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Any Delay to Motorway Building Unacceptable

Auckland Business Forum

26 January 2006

Any Delay to Transit’s Motorway Building Programme is Unacceptable…..

Michael Barnett, chairman of the Auckland Business Forum, said that at a meeting yesterday the Forum noted that if Transit is going to deliver on its 2014/15 timeline, at this point tolling is the only viable option on the table to address a $900 million funding gap.

He said that the Forum’s support for tolls is subject to the Government undertaking to review and address areas of unfairness and inequality in the current road pricing system, including:

1. Money currently raised by road user taxes but not spent on fixing the roads.
2. The introduction of tolling is done in a way that is fair and equitable to all road users and communities.
3. The system gives urgently needed certainty to Transit’s road building programme.
4. Enables sensible and affordable allocations to improve regional bus services.

With these very clear conditions in mind the Auckland Business Forum resolved:

- To give support to a regional initiative for legislation to enable a “network toll” as part of establishing a more equitable road pricing system.

- This support is on the basis that it NOT delay but help speed up Transit’s programme for completion of the Western Ring Route and other key motorway projects by 2014/15.

- To support a toll on the whole of the Western Ring Route as a step towards establishing a more equitable road pricing system.

- To have this actioned URGENTLY, to give road builder Transit the funds it needs by 1 July – the start of a new financial year - to bridge the $900 million funding gap it has already identified for completing the Western Ring Route on time.

Mr Barnett acknowledged a strong sentiment in the region that the Government should be committing all the fuel tax revenue it currently takes from Auckland motorists to the region’s land transport projects. “Doing this will provide an additional $200 million a year for Auckland transport projects.”

“On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Auckland tell me that any delay to Transit’s programme is unacceptable,” he said.

Alasdair Thompson, CEO of Auckland Employers & Manufacturers Association, noted that the Prime Minister last August made a promise to Auckland that the Western Ring Route would be completed by 2015, providing Aucklanders accept tolls on new sections of it. “So we expect Transit to keep to this timeline.”

He noted that there are other options than tolls for meeting the funding shortfall, and which should be assessed as part of the road pricing review.

Mr Barnett said the next step in the toll debate should be for Government to publish the Ministry of Transport’s Auckland Road Pricing Study which had been in the pipeline since 2003.

“But the bottom line stands – any delay to Transit’s state highway programme is unacceptable and I suggest unnecessary.”

ENDS

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