Major protests in France, Belgium over green taxes

In what has been described as the worst unrest in decades in Paris protesters in France are revolting against carbon tax (fuel tax) rises, and growing dissatisfaction with the Government and President Emmanuel Macron. Protests appear to be rising from both the left and right of politics.

Reuters: France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks

When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president.

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

Could anything like this happen in New Zealand. There has been some dissatisfaction over regional and excise fuel tax rises, and fuel prices rose to record levels, but the pressure was relieved when fuel prices dropped due to a slump in international oil prices.

In France Macron tells PM to hold talks after worst unrest in Paris for decades

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.

After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.

A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.

Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.

The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as youths from the suburbs infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.

The riots in France are spreading.

UK Sunday Express BRUSSELS IN FLAMES: French riots spread to Belgium – HUNDREDS go on rampage at home of EU

Hundreds of activists made Belgium’s political landmarks their target, marching between landmarks amid clouds of smoke from firecrackers and smoke bombs, as they were stalked by dozens of baton-wielding riot officers ready to pounce.

Protesters descended on the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, the heart of EU decision-making, as they created Belgium’s own ‘yellow jacket’ campaign against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The EU Commission was forced to temporarily shut its doors as the building’s security guards refused to let anyone in or out while protesters marched passed.

The rises in fuel taxes have aggravated general frustration that had already been growing.

‘Axe the fuel tax’ petition just cynical politics

Another National barking at a passing (albeit more expensively fueled) car. This is a further devaluing of petitions that used to be a means of public pressure on governments. Weekly or monthly petitions render the democratic tool largely worthless.

Whenever I see a petition these days, if the political party or activist organisation behind it isn’t obvious I look to see who is doing it, and for what actual purpose.

Fuel taxes rose under the last National government. Fuel taxes have risen further under the current Labour-led government.

Adding to fuel pump fright now are increasing international prices of crude oil and the new Zealand exchange rate moving against imports.

National has already strongly and hypcocritically condemned the Government for adding additional taxes, and have now chosen to raise their opportunistic politicking further, launching a petition.

Axe the Tax

The Government is driving up the cost of petrol by imposing more and more new taxes on top of record petrol prices.

The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes. It’s pricing Kiwis out of their cars and making it harder to get ahead.

This is not accurate. It is misleading.

They don’t say what ‘the average household’ equates too, but presumably means multiple cars per average household. I don’t have an average household.

We can’t be paying on average $200 a year on petrol taxes right now – sure i am paying higher prices every time I fill the tank, but it will take a year to to pay a year’s worth of taxes, nor what we will pay for fuel over the next year.

And the ‘$324 extra’ for Auckland families may be technically correct but in reality Auckland pays less per litre than many regions even with their additional regional tax.

It needs to stop. The Government should provide immediate relief to New Zealanders by cancelling the new fuel taxes it’s imposed and putting a stop to its plans to add more.

Add your name to stand with National and stop the new fuel taxes.

What this actually means is add your name and email address and phone number to National’s petition so they can add you to their political database. There is fine print at the bottom:

By adding your name, you agree to receive email updates from the National Party. Your contact details may be used to keep you up to date with other policies and local campaigns.

The petition is more a means of duping people into signing up to be pestered by direct political marketing.

Greens and Labour did this a lot when in opposition. National have done it before and this is simply a new attempt at harvesting contact information disguised as a petition.

As well as being hypocritical and blatant harvesting, this is ridiculous.

What Government is going to start taking off taxes when presented with a petition? It would be nuts to start reacting to every increase in costs by taking off taxes. What happens if the international price of oil increases further as predicted? Another petition to reduce taxes further?

Did National ever do anything this stupid?

I doubt it. Instead they have launched about as many petitions as the Government has inquiries.

If National win the next election will they reduce every tax that has increased under the current Government – and under the last government? Will they adjust taxes down every time the price of oil goes up or the NZ exchange rate goes down?

The way National have been using petitions they are just becoming more barking at each passing car.

