Back in March, as part of consultation on the Long-term Plan, the Council was in the awkward position of needing to ask the public whether they supported a Regional Fuel Tax without being able to exactly say what the money it would raise would be spent on. Despite this, amazingly a majority of Aucklanders still supported the proposal – as evidenced through a 4000 person scientific Colmar Brunton poll.

With the release of ATAP last week, there is now clarity on the transport programme the fuel tax will enable to be delivered. There will now be a two week consultation period, starting today, that discusses this detail. Yesterday the Council’s Governing Body approved the list of projects that the fuel tax will enable to be delivered over the next ten years. This is briefly summarised below:

What’s perhaps the most interesting thing about this list is the grand total – that the Regional Fuel Tax will enable around $4.3 billion of transport capital investment and $250 million of operating cost over the next decade that would otherwise not happen. This is because the Regional Fuel Tax “unlocks” the following further funding:

  • Around $700 million of development contributions
  • Around $2 billion of NZTA subsidy from the National Land Transport Fund

The different projects are explained in a bit more detail in the consultation overview document:

Because the Regional Fuel Tax enables more development contributions funding and also gets “matched” by NZTA funding, it is ultimately making up a huge part of the overall transport programme. ATAP detailed a total spend on new projects (i.e. not operating costs or asset renewals) of around $16 billion. Once major committed projects like City Rail Link as well as projects that will be fully funded by the Government (like light-rail) are taken out, the Regional Fuel Tax really looks like it enables the funding of pretty much Auckland’ Transport’s entire non-committed programme. Or, put differently, if the Regional Fuel Tax is not ultimately approved, then nothing on the list above can happen.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether a Regional Fuel Tax is the “fairest” way of increase transport funding. From a social equity perspective it might be fairer to just raise rates by 13-14% instead. But, rightly or wrongly, I can’t see such a high rates increase happening. This means that if we want bus priority improvements, a huge increase to road safety investment, to finally build the AMETI Eastern Busway, to buy more trains and fully utilise City Rail Link, to actually have a walking and cycling programme and much much more, we need the Regional Fuel Tax.

It really is that simple. You can make a submission here.

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  1. The tax is regressive, but at the same times the touching sudden “concern” and crocodile tears for the poor from right wing opponents is impossible to take seriously. The fact of the matter is that if central government won’t let local government to levy, say, it’s own sales taxes or give local government access to any other revenue raising tools then a petrol tax it has to be.

    The biggest threat to PT in Auckland is Simon Bridge’s rash promise to can the fuel tax if National should win the election in 2020. A policy platform that agrees to the need for PT but makes no provision for funding it is simply not credible and turns National into a laughing stock on a key Auckland issue. But his threat/promise highlights the Achilles heal of transport funding in the Auckland region in the point I made above – the extraordinary level of centralisation of revenue and planning governance in Wellington.

    Truth be told, it is outrageous that centralised political parties can play political football with Aucklanders PT needs by the simple expedient of using executive power to choke off funding.

    1. Simon Bridges doesnt need to have this fuel tax because he and National will just use “the national budget”, whatever the hell that thingy budget thing is.

      More accurately though what Simons was really saying was, National will go to the Tooth Fairy and she will give him the money, all the money he ever wants!

      No more hollowing out the emaciated health, police, justice and education budgets like Bill did, no, not for Simon, just imaginary budgets will do!

    2. Is a fuel tax really regressive? I would have thought higher earners are more likely to drive to work and also have much more discretionary use of their cars, not to mention filling up the boat.

      As an aside, I’m quite looking forward to Bridges explaining to the rest of the country that he doesn’t think Auckland should be taxed more to pay for its projects, not that I think he will still be leader in 2020 anyway.

      1. It’s a subtle question, that one. I can’t think of a clear answer. But I did have some thoughts:
        – The poor may not able to afford a car, but that may mean they are also shut out from jobs, and many other destinations. Auckland is a pretty brutal place to get around without a car.
        – Can the poor catch public transport or cycle? I don’t think so, you need to be rich to afford a place where either of those is feasible. New investment in both is still concentrated in wealthy areas.

        For example, on the North Shore the bifurcation between the east coast bays (very expensive) vs the rest (average to expensive) is so obvious it’s almost comical. Look at where the improvements are in both the New Network and the cycling investment programme.

