6 Aug 2011

Minister dismisses Auckland congestion charge

7:15 am on 6 August 2011

Transport Minister Steven Joyce is dismissing the need for a congestion charge for Auckland motorists.

Auckland mayor Len Brown on Thursday unveiled his 10-year plan for the city, which included the possibility of the charge.

The mayor said the council will go to the community over plans to raise an extra $10 billion over 20 years for roading projects, public transport and rail links. A congestion or network charge is an option, as are tolling, public-private partnerships and tax incentive funding.

Mr Joyce told Morning Report that Auckland Council is a long way off needing the type of investment Mr Brown has claimed.

"The city has a very big balance sheet and the mayor's ruled pretty much everything out in terms of what to do with that balance sheet

"I think road users would probably say 'Well, hang on, you go back and look at what you've got before you come running at us'."

Mr Joyce says a congestion charge is not the way to go, as it is just another tax.

AA doubts charge would work

The council's transport committee chairman, Mike Lee, says it would be a regressive tax that would hit working people in the pocket.

He says most road user charges go to the private sector and the money is not reinvested in councils.

The Automobile Association doubts a congestion charge would work in Auckland, despite its success in London.

A similar charge of £10 a day was successfully introduced in London nearly 10 years ago to ease gridlock and raise funds.

AA spokesperson Simon Lambourne says Auckland's public transport system is nowhere near as efficient as the London Underground.

In addition, he says, Auckland is hugely spread out and people working there are not only going to the city centre but travelling in many directions.