The use of petitions as a political weapon and method of marketing has largely made petitions useless as a legitimate way of pressuring for change.

It has become ‘just another petition’, which is just another party posturing. Parties have largely taken over and trivialised what used to be one of the means of the public pressuring the Government.

Government claims wrong, Wilson concedes that fuel tax is regressive

Increasing fuel taxes impact more on people on lower incomes who rely on a car for transport.

On Thursday in the Herald Simon Wilson wrote what looked like virtual Government media release- $5.77: The extra amount Aucklanders will pay for fuel every week, according to Transport Minister Phil Twyford

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will join Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter this afternoon in Auckland to reveal the details of the new excise levies on fuel.

But it looked like they had already revealed the details to Wilson.

By late 2020, new fuel taxes will mean Aucklanders are paying an average $5.77 more a week for petrol, according to figures to be released by Government ministers today.

And in a startling revelation, the ministers claim that the wealthier a household is, the more it is likely to pay for petrol. They say the wealthiest 10 per cent of households will pay $7.71 per week more for petrol. Those with the lowest incomes will pay $3.64 a week more.

That is a quite misleading use of averages. A much bigger proportion of lower income people don’t use cars, for example many students. This distorts the averages.

This is a complete reversal of the most common complaint about fuel taxes, which is that they are “regressive”. That means, the critics say, they affect poor people more than wealthy people.

Opponents of the new fuel taxes, including several councillors and the National Party Opposition in Parliament, have argued that low-income people rely more on their cars than wealthy people. They also say those on low incomes have less access to public transport and drive cars that are larger and less fuel-efficient.

But the Government’s figures starkly reject that view.

But this view was strongly debunked in social media.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: Not a startling revelation

The data is not a reversal of the complaint about the fuel tax. In fact it proves the complaint.  Let’s look at the definition of regressive:

(of a tax) taking a proportionally greater amount from those on lower incomes.

Now let’s look at the average incomes for each decile

  • Decile 1 – under $23,900
  • Decile 5 – $64,400 to $80,199
  • Decile 10 – over $188,900

So the extra fuel tax as a percentage of income is:

  • Decile 1: 0.52%
  • Decile 5: 0.27%
  • Decile 10: 0.14%

So the article proves the exact opposite of what it claims – that the increase in fuel tax is regressive as it hits lower income households more.

It was also covered by @Economissive on Twitter:

I have some other work I must get done today, but once that’s out of the way I am going to do what Simon Wilson never does and that’s fact check this appallingly bad analysis by the Ministry of Transport and proudly supported by the Minister.

Here’s the big thing the , and have missed: many low-income people don’t own cars.

Students are low income. How many of them own cars? What proportion as compared to say rich professionals? Students generally live near uni and work. They walk or bike or take the bus.

What matters is how much households with cars pay! And the Ministry, Minister and Wilson haven’t provided that data!

THE POOR PAY MORE FOR EACH KILOMETRE. I can’t say this more clearly enough. And have said so for months and months. It is a regressive charge.

Wilson copped a lot of flak on Twitter for his claims (and his acting as an uninquiring repeater for the Government). Last night he conceded:

Hi does  say so today at the hHerald, but it is buried in another Government friendly article – The fuss about fuel taxes and the next big transport debate

He starts by quoting a councillor. Then he rephrases his ‘wealthy people pay more for fuel than poor people’ averages spiel.

What will wealthier people pay? On average per household, they drive more, and as the pump prices suggest, they probably pay more for their petrol too. The wealthiest third of households will face an average fuel price rise at least double that of the poorest.

That might come as a surprise to anyone used to hearing that “fuel taxes hurt the poorest more”, but it shouldn’t. Wealthy people spend more on almost everything.

He follows that with an admission rising fuel taxes will hit poorer people more.

Despite that, however, it is true that these fuel taxes will hurt low-income households more. Low-income households spend a bigger proportion of their money on essentials, including transport costs. So every price rise eats into their disposable income, assuming they even have any.