        Regressive or not: if most of the benefits flow to already very wealthy areas, then yes.

        1. So looking at how they’re spending it, Roeland, is it flowing to already very wealthy areas? Looks to me like it’s spread across the city.

          However, Mill Rd, Penlink, road corridor improvements, and growth related transport infrastructure support car dependency rather than a particular socioeconomic group. The money going to safety improvements – necessary because of the roads-bias to date – will only mitigate the reduction in safety citywide due to the extra traffic from those listed items.

          I think it’s divide and conquer again, Roeland. Just as the fight between HR and LR divides PT support, so does a resistance to the fuel tax on the basis of equity. Fuel tax, like all pollution and carbon taxes, has a generally sound basis of influencing behaviour away from polluting activity. Congestion pricing and subsidies to trucking aside, a fuel tax is fundamentally a good thing.

          Spending money on more roads does not have a generally sound basis, so that’s where we should be putting our energy campaigning.

        2. I agree regarding the difficulty of accessing transport full stop for the very poor. Improving the reach of the bus network is probably the best solution for this.

          However, I don’t agree that rich areas benefit most from PT spend. The biggest spend to date on PT improvements has been on the rail network, which primarily benefits the west and south, hardly the richest areas of the city. Future RTN coverage will include Westgate, Massey, Hillsborough and Mangere.

        3. Otahuhu, Manukau & Mangere have all just had new transport hubs & bus networks implemented, hardly all rich areas. Mangere has also had cycleway work etc. I think it’s all pretty well spread.

      2. A fair amount of that is “concern trolling” from the anti-PT right.

        (Yes, tending libertarian-right myself i feel weird writing that).

    3. Simon and his ‘promises’ reminds me of Muldoon’s promise to dismantle Labour’s national super fund back in 1975. More short-sighted lunacy from National.

    4. Don’t worry National has just lost most of Auckland’s votes in the next election, 52 per cent support the Regional Fuel Tax & I think most want improvements to PT, cycling & safer more walkable streets.

      1. With the number of PT-supporting National voters I know, you’d have to wonder if National is going to split into two at some stage.

        1. they are effectively 2 political parties now, a bit like the semi permanant australian ‘coalition’ of nationals & liberals.

  2. The easiest way to tell if a poll is scientific is that the good ones include a category “No F**k Off! – 38%”

    1. agree to an extent – the idea itself of having a poll to decide if a fuel tax should go ahead is purely window dressing – politically no tax is favourable, just need to implement it and move on.

      1. I was thinking of the response they get when they ring up to ask you to answer their questions. The polling companies never tell you how many hang up on them. It matters too. This is how Trump’s win was a surprise to people.

        1. They never ring me up because we don’t have a land line. Spark barraged us with advertising stating how bad the copper network is in our area (it is) and would we like a lovely new wireless “landline”. A mobile phone that isn’t mobile. No thanks Spark and as you have reminded us of how poor your service is we will dispense with it. We are not the only ones that have abandoned their landline.

          That raises the question of just how random a sample conducted by phone is. I suspect that it is far from “scientific”. As you point out, mfwic, it also misses out on the exasperated curmudgoens (such as yourself) and the time poor who decline to participate.

        2. Well I guess that’s it then, Heidi…game set and match….QED

          I guess we engineers are scientific…mostly.
          I do, however, like to put the cans on and listen to music as I design.

        3. Funny thing is though, that I almost refused to participate, because I didn’t know who would use the info… certain political parties being so organised when it comes to finding info ahead of time and being prepared with spin. And then I thought “don’t overthink everything, doofus.”

          Music while you work, eh? You need a drummer in the family, too. It helps me appreciate beautiful silence…

        4. Huh, who in their right mind responds to phone surveys?

          — It’s for a survey. What’s your gender?
          — What’s your age?
          — What’s your area?
          — What’s the name of your cat?

          At this point you still have no idea who’s calling you, and whether it is actually a survey or if they’re just trying to sell you something.

          — It’s just a short survey. What’s your favourite color of shoes?

          and so on. Eventually:

          — Do you have [whatever] insurance?

          Ah, bingo. At least now you know they’re trying to sell you insurance. Of course you still don’t know which company.

