Auckland motorists have two weeks to comment on an 11.5 cents per litre fuel tax after the controversial move got strong backing from the local council yesterday.
The tax hike looks likely to hit motorists at the pump on July 1 after a 15-2 council vote in favour of the draft tax.
Auckland drivers face paying 25c a litre more in the next three years as the Government also proposes boosting fuel taxes in 3c to 4c annual hikes.
Doing nothing is not an option. We want to be a world-class city
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From today, Aucklanders can have a say on the draft tax and 14 public transport, roading, walking and cycling and safety projects it will fund. Consultation ends on May 14.
The council is set to formally approve the regional petrol tax on May 31. Legislation allowing the tax is expected to be passed in Parliament in time for the tax to come into effect on July 1.
All but two councillors - Greg Sayers and Sharon Stewart - voted to go out for public consultation on the tax.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges yesterday said National would overturn the coalition Government's regional fuel tax, should it get into power in 2020.
Bridges said the tax was an unfair measure and would cost a typical Auckland family $700 a year.
Responding to Bridges' comment, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that is merely what people say in opposition.
"I would be very surprised if any future government took away, effectively, $4.3 billion of funding without suggesting where that funding will come from," he said.
Goff said the tax would raise $1.5 billion over 10 years but with Government subsidies and development contributions it would raise $4.3b.
This would provide "skin in the game" from the council towards the $28 billion 10-year Auckland Transport Alignment Project (Atap) announced last week, he said.
To raise the equivalent amount of money without the tax, rates rises of 13 per cent to 14 per cent would be necessary, the mayor said.
Goff said the council had voted unanimously for the Atap package so "please don't come to me saying you don't want the fuel tax".
"Doing nothing is not an option. We want to be a world-class city. This gives us a definitive way we can fund not just the immediate problems but being transformational," he said.
Rodney councillor Greg Sayers said he would not be supporting the fuel tax because public consultation on the 10-year budget found 48 per cent opposition and 46 per cent support for the idea.
That was before the Government announced its own plans for petrol tax hikes, which effectively becomes a 25c hike for "hard-working Aucklanders", he said.
Sharon Stewart was the other councillor to oppose the fuel tax.
Orakei councillor Desley Simpson, the wife of National Party president Peter Goodfellow, was accused of playing politics with an amendment to make reference of the Government's petrol taxes in the council's public consultation document on the tax.
"This is a bit mischievous and a bit party political," said Labour councillor Ross Clow. Another Labour councillor, Alf Filipaina, called it a "political ploy".
Simpson said she was asking for transparency and openness so Aucklanders understood the potential increase at the pump was not just 11.5c, a view shared by Labour councillor Josephine Bartley, who seconded the amendment.
After an hour-long debate on the amendment, councillors agreed to add a footnote mentioning the Government's potential fuel tax increases.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford welcomed the council voting in favour of a regional fuel tax.
"They are putting the interests of Auckland ahead of petty politicking," said Twyford, saying it would be a "kick in the guts" for Bridges.
How the fuel tax is proposed to be spent
Bus priority improvements, such as bus lanes, T2/T3 lanes - $135m
City centre bus improvements - $62m
Improved airport access - $26m
Eastern busway - $201m
Park & Ride for about 1900 additional spaces - $24m
Electric trains and stabling - $213m
Downtown ferry redevelopment - $28m
Road safety - $225m
Cycling and walking - $112m
Pen link toll road - $66m
Mill Rd corridor - $102m
Road improvements, including Lincoln Rd, Lake Rd and Matakana Link Rd - $87m
Traffic signal optimisation and other technology - $99m
Transport infrastructure at new subdivisions in south, north and north-west - $126m