Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Referendum idea tolls plan to fund Akl rail loop

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is considering a referendum on tolls and congestion charges to finance the $2.4 billion inner city rail loop and other transport projects.

Tolls and congestion charges will be included in his first 10-year budget as alternative funding sources to rates and taxes to meet a $10 billion funding shortfall for major transport projects.

Mr Brown yesterday told a Herald Project Auckland business lunch that he was considering a referendum to get a mandate to introduce new charges on motorists as alternative funding sources to rates and taxes.

Later, he acknowledged that tolls were a highly political, divisive and hip-pocket issue.

"But it's an issue I am not going to shy away from because I know unclogging roads and getting our transport sorted out is one thing Aucklanders want and this is one way to help deliver it," Mr Brown said.

He had mooted tolls, congestion charges and a regional fuel tax in August, saying Aucklanders could pay between $1 and $3 to drive on the motorways, depending on the time of day.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce ruled out a regional fuel tax and had "significant reservations" about tolls and congestion charges, saying motorists already contributed about 11 per cent of their fuel taxes to public transport.

The Auckland Council would need government approval to proceed with new cash sources, such as tolls.

Mr Brown said strong community buy-in for tolls in a referendum at the 2013 local body elections would strengthen the case with whoever was in government after the election.

Aucklanders will get a clearer idea of what the mayor has in mind when he releases his draft budget on October 27.

- NZ Herald

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