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Transport Minister Stops Short Of Saying New Roads Of National Significance To Be Tolled

Phil Pennington, Reporter

Transport Minister Simeon Brown has stopped short of saying all new roads of national significance will be toll roads.

His fellow Minister for Infrastructure Chris Bishop had said in a speech on Thursday that Brown had "already signalled that each of our new Roads of National Significance will be tolled".

RNZ asked Brown to confirm this.

"The government strongly supports tolls as a way to fund new roading infrastructure," he replied in a statement on Friday.

"We have outlined our expectation that NZTA should consider tolling to construct and maintain all new Roads of National Significance ... and committed to support all recommendations by NZTA to toll roads."

This line was first spelled out in the draft Government Policy Statement on land transport, which was currently being finalised.

Waka Kotahi already assesses all new state highways and significant upgrades to existing state highways for tolling suitability, and makes recommendations to the Minister. Only three highways have tolls.

The existing "three-gate" approach to tolling requires public consultation - but Brown did not respond when asked whether that "gate" would be scrapped.

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The three-gate process was "required for robust decision-making" and ensured the law, investment principles, the Waka Kotahi board, the Minister of Transport and the public were all "involved appropriately", the agency said on its website.

Brown said the government was open to a "wide range of funding tools" for roading.

Tolling would help fund new infrastructure and protect existing funding in the National Land Transport Fund to maintain existing roading infrastructure and "to prevent potholes", he added.

A new pothole prevention fund aims to spend $4 billion over three years, ranging from just $7 million in Nelson to $478m for Auckland.

Existing tolling tech gobbled up a third of the revenue in operational costs so was highly inefficient and any expansion required the introduction of new technology.

But NZTA's project for new technology has encountered delays due to complications and could not be cobbled together with the upgrade of backoffice systems to run the new speed-safety camera network, as had been hoped, on a combined spend worth over $130m.

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