Councils are under the pump to come up with their share for Wellington's $6.4b transport project with the Government ruling out not only a regional fuel tax but congestion charging in the capital too.
The situation puts new mayor Andy Foster at loggerheads again with the Government over Let's Get Wellington Moving.
The Government has since confirmed congestion charging in Wellington has been ruled out as well.
"We have no plans to introduce it in Wellington and it was not part of the LGWM indicative package announced in May," Transport Minister Phil Twyford said in a statement today.
People had to have genuine transport choices before congestion pricing could be considered, he said.
"That's why our focus is on building high quality public transport, rapid transit and walking and cycling infrastructure alongside the roads and motorways to give people real transport choices.
"This gives people a real alternative to taking their car, helping to free up the roads for those that have to drive."
Foster campaigned on seeking a legislative change from the Government for congestion charging as an alternative method to rates for funding LGWM.
He claimed the first he heard of the Government explicitly ruling out a congestion charge was when the Herald approached him about it yesterday, although former Labour-ticket mayor Justin Lester had indicated the Government didn't support it on the campaign trail.
When asked what the Government's position meant for the city, Foster said: "If we want to deliver Let's Get Wellington Moving, and they want to encourage people to shift their mode, I think it's a conversation we need to carry on. They haven't ruled it out to us yet, let's have a conversation."
He said taking away the option of congestion charging in Wellington would be a "literal roadblock".
The Government has agreed to pay 60 per cent of LGWM, leaving local councils to foot the bill for the rest.
Wellington is second only to Auckland when it comes to the worst congestion across the country's largest urban areas, according to 2018 figures from the TomTom Traffic Index.
Twyford confirmed the Government was continuing policy work of the previous Government and investigating the potential use of a congestion charge in Auckland.
Meanwhile, Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Daran Ponter has subtly challenged the Government's position on congestion charging in the capital.
Yesterday he welcomed a new report which argues for congestion charging to help manage growing peak time urban traffic snarl-ups.
The Price is Right policy paper claims congestion is becoming the new normal in urban centres, costing the economy billions of dollars annually.
It says the country's road user funding system needs to incorporate the time and location of road pricing.
Ponter said he supported congestion charging as a way to regulate behaviour and that the case for congestion charging should be publicly debated.
"The gold standard for public transport policy is mode shift: providing the right environment and incentives for people to take the bus or train rather than private cars, half of which are wasteful sole occupant commutes.
"If congestion pricing can help us achieve that, we'd welcome the opportunity to discuss it with the Government."