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Carless hours almost preferred

Newmarket Business Association

3 May 2006

Carless hours almost preferred over London-type congestion charge

The country's leading shopping district, Newmarket, is increasingly concerned that the Government has every intention of forcing though parliament a London-type congestion charge on central Auckland.

"From the feedback we're getting it's obvious that the Ministry of Transport favours ring fencing Newmarket and the central city area over the four other options it mooted in its recently released Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study," said Cameron Brewer, head of the Newmarket Business Association today.

"My 1,500 commercial members are furious that they may have an outrageously unfair scheme forced upon them, their staff and their prospective customers which will demand they pay a toll to simply enter the area. They are also seeing red over the prospect of a $10 parking levy for Newmarket and the CBD but we are hopeful this option is a non-starter."

Mr Brewer believes it increasingly appears that the five options outlined in the $2.3 million road pricing study have been nothing more than a smokescreen, pushed past the business community and the public with very little time for consultation.

"From what we're hearing out of local and central government circles, since submissions closed on Friday, is that Transport Ministry officials are obsessed with replicating central London's congestion charge, euphemistically presenting this as the Area Charge option in their own study. We would be very interested in hearing what the new Minister of Transport's preference is.

"Congestion is worse and more costly on the region's motorways and arterial roads beyond central Auckland and so tolling inner city business districts like Newmarket will be no panacea. We are not the cause of the region's congestion but we're the ones that would cop a central city congestion charge's crippling impact.

"Instead of pricing consumers and businesses out of central areas like Newmarket we would almost rather see the concept of a carless hours system investigated - where drivers aren't allowed to drive their private cars between 6am and 10am once a week. Sure, it is punitive but so is tolling drivers to use roads that have already been paid for."

Mr Brewer says that officials obsessed with the 30% congestion reduction achieved in central London over the past three years should have at least explored the concept of carless hours.

"The impact of every Aucklander leaving their car home one morning during the working week could collectively reduce Auckland's congestion by at least 20% over night. It would hit all Auckland drivers fairly and unlike a central London-type congestion charge, any cost on the central Auckland business community would be arguably more palatable.

"Further, we don't buy into the argument that the Government needs to collect more money. Through the likes of extra fuel exise, road-user charges, and GST, and given its huge operating surplus the Government is collecting more than enough already. Its challenge now should be to start directing all that it collects from transport into transport, with Auckland the obvious priority.

"We will not take the real prospect of a central London-style congestion charge lying down. If either of the Area Charge, Inner Cordon, or Parking Levy options are progressed any further, we and other central Auckland business representatives will be rallying hard against this extreme compliance cost," said Mr Brewer.

ENDS

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