Auckland road tolls "unlikely" says Joyce

3:48 pm on 28 January 2016

Despite Auckland's mayor saying road tolls could contribute to the city's half of the $2.5 billion City Rail Link project, the government remains cool on the idea.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told Morning Report the government remained cool on road tolls, saying such a move was "highly unlikely".

An artist's impression of an underground station on the City Rail Link, which will be built under QE2 Square.

An artist's impression of an underground station on the City Rail Link, which will be built under QE2 Square. Photo: SUPPLIED

The government confirmed yesterday it would pay about half the cost of the project, allowing work on part of the project involving a tunnelling machine to begin earlier in 2018.

Mayor Len Brown believes he has the backing of most Aucklanders to introduce higher road taxes and impose tolls to pay for the city's half of the bill.

Prime Minister John Key credited a rise in rail patronage, and the commercial property developments that are planned along the downtown route, for a change of government heart on a project which it initially said did not stack up.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the government however remained cool on road tolls, saying such a move was highly unlikely.

"We're philosophically very negative about adding extra charges it would have to be fully justified, a look at all the other options including selling property before you'd even go there."

National MP, Steven Joyce.

National MP, Steven Joyce. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Joyce said the council had "significant" property holdings around the various stations.

"I wouldn't be jumping across and warning people they might end up paying tolls, because I still think that's very unlikely."

He said a mix of other funding options such as debt an asset sales could be considered.

Mr Joyce denied the government had dragged its feet on the project, saying other projects such as electrification of the suburban rail network were priorities.

Auckland mayor Len Brown at the gathering of graffiti agencies in Auckland.

Auckland mayor Len Brown at the gathering of graffiti agencies in Auckland. Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

"These things have got to be done sequentially because you can't do... the thing about infrastructure is they're big, lumpy projects, you can't do them all at once and the order in which you do them and the timing at which you do them, is just as important as the fact you're doing them."

Mr Joyce said far from delaying the project, it was the government which had brought it forward.

But Mr Brown told Morning Report road tolls were part of a range of transport funding options, and in the long term could not be overlooked.

"We know that we don't have enough money through rates and borrowings, even if we sold things like the airport shares or the port shares, it's still not enough.

"It is a critical issue with the growth of the city with the transport investment needs that we have and the City Rail Link in the end, with the $65 billion we've got to spend over the next 30 years, is only a small part of it."

Mr Brown said he could not see any other way of raising extra revenue than with a motorway toll.

Related

Next story in Political: Labour sets sights on State of the Nation

Joining the discussion couldn’t be easier. Simply sign up using your existing Facebook or Twitter account or create a new login. And make sure to read the rules. Here is a list of other stories that have comments.