          This is one of those things you do exactly once. The next time someone calls for a ‘survey’ you tell them to drop dead and hang up.

        5. “You need a drummer in the family, too.”

          That statement is factually incorrect.

        6. Yes.

          It’s in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard”

        7. “What’s the name of your cat?”

          Life lesson: Never call your cat “Lucky”.

        8. Another goodie from Adams, relevant to the thread we thought we were reading, is “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer”. I think mfwic should probably say “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that you won’t understand my irony.”

  3. Thanks Matt. Good information to see. The shift that’s happened to more PT, safety and active mode spending is very welcome. Just a pity that the spending on more roads will continue to exacerbate car dependency and all the ills that come with it.

    1. 🙂 Nup, I was a day ahead of myself. It’s only the 1st today. All day, in fact. So it’s due tomorrow at 5 pm. At least my error meant I got mine in on time.

  4. There were three car carriers in port on Sunday. I have just read a Newsroom report which believes the extra monies will only keep the congestion at 2016 levels. Also according to Phil Goff the extra capacity from the Waterview tunnel was used up in three months.
    So resources should be used to create congestion free routes and shortcuts (Bus ways) for our buses. Not so sure about the cycle ways but short cuts that can be used for cycling and walking would be great. One that has always bugged me is getting from great south road to Onehunga without having to go all the way to Neilson street. A few more cycling or pedestrian crossings over both the motorways and our railway lines would help too. The cars can go around the long way cause the more congestion the better.

    1. Royce, I believe that the Newsroom report is right on the money. The only things that will significantly reduce congestion are things that we have not yet seen. Phil Twyford has spoken of lowering fare box recovery. I don’t believe that change will be significant, but it might make a few percentage points difference to PT ridership.

      Mayor Goff has said no congestion charges for five years. I think he gave some nebulous reason, but translate it to, “I want another term”.

      I believe that the petrol tax will only have a small impact on congestion. An 11 cent fuel tax will still leave petrol prices at a lower level than they were a couple of years ago. A congestion charge will have to be a meaningful number for it to cause many to decease their driving habits.

      One thing we do know is that change is on the way with MBIE looking to appoint a senior manager to a Just Transition team looking to transition our economy away from fossil fuels. It doesn’t seem that they are contemplating just a few more bus services.

  5. Why did several the previous governments fuel tax rises go virtually unnoticed?

    Where was the Herald and it’s helpers howling at the moon in outrage then, with the new taxes to be poured into motorways and cover for tax cut losses?


  6. Recall that we had a fuel levy/tax all set to go in 2009, but when National came to power in late 2008 they canned it as one of the first things they did. Despite repeated requests by Auckland for some form of replacement the Government refused to assist in any way – hence the flat rate levy that was introduced 3 years ago, albeit due to expire this year. So this in my view is not a new tax as some allege but a reinstatement of where we were 9 years ago.
    Note also that the consultation this time around is not about whether to actually have such a levy, or what rate it should be set at – it is purely about whether the mix of projects it will fund is correct. I for one am not at all happy about the two big new road projects, but if that is the price of progress then so be it.

    1. Excellent points, Graeme. Had the fuel tax been in place since 2009, the city’s public transport infrastructure would be in much better shape, and many more people would have alternatives available to them today.

      The time to plan for a child’s well-being is 100 years before conception.

      1. I agree with you. The problem with National they have only short term (3 yearly) thinking as oppose to the current government’s efforts for 10 years planning, a least the voters know what the plans are on deciding any future government.

    2. Yes, for one if the fuel tax had been left in in 2009 we would have CRL well under way by now.
      With initial borrowing funded from the fuel tax until the Gov’t changed or saw sense.

      Agree with the big ticket roading projects should be reviewed, but one of these items is Penlink and I think that will quietly go on the backburner when the costs and likely toll are made public.
      Releasing those funds for other projects…

      While to some extent you need the PT projects in place to be able to bring in Demand Management.

      We know a lot of the congestion is from induced traffic we have “created out of thin air” by having roads only, will in turn vanish again once its made to pay something tangible towards its costs.

      So we may be able to bring in Demand management without a major crisis.

