The fuel tax apocalypse

Claire Trevett continues the three-week-long kicking of the government and their ineptitude: Quote

Now it is in Opposition, there is nothing National loves more than the smell of napalm in the morning – and this week napalm came in the form of Labour’s proposal to hike fuel taxes.

Labour had blunted National’s attacks on tax policies during the campaign so imagine its delight when Labour released its draft transport plan full of promises for a shiny new light rail to the airport, glistening cycleways, median barriers and roading crews to fix potholes on backroads – along with a 9-12 cent per litre hike in petrol taxes to pay for it all.

In terms of low-hanging fruit, this was at pineapple height and National wasted no time beating it to pulp.

They had some help.

People flocked to object: a Driving Miss Daisy driver, Aucklanders in Rodney and Waiuku, the Road Transport Forum warning freight costs would go up and so would the price of goods. Poverty advocacy groups also criticised the move, saying it would have a disproportionate impact on low income families who could ill afford to pay more. End of quote.

Those issues won’t go away, and the roads and congestion won’t be fixed, and every time people fill up at the pump and their petrol costs more they will blame Labour. Trevett continues:

Labour’s plans should not have come as a surprise to anybody.

Light rail in Auckland and plans for more commuter rail in the regions were well flagged in election policies as was its intention to scrap the future Roads of National Significance programme.

It may well have been able to fund its own promises by simply re-distributing the money from National’s state highway programmes.

But it had to fit in the desires of the governing partners – NZ First and the Green Party. That means meeting the Green Party’s plans for clean technology, cycleways and public transport.

It meant funding NZ First’s abiding love for all things rail – above and beyond the ‘gravy train’ Act has dubbed Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ provincial growth fund.

So we have higher fuel taxes. End of quote.

In two years time, not one metre of new rail track will have been laid. Congestion won’t be solved and people will have paid hundreds of millions more in tax… for nothing. Quote

Few things get more people exercised than taxes and roads – for they affect all.

Much of the debate has centred on the regions versus Auckland.

National has had some success in seeding the perception regional people will be paying for Auckland trams, buses and cycleways while losing the benefits of the funding and jobs that major state highway projects deliver.

Labour claimed the regions would be flooded with money compared to National for roads other than its state highways.

The usual array of smoke and mirrors was hauled onto the stage as each side tried to prove its argument.

Labour deployed the squid ink technique to set out the funding changes.

The obscuring black ink came in the form of presenting the funding changes in percentage terms rather than dollar terms.

It also compared its spending plan for the next three years to the last three years of National’s – rather than the figures National had set out for the 2018 to 2021 period.

That showed an 11 per cent drop in funding for state highways while the money going to regional roading was to almost double.

All of this disguised the fact that Labour’s maximum spending allocation for regional roads was a mere $100 million more than National had planned to spend over the next three years while state highway spending would be $1 billion less than National had set out.

The spending on local roads (in both cities and regions) was $365 million more than National planned.Even in the first three years, that was twice as much leaving the regions than was going in.  End of quote.

The dishonesty of the Labour party and government laid bare. Trevett then succinctly explains the challenges of selling a new tax that they promised not to implement.

The biggest challenge for Labour is not convincing people of the merits of its plan, but convincing people paying extra tax is worth it.

That is rarely an easy battle.

Twyford did not help matters by appearing to trivialise the matter, scoffing that the cost was equivalent to a cup of coffee a week and Aucklanders understood the need for it.

Many Aucklanders did not. Those in the north and east certainly saw little benefit in having to pay two whacks of taxes for light rail from the CDB down south and west.

All Twyford’s cups of coffee add up to an extra $600 million a year in petrol taxes – and that will almost all be sucked up by Labour’s $4 billion plus plan for light rail in Auckland.  End of quote.

Twyford’s tram tax is aptly named. Twyford just can’t help himself and his grandiosity is digging a massive hole for this government. Trevett adds:

The side issue to all this has been the debate about the speed limit.

It was unfortunate for Labour that an international report coincided with its transport release and that proposed a drop in the speed limit to 70kph for roads without a median barrier.

That was conflated with Labour’s plan which does mention the possibility of dropping speed limits for safety reasons.

It is here Ardern should deploy the stop side of the stop/go sign.

Middle New Zealand is a valuable commodity for political parties.

She will find Middle New Zealand sitting in cars grinding their teeth as the car in front of them drives at 90 kph only to speed up the moment they hit a passing lane so Middle New Zealand cannot pass them.

Adding a drop in the speed limit on the open road to the petrol tax hikes would indeed be electoral napalm. End of quote.

Boom!

With resource planning and the lack of immediate cash, along with a government with a propensity to spend and spend, it is highly unlikely that the tram project will even begin before the next election. Then National will ask what has happened to the billion-and-a-half stolen in extra taxes and where are the rapid rail lines, the buses, the solution to congestion?


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

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