Wealthier people might not notice having to spend $5 or more a week of something. But many others have to count every penny.

Another factor: people in poorer households are more likely to use public transport, thus not paying for petrol at all. Those who do drive may be travelling further than many wealthier people, and in less fuel-efficient cars too.

And what often happens to the cost of public transport when the cost of fuel rises?

Then Wilson’s brief regression concession.

I wrote earlier this week that the fuel price rises are not regressive. That was wrong. Wealthier people will pay more overall but this will impact them less. The fuel taxes are flat taxes: we all pay the same per litre. And all flat taxes are regressive, for the reasons just outlined.

He then seemed to switch back to promoting Government PR:

On Thursday, finance minister Grant Robertson put the fuel price rises in the context of other changes the Government is making to household incomes. The minimum wage is rising. The Families Package includes a winter energy payment for the elderly and some others on benefits, a means-tested payment for babies and changes to lower-income family tax credits. All of these changes come into effect from July 1, the same day as the council’s regional fuel tax.

Robertson said hundreds of thousands of families would be $75 a week better off, on average, by 2020/21 when the Working for Families measures have been fully implemented. That’s far more cash in hand than the fuel taxes will take away.

But this time Wilson questioned it.

That’s true, but those measures also compensate for many costs facing lower-income families, especially as the Government is not introducing the tax cuts promised by the previous Government.

What he and Robertson didn’t mention is that, while people with families will get more money again from the Government, people without dependant children don’t get Working for Families. And many low income workers have been getting low wage increases for years, and that looks unlikely to change markedly for many.

All income earners are slowly paying higher rates of income tax – the last Government belatedly addressed this by lowering tax rates, but the Labour led Government quickly scrapped them.

I won’t get anything from the above mentioned financial benefits, and neither will many people. Fortunately for me I won’t get the fuel price increase that is being introduced in Auckland, just the smaller country-wide excise tax increase.

And I am an average earner so that won’t impact much. Thinks will get tougher for low income workers in Auckland who don’t have dependent children but who rely on a car for transport, especially if it’s an older less efficient car. Transport owner operators will also have to contend with rising fuel expenses.

Wilson:

All of which points to a hidden issue in all this: what public transport improvements will really make a difference? Should buses and trains be cheaper or more frequent? And why can’t we have both? Lets argue about that.

That’s a bit of a diversion from his repeating for the Government. Perhaps he could look at another hidden issue, the growing divide between workers with families and workers with no dependant children.

What is happening, and it has been for some time, is that workers without children are gradually getting worse off, and there is no sign of that changing.

Fuel tax law passes, more price rises

Parliament has passed the regional fuel tax legislation, just in time for 1 July implementation in Auckland. TYhisn will bump petrol prices up 11.5 cents a litre, but there are claims the real increase in the near future will be double that.

RNZ: Regional fuel tax becomes law

The government’s regional fuel tax changes have become law this evening, ahead of its planned introduction in Auckland on Sunday.

The bill passed 63-57 last night with Labour, NZ First, and Greens in voting in favour, and National and ACT opposed.

It means Aucklanders will be paying another 11.5 cents at the pump, in order to pay for major transport projects.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford told the House he was excited about the possibilities for transport infrastructure, and coming solutions to congestion, once the tax is implemented in New Zealand’s biggest and most congested city.

Mr Twyford told the House that Auckland Council would be accountable for how it uses the money.

But wait, there’s more (increases). NZH: Auckland motorists face two new petrol taxes hiking pump prices by up to 15.5c a litre

The council’s regional fuel tax of 11.5 cents a litre is due to come into effect on July 1.

Weeks later, the Government looks set to increase the fuel excise tax nationwide by between 3c a litre and 4c.

Papers released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the Government intends to increase the fuel excise tax on September 1.

A spokesman for Twyford today said the tax is part of a draft 10-year transport plan due to finalised shortly.

