Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has made a strong plea today for a regional petrol tax of 11.5 cents a litre, saying without the controversial move the council will be unable to stop worsening congestion.
"Please don't stand in the way of us introducing it," Goff today told a parliamentary select committee hearing submissions on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Act.
Without the tax, Goff said, Auckland would have a $4.3 billion transport funding hole and virtually unable to build any new projects to address a rapidly worsening congestion problem.
The finance and expenditure select committee is hearings submissions in Auckland today on the bill, which will give Auckland Council the ability to introduce a regional fuel tax of 10c a litre plus GST.
Hamilton City councillors have also asked for a regional petrol tax this morning, saying the city is $250 million short of a $500m transport package.
Councillor Dave McPherson said the city was growing just as fast as Auckland from that city's spillover and would like a 11.5c a litre tax to come in next year.
The bill does not allow for other councils to introduce a regional petrol tax until 2021.
The Government plans to pass the bill in time for Auckland Council to introduce the tax on July 1 when the council's new 10-year budget kicks in.
On Monday, the council voted 15-2 in support of the tax and consultation on a range of public transport, roading, cycling and walking and safety projects that proceeds from the tax will go to fund.
Goff said the tax would raise $1.5b over 10 years but with Government subsidies and development contributions it would generate $4.3b of new transport spending for the city.
"This is a serious amount of money," said Goff, saying without the petrol tax the council's transport package will be limited to renewals and committed projects.
"We have to decongest Auckland and having a fund to put in place a transport system that works for New Zealand's only international city," he said.
Goff said figures from the Automobile Association showed the cost would be $2.33 a week for people. A Colmar Brunton poll of just under 4000 people showed 52 per cent support for it and 43 per cent were opposed, he said.
Speaking to media after his presentation to the select committee, Goff said he had no intention of taking advantage of a clause in the bill allowing the tax to be increased at a later date.
"It's certainly not in the minds of me or council members to further increase that in the foreseeable future," said Goff.
Ken Shirley, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum, told the select committee the act was more about political posturing than prudent public policy.
He believed the council would be better off selling part of its 100 per cent shareholding in Ports of Auckland as an alternative to the tax, saying it would free up much-needed capital and probably lead to a better dividend.
He said that globally fuel taxes are being phased out with the move to electric vehicles and decarbonisation.
If the tax is introduced, Shirley said, it would be more efficient to introduce it at Marsden Pt, where excise fuel taxes of $2b a year are already raised, and ring fence Auckland's share.
Shirley also questioned why the tax was only being levied in Auckland at this stage.
Christchurch has expressed an interest, he said, and areas like the East Cape and Gisborne had a strong case.
"Why wouldn't they?" he said.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told the select committee the term of the bill should be reduced from 10 years to five years to focus on a road pricing solution aimed at managing congestion and raising revenue long-term.