Tomorrow the Council will make their final decision on whether to proceed with the Regional Fuel Tax – which is fundamental to delivering the ATAP transport programme by helping to fund the following projects:
As part of the legislative requirements for introducing the fuel tax, the Council undertook consultation earlier this month on the proposal. This was done at the same time as the Regional Land Transport Plan.
This is the second round of public consultation on the Regional Fuel Tax. The first phase took place as part of the Council’s 10 year budget consultation process in March, which included both the normal feedback process and a fairly weighty scientific poll of 4000 people. Across these three, it seems that there’s a relatively even split between those who support the idea and those who oppose it. Drawing more specific conclusions than this is a bit tricky, given the large number of pro-forma submissions – as the Regional Fuel Tax paper going to the Council on Thursday highlights:
The paper compares these results with previous consultation on the 10 year budget:
As set out above, as part of the 10-year Budget consultation, the Council also sought the community’s views on the introduction of an RFT of 10 cents per litre plus GST to fund transport infrastructure in Auckland. Colmar Brunton were also used to conduct a representative survey of the key questions in the LTP, one of which was the RFT. Written responses to the public consultation on the RFT showed 46 per cent support, 48 per cent did not support and 6 per cent chose other. When these statistics were adjusted by excluding all pro forma submissions, the results were 48 per cent support, 43 per cent did not support and 9 per cent other. The Colmar Brunton survey found 52 per cent support for the RFT, 43 per cent did not support and 5 per cent chose other. More detail on both the public feedback and the Colmar Brunton survey is publicly available on the Council website.
It is noted that both of these results preceded the government’s announcement of an increase in fuel excise duty, however, the results of public consultation, after adjusting for proformas, is very similar.
What’s perhaps more interesting than the numbers game of support or opposition, is the split in support across the different projects proposed to be funded by the Regional Fuel Tax:
I guess Mill Road and Penlink aren’t that popular after all, whereas safety is absolutely where the public want to see extra investment. Maybe we could chop out the two least popular projects and reduce the fuel tax to 9c a litre? 😉
Looking through some of the more detailed submissions, especially from Local Boards, it’s clear that there is a widespread concern about affordability impacts of the fuel tax. It is certainly unfortunate that the Regional Fuel Tax comes at time when we are facing unusually high fuel prices. Nevertheless, 15 of the 21 Local Board support the proposal with only two (Howick and Manurewa) opposing it. Great Barrier, Papakura, Upper Harbour and Waiheke Local Board provided comment, but not a specific position.
As I discussed in detail last week, these affordability and equity concerns are real and reasonable. However, it’s important to remember that the Regional Fuel Tax will make up around 15% of the Council’s expenditure on transport over the next decade ($1.5 billion out of around $10 billion in total). This means that 85% will still come from normal sources like rates, which is more progressive (while