An Auckland region mayor has expressed his "heartfelt thanks to people in the provinces for their generous contribution towards sorting out Auckland's transport problems".
North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams was commenting after the Government yesterday announced it would scrap regional fuel taxes - including Auckland's which was to increase to 9.5c a litre in two years - and replace them with an increase in the national petrol tax.
The national fuel tax will increase by three cents a litre in October this year and again in October 2010.
The changes to the petrol tax were part of the Government's $1 billion additional investment in the state highway network announced yesterday.
"This is brilliant news for Auckland that we will not have to fund our rail electrification, ferry upgrades, integrated ticketing and the Penlink causeway solely from fuel taxes taken within the Auckland region," Mr Williams said.
"I would like to extend my thanks to the people from the likes of Gore, Timaru, Hokitika, Waipukurau, Stratford, Opotiki, and Kerikeri for contributing in the future to Auckland' transport woes."
Mr Williams said Aucklanders were willing pay their own way out of congestion problems, "but others knew better in Wellington".
The Auckland Chamber of Commerce welcomed the $1b boost and said the upgrades it funded would help address a "major bottleneck in Auckland daily transport woes".
The projects would also give the construction industry a boost, chamber chairman Michael Barnett said.
The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee also welcomed the changes - as long as they help the region.
"We understand where the Government is coming from on the regional fuel tax and want to work with the minister to ensure we meet our region's needs," chairwoman Jo Kane said.
She said crucial state highway projects were stalled across the region, but stressed "we must not lose sight of the need to treat the transport system as an integrated whole".
Truck operators welcomed the improvements to the country's roads and "the assurances that the road transport industry will not be charged more than their fair share".
Road Transport Forum chief executive Tony Friedlander said while the forum "never enjoyed an increase in charges" the industry appreciated the close consultation with them.
"The minister has recognised that increased charges need to be carefully managed because of the intense financial pressures transport operators and their clients are under."
But Labour transport spokesman Darren Hughes said the changes to regional fuel tax were "unfair on the vast majority of New Zealanders".
"The huge irony is that it is also unfair on Aucklanders because they won't see many of the benefits, including new rail stations and integrated ticketing, that would have come their way under the planned regional fuel tax."
Mr Hughes said the Government had shown "absolute preoccupation with roads at the expense of public transport".
The national fuel tax increases are expected to raise $283 million towards the $1b investment.
The rest will come from new crown investment ($258m) previously set aside for the Wellington passenger rail infrastructure and a reallocation from non-state highway areas ($420m).
The savings from non-state highway areas includes money saved on administration costs and reduced increases in the cycling and walking areas.