Motorway tolls the preferred choice to fund Auckland's ambitious transport plan

Motorway tolls could fund Auckland Council's $10.3 billion spend-up on transport network.

Aucklanders would rather pay a $2 motorway toll than increased fuel taxes and rates to help fund a $12 billion shortfall over the next 30 years in the council’s ambitious transport network plans.

The council funded a Colmar Brunton survey that asked 5000 people around the region whether they supported the council’s basic $6.9 billion transport scheme or the enhanced $10.3 billion project and how they wanted to pay for it.

Fifty-eight percent of people are in favour of the enhanced transport option compared to 32% who want the basic plan. The more expensive plan includes new roads, rail, including the $2.4 billion city rail link, ferries and busways at an extra cost of $12 billion to be funded over 30 years. The basic plan is the existing network with minor improvements. 

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed are in favour of motorway tolls and 31% want increased fuel taxes and rates to cover the funding shortfall.

Peter Winder of the council's independent advisory board on transport funding says the survey results are in line with the 27,000 submissions made to the council’s long-term plan.

The survey showed support for the more expensive transport network increased with the more income people earned. More frequent travellers around Auckland also supported the $10.3 billion plan.

Public transport users are, not surprisingly, enthusiastic about motorway tolls. Support for motorway charges does not vary much whether people are on high on low incomes.

There is more support for motorway tolls on the North Shore than in west Auckland. Mr Winder says this is presumably because there are fewer options to travel off the motorway system for west Aucklanders.

Mr Winder says submissions to the long-term plan aren’t so clearcut on funding options and submitters have proposed far more complex options.

Despite the council parading the survey as good news, a motorway toll is far from a done deal. The government has repeatedly put the kibosh on tolls for Auckland’s motorway and increased fuel taxes.

Council general financial plan policy and budget manager Matthew Walker says talks are continuing with the government on ways Auckland can fund the shortfall.  Internal council workshops will be held over the next few weeks to finalise the transport options in the long-term plan, which will be adopted in June.  

The proposed motorway tolls could cost the average Auckland household an extra $350 plus a year by 2026. It’s predicted the cost of setting up the motorway tolls system could cost $108 million and 24c from each $2 toll would go to administration.

It’s understood there are options from the independent advisory board for either charging drivers getting on or off motorways running through the city.

Meanwhile, the Automobile Association (AA) and Infrastructure Council (NZCID) are calling on the government and council to develop an alternative strategy to deliver better plans for Auckland.

NZCID chief executive Stephen Selwood says it is time for “plan C.” He says the starting point for a new approach is a transport accord between local and central government.

“The government is rightly concerned about the results from the porposed transport investment and land use plan. Long-term decisions can’t be made about the Auckland’s transport network when the results are so poor and the council and government are so far apart.”

He says it is pleasing the council and government need to agree on an improved transport investment strategy and ensure that urban intensification and transport investment are better integrated.

“If they decide to look seriously at motorway tolls they need to make sure they are also considered from a demand management perspective – not just as a way to raise revenue – and that the combination of intensification, transport investment and demand management improves accessibility and provide meaningful travel-time savings for users.

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