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Alignment Needed For Introduction Of Auckland Congestion Charges

Auckland Businesses and commuters should welcome Auckland Council’s decision to progress congestion charging says the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

But the decision also highlights the alignment needed between the various central and local government agencies to take Auckland’s public with them warns EMA Head of Advocacy Alan McDonald.

"In the past month Auckland Transport and now Council’s Transport Sub Committee have made decisions around the design and implementation of congestion charging," says Alan McDonald.

"But any scheme involving the motorways will have to have NZTA involvement and approval, Ministry of Transport has been working on how a scheme might work for several years and ultimately the decisions will have to be made at Central Government level by the Minister of Transport and for Auckland, Hon Simeon Brown.

"And so far, no-one, with the exception of Mayor Wayne Brown, has really begun the work of convincing Auckland residents why this is a good idea."

McDonald says the EMA has long supported congestion (or Time of Use) charging as it will help maximise the use of existing motorway and arterial corridors around the slowly choking greater city area.

"An NZIER study we commissioned in 2019 put the cost of congestion to Auckland’s economy at up to $1.3 billion annually. It also found that businesses who need to travel in and around the city could benefit by getting one to two jobs per day back, rather than spending the time in traffic.

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"More recently we’ve seen traffic monitoring data that indicates Aucklanders are losing 22 million hours per year out of their lives while they sit in traffic.

"That can’t continue."

McDonald says there are significant social mobility and economic benefits to be gained by introducing these charges.

But any scheme is going to need to factor in both local roads and motorway charging, impacts on an already challenged city centre, social equity, technology challenges, costs of the scheme versus returns, what the actual charge might be, public transport alternatives and even using the charges to fund public transport.

"There’s a strong but complicated case for the charges but no-one has started the difficult task of taking Auckland’s ratepayers through that case.

"There are a number of organisations, like us, willing to support that case but someone’s got to lead and co-ordinate the case for charges. If it’s not done right this time it will be years before we can have another shot at introducing the charges."

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