Waka Kotahi is going further into debt and commuters will be asked to cough up more as the Government ramps up funding to deliver its transport plans
The much-anticipated draft Government Policy Statement on transport has identified 14 projects it wants Waka Kotahi to progress in the short term.
The ailing National Land Transport Fund, which the agency will use to develop its Land Transport Programme, will be boosted via a topped-up government loan, higher fuel taxes and a Crown grant.
On top of land transport funding and the $2.9 billion Crown grant, a $3.1b loan takes the forecast revenue Waka Kotahi has to work with between 2024 and 2027 to $20.8b.
The loan is on top of the $2b it facilitated for GPS 2021. The entire $5.8b debt is expected to be paid back by 2023.
An extra $1.4b is also expected to be raised over the three years due to a phased increase in fuel excise duty.
By July 2026 fuel taxes will be 12 cents per litre higher than they are now.
The increase is less than half of what officials said would be needed if the aim was to have the Land Transport Fund (LTF) fully funded in this way.
“The amount that would be required to fund the NLTF in full would be a one-off increase of 30 cents per litre to fund the essential expenditure and another one-off increase of 8 cents per litre to fund the Strategic Investment Programme.
“Given the significant impact that this would have on the cost of living for many households, the Government does not consider that an increase of this kind would be acceptable. Accordingly, the draft GPS proposes to supplement the NLTF with direct Crown funding to reduce the size of the proposed FED/RUC increases,” the draft policy said.
The policy statement allocates about 60 percent of funding towards the maintenance, and the operating of the existing land transport system over the next 10 years.
But there are new projects in the mix.
The plan envisions taking over the legwork of Let’s Get Wellington Moving by funding upgrades to the Basin Reserve and Arras Tunnel, a second Mt Victoria tunnel and mass rapid transit from the CBD to Island Bay.
Other priorities identified include Warkworth to Whangārei State Highway 1; Te Hana to Brynderwyns, Warkworth to Wellsford and Whangārei to Brynderwyns, Auckland Northwest Rapid Transit, Auckland third and fourth rail line expansion and Avondale to Onehunga rail link.
There would also be rail level crossing upgrades and removals in Auckland and Wellington
Outside of Auckland and Wellington; Cambridge to Piarere State Highway 1, Tauranga to Tauriko State Highway 29 and building four lanes between Napier to Hastings on State Highway 2.
In the South Island Nelson (Rocks Road) shared path State Highway 6, Richmond – Hope Bypass – State Highway 6, Christchurch Northern Link State Highway 1 and a second Ashburton Bridge on State Highway 1.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the routes were “critical nation building transport priorities for New Zealand over the coming decades”.
“These routes include a balanced mix of public transport and roads, which require work as a priority to reduce congestion, manage emissions, improve safety, grow the economy and open up areas for housing.”
National deputy leader Nicola Willis said increasing the fuel tax was inappropriate given the cost-of-living crisis, and her party would only increase excise once inflation was lower.
“This is exactly the wrong thing to do when New Zealanders are hurting – so much for bread and butter.
“What we don’t think is right, is increasing petrol tax in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, what we will do instead is we will wait until the cost-of-living crisis is over. That is inflation under 3 percent.”
Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said it would “re-write” the policy statement, and re-fund it.
“We’re funding it through an increased Crown contribution, reallocations. Some of the things that are in this plan, such as light rail and rapid transit in Wellington, we aren’t going to be doing, we’re also going to be having an additional Crown allocation and we’re going to rely on the private sector to invest in roads and public transport infrastructure in New Zealand to get things done.”
He did not clarify if the Crown allocation would be in the form of a loan or a grant.
He said the Government had “cut and pasted transport projects from National’s Transport for the Future policy released last month”.
“Including the Cambridge to Piarere expressway, the Woodend Bypass, and a second Ashburton Bridge, in a cynical attempt to fool New Zealanders into thinking that they care about building roads… Labour cancelled the Cambridge to Piarere expressway and Woodend Bypass when in government, now announcing that they will deliver these projects years later.”
Consultation on the policy statement is open until September 15.
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