Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown says the city’s motorists could soon be charged $5 per trip on some of its busiest highways.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan on Tuesday, Brown said he is looking at placing the congestion charges on SH1 between the Penrose and Greenlane on-ramps, and SH16 between the Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu on-ramps.
“Between 7am and 9am, those two motorways jam up and between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, they jam up again,” Brown said.
He claimed travelling at peak times was “easily avoidable”.
When du Plessis-Allan asked about parents dropping off children to school, which would fall in the morning peak hours, Brown said when he was a youngster ”you got to school on your own”.
“It isn’t the law you have to get to school in a BMW,” he said.
Brown added there would be “big discussions” about the price, but he said he thought a reasonable price would be $5 each time the motorists used the specified roads at the peak times.
He claimed the prices would ensure people would start to think, “maybe I should start work at that time, and work a bit later and go home a bit later”.
He called the levies “time of use” charges rather than “congestion charges”, comparing the new rules to those in London.
There was no point building new roads, Brown argued, when the existing ones were “empty most of the time”.
Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon was going to be on board with his idea, claimed Brown, but he avoided saying if he thought National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown would favour the idea.
In August, Simeon Brown said National would take the Government’s draft bill on congestion charging and make changes to ensure benefits for travel times, but acknowledged it will be “fraught and difficult” to address high costs for low-income earners.
Brown said it would take two to three years before congestion charging could be introduced - the time taken up with passing the legislation, consulting with councils on schemes, developing the technology and building the infrastructure.
Auckland Transport wants to speed up this time frame, explaining in a report it would like to forward funding to design a congestion charging scheme so it can be in place by the time the city rail link opens in 2026.
The mayor, however, said even this would be too slow and wants to implement the charges as soon as possible if the incoming Government scraps the regional fuel tax.
The National Party campaigned on ditching the Auckland tax.
“If the Government are going to take away the fuel tax, we’ll need it the day after,” he told BusinessDesk.
“I want to do it next week.”
Singapore was the first country to introduce congestion charging in 1975 and since then a handful of cities, including London, Milan and the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg, have introduced schemes.
In 2020, the Government, the Auckland Council and several government agencies produced a report, The Congestion Question, which recommended congestion charges could be phased in from 2025, starting with central Auckland.
It found the scheme would generate benefits, but cause financial hardship for many households, who would require help. It suggested prices of between $1.50 and $3.50 during the peak and shoulder hours and no charge off-peak.
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.