Government warms up to Auckland road tolls
The Government appears to have softened its stance on road tolls in Auckland, saying that direct charges for road use will be needed to fund the growing city's infrastructure.
The Government and Auckland Council today released their second report on the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, which will decide how the city's transport system will be developed over the next 30 years and how it will be funded.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the joint project had found that achieving a "step change" in Auckland's transport system would require "a range of interventions".
"[The report] concludes that while ongoing investment in new road and public transport projects will clearly be needed, greater use of technology and in the longer term, road pricing - or directly charging for road use, will also be part of the toolkit."
The Auckland Council has long called for motorway tolls to pay for new roads and public transport, but the National-led Government has until now been cool on the idea.
Auckland is growing at a rapid rate, putting pressure on housing, roading and core services.
Finance Minister Bill English said today that the city would need to accommodate an expected 700,000 additional people over the next 30 years.
"The emerging approach indicates a need to focus on ensuring transport enables and supports this growth, particularly through early investment in new growth areas in the north-west, north, and south of Auckland," he said.
The report said that directly charging road users, and varying the charges by location or time of day, would have a "potentially significant positive impact on system performance".
But while the measure had "major potential" to influence travel patterns, it would require "substantial further investigation".
Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the report's finding that road pricing was part of the solution to Auckland's traffic woes was "good news".
The policy would need to be considered soon, he said, because an "interim transport levy" paid by businesses and residents was set to expire in 2018.
Mr Brown also noted that one of the key findings in the new report was that expected investments might need to be made sooner than expected.
"The issue with growth is because transport infrastructure and services have long lead-in times, we need to fund and build them now.
"We can't build them after people arrive. That would be a recipe for a choked and economically stunted Auckland."