  7. I’ve also been struck by the childish tone coming from National MPs on transport funding. From a transport perspective it’s time for Auckland to pay the piper: notwithstanding historical levels of underinvestment, additional investment is required to accommodate rapid growth.

    By opposing the fuel tax national are implicitly supporting one or more of the following options: 1) less investment; 2) higher rates or other road user charges; 3) increases in general taxation; or 4) cuts to general government services. Now I’m open to hearing which combination of these National think is preferable to fuel taxes but they do need to front with some detail.

    1. It’s because they are children. Neither Simon Bridges or Jaimee-Lee Ross are likely to be serious players by the time National are next in government, they are just fill-ins.

        1. This. Children are firmly on the side of public transport. I’ve seen far more children using public transport than I have seen in single occupant vehicles.

    2. National believe in 1, 3 & 4. If they were prepared to let a hospital rot to fund reduced taxes then they are pretty much prepared to do anything to our country. Thank goodness for the Westminster system which threw them out.

    3. Another option is for Auckland Council / Auckland Transport (not exactly two of the world’s most efficient organisations) to make savings. Either through efficiency or cutting services elsewhere. Why always consult on where people want to invest more? Why not consult on where people want to spend less?

      1. Obviously there should always be a push for savings and efficiencies. However because transport is such a big part of the council’s budget you would have to essentially eliminate other areas of funding (libraries, parks etc.) to deliver even a minor increase in the transport budget.

        1. It’s 37% according to my rates bill this morning. Leveraged with a decent chunk of other (central government) funding as well of course. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. The fuel tax, universal rate and general rates rises are pretty tough for many people.

      2. We have a bit of a problem that for the sake of keeping rates low, we have under-invested in many parts of Auckland’s infrastructure, meaning what the next generation inherits is more problem-prone and costly to bring up to scratch, as well as more polluted. That has to end, not be exacerbated by further cost-cutting. The area where we’ve been spending vast amounts of money in the wrong way has been transport, with the roads bias. Now, we could fix that cheaply. Reallocate it all to active modes and PT. That would be effective. We’d just need many more buses and bus stops, but think of all the cars we could export. However, car drivers seem to think they need to keep driving, so we have a whole lot of expensive projects coming up to continue to accommodate them.

  8. I support the regional fuel tax and its demonstrated linking to a range of projects that will benefit a wide range of people. Because some major investments (CRL, LRT) will not operate till after the next election, it is important that that Aucklanders can see benefits from the fuel tax in the short term. “Quick win” projects should be prioritised. To me one area that needs a boost is PT operational funding. Many off peak service frequencies are poor. Boosting requires no more capital – the peak hour fleet is easily bi* enough – but it needs more drivers and operating budget. Off peak services benefit many people. Not everyone works or studies 9 to 5 any more, and these people are usually still in the peak for one leg of their commute. TfL found that this strategy actually boosted revenue more than it cost.

    1. This is what “Network Capacity and Performance Improvement” (Item 13) should be funding. But when you look at the description, it’s all about cars again.

      In fact, it worries me very much that traffic light phasing changes are described as a measure to improve network capacity and are not mentioned under Road Safety (Item 8).

      That smacks of more moves to make a less walkable city.

  9. I do agree with the regional fuel tax,
    but I would also like to see the current funds dedicated to all transport spent ‘more wisely’ – surely some of the existing maintenance works could be saved or delayed slightly? Some roads are ‘gold plated’ when it comes to maintenance and up-keep. i guess this is purely an observational critique, but it would be good to know we are squeezing the most out of what is currently in the pot.

    1. Councils and NZTA have been stretching their maintenance budgets for years. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to squeeze those last few months out of assets before they need renewing. In saying that, I can think of four contributing factors to why road infrastructure might appear to be gold plated:

      – Councils want to react to customer complaints. Most customer complaints regarding roads are about either ride quality (removing bumps, fixing potholes etc) or aesthetic considerations. So there is a bias towards keeping roads looking nice cause that’s what the customer experiences. This may create equity issues where the suburbs with residents that complain the most get a slightly higher standard of maintenance.
      – It’s usually cheaper to intervene with maintenance work sooner than later when it’s become a bigger problem. For example fixing surface cracks before water has time to get in and create potholes.
      – Roads with high volumes of heavy vehicles can degrade pretty fast. I can think of one extreme example in Hamilton where an intersection needed resurfacing after only six months due to rutting in the asphalt on approach lanes.
      – Safety considerations are a high priority. These include keeping signage in good condition, maintaining surface texture (to prevent loss of traction) and preventing ponding (to prevent hydroplaning).

