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Govt plans borrowing and tax hikes to fund unneeded highways

16 November 2012

Govt plans borrowing and tax hikes to fund unneeded highways

The National Government’s reckless plan to build unneeded highways has created a huge budget hole that taxpayers will be forced to pay for with higher taxes, Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said today.

The Green Party has obtained an internal New Zealand Transport Agency document which states there is a $1.7 billion shortfall between the cost of the Government’s transport plans and the projected revenue as a result of the huge cost of National’s pet highway projects and stagnant traffic volumes resulting in lower than projected fuel tax revenue.

The briefing outlines three options to close the gap: delaying the so-called ‘Roads of National Significance’ by up to five years (which is marked as “not acceptable”); borrowing the money and using Public-Private Partnerships as a form of borrowing, which would only shift the cost to the taxpayer into the future and constrain future transport budgets; or increasing petrol tax by nine cents a litre.

“Kiwis will be paying more to fund National’s unneeded and uneconomic highways, and they will have few options to avoid rising fuel prices.

“The mammoth $1.7 billion funding gap in the transport budget has been created by uneconomic projects like the Kapiti Expressway that will cost over half a billion dollars for $120m worth of value. Lower than expected traffic volumes just further prove these expensive highways should not be the priority.

“National has created a fiscal timebomb and its plan is to either foist the cost on to future taxpayers by borrowing the money or increase petrol tax by nine cents a litre.

“We have an opportunity right now to invest in better buses and trains, and safer walking and cycling – this frees up the roads for those who are driving and gives Kiwis more options to avoid rising fuel prices. But the Government is planning to spend 85% of the money available for new capital projects over the next decade on a few state highways, and less than 5% on smart, green alternatives.

“The best option is to defer indefinitely the Holiday Highway and the other low value highway projects and, instead, direct the transport budget to passenger transport, walking, and cycling as suggested by the latest Pure Advantage report.

“This would reduce our $8 billion a year bill for imported oil, lower our greenhouse gas emissions, and create more jobs,” said Ms Genter.

ENDS

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