notice the tax hike with the constant fluctuation of petrol prices.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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