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'Tolls: The Mayors are taking the wrong action'

26 January 2006


RAM-Residents Action Movement

'Tolls: The Mayors are taking serious and wrong actions'

"The Mayors of Auckland City, Waitakere City and Manukau City are taking serious and wrong actions when asking Government to give Councils the power to toll existing roads" says Elaine West, representative of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.

The Mayor of Auckland City, Dick Hubbard, did NOT take a stand at local body elections saying that he would lobby Council and the Government to toll new and old roads across the Auckland region. Yet as Mayor, Dick Hubbard has so far proposed HOT (high occupancy lane tolls) and cordon tolls.

"He should do his homework and check the facts that RAM has already presented to ACC, the ARC, and the Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy Committee," said Ms West.

TEN TOLL FACTS

FACT 1. Social and Economic Impact of Tolls on Workers Across the Auckland Region. The results of a preliminary study carried out by officials in November 2003 on the Auckland work-stream warned that tolls will likely have a negative impact on those who can least afford them, being - low and middle income earners, students, the elderly, those who do not live close to work and those who are not close to public transportation. In addition, tolls will probably cause house prices to rise near work centres.

FACT 2. Low income workers tend to travel greater distances across Auckland than other groups and will be most disadvantaged if tolls, cordon or other, are introduced.

FACT 3. Tolls will likely have serious consequences for families with children and those with high overheads such as mortgages. And incidental to the study, businesses will likely pass toll charges onto consumers, pushing up the cost of living in food stuffs etc.

FACT 4. The CEO of the MoT and Secretary of Transport Dr ROBIN DUNLOP, has strongly advocated for tolls in the past - as co-author of Road Reform, The Way Forward (1997), and a few years ago within an opinion paper to the World Bank suggesting that New Zealand roads will probably be tolled in the future.

FACT 5. A visiting professor said last year, that it was almost impossible to conduct an audit on Britain's toll regime. Issues involve the deliberate lack of transparency and accountability on the part of Government and private sector investors. The public lose out.

FACT 6. The Mayors are pushing for a toll regime that potentially will line the pockets of Councils, Government and private sector corporations and interests. Predictably, the Government study on tolls due for publication this year will show tolls to be a viable means of raising funds for land transport. Officials are key stakeholders with a vested interest.

FACT 7. I organised and was a representative at a public meeting with ACC, ARC, Transit, Transfund and local iwi (invited) on the Victoria Park Tunnel (SH1) issue in 2003. It was at this meeting that Transit agreed to a tunnel given adequate funding. At the time, Auckland's Mayors, Councils and Government were working on tolls to pay for new roads and changes to the Resource Management Act, behind doors closed to the public.

FACT 8. Over the last 20 years, the New Zealand public demanded successive governments pay for land transport infrastructure using existing road user charges which are petrol taxes. For 20 years, successive governments have ignored the public's request and used around half the billions of dollars collected in petrol excise taxes for other expenditure.

Ordinary people ARE paying their fare share but politicians are continually devising new ways to squeeze more from citizen's pockets. Also, the call for weight given to public transportation funds in comparison to road building for toll production goes unheeded.

FACT 9. Mayors Dick Hubbard (ACC), Sir Barry Curtis (MCC) and Bob Harvey (WCC) seem to have no idea about the toll-trap that New Zealanders will fall into if they go about fund-raising as they propose. Mayors without common sense are useless leaders at best, and at worst, will likely lead us into a financial quagmire from which we cannot escape.

FACT 10. Do the Mayors of ACC, MCC and WCC know that government is investigating getting overseas companies (countries?) to manage New Zealand's toll accounts? If not, then why not and what other facts have they missed before pushing tolls onto the innocent public? Serious factors such as New Zealanders' rights and civil liberties must come into play.

Ms West concludes "Is it a wonder that New Zealanders in their droves, rush overseas to live? These are people this country needs ­ workers, many highly-skilled - families, and young people. They've had a gutsful. And who can blame them? When will politicians listen to the people they represent and get the message?"

ENDS

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