Rodney councillor Greg Sayers will fight to exclude Rodney from an Auckland regional fuel tax, saying the money raised will do nothing to improve transport in Rodney and may, in fact, divert general rates and development contributions away from Rodney.
Sayers also wants the idea of any additional taxes from the Rodney Local Board dumped in favour of general rates and development contributions being spent back locally.
The incoming Government has announced that it will allow Auckland to introduce a regional fuel tax to fund investment in the city’s transport network, including light rail to the airport.
The tax is likely to add an additional 10 cents per litre on the price of both petrol and diesel.
Cr Sayers says the anticipated $150 million per annum that will be raised from the fuel tax will be used to fund specific projects already identified by the Crown and Auckland Council.
But he says none of these projects will assist Rodney.
Specifically, a fuel tax would fail to accelerate the fixing of the Hill Street intersection, would do nothing to seal Rodney’s 600km of unsealed roads and would fail to bring public transport any closer to Warkworth. Cr Sayers says that Warkworth and Wellsford residents already pay a $2.30 toll each way when commuting to work in Auckland.
“It’s unfair to ask families to pay both a toll and a fuel tax without providing them with a public transport alternative,” he says.
Cr Sayers will seek an amendment to exclude Rodney from the fuel tax before it is implemented by Council.
He admits his chances of succeeding are slim, saying Mayor Phil Goff is solidly behind the tax and will likely want to extract tax money from the entire Auckland region.
Cr Sayers says the tax could even hamper road projects in Rodney by diluting support for a proposed targeted rate to be applied exclusively to fixing Rodney’s transport woes.
“People won’t want to pay again for transport improvements if they are not seeing any direct benefit from a fuel tax,” he says.
The Rodney Local Board is currently investigating the feasibility of a Rodney targeted rate for transport. Councillor Sayers wants the idea dumped saying general rates are already collected for providing transport services to Aucklanders, and Rodney’s basic transport needs should be addressed to bring the area up the the same service standards as the rest of Auckland.
Priorities for the proposed targeted rate are to seal Rodney’s roads, improve footpaths, set up Park & Rides and provide more public transport.
Sayers’ concern is that the Rodney Local Board will naively support the Mayor’s drive to extract more targeted rates and taxes from Rodney’s ratepayers, only to be reneged on for road sealing and other core Council services. There are high stakes power plays currently underway and Council will take every opportunity to support CBD projects ahead of Rodney unless we demand that our general rates and development contributions are fairly spent back in Rodney he warns.
Rodney Local Board chair Beth Houlbrooke agreed that a fuel tax would likely have the effect of “pouring cold water” on any targeted rate but hoped it would not kill the idea entirely.
The board will push ahead with plans to present more detailed targeted rate options for further public input, by which time it may be clearer what a fuel tax may or may not achieve.
“It’s a complicated situation and it’s still unfolding. We will box on,” Ms Houlbrooke says.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, Michael Burgess, disagreed that revenues generated by a fuel tax would fail to help improve transport in Rodney.
“Investment in infrastructure benefits the whole of Auckland as it improves the efficiency of the transport system and helps reduce congestion on roads across the region,” he says.
He adds that how the fuel tax is implemented and applied will be the subject of ongoing discussions by Council and central government.