The Government has flagged changes to allow road taxes to be spent on rail projects.

Confirmation of the proposal came today after National's transport spokeswoman Judith Collins accused Transport Minister Phil Twyford of saying different things to different people over diverting road taxes to rail.

In a statement issued to the Herald, Twyford said it is the Government's policy to fund road, rail and public transport out of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

He said this would be done through the Government Policy Statement (GPS) currently being worked on and will be implemented in the next couple of years.

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Twyford accused Collins of politicking but signalled changes for a new approach to the NLTF, including more emphasis on safety, more investment in regional roads and modern rapid transit for our cities.

The national land transport fund is paid for by road users to be invested in improving NZ's roading network and it should remain that way

Labour's flagship rapid transit policy is to build modern trams, also known as light rail, from the Auckland CBD to the airport and from the CBD to West Auckland at a cost of $5 billion.

"It is not possible for the Government to take money from current roading projects in the Land Transport Fund. The Government is bound by legislation to operate within existing funding settings," Twyford said.

Judith Collins
Judith Collins

Collins said Twyford had written to stakeholders last November outlining changes to the GPS are being considered, while his office was telling media last week that funding for road upgrades would not be redirected to rail.

"In his rush to erroneously claim that a number of roading projects aren't under threat because of the Government's obsession with Auckland rail, Mr Twyford has been saying different things to different people," she said.

Collins said there is an important principle, adhered to by successive governments, ensuring the specific taxes paid by motorists are invested in newer, safer and better roads – helping keep New Zealanders connected and safe.

"The National Land Transport Fund is paid for by road users to be invested in improving New Zealand's roading network and it should remain that way," she said.

Twyford said the Government has not altered any existing roading projects except Auckland's East-West link and officials are working to identify a lower-cost, better-value option.

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The Government is also allowing Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax, believed to be 11.5 cents a litre, which will go to fund a range of projects, including the $3.4b City Rail Link and a share of the Government's $5b light rail programme.

In response to National launching a series of petitions last week to save nine highways promised by the party on the election campaign last August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said neglected regional roads are more worthy of taxpayer funding.