Auckland drivers face off-ramp toll

By Mathew Dearnaley

Think-tank report flags motorway-exit charge to bridge gap in funding for Auckland transport projects worth $68 billion.

Long-distance travellers would be free to drive through the city without being charged, as long as they stayed on the motorways. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Long-distance travellers would be free to drive through the city without being charged, as long as they stayed on the motorways. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Drivers may be tolled at Auckland motorway exit ramps to ease pressure on ratepayers over a $12 billion transport funding gap, according to a high-level report due out today.

The report, from a 17-member think-tank appointed by Mayor Len Brown, will give Auckland Council and the Government a clear timetable for when new revenue sources will be needed to raise an extra $400 million for each of 30 years.

The money will be for projects such as the City Rail Link and new roads, including another Waitemata Harbour crossing.

The plan is expected to include increases to fuel taxes and rates and possible charges for motorists to use existing roads from 2020, rather than just tolls now allowed on new government highways.

But the "consensus building group" is believed to have stopped short - given the wide range of organisations represented on it - of expressing total support for road charges.

The group will remind Mr Brown, however, that without those, ratepayers face even higher rises in property charges from 2016 to bridge a funding gap revealed in the Auckland Plan, which prescribes transport projects the group expects to cost $68 billion.

Separate transport sources also indicated yesterday that a "surprisingly" large proportion of 2300 public submissions on an earlier options paper preferred road charges, to spread the load.

That paper ruled out about 20 options such as assets sales, a regional sales tax and a lottery before leaving Aucklanders with a stark choice between hefty rates rises combined with fuel tax rises in one corner, and a combination of enhanced traditional funding sources and road charges in the other.

Although the Government is opposed to charging drivers to use existing motorways, it is understood the report will suggest tolls at the off-ramps to local roads, given that those are half-funded by ratepayers.

Long-distance travellers would be free to drive through the city without being charged, as long as they stayed on the motorways.

The group will emphasise at the release of its final report at the Town Hall this afternoon that politicians need to make tough decisions by 2015, before the annual funding gap becomes too wide.

It will also call for a detailed assessment of the impact of road charges on Auckland households, and their fairest geographical distribution.

Council transport chairman Mike Lee said he believed Aucklanders were "more than paying their way" and he didn't think trying to find more cash from them "is on right now".

- NZ Herald

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