Goff confident of backing for Auckland fuel tax

8:31 pm on 18 January 2017

Outspoken - Auckland's mayor Phil Goff is confident the government will come around to allowing the city to introduce a regional fuel tax to plug a looming gap in transport funding.

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Phil Goff believes a petrol tax of around 10 cents a litre is the best option to help fund the city's transport needs. Photo: 123rf.com

A three-year interim levy on ratepayers is due to expire mid-year, and even if renewed will fund only about a third of the extra $200 million a year the council needs to spend on transport.

"I'm not prepared to treble that levy and put it on rates, which is inequitable, and there'd be huge resistance to it. There has to be some 'user pays' element," Mr Goff told RNZ.

But at this stage of the negotiation, the government remains cool.

"The government has said time and time again that a regional fuel tax is certainly not a preferred approach of ours," Minister of Transport Simon Bridges said late last year.

Resolving the future funding of the city's transport needs is the biggest question mark hanging over Mr Goff's first budget, which is due to be finalised in May.

Public consultation begins next month on the mayor's plan to cap average rates rises to 2.5 percent, and supplement income with both a fuel tax and a $30m levy on accommodation providers.

Mr Goff said even the $200m a year council share would only meet what he calls the "minimalised" multi-year programme covered by the Auckland Transport Alignment Project agreed with the government.

He said the petrol tax of about 10 cents a litre was the best option.

"It's cheap, it's quick to implement as soon as the government gives us the legal basis to do it, and council and government agrees there's got to be behavioural change," he said.

"Where else is council going to get this money from? It can't borrow because it's close to its debt to revenue ratio before it loses its credit rating."

He didn't believe that a change in leadership in the government, or that 2017 being an election year, would affect government thinking.

"The government will take it on the chin, as the council will take it on the chin, if the electorate that we both share sees the massive problem of congestion and thinks that government and local government aren't doing anything about it."

Outspoken is a series in which RNZ's experienced correspondents host debates on some of the top issues of the year - and the year ahead. Check back for new episodes this week here.

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