Regional Council welcomes fuel tax
Friday 1 June 2007
Regional Council welcomes fuel tax
Additional revenue-raising tools for major transport projects have been welcomed by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Chairman Ian Buchanan stated today.
Cr Buchanan said “The government has given us a great opportunity to speed up the development of our transport infrastructure. Recent consultation on our Regional Land Transport Strategy has signalled a clear public desire for some of our major projects to be advanced, particularly in the public transport area.
“There are also the outstanding issues around major roading improvements, such as Transmission Gully, east-west connections between the Hutt Valley and Porirua, and the corridor from the Wellington CBD to the airport and eastern suburbs. Obviously not all of these projects can be advanced at the same time from a regional fuel tax that, even at maximum levels, would only contribute around $35 million per year.”
Under the government Budget announcement, Greater Wellington Regional Council will be the agency charged with advancing any fuel tax proposal for the Wellington region. The process outlined by government is for the relevant regional council to take initial proposals to central government and settle on a development agreement for the proposal. This may then be consulted on with the public before a final decision is made by the Ministers of Finance and Transport.
Cr Buchanan emphasised that any proposed development will closely involve the Regional Land Transport Committee (RLTC) and conform to priorities developed through the Regional Land Transport Strategy and associated project plans.
“The RLTC is fully representative of local government, transport and other relevant interests in the region, and as such is the appropriate forum for our Council to refer this to. This consideration of the future application of regional fuel tax also sits well with new policy initiatives from central government announced as part of the “Next Steps” review. Regional councils, through the Land Transport committees, will have a significant role in developing and prioritising transport programmes for the region. Funding considerations, including regional fuel tax opportunities, are very much a part of this process” Cr Buchanan said.
Regional fuel taxes are to be available to fund capital projects only, with a focus on important regional projects that would not otherwise be funded in the short to medium term through the national land transport fund. This includes both public transport and roading projects. Also announced in the budget was an additional $600 million to assist with the funding of passenger rail infrastructure in Auckland and Wellington. While it is anticipated that much of this will go to Auckland’s much needed electrification programme, significant network renewals in Wellington have also been identified. Greater Wellington will be initiating discussions with ONTRACK and central government regarding the funding of the renewals programme in the near future. This, together with funding for essential capital projects now available from regional fuel tax and the Wellington Transport Package would provide the infrastructure required for the arrival of new rail rolling stock in 2010.
Cr Buchanan is quick to point out the urgency surrounding these rail upgrades. “If we are to provide the region with a high quality, reliable passenger rail service, we need to act now. The new rolling stock is on order; the funding mechanisms are now available for the network upgrade. It is crucial that the infrastructure is in place by 2010 to take the new trains.
“This region is now well placed to implement the public transport components of the Regional Land Transport Strategy. This is consistent with the long-term sustainable development goals outlined in the recently adopted Wellington Regional Strategy and essential for the future prosperity of this region.”