A very interesting article appeared in Friday’s Bob Dey Property Report, noting how NZTA is keen on developing arguments for them to be able to receive development contributions to help fund state highway upgrades – like Council can use them to fund infrastructure that is required by the new development.
The Government’s NZ Transport Agency wants to muscle in on a rural council’s developer levies, arguing the state-funded road network is a significant part of the local infrastructure.
The agency has lodged an appeal against the Kaipara District Council’s proposed new district plan, which could go to a hearing by mid-year.
The transport agency is tax-funded through levies on fuel sales & vehicle use. Council development & financial contributions levied on property development are intended to pay for infrastructure attributable to new development.
This is quite an interesting prospect. NZTA can only raise money at the moment through fuel sales, registration and road user charges – and as we know, as vehicle use declines (as it has been doing), NZTA’s funding source dries up.
The transport agency made a submission on Kaipara’s proposed district plan in 2009, but the council rejected it. The agency argued: “NZTA considers that, to achieve the long-term sustainability of the state highway network, it is necessary to ensure that growth & development contributes to the cost of any improvements to the network that are necessitated by such development.
“NZTA further considers that it is appropriate that such contributions are secured through district plan financial contributions provisions, particularly where increases in traffic generated by development necessitates the upgrade of state highways.
“NZTA considers that such contributions are particularly appropriate in the Kaipara district, where the state highways are the pre-eminent component on the transportation infrastructure of the district.”
In its appeal, lodged with the Environment Court in November, the agency said the council rejection of its submission “will not promote the efficient use & development of the state highway resource. Subdivision & development can have a significant effect on the state highway network, particularly in the Kaipara district, where the state highway functions as part of the local roading network.
“There is no resource management reason to distinguish between council-controlled & NZTA-controlled roads when levying financial contributions in a district. The decision will restrict the agency’s ability to assist in providing a safe, responsive & sustainable state highway system for the Kaipara district.”
I can sort of see the logic in what NZTA’s saying here. If significant development around the state highway network generates significant traffic levels that lead to an upgrade of a state highway being necessary, then there is a logic to that development contributing to the cost of upgrading transport to support it. If applied in Auckland, this could significantly add to the cost of new urban sprawl if its development had to make contributions to NZTA as well as to the council.
On the other hand, it seems equally compelling to suggest that if NZTA can’t afford new state highway projects because people are driving less and paying less fuel tax, then maybe we don’t need all those new state highway projects after all?