The Government's proposal to lift petrol taxes and scrap state highways to pay for its transport plans has prompted a robust debate in Parliament about which regions will be most affected.

In one of the more heated afternoons in the House since the Labour coalition came to power, National accused the Government of giving up on provincial New Zealand and piling new costs on families.

"How will announcing petrol tax increases on Auckland motorists of 25c a litre, in just her first six months as Prime Minister, help families supporting their kids?" Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges said.

In response, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlighted that similar petrol tax hikes had been considered by National and that the higher costs were being offset by increases to the minimum wage and welfare payments.

Advertisement

Bridges denied yesterday that National had also planned to lift petrol taxes, despite official advice indicating that increase of around 20c per litre would be necessary to cover the costs of nine new highways. Bridges said National had instead planned to pay for its transport initiatives through forecast surpluses and existing petrol taxes.

National's main line of attack in the debating chamber was listing the regions which would lose key transport projects. One by one, National MPs from the Bay of Plenty, Taupo, and mid-Canterbury said their constituents would be paying more for petrol only to see that money spent in the city centres.

Ardern countered by saying that National's planned highways would only benefit 4 per cent of all road users, far fewer than Labour's proposed initiatives. Labour would also be lifting spending on local roads and maintenance of existing highways.

Policy documents show that Labour's transport plan for the next 10 years will cost $4.6b a year, $650 million more than National's 10-year plan.

The higher cost will be covered by petrol tax increases of 3 to 4 per cent a year. Once the Auckland Council's regional fuel increase is added, some Auckland commuters will be paying up to 22 cents more a litre.

Defending the tax increases yesterday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the new costs were equivalent to a cup of coffee a week and would pay for "some pretty amazing investments in the transport system".

He conceded that some motorists in the Auckland region would get no direct benefit for their higher costs at the pump, but they were likely to benefit from the council's transport plans.

Labour's funding for state highways is nearly equivalent to what National promised over the next three years, because it will complete large highways which were already underway.

Advertisement

After three years, funding for highways drops off significantly, from $1.1b in 2021 to $500m in 2028. Nine highways promised by National during the election, including four-laning between Auckland and Whangarei, will no longer go ahead.

Twyford said this money would instead be redirected into public transport, local and regional roading, maintenance of existing highways and road safety measures.

What they promised (next 3 years)

Public transport

National: $1.35b

Labour: $1.78b

State highway improvements (includes new highways)

National: $4.6b

Labour: $3.85b

Local road improvements

National: $455m

Labour: $1b

Regional improvements

National: $425m

Labour: $530m

State highway maintenance

National: $1.98b

Labour: $2.1b

Local road maintenance

National: $1.9b

Labour: $2.1b

Road policing

National: $1b

Labour: $1.1b

Walking and cycling improvements

National: $195m

Labour: $360m