The Auckland Council will decide on Monday whether to impose a regional fuel tax on Auckland motorists.

Much of the opposition to the tax has come from the National Party in Parliament. Here's a fact-check of their main claims.

The tax will be 25c/litre

National's transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross gets this figure by assuming the government will increase the tax on petrol all over New Zealand. He's very likely right about that, but he omits to mention that the fuel tax goes up a bit most years. His own government did the same thing.

The regional fuel tax itself will add 11.5c/litre to the cost of petrol in Auckland. It's 10 cents plus GST.


It'll cost us all hundreds of dollars

"Aucklanders will be paying hundreds of dollars a year more in fuel taxes," said Ross on Thursday.

Hundreds more? The AA says we drive on average 14,000km per year, which is 268.5km per week. It says a "compact" car (1501-2000cc) uses on average 7.54 litres per 100km.

That puts the average fuel consumption at 1056L per year, or 20.25L per week. At a cost of, say, $2.10/L of 91 octane fuel, that's $42.53 per week.

The new tax of 11.5c/L will take that up to $44.86. An increase of $2.33 per week.

If you drive a larger car – a family wagon or mid-size SUV, say – the fuel consumption is 8.95 litres per 100km and the extra cost per week works out, on average, at $2.76.

It's not hundreds of dollars more a year. Per week, it's not even the price of a single cup of coffee.

We won't all get the benefit

"They've got cash for the south, east, and west of the city," said National's candidate in the Northcote by-election, Dan Bidois, "but the North Shore seems to have fallen off the map."

Projects that will benefit the North Shore and will be wholly or partly funded by the regional fuel tax include:


• Penlink, a new highway connecting the Whangaparaoa Peninsula to the Northern Motorway.

• Improvements to arterial routes. North Shore roads specifically listed include Lake Road, Glenvar Road in Torbay and the Matakana Link Road.

• Growth-related improvements in Silverdale, Dairy Flat, Wainui and Warkworth.

• Road safety improvements which are expected to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 60 per cent over 10 years, including on the North Shore.

• Park and Ride improvements.

• Improved infrastructure to allow more buses into the city centre, including those coming from the North Shore.

• A new downtown ferry terminal, which will benefit passengers from the North Shore stops at Devonport, Birkenhead and Beach Haven.

• The SkyPath over the harbour bridge will open and will link to a SeaPath running to Takapuna.

• More cycle lanes and more wide shared paths for walking and cycling.

• The North Shore will also benefit from technological improvements to traffic signalling and other services.

Projects to receive regional fuel tax funding are spread all over the city. Others include the Eastern Busway linking Botany to the transport interchange at Panmure; new electric trains to cope with demand once the underground City Rail Link is open; Mill Road expansion; better airport access, especially from the industrial zone at Puhinui, near Manukau; and bus priority improvements such as new bus lanes.

In total, the tax will raise $1.5 billion and, says Goff, will be used to leverage another $2.8 billion.

It's all about the tram to the airport

"Fuel tax funds nothing but multi-billion tram" was the headline on Jami-Lee Ross's statement on Thursday. It referred several times to "the tram to the airport".

In fact, the regional fuel tax will not pay for any part of the proposed light rail or modern tram line to the airport. That project will be fully funded by the Government.

Is the tax really a good idea?

Why is National so down on the fuel tax? Aucklanders on the whole don't seem to be. A Colmar Brunton poll found 52 per cent were in favour of the tax, and 43 per cent against. That's remarkable: we don't often vote for higher taxes on anything.

No one argues the tax is wonderful. It does hurt the poor disproportionately, as National has said. They're right about that. But it also targets almost everyone who's clogging up the roads, which is better than the rates levy we've had these last few years. That penalised people who don't drive much.

Besides, we can't rely on rates: Mayor Goff estimates we'd need a 13-14 per cent rates hike to get the same benefit as the tax. That's obviously unacceptable.

One day, perhaps, we'll have better ways to manage demand, such as special charges for coming into the city centre or using priority lanes on motorways. But we don't have the technology in place to do that yet and it's controversial: we need a good debate.

What about other measures? Who will persuade companies to eliminate their car parks? Auckland Transport, for one, has already done that at its own HQ. And what about staggered work times?

We do need the regional fuel tax, right now, but it will not be the last word in transport funding. Not by any means.