Lobby group calls for road tolls

By Adam Bennett, Newstalk ZB

The Council for Infrastructure Development says there should be tolls of $2 to $3 on Auckland motorways. File photo / Janna Dixon
The Council for Infrastructure Development says there should be tolls of $2 to $3 on Auckland motorways. File photo / Janna Dixon

A lobby group wants user pays to help pay for transport infrastructure, as New Zealand's political parties reveal their infrastructure plans.

The Labour Party has revealed it plans to pour $1.2 billion dollars into Auckland's proposed city rail link and cancel the holiday highway north of Auckland.

The National Party is promising to put $5 billion to $7 billion from partial asset sales into a Future Investment Fund for schools, hospital redevelopments and transport projects.

The Council for Infrastructure Development said tolls of $2 to $3 were needed on Auckland motorways to cover the bills.

Chief executive Stephen Selwood said investment in infrastructure was central to lifting the quality of life in New Zealand.

He said user pays is the fairest system.

"I think New Zealanders are now becoming aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as free infrastructure.''

He said direct user charges is is the next step in ensuring timely investment is made when it is needed.

Little faith in government plans

Meanwhile, businesses are not convinced that John Key's Government has a plan to develop the country's infrastructure or the economy, according to the Deloitte-Business NZ election survey.

The survey, done in late August and early September, revealed a more positive view generally about the National Government compared to the same survey done before the 2008 election.

However, it also found that while 98.4 per cent of respondents believed it was important for the Government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised New Zealand's economic performance, only 34.5 per cent thought it had one.

The survey also showed only 19 per cent of respondents thought the Government's current infrastructure spending plans would deliver the best economic outcomes for New Zealand against 23.6 per cent who thought they wouldn't. But significantly, more than half - 57.4 per cent - were unsure.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said it was "disturbing" that the number one issue emerging from the survey was the lack of a "clear, well understood economic plan".

It was difficult for businesses to organise and structure themselves and they were "looking for a bit more direction to place their bets as to where future growth will come from".

He said the plan Mr Key this morning confidently told the Business NZ election conference in Wellington this morning would lift economic performance, "was obviously news to most people in this room".

"It's not resonating with business."

Of the political leaders who spoke at the conference this morning, Act's Don Brash appeared to be closest to having a coherent economic agenda, Mr Jack said.

Another key election issue also surfaced in the survey, with 80.3 per cent of businesses believing the Government should be clearly signalling options and timeframes for changing eligibility for NZ Super.

Labour deserved credit for "grasping the nettle" by saying it would raise the eligibility for NZ Super and Mr Jack said he was encouraged there was now more debate on the issue.

However, he said Labour's policy was flawed, partly as the changes did not take effect until the baby-boomer generation had retired.

Labour at least recognised the link between KiwiSaver and NZ Superannuation, he said.

Australia's move to place more emphasis on private savings rather than maintaining a generous state funded pension "could be a destination for New Zealand", Mr Jack said.

Once again the survey revealed businesses were anxious about having sufficient skilled workers. Asked what they considered as the most important of six broad factors in ensuring sustained economic growth, 29.3 per cent of the 1350 respondents picked "skills and productivity" ahead of "investment, innovation and entrepreneurship" at 26.4 per cent.

Access to skills and talent was far and away the most important employment issue - identified by 52 per cent of respondents.

Sixty per cent of businesses said increasing the literacy, numeracy and basic skill levels of the workforce was the number one productivity issue for the Government to address.

- NZ Herald

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