    2. Cutting back on maintenance never ends well, far better to keep maintenance up and cut back on new expenditure if funds are limited.

      1. I must agree. Do not defer maintenance of road or PT assets. Usually they deteriorate fast if unmaintained, and a modest maintenance “saving” turns into a costly repair bill.

      2. Jezza, yes important to do maintenance, but surely on a basis as is reasonably required rather than say cyclical maintenance where the cycle may or may not be appropriate for that piece of road.

        I currently have an OIA of AT inquiring of their pavement resurfacing practices. If only 10% could be saved annually that would make a big contribution to PT under funding of $21 million. And then an even bigger question is why AT spent $29 million more on road maintenance this year than last.

        Could a more appropriate allocation have funded Sea Path for example.

      3. There’s always someone to complain of wasteage and insist that there *must* be savings to be made on this or that, as if Council or Government or whoever had never thought of that themselves. The reality, though, is that those organisations have people who spend all day, every day trying to weasel every last cent out of every single department and checking on whether the outcomes would be a net benefit or not. It is arrogant and ignorant and a often a waste of everyone’s time to assume that they’re just not trying.

  10. Its important for public transport and cycling and pedestrian access to take control of how the light rail route will run through Onehunga. There is money in there to build a scaled down East West link so we don’t want the rail route to be compromised before the light rail gets there given that it will be at least 5 years. So what I am thinking is we should build the bridge across the harbour now and use it as a bus only bridge until it is time to lay the track. So buses could run from the current bus stop at the station turn left into Neilson street and then turn right onto the old rail formation that runs down to the port. Across the new bridge and then through Mangere Bridge and Mangere town center.This new bridge would also be used for cycling and walking and fishing. There could be a direct bus to the airport as well as the 380, 309 and 313.

    1. I think there is marginal value is making this a bus route.

      1. The Old Mangere bridge (OMB) needs to be replaced.
      2. LRT over the OMB is I think the best alignment
      3. The new OMB design needs to be changed from the consented design to account for this.

      That said, I think that a bus over this route adds marginal value. Most of the time for this route is not crossing the bridge but travelling around Mangere.

      Fundamentally Mangere needs a RTN option. Then buses like the 313 and 309 can feed into the RTN at Mangere Town Center.

      Alternatively I think the LRT should start in Mangere/Onehunga as stage one. Then build back into the city. Not from the from the city to Roskill as stage one. I’ve been short of time recently and don’t have enough time to spend on the GA blog. But Ben Ross as some posts on why this reasoning. (*)

      There are other reasons why this transport project in Onehunga can’t be just about getting vehicles and people moving faster.

      1. Mangere needs rapid transport to provide social outcomes.
      2. There is an opportunity to develop a transport/land use alignment between Onehunga, Onehunga Port, Mangere, the airport and Manukau.
      3. Specially in Onehunga the alignment of the LRT and HRT station might allow for the creation of a public plaza space – this needs to be considered.
      4. Alignment between the LRT and Port could open up the Manukau harbour to the whole city – the white beaches of Awhitu are very nice.

      Note: I might not reply here, but you can ping me on twitter:

      (*) See:

      Probably some others.

      1. Interesting thanks, Nicholas. Particularly the depot location one. The Stoddard Rd location looked stupid to me, and there are several benefits to Ben Ross’s proposed location. Would be good to have a post about depot location, but I’m sure it’ll turn into HR vs LR again.

  11. It is as good as tax can get, putting desperately needed money into infrastructure, while providing a good reason to not rely so heavily upon a private motor vehicle for transportational purposes.

  12. I like the geographical benefit chart, a response to parochial complainers who claim their region never gets enough of the pie. Greg Sayers is the latest – good luck going to national media with that, the rest of the country sees you as just another jafa

  13. What about public transport to Kumeu / Huapai? Nothing out there. I have to drive to work.

    1. The northwest rapid transit corridor will be funded by the government, which is why it’s not included in the regional fuel tax package.

