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Business backing for toll roads in jeopardy

Media statement
Thursday, October 16th, 2003

Business backing for toll roads in jeopardy; Government good faith questioned

The briefing on the Land Transport Management Bill at the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) on October 15th heard why business is re-thinking its support for the tolling of roads.

Get Real on Roads (GRR) campaigner Tony Friedlander and EMA's Alasdair Thompson said business support for tolls and higher fuel taxes was made on the basis that all extra money raised from road users would be spent on building roads.

But the evidence in the LMTB is that most of the extra money raised by tolls and other road user charges will not go to road construction.

"The LMTB is a back door route to higher taxes as it opens the door for petrol taxes and road charges to be siphoned off to pay for causes that road users have never traditionally paid for," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.

The business assessment is that the LTMB reported back this week provides only the narrowest scope for roads to be built faster than at present.

"At present 75% of the funds raised in taxes and other charges from road users do not go towards building or maintaining roads," Mr Friedlander said.

"The new Bill expands the ability of Transfund to spend on non-roading projects, including any form of land transport by any means, to spend road user funds on 'approved' public organisations such as Trackco, and on coastal shipping including overseas owned shippers who don't pay tax in New Zealand.

"The expenditure need not benefit road users at all and it doesn't have to be spent efficiently."

Alasdair Thompson said the Government's good faith was in question over the LTMB. On May 25th, 2001 the Prime Minister said 'we regard improving Auckland's transport flow as absolutely critical in the national economic interest.'

"Two years and four months later and we are no nearer to getting a workable plan in place for the accelerated completion of Auckland's road network," Mr Thompson said. "And the plan is 40 years old!

"Last year in good faith business supported Government's raising petrol excise tax by 4.2 cents a litre ($227 million) provided all the extra money was invested in building more roads.

"It hasn't. So how can we support tolls if meantime Government uses other road user funds for its social agenda?

"Adjusted for inflation the spending in state highways and local roads will be only 1% higher this financial year than in 1999/2000.

"Over the past three years the proportion of Transfund's National Land Transport Programme allocated to state highway and local road construction has fallen from 38% to 33%.

"Road user subsidies to public transport have risen 142%, alternatives to roads is up 460%, regional development has benefited from zero to $23 million, with $3 million going to walk ways and cycle ways. All these are good causes.

"But road users should not be paying for them, especially not while Auckland's roads are subject to unpredictable gridlock.

"Its costing Auckland workers increasing amounts of time and money for petrol to get to work. And business is increasingly concerned over the rising costs of the delivery of the goods consumers need."

ENDS

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