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Aucklanders face a double whammy of fuel tax hikes of about 20 cents a litre if central government fuel levy increases and a regional fuel tax are brought in, but Transport Minister Phil Twyford says he believes Aucklanders understand the need for it.
Auckland Council is expected to introduce about 10 cents a litre in regional fuel taxes to pay for its share of major transport projects and the Government's new 10-year policy plan for transport proposes a further nationwide increase of 9-12 cents litre over three to four years.
That is to fund projects such as light rail in Auckland and other measures.
Twyford said he believed Aucklanders realised the gridlock that was happening now could not continue and it was not fair to ask those who lived in places like Levin and Whanganui to pay for all of Auckland's transport woes.
Twyford said other cities would also benefit from rail and rapid transit options, as well as Auckland.
The Government's new transport plan will cut the funding allocated for state highways by 11 per cent while an initial investment of $4 billion over 10 years will be ploughed into Labour's plans for light rail in Auckland.
The overall plan
The Government has released its draft 10-year policy statement on land transport – the guide which sets how the Land Transport fund should allocate about $4 billion in funding each year.
It will see funding on public transport increase by 46 per cent to expand the routes available and subsidies for public transport.
On top of that, it sets a new class of Rapid Transit under which $4 billion will be allocated over 10 years to establish rapid transit investment, such as light rail, initially focusing on Auckland. That would ramp up over time.
About four times as much will be spent on expanding cycling and pedestrian pathways than under National.
The money for regional roads will double from about $90 million a year to $180 million a year in 2019/20 and up to $210 million for four years after that.
That comes at a cost for future large scale motorway upgrades such as National's policy of $10 billion for 10 further Roads of National Significance.
Instead, Twyford said there will be "targeted" improvements to state highways.
Twyford said it was an important step to making roads safer to reduce the road toll.
"We're going to invest in what makes the most difference – regional and local roads and targeted improvements to the State Highway network."
"The previous Government did not spend enough on road safety and instead wasted funds on a few low-value motorway projects. This has created an imbalance in what is funded with a few roads benefiting at the expense of other areas."
One of Labour's key election policies was to build light rail from the CBD to the airport and extend that to include routes to the central suburbs and West Auckland over the next decade and then to the North Shore.
It also wanted a bus rapid transit line from the eastern suburb of Howick.
The new statement sets safety as the top priority followed by access, the environment and value for money.
That contrasts with National's policy statement which had economic growth and productivity as the top priority, followed by safety and value for money.
Those with an interest in the plan such as local government, transport bodies and community groups have until May 2 to submit on it.
Petrol levy increases
Twyford said there would be petrol levy increases, but those would be at the lowest end of what National would have needed had its motorway proposals gone ahead.
He said the previous Government had not disclosed that transport officials had advised it that petrol levies needed to increase to fund its plans for expressways.
"We've chosen to limit increases in petrol levies to the lowest end of [former Transport Minister] Simon Bridges' range."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Labour was seeking feedback on proposed fuel tax increases of between 9 and 12 cents a litre to fund its transport proposals.
She said National leader Bridges had been told that to meet National's ambitions, they would need a fuel levy increase of 10-20 cents a litre.
Ardern said the Government was prioritising safety and investing in roads neglected by the former government.
"What you won't see is investment in a small number of dual carriage highways while local roads and other transport options suffer."
Twyford said over Easter eight people had died, the worst road toll in several years.
He said early work by officials suggested $800 million worth of safety improvements that could make a significant difference.
"This shifts policy priorities away from costly white elephants."
He said transport spending in many regions had decreased under the previous government.
"Half of vehicle journeys are on local roads, yet less than 5 per cent of the funding has been spent on improving them."
He said the rapid transit network would help free up roads.
"This is the first time spending on rapid transport will take place under the Land Transport Fund."
It also proposed spending money on rail under the fund for the first time, saying Labour believed all forms of transport should be funded under it.
Walking and cycling a priority
Associate Transport Minister Green MP Julie Anne Genter said making it safer for people to walk and cycle was also a priority and it would provide safe cycleways that were separate from vehicle traffic.
The areas around schools would be a focus.
She said every day in Auckland a pedestrian or cyclist was hit by a car and injured or killed.
Regional Development Minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones said he was expecting some backlash from the regions because many had been "fed a line" that motorway upgrades would resolve their problems.
He said KiwiRail was a key part of NZ First's plans on better freight and tourism offerings so he welcomed its inclusion under the plan.
The Government is also considering allowing coastal shipping to be funded under the fund.
Roads of national significance
Twyford said about seven of National's Roads of National Significance which were already underway would continue - but the nine further RONS projects it had put up as an election policy were not funded and would not go ahead.
While some work would take place on those roads it would not be to the same extent.
Asked about the proposal to get four lanes through to Whangarei, Jones said he would prefer to see unsafe local roads fixed "rather than this pipe dream that by 2032 we were going to get four lanes through to Whangarei".
He said the short-term focus was tidying dangerous areas and increasing rail.
This article first appeared on www.odt.co.nz
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