Council votes for closer look at tolling

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland City Council voted last night for more research into charging motorists to use congested roads, but said it could not accept such a system without a greater regional share of fuel taxes.

Last-ditch pleas by members of the council's centre-left majority for the whole charging idea to be scrapped because Auckland's public transport system was far too inadequate to replace car trips failed to head off a 10-6 vote to crank up investigations.

They were unable to sway their team leader and Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker, who called for more road-pricing investigations to learn how to wean Aucklanders off their "love affair with the car".

But the council watered down a draft submission from officers which would have accepted the desirability of introducing road-pricing to Auckland, rather than just studying it in greater detail, as called for in last night's vote.

And it passed an amendment by Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers' Now team leader Scott Milne that it could not implement any road-pricing until all vehicle fuel tax collected from the region be used to improve public transport and roading infrastructure locally.

This followed advice from Mr Milne that the Auckland region paid 35 per cent of the country's petrol taxes, yet received back just 28 per cent for its pressing transport needs.

The final submission will join about 1000 others received by the Ministry of Transport ahead of a deadline this afternoon for public comment on a $2.3 million road-pricing study.

Senior Labour councillor Richard Northey led a rearguard effort to wipe road-pricing off the map, saying roads were part of the public domain on which people still needed free access.

Cathy Casey said road-pricing was "weasel" language for tolling and it would discriminate against city workers forced by high property prices to live in far-flung suburbs.

"We are completely out of touch with the public mood."

Mr Milne said he would like to think roads would never have to be charged, especially if Auckland received the money it deserved from the Government, but it was crucial to gather more information.

Transport committee chair Richard Simpson said the number of cars "eating" Auckland was insane.

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