The prospect of Aucklanders facing a double whammy of up to 23.5 cents a litre more at the petrol pump is not welcome but absolutely necessary, says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
"Every Aucklander, every day of the week driving on the roads knows that it is necessary," said Goff, who says he has had a gutsful travelling to and from work.
He was commenting on Tuesday's announcement by the Government that it plans petrol tax hikes of 9 cents to 12c a litre phased in over the next three years to fund transport plans such as light rail from the CBD to the airport.
We have consulted on 11.5 cents, not double that. Who saw this coming?
Yesterday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said raising petrol by 3c a litre would cost the driver of an average car filling up once a fortnight about 75c a week, or $39 a year.
The Government tax is on top of a regional petrol tax of 11.5c a litre planned by Auckland Council.
Goff said he had been unaware of the Government's petrol tax hikes and it came as a big surprise to senior councillor Desley Simpson.
"We have consulted on 11.5 cents, not double that. Who saw this coming?" said Simpson, a member of Mayor Phil Goff's leadership team.
"To my knowledge the expectation was that the Government would legislate so Auckland Council had the tool to add a fuel tax of 11.5c should they wish, not that the Government would legislate extra national taxes as well," said Simpson.
Goff said he was not surprised the Government was introducing its own petrol taxes, saying it was following previous Governments who increased petrol taxes by about 3c a litre in recent years.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the petrol taxes would help pay for big-ticket items, including about $4 billion over 10 years for light rail, or modern trams, in Auckland.
Goff said the Government could quite easily consider meeting the bulk of the cost of light rail, which will now be overseen by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and funded through the Land Transport Fund.
"I am encouraging Government to contribute more to priority projects in Auckland such as light rail and expect them to take a lead role where they are delivering a significant amount of the funding," Goff said.
Asked how he felt about Wellington playing a bigger role in Auckland's transport planning, he said: "NZTA, Auckland Transport and other agencies will work closely together to deliver the best outcome for Auckland."
Goff could not say how much the council will contribute to light rail until the council and Government finalise a joint transport programme for Auckland over the next couple of weeks.
The programme, called the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), will set out where money from the council's regional fuel tax will be spent and go out for public consultation.
The cash-strapped council is currently constrained by how much it can spend on transport. It is up against its debt ceiling, which, if breached could lead to a credit rating downgrade and drive up borrowing costs, and committed to a $1.7b half share of the $3.4b city rail link.
The regional petrol tax will raise a net extra $70m to $90m a year once an interim transport levy ends this year, but Goff said the extra income would only provide a third of the city's transport funding gap.
Twyford is encouraging the public to have their say on the Government's proposal to increase the fuel excise duty.
"Our proposed increase of between 3 and 4 cents a year over the next three years continues the track of recent years with charges going up by 3 cents a year in 2009 and 2010, 2 cents in 2012 and 3 cents again in 2013, 2014 and 2015," he said.
The funding increase will go toward a 42 per cent increase in spending on local road improvements, a 96 per cent increase in spending on regional roads and a 22 per cent increase in local road maintenance along with an 81 per cent increase in road safety and demand management, Twyford said.