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AA Rejects Need For Congestion Charging

AA Rejects Need For Congestion Charging

New Zealanders need to carefully weigh the benefits before allowing regional or central government to introduce congestion charging during peak times the AA has warned.

“There is a growing amount of comment claiming that congestion charging is the panacea for all transport problems, which is long on theory but rather short on practical implications”, AA Public Affairs Director George Fairbairn said.

Charging may be a disincentive to car commuting, but it could also be an incentive to regional councils to introduce tolls rather than improve roads and access even on chronically congested roads.

“Who benefits from congestion charging? Who loses? Where does the revenue go? How much does it cost to install and run a congestion charging regime? In the enthusiasm for theoretical answers, we have to look at questions like these,” Mr Fairbairn said.

Mr Fairbairn warned that congestion charging could also be the thin end of a tolling wedge which would mean New Zealanders having to pay every time they wanted to drive somewhere.

“Freedom of movement is very important to the New Zealand way of life. Anything that starts to impinge on the basis of ability to pay has to be subject to serious scrutiny. For example does this mean patients going to hospitals in the centre of the city will have to start paying tolls to do so?”

While some commentators drew on overseas examples such as London or Singapore most of those cities were at least three times more heavily populated than our largest urban area, and already had extensive and integrated public transport systems. Few suffered from the geographical constraints of Auckland or Wellington, and the smaller cities used tolling instead of rating for regional government revenue, rather than as well as rating.

“New Zealanders always like to be up with the play, and adopt the latest technology. While there are some people who would love to install congestion charging in our cities for their own professional prestige, overseas the jury is still out on whether this approach really offers practical benefits.”

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