Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her decision to raise petrol taxes by 9 to 12 cents a litre does not breach her pre-election promise of "no new taxes" in her first term.
She told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning that yesterday's Government Policy statement on land transport was a "routine" review that happened every three years, and did not propose new taxes.
The document proposes raising fuel taxes by "between 3-4 cents per year for three years", starting this year.
Ardern promised 10 days before the election last September that any tax changes arising out of the Labour Party's proposed tax review would not take effect until after the 2020 election.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said at the time: "There will be no new taxes or levies introduced in our first term of government beyond those we have already announced."
At that stage, Labour had announced that it would support a regional petrol tax in Auckland, which was expected to be about 10 cents a litre, to fund Auckland transport projects including light rail from the city to the airport.
But it gave no hint before the election that it would raise petrol tax nationally.
Ardern told Hosking the petrol excise duty was not a new tax, only an increase to an existing excise.
"A Government Policy Statement on national road transport is the way we divide up the money that comes out every three years, and routinely under the last Government we saw those statements discussing what we do on the excise," she said.
"Of course I don't believe I'm breaking a promise, but yes, it would come in this term."
Challenged by Hosking that on that basis she could also raise income tax because that was also an existing tax, Ardern replied: "We totally ruled out changes to income tax."
She defended a shift in the new policy from funding the last Government's "roads of national significance" to spending more on public transport and regional road safety improvements.
"Under the last Government we were spending a huge 17 cents extra that the Government took in from motorists on roads that roughly 4 per cent of cars were using," she said.
Unveiling the new policy yesterday, ministers cited the example of Sweden's "Vision Zero" which has halved its road toll from 540 a year in 1997 to 270 in 2016 by improved roads, traffic education and a mix of lower speed limits on some rural roads and higher speed limits on some motorways.
Anders Ydstedt from the Swedish Royal Auto Club told Newstalk ZB that the reduction was achieved, despite an increase of 1 million cars, by measures such as installing median barriers on more roads.