Most favour motorway tolls to plug money gap, survey finds

By Mathew Dearnaley

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

Pollsters have found almost two-thirds support from Aucklanders for motorway tolls to ease congestion and raise extra transport money.

A finding of 63.8 per cent support in principle for tolls - published today after a survey of more than a thousand Super City residents - comes amid Government resistance to imposing tolls or raising fuel taxes to plug a $10 billion to $15 billion funding gap.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee last week ruled out tolls or a regional fuel tax to pay for a $2.86 billion pair of central city rail tunnels backed by Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

That was after an Auckland Council decision to establish a "consensus building group" to focus on tolls, extra fuel taxes and higher parking charges.

Questioned in Parliament yesterday by Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford, the minister defended a claim that it would be ridiculous for Auckland to try to levy motorists, saying Government highways accounted for 35 per cent of the region's road travel.

But an online survey of 1016 Aucklanders, conducted for the Council for Infrastructure Development, found strong support in principle for tolls varying in price and times, if these reduced congestion and helped to pay for big transport projects.

Opposition was far higher to other funding ideas including charges for driving into central Auckland and rises in parking fees, fuel taxes and airport departure levies.

Those surveyed were drawn from a research panel recruited by Horizon in accordance with the demographics of Auckland's adult population at the last Census, weighted to match age, gender, personal income, employment and education levels.

Infrastructure council chief Stephen Selwood said the varying options were simply measures of how much money was needed.

"Each of those options would raise $10 billion - that is the level of charges you would have to use," he said.

"So a $2 toll raises the best part of $10 billion, but you would have to put up petrol tax by 40c to 45c a litre if just in Auckland, or 16c nationally - we have endeavoured to provide an apples-with-apples comparison."

Those surveyed were told $10 billion to $15 billion was needed to pay for four big projects prioritised by Auckland Council in its 30-year plan.

They are the city rail link, southeast Auckland's Ameti package of roading and public transport upgrades ($1.5 billion), an east-west highway from Mt Wellington to Onehunga ($1.2 billion) and a Waitemata Harbour road and rail crossing ($5.8 billion to $6.7 billion).

- NZ Herald

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