Labour seeks cross-party support for congestion charging scheme

Transport Minister Michael Wood
Transport Minister Michael Wood said he was getting advice and that is still the case five months on. Photo credit: Newshub

By Katie Scotcher of RNZ

The government wants to get cross-party support for its planned congestion charging scheme before introducing a law to enable it.

All political parties support some form of pricing, but some only on the condition Auckland's regional fuel tax is scrapped.

The government has long been pondering whether to introduce it in places like Auckland and Wellington.

In November last year, Transport Minister Michael Wood said he was getting advice and that is still the case five months on.

"I've been continuing to engage with my officials to get that advice and to examine the models, to consider how this could potentially work in a New Zealand context, and also engaging with other political parties - so that work has been carrying on, we haven't just been sitting back and doing nothing in that period," Wood told RNZ now.

All political parties have long signalled support for congestion charging, but the minister is hoping to get them on board with the government's legislation, which would enable it.

Wood has spoken to MPs from other political parties, including National's Simeon Brown.

"My understanding of the legislation the minister will be proposing will include the requirement to have that signed off by the minister of transport but proposed by all the local councils," Brown said.

National is open to supporting laws that would enable councils to introduce congestion charging, rather than force them.

But only if Auckland's 10 cents per litre regional fuel tax, the charge brought in to help fund public transport and roading projects, is scrapped.

"We want to make sure that we're not adding further cost to people using the roads at a time of cost of living crisis," Brown added.

ACT Leader David Seymour would also want to see regional fuel tax scrapped and fuel excise dropped.

His party had also been involved in discussions with the minister and had some concerns.

"It can't be a way of socially engineering people out of their cars or putting extra costs on to families, it should be a way of taking revenue to fund roads in a way that is more time sensitive and efficient to reduce congestion.

"Help people get where they're going the way they want to go there rather than try and change people's behaviour."

Green MP Julie Anne Genter said scrapping the fuel tax in favour of congestion pricing was not a sensible idea.

"You would not be able to plug the gap that's needed, particularly in Auckland, simply with congestion pricing revenue. Especially if it's rolled out in a phased way."

Genter understood that was something the government was considering: introducing congestion charging in the city centre, before expanding it further.

"I don't understand why you would do that. You get the full benefits from the full scheme."

It is not yet clear when the government will make announcements on the next steps.

Wood would not guarantee legislation will be introduced before the election.

If it does, ministers will consider the cost such a scheme will have on people.

Wood told RNZ it would be a "significant impost" to have congestion charging and the fuel tax in place at the same time.

Brown told RNZ National would continue work on congestion charging if elected in October.