Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she did not decide to ban future regional fuel taxes on the fly yesterday, and Government ministers - including Phil Twyford and Shane Jones - should have already known about it.
Her comments follow Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggesting to Radio NZ this morning that he only found out about the ban yesterday, just hours before Ardern publicly ruled out any more regional fuel taxes while she is PM.
Ardern also suggested that Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who only found out about the pledge yesterday, should have known about it earlier.
Twyford sought to clarify this afternoon by saying he has known Ardern's position since the beginning of the year - yet did not pass that information on to several local authorities that have expressed an interest in a regional fuel tax.
In June the Government passed a law to enable Auckland to implement a regional fuel tax and allow other councils to follow suit from 2021.
But during a fiery question time yesterday, Ardern pledged that there would be no more regional fuel taxes as long as she is Prime Minister.
National accused Ardern of making up policy on the spot, but Ardern said today that she had previously made her intention clear in Cabinet committee.
"That's been discussed before. We've had that conversation in Cabinet committee," Ardern told reporters today.
"At that point I made very clear it was my intention that we would have no other form of regional fuel tax [besides Auckland]."
She said Twyford had been part of the same committee "and I made my view very clear".
Asked about Jones' statement about only learning of the policy yesterday, she said Winston Peters had said this morning that her view had been known earlier.
"Probably Minister Jones should have reflected that in the House."
She said she had not made an announcement about the policy earlier because "I hadn't been asked".
National's economic development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said Ardern's comments were "silly" and she should just admit to a U-turn.
"The Minster of Transport has always left the door open to future regional fuel taxes after 2021. That was the point of the legislation.
"It's a new policy she brought about on the hoof yesterday. There's nothing wrong with that. Governments should respond to public pressure, but she won't admit it, and that's the silly thing.
"She doesn't seem to be able to accept that she changed her mind, and is now blaming everybody else for her mistake."
Twyford said yesterday's phone call with Ardern was simply a discussion about whether to make Ardern's pledge public during Question Time.
"I've been fully aware of the Prime Minister's views on this issue going back to the beginning of this year," Twyford said.
Despite that, he did not inform any of the 14 councils that have expressed an interest in having a regional fuel tax.
"I've communicated to them very clearly that there will be no regional fuel taxes in this term of Government. The Prime Minister has taken that one step further."
Twyford has previously encouraged Hamilton City Council to engage with the Minsitry of Transport about a regional fuel tax, and councillor Dave Macpherson said Ardern's pledge was a kick in the guts.
"We're facing massive growth increases, particularly in the Hamilton-Auckland corridor, and we're putting in $230 million over the next 10 years on top of our normal transport budget to fund what we can. We're maxed out," said Macpherson, who also chairs the council's growth and infrastructure committee.
He said a 10c regional fuel tax made sense.
"It wasn't going to break the bank. We put up rates in July by 9.7 per cent. We think we're doing our bit, and more. The Government is going to have to stump up."
Ardern said yesterday that she decided to make the announcement after the Opposition claimed that the Government had been in discussions with Wellington City Council over a regional fuel tax.