  14. Wondering are there any budget is allocated to improve train station walking and cycling connection to surrounding amenities?

    1. Not enough. The active transport fund may be quite a bit more than it was, but we’ve got a whole city to fix.

    2. There’s a $640 million walking and cycling programme. I’m sure that improving access to train stations is a priority for at least some of that money.

      1. I hope so. I asked Phil Twyford at a transport meeting in late January if (following up on his thoughts on LRT and the scaled-down EWL) if they had a fund for smaller projects such as train station access (I mentioned Sylvia Park and the Orakei Local Board’s Gowing Drive access project). Phil admitted that they did not, and didn’t seem too enthusiastic to set one up.

        Hopefully the situation has changed. In any case, improving access to train stations is something we need to keep pushing for, it’s a low-hanging fruit for improving PT usage and social amenity.

  15. Seriously? Or roads are practically billiard tables compared to Australian, European or American cities’. What’s with the obsession with re-sealing, re-kerbing perfectly decent roads? Or replacing really quite good footpaths with perfect ones? (While missing out on some awful ones).. doesn’t look like best practice condition based maintenance.

    1. If you have a weatherboard house its much cheaper to regularly repaint it than wait until the rot sets in and have to replace structural elements of the building.
      Road infrastructure is no different. Resurfacing is far far cheaper than rehabilitation. If you can keep water out of your structural pavement layers then they’ll last a lot longer.

  16. Why NZ oil price is so high compare with other major countries? Shall tax fund is needed, why not look at how much oil company take from us instead of just asking consumer to pay for extra?

    Given that NZ dollar inflated a lot recent years, and world oil price dropped a lot, but NZ Oil price just keep increasing. The Govt should look at this before asking consumer to pay for any extra, shall oil company not willing to cut down their huge profit, NZ Govt shall bring in measure/competitors to cut their profit.

    Oil Price per Liter of major city/countries for comparison:

    AU/MEL: AU$ 1.34 = NZ$1.43
    AU/ADL: AU$1.2 = NZ$1.28
    JP/TKO: YEN138 = NZ$1.79
    JP/OSA YEN 141 = NZ$1.84
    USA US$0.82 = NZ$1.17
    TAIWAN US$0.98 = NZ$1.4
    FIJI US$1 = NZ$1.43
    Canada US$1.18 = NZ$1.69
    China US$1.19 = NZ$1.7

    NZ oil price for the last 12 months as least at the range of NZ$1.8+, normal at around 2 NZ dollar.

    Should the NZ Govt look into the high NZ Oil price before asking NZer to pay any extra??!!

        1. Oil is capital that belongs to the whole world, including future generations, and needs to be very carefully managed, because burning it creates climate change. Unfortunately, we’ve been burning it off in huge quantities, as if it’s a renewable resource. This is putting the very health of our planet and viability of many species at peril.

          Oil needs to be treated as capital, not as income. One of the best ways to limit its use and preserve options for future generations is to put its price higher. If our country’s oil price is high, that’s something we’re doing better than other places.

          If you want to delve into equity issues, it isn’t oil price that you need to look at, but maybe how corporations dodge tax and don’t clean up after their activities.

        2. Heidi, the point is where the money go. The sky high Oil price of NZ, why and who take it is the point.

    1. Im sure that you are from one of those countries on your list so maybe you can just travel back there and pay less

  17. when do submissions close? The linked council webpage just says “Closing soon” Is that in the next 30 mins, or in the next week?

  18. Well the bill has been passed this TAX is coming in however The Coalition Clan has left out one very important clause in this bill and that is what it is doing to prevent Fuel Companies trying to use tax increases once again to fill their pockets as we have seen in the past decade where fuel companies did not just pass on tax but actually more than that and used the tax as an excuse to gouge the public hence why fuel companies have such high profit margins.

  19. Personally I would rather catch public transport than drive to work. Too many bad drivers to worry about on the roads. I would rather sit on the bus and watch a video or read a book and arrive to work stress free. Problem is public transport is unreliable so until then I will drive. Also, if the poor are so concerned then Gov should subsidise public transport but sadly NZ is a bit to relaxed when it comes to infrastructure. All of this could have been done years ago and probably cost a lot less. AT is full of dropkicks though.

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