Wairarapa drivers would pay fuel tax to fix broken rail service
Just days after Aucklanders found out they will face a regional tax for petrol and diesel, Wairarapa drivers have been told to expect one of their own — to fix a broken train service.
Greater Wellington Regional Council on Friday said it would implement a fuel tax if legislation before the house is passed – stinging Wairarapa motorists at the pump.
Under the proposed law change, a regional fuel tax could be charged in Auckland.
From 2021, regional councils across the country could impose a similar tax.
Council chairman Chris Laidlaw told Radio NZ on Friday that the tax would be used to fund transport infrastructure developments in the region, in particular, rail.
”We already have several business cases in front of the government under consideration for rail improvements through the region including Wairarapa . . . there are a variety of projects emerging from the ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ exercise, which is nearing completion.”
He said the cost of these projects meant the council needed all the help it could get.
”They have to be paid for and the local government sector simply doesn’t have the resources to do this and our rates rises are heavy enough as it is,” he said.
He said introducing a regional fuel tax was the most sensible way of raising money for the expensive projects.
”The Government is interested in providing other sources of income to help regional councils in particular to fund the huge back-load of maintenance on rail and other public transport services in general, so it’s a good idea.”
He said introducing it in 2021 would give the council scope to plan how the regional fuel tax would work when combined with other initiatives, such as congestion tax and additional parking charges.
Wairarapa AA chairman and national councillor, Martin Napier was not pleased with the announcement.
While not completely opposed to a fuel tax, he said there needed to be a clear and obvious benefit to motorists.
Then, they “would be happy to pay”.
“But assisting in the upgrade of our rail service? No.
“Where does that stop? And what else do you want the motorists to pay for?”
Mr Napier said the rail line had been neglected by central government for decades
“It’s pretty rough to be expecting motorists to be forking out for the upgrade.”
Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said it was another tax and another broken promise from government.
“It’s another tax, another money-grab, because they cannot work out how to balance the books without borrowing more, and without taxing more,” said National’s associate spokesman for finance.
“It’s another broken promise, because they said there would be no regional fuel taxes apart from Auckland.”
Mr Scott was concerned the fuel tax could be imposed by councils nationwide with little debate or public consultation.
He said once legislation passed, a regional council simply needed to approach the Cabinet and ask to implement a tax on petrol, undercutting expectation of a democratic procedure.
“It’s a very simple process – Cabinet just has to approve it.
“There’s no option for people to submit, to protest.”
He wondered what the regional council would use the new tax for.
Mr Scott understood Wairarapa’s commuter train line was a contentious issue, but that in scale, the line could not justify a fuel tax.
“There’s very few people it affects daily. But everyone who drives a car will have to pay [more] per litre.”
He said Wairarapa was already paying for Auckland roads and a new fuel tax would be paying for Wellington projects often out of reach to his constituents.
Mr Scott was in favour of a user-pays system to solve Wellington’s transport woes.
“If you want the new roads, new rail, new trams in Wellington, you charge the people who are going to use those.
“It’s not Wairarapa, part of my electorate, that should be paying for Wellington roads.”