Opposition leader Simon Bridges and Transport Minister Phil Twyford are clashing over a fee increase on Tauranga's two toll roads.

From March 1 toll fees will increase on the Tauranga Eastern Link on State Highway 2 and Takitimu Drive on State Highway 29.

On the Tauranga Eastern Link, cars, motorcycles and light commercial vehicles will see a 10 cent rise to $2.10, while heavy commercial vehicles will rise 20 cents to $5.20.

The Takitimu Drive Toll Road will also take a 10 cent leap to $1.90, with heavy commercial vehicles also up 20 cents to $5.


Tauranga MP and National Party leader Bridges said the toll increase was a "cheeky tax grab" from the Government.

The city, which has two of New Zealand's three toll roads, did not need a price hike when most of the country did not even have tolls, he said.

Bridges said he overruled moves by the New Zealand Transport Agency managers to increase toll road fares in Tauranga during his tenure as Transport Minister from 2014 to 2017.

He could not see why the increase was needed, and Twyford needed to make it clear why he was letting it go ahead.

Twyford hit back, saying that Bridges did not overrule a toll increase in 2015 that impacted the Northern Gateway Toll Road, north of Auckland.

The Tauranga Eastern Link's tolls were set in 2015 when it opened, and Takitimu Drive has not had an increase since it was transferred to central Government ownership and moved to electronic tolling that same year.

Twyford said the National Government made it possible for toll roads to be annually adjusted in line with inflation.

"Simon Bridges obviously understood four years ago that there is a rising cost of transport infrastructure which has to be paid for."


NZ Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Rob Campbell said the toll increase was a necessary response to inflation.

The price rise had been kept to a minimum and was to ensure the agency remained on track to repay debt associated with building the roads.

Both roads had free alternatives: The Te Puke Highway for the Tauranga Eastern Link or Cameron Road and Cambridge/Moffat Roads for Takitimu Drive.

Motorists had mixed reactions to the news, while commercial trucking industry representatives said the price increase would be passed on to consumers.

Dave Cox, Bay of Plenty area executive of the New Zealand Road Association, said passing on the cost meant that even those not using the toll roads would be impacted by the price hike, whether it be at the supermarket or the local furniture store.

"The only thing that isn't delivered by a truck is a baby."


TD Haulage general manager Derek Dumbar, also a leader in the association, said passing the cost on was the only commercially viable option when it came to toll increases.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said tolls were the cost of doing business and although these roads do make routes quicker and easier, the cost would always end up in families' laps.

Tolls affected everybody, not just motorists, he said.

A spokesman from NDL Transport said the company spent around $500 a month on tolls and while a $50 or so increase would seem like a "drop in the bucket", it all added up.

According to the transport agency's annual report, both Tauranga toll roads brought in revenue over their budgets in the year to June 2018.

The Tauranga Eastern Link made over $5.1 million while the Takitimu Drive Toll Road made just over $5 million - about $1.5m over budget in both cases.