5 Aug 2008

Council votes for Auckland fuel tax

3:14 pm on 5 August 2008

Auckland motorists are set to pay more for their petrol after the regional council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve a new regional fuel tax.

If the scheme is approved by government ministers, Aucklanders will pay an additional five cents a litre, phased in over three years.

The scheme aims to raise more than $600 million to buy new rolling stock when Auckland's rail network is electrified, and for station upgrades.

A substantial change to the scheme means the tax will be phased in over several years, starting with a one cent-a litre levy from July 2009.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee says the phase-in was needed because of rising prices, particularly the cost of fuel. He says the council still believes its model is achievable and will have enough funding.

Councillor Judith Bassett is concerned the tax may not be enough to cover the council's planned spending on the rail network, and says the phase-in could be done faster.

The proposal will be submitted to the ministers of finance and transport by Friday, who must approve the scheme before it can come into force.

Complaint planned

Earlier on Tuesday, the Automobile Association said it would make a complaint to the Minister of Transport if the regional fuel tax passed its first hurdle.

Association spokesperson Simon Lambourne said the council failed to consult properly, because legislation paving the way for the regional taxes had not been passed when consultation began.

He said that made people confused when they were making their decision whether to support the tax.

"It was completely inappropriate to ask Aucklanders for feedback on something that wasn't actually even yet passed by Parliament," he says.

The regional council is defending the way it handled the consultation process.

Chairman Mike Lee says the AA had the opportunity to make submissions earlier this year, when hundreds of Aucklanders did.

He says he suspects the organisation may not have put in a submission because it wanted to take the chance to complain more publicly later.