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National proposes asphalt jungle

1 April 2005

National proposes asphalt jungle

National is proposing to provide an even greater subsidy for road transport despite the damage it causes to society and the environment, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

The National Party’s transport policy, released today, promises to build more roads by pouring all petrol tax into roading and removing the public’s rights under the Resource Management Act (RMA). The policy announcement follows yesterday’s release of a Transport Ministry report showing that while our transport system costs society $3.7 billion, road users only pay $2.6 billion for it.

“Tackling congestion by building new roads is like tackling obesity by letting your belt out,” Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said. “National’s vision for transport is clear: it wants to create the most elaborate asphalt jungle imaginable, choked with cars and smog.

“We’ve always known that road users don’t pay their way, and yesterday’s report proves it. By pouring more and more money into roading, National wants to provide an even greater state subsidy to people who use transport options that cost society dearly.

“Yesterday’s report put paid once and for all to National’s argument that the Government uses petrol tax as a money-making scheme for other projects. The cost to society of our car culture is actually much, much higher than the money road users are paying for it.

“The Transport Ministry report found that trucks pay far less of their true costs – only 56 percent – than freight rail, which pays 82 percent. Yet National wants to tip this already un-level playing field even further in the favour of trucks. It clearly doesn’t believe in a level-playing field for transport.”

Ms Fitzsimons said National’s proposal to dilute the RMA to make road construction easier was myopic.

“This is not a new idea. Fast-tracking the RMA process for roads and powerlines is a policy Labour is already pursuing through a Bill currently before select committee. Both National and Labour want to fast-track the construction of roads, yet there’s no talk of smoothing the path for public transport projects or demand management systems.”

Ms Fitzsimons said diesel charges should be revised to make them equivalent to petrol tax.

“We could raise $300 million a year by making diesel users pay their fair share. Currently, only petrol users pay some tax directly into the Government’s Crown Accounts, which goes some way to offsetting the social and environmental effects of their transport habits, such as the costs to the health system of treating car crash victims and sufferers of pollution-related respiratory diseases. It’s time diesel users did the same.”

National was also blithely ignoring the looming global problems that our car culture is exacerbating, she said.

“New Zealand has one of the highest levels of care dependence in the world. This contributes to climate change, and threatens our economy as the end of cheap oil nears. However, Don’s head is firmly in the sand in the face of these grave challenges.”

ENDS

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