Raising the excise tax happens often. Over nine years the National government raised excise tax six times, once by 2 cents and five times by 3 cents (that’s a total of 17 cents).

Petrol prices rose to near record highs recently before settling back a little.

Auckland prices look set to rise by 14.5 to 15.5 cents soon, plus GST – this will be on top of normal fluctuations.

Other local bodies are lining up to also get their regional fuel tax, but areas outside Auckland may be hit regardless as petrol suppliers often shift price increases around. Regions with less price competition tend to get whacked with higher prices.

 

Government puts House in urgency over fuel tax bill

This may be largely unnoticed as most attention is on Trump’s immigration fiasco and New Zealand media will likely be obsessed with a maternity hospital in Auckland.

URGENCY

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I move, That urgency be accorded to the committee stage and third reading of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill and to the committee stage and third reading of the Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill. McGee says that “the use of urgency is expected to be confined to situations where an urgent approach is genuinely needed.” The passing of these two bills meets this criteria quite comfortably. The passing of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill this week is essential so that the Order in Council in clause 5 under new section 65K of the Land Transport Management Act can be made in time to establish the Auckland regional fuel tax scheme from 1 July, as scheduled. A late delay in the start date would make that very difficult, if not impossible.

The Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill must be assented by the end of this month to allow the commencement of most of its provisions on 1 July to apply in the income year that begins on that day. Any delay could create serious compliance issues for the IRD and for taxpayers. The bill has been supported by all parties at its first and second reading.

The scheduling of the remaining stages of these two bills this week was notified to all parties last Thursday, so there are no particular surprises here. The use of urgency today will prevent the disruption of the third readings of the Treaty settlement bills that are planned tomorrow and next Thursday, and it will stop the Government having to interrupt members’ day next Wednesday, which is an undertaking that I have given to members opposite—that we would avoid interrupting members’ days wherever possible.

Urgency will be used very rarely by this Government, as we showed last month when we became the first Government not to seek post-Budget urgency, and therefore I ask the House to support the motion.

  • [Party Vote—Ayes 63, Noes 55]

    Motion agreed to.

Scoop:  House goes into Urgency over tax bills

The Government moved to put the House into Urgency tonight after making slow progress on the committee stage of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill.

The unusual step was taken to end the debate by reporting progress and then immediately afterwards the Leader of the House Chris Hipkins put the Urgency motion to complete all stages of the fuel tax bill and the Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill.

Hipkins said Urgency was required as the two bills had to be enacted by July 1 and it would mean less disruption to the rest of the House’s sitting programme.

One could ask why the Government has left themselves with so little time to get these bills through in time.

National MPs disagreed saying Urgency was being given without notice due to the Government losing control of its parliamentary agenda.

National MP Jami-Lee Ross then put forward a motion that “it be an instruction to the Committee of the whole House on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill that all members wishing to speak that have already spoken in Part 2 have the ability to have a full four calls reset to zero so each member is able to restart their speaking number”. This in effect would have extended the debate by some time.

Hipkins then moved an amendment to the motion that “the motion be amended to delete all the words after “That” and replace them with “That it be an instruction to the committee that the remaining questions on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill be put without further debate”.

Debate will resume in Parliament at 9 am this morning.

The fuel tax was originally intended to help Auckland with it’s urgent need for more money for transport infrastructure, but it could spread around the country.

Newshub – Revealed: The number of councils considering a fuel tax

Newshub can reveal at least 14 councils across the country have discussed the possibility of implementing a regional fuel tax.

This time next month, Aucklanders will be paying an additional 11.5 cents a litre for their fuel through the regional fuel tax – and it seems other councils want in on the action.

In response to a number of local government Official Information and Meetings Act requests, numerous councils across the nation admitted they were considering a fuel tax.

Those councils are:

  • Christchurch City Council
  • Rangitikei District Council
  • Bay of Plenty Regional Council
  • Thames Coromandel District Council
  • Tauranga City Council
  • Gisborne District Council
  • Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Hamilton City Council
  • Western Bay of Plenty
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Waikato District Council
  • Westland District Council
  • Environment Canterbury
  • Hurunui District Council

Another eight lower North Island councils had discussed the policy at a Mayoral Forum.

The law is currently making its way through Parliament – and while it was drafted to address Auckland congestion, the legislation doesn’t specify that the tax should only be applied in the super city.

 

 

Vote confirms Auckland fuel tax

Auckland City councillors have voted in favour of a regional fuel tax of 11.5 cents that will be applied from 1 July this year.

The council has also a ten year infrastructure budget of $26.2 billion.

RNZ: Auckland’s fuel tax a reality after council vote

Auckland councillors have voted to bring in a 11.5 cent-a-litre regional fuel tax to fund transport projects after a crunch debate today. Councillors voted 13 to 7 in favour of the tax.

Today’s debate on the proposed tax began with Mayor Phil Goff saying the consequences would be “inconceivable” if it was not introduced.

After the debate, Mr Goff told RNZ it was a “great news” for the future of Auckland.

“We’ve grasped the nettle, we know that we need to invest more, we know that for every dollar we invest, we’re getting more than a dollar back in terms of government payments. This is another $4.3 billion into Auckland transport over the next decade and that’s critically impertinent.”

Stuff: Auckland Council approve Goff’s $26 billion budget

On Thursday, council decided to implement Goff’s final proposed budget which will represent the largest-ever investment in Auckland’s infrastructure – $26.2 billion over the next 10 years.

It marked the beginning of “transformative work” aimed to tackle the critical issues of transport congestion and protecting the environment, Goff said.

The largest part of the budget will be going toward transport, where Auckland Council plans to commit $12b, of which $4.3b will be leveraged from the approved regional fuel tax.

That will take the overall transport investment in Auckland to $28b – with Goff also indicating a further $4b could be on the way from the Government to help with light rail.

On the environmental front, $311 million, from a natural environment targeted rate, would go toward tackling kauri dieback.

Auckland’s 10-year budget breakdown:

– The budget represents a capital investment of $26.2b
– $12b for transport
– $452m in stormwater infrastructure and beach/harbour clean up
– $311m from a natural environment targeted rate to tackle Kauri dieback
– $40m for a climate change response fund
– $90m for coastal asset management
– $120m for sports and recreation
– $475,000 to Auckland City Mission to fight homelessness

Big city, big money.

 

Wellington also wants fuel tax

The regional fuel tax for Auckland could spread, if other regions get what they want.

RNZ:  Wellington council offers to join fuel tax plan

Greater Wellington Regional Council would implement a fuel tax if legislation before the house is passed, it says.

Under the proposed law change the regional fuel tax can be charged in Auckland and, from 2021, councils in other areas would also be able to implement one.

Council chair Chris Laidlaw said the tax would be put toward transport infrastructure developments.

“We already have several business cases in front of the government under consideration for rail improvements through the region including the Wairarapa … there are a variety of projects emerging from the ‘Lets Get Wellington Moving’ exercise, which is nearing completion,” Mr Laidlaw said.

He said the cost of these projects meant the council needed all the help it could get.

“They have to be paid for and the local government sector simply doesn’t have the resources to do this and our rates rises are heavy enough as it is,” he said.

He said introducing a regional fuel tax was the most sensible way of raising money for the expensive projects.

Of course other regions would like to avoid direct responsibility for rates rises by instead using different sorts of taxes.

Government proposes more fuel tax, more spending on walking, cycling and trains

The Green influence seems obvious in changes to funding and expenditure on transport, with a possible increase in  fuel tax (for Aucklanders that would be a double hit), and substantially more funding to go towards public transport, and cycle and walking infrastructure.

Stuff:  Government to invest in road safety and rapid rail at expense of state highway upgrades

The Government has unveiled its 10-year plans for land transport, which includes huge investment in road safety and rapid rail at the expense of state highway upgrades.

The annual $4 billion a year National Land Transport Fund is a work programme carried out by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), which is guided by the priorities set by the Government in the Government Policy Statement (GPS).

  • Proposing a fuel tax increase of between nine and 12 cents a litre to fund a raft of new land transport plans that focus on investing in road safety and rapid rail.

The tax would be a double whammy for Aucklanders who can also expect Auckland Council to introduce about ten cents a litre in regional fuel taxes to pay for major transport projects.

  • Walking and cycling infrastructure is getting a 248 per cent boost in funding over three years and a whole new area is being set up to deal with funding for rapid transit.
  • The other big investment areas in the GPS are regional roading improvements, public transport – which is receiving a 46 per cent hike in funding – and new investment in rapid transit and rail.

So a major shift being tried from private car use to public transport and Shanks’ pony.

But National’s transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross says the Government’s proposal will be met with “anger and disappointment right around New Zealand”.

Cutting $5 billion out of the state highway construction programme over ten years is an “extraordinary blow for regional New Zealand from a Government which has claimed to stand behind it”.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter:

Today marks our first huge win for the Greens in government.  Alongside Labour, we’ve just announced an exciting, transformative transport strategy for Aotearoa.

The National government were stuck in neutral, taking money from the regions to spend 40% of the transport budget on just a few stretches of motorway. Instead, we’re putting that money into projects with high total returns and focussing on public transport, cycling and road safety upgrades, especially in regional areas where we have seen far too many accidents and roads in disrepair.

What does it mean? We’ll more than double expenditure on public transport and cycleways in cities, but we know that half of all travel occurs on local and regional roads. New investment of $800 million will focus on desperately needed safety improvements – more median barriers and passing lanes on the open road, and safer streets in our towns. We’re also investing in regional rail to reduce big trucks on your roads.

And we’re tackling climate change. For the first time ever, we’re making the environment a major priority in transport. From now on, transport spending must focus on how it can reduce climate pollution as well as other negative impacts on public health such as water quality.

I’m so proud of these wins. They wouldn’t have happened without the Greens in government.

Some good will come of this, but not everyone will be happy.

You may be best to hope for subsidised walking shows and bicycle clips, and hope you live c lose enough to a railway line but not too close to be annoyed by the noise.

Mayors divided on regional fuel tax

Dave Cull, Dunedin mayor and also president of Local Government New Zealand, has suggested that a regional fuel tax ”might” be something that could be used outside Auckland, both other Otago mayors have different ideas on raising more money.

ODT: Regional fuel tax might work: Cull

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says a fuel tax such as that proposed for Auckland may be something that could raise money for infrastructure in Dunedin, but mayors in the rest of the region have not supported the idea.

Mr Cull pointed to the Port Chalmers cycle/walkway as one project a regional fuel tax could help pay for.

He said such a tax was appropriate for funding transportation infrastructure, but other mechanisms would be more appropriate for other needs.

”Across the country there are instances where there are transportation infrastructure needs, and there’s even money within the NZ Transport Agency available, but there’s not sufficient resource in the local body to match the funding, so nothing happens.”

The cycle/walkway to Port Chalmers was an example where a lack of resources was the problem.

”That would be a candidate for that sort of funding.”

”It’s about all road users contributing to make the whole system safer and more efficient.”

It seems to be more about trying to find ways of funding projects without having to keep raising rates so much.

The amount of money spent on cycleways and the disruption to traffic is already a contentious issue in Dunedin. Hundreds of car parks in or near the CBD have been removed or are planned to be removed to make way for cycle lanes on streets, including on both main streets running right through the city.

There is low usage of the cycle lanes. I was talking to someone yesterday who was parked for half an hour on state highway one during the busiest traffic time of day, and they saw three cyclists. I daily drive on streets where all car parks have been converted to cycle lanes that are only occasionally used by cyclists, most days I see none.

I think that fuel is already quite a bit more expensive down here. Slapping a tax on it to fund pet council projects would likely be very unpopular.

Other mayors in the area want more money other than from rate hikes but not from a fuel tax.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult…

…said the fuel tax might work for Auckland but not for Queenstown, which had 5million visitor nights and just 16,000 ratepayers.

”Large numbers of people fly in here on aeroplanes, arriving on tour coaches, so their ability to contribute to our economy is limited through a petrol tax.”

Instead, he wanted a visitor levy, something he had said before ”constantly”.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan…

…said the area’s fuel was already more expensive than Auckland’s, so he did not support a fuel tax.

Paying for expensive infrastructure was a problem.

The planned Cromwell wastewater treatment plant had a budget of $10 million and the Lake Dunstan water supply project would cost up to $17 million.

”We’ve got 20,000 people living here; that’s pretty tough.”

Using a fuel tax to pay fore waste water treatment and water supply would be ridiculous. Cromwell is increasingly popular for tourists, and also operates as a satellite town for Queenstown and Wanaka. It is also the centre of a thriving wine region.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan…

…said local government ”needs something”, but he did not support a fuel tax.

The issue Clutha had was paying for infrastructure related to its tourism industry, which was ”not as advanced as most”.

The area had a declining and ageing population and the council could not keep going back to them for more money.

”It just seems so simple to put a tax on for tourists when they come in. We need it, and we need it now.”

Clutha District includes the Catlins area that is increasingly popular for tourists (for good reason, it’s a great area to visit).

However all these areas have different situations and needs.

Fuel is already taxed heavily in New Zealand:

  • 59.524 cents – National Land Transport Fund
  • 6 cents – ACC Motor Vehicle Account
  • 0.66 cents – Local Authorities Fuel Tax
  • 0.3 cents – Petroleum or Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy
  • 9.9726 cents GST on the above taxes

We pay a total of 26 cents GST on $2 of petrol (diesel is taxed differently).

Just under a half of the cost of fuel is tax already.

From the AA:

It is now government policy for all of the petrol excise tax motorists pay to be directed to the National Land Transport Fund for investment back into New Zealand’s road and transport system. The AA lobbied hard on behalf of motorists for many years to have all the taxes devoted to road building and maintenance, road safety education and enforcement, and subsidies for public transport.

Previously, about 19 cents per litre of the tax motorists paid on petrol was diverted by the government to non-road and transport related projects.

For far too long there has been significant under-investment in the nation’s road and transport network, and tax diversion has been unfair and at the expense of motorists.

Motorists must not be selectively taxed or treated as an easy source of tax revenue to pay for projects that would be more fairly funded by other sources such as rates or general taxation.

We don’t support regional petrol levies that unfairly target motorists to subsidise the transport decisions of others. The future funding of public transport must not be another tax on motorists added to current taxes and charges, but has to be independently justified in terms of defined benefits to motorists.

Back to Cull:

On the Government’s commitment to reviewing local government costs and revenue, Mr Cull said LGNZ had been saying the revenue stream from rating property was not sustainable.

Perhaps it is extravagant spending wishes of councils that is unsustainable.

One could cynically suggest that mayors and councillors want to divert attention from them raising rates far more than inflation.

Our fuel is already taxed heavily. Perhaps mayors need to look more at user pays – but that’s never likely to happen for cyclists.

There’s a good case for some cycleways. A recently partly built harbour side cycleway here in Dunedin is popular and well used – mostly recreationally. One problem is the escalating cost of extending this all the way to Port Chalmers – estimates have over doubled.

Were initial estimates hopeless, or do rules and regulations and ideal requirements blow out the costs? There are suggestions that cycleway construction is lucrative because councils pay whatever it takes. The Dunedin Council wasted half a million dollars on a poorly designed cycleway that had to be redesigned and is still hardly used.

Getting sensible mayors, councillors and planners may be more important than finding ways to hide how much we are increasingly taxed and rated.

Talking of rates – they are about $2000 a year for an average house in Dunedin – how does that compare to elsewhere?