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Will Auckland get its very own city-wide congestion tax?

The Government and Auckland City Council have announced a joint project to investigate methods to reduce demand and ease congestion across Auckland’s road network. 

It was announced this morning that the two bodies have come to a mutual agreement regarding the Terms of Reference to establish a Smarter Transport Pricing system for Auckland.

Representatives from the Ministry of Transport, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Treasury and the State Services Commission will come together to develop and test different options.

Currently, motorists pay for the use of roads through a myriad of charges including petrol taxes, road user charges, vehicle registration fees and rates. However, these costs do not take into account the time or location of travel. 

A congestion tax has been proposed to replace the majority of these charges. An additional aim of the tax will be to encourage motorists to avoid travel during peak times.

The city’s road network is expected to swell over the next 3 years, with an estimated 160,000 cars being added.

Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff has voiced his support for the tax, stating a congestion tax is a practical and long-term fix for the city's growing congestion problem. “We’re adding 800 cars a week to the roads in Auckland, so we shouldn't spend too much time wondering why we are becoming more and more gridlocked.” 

“My viewpoint is that a congestion tax is one of the ways that we can discourage this congestion.” Goff stressed a fully implemented congestion tax system would still be years away, estimating it to take up to five years.

Editor of Greater Auckland, Matthew Lowrie, suggests one way to implement the congestion charges would be through placing GPS devices in cars or mobile phones.“What’s recommended is a wide level transport road pricing scheme, based on GPS where you are actually tracking where vehicles are traveling.”

He warns if certain sections of the city road network are targeted it will generate congestion in tax-free areas, opting for a city-wide approach to avoid negative impacts. “For example if you were to put a cordon charge on the central city, it would make it more valuable to live inside as you are not paying that tax as you cross a boundary. While if you put a toll on motorways people might try and avoid motorways by clogging up local roads.”

The first stage of the project, which will lay the groundwork for assessing pricing options, is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

For the full interview with Matthew Lowrie, click here

Adam Jacobson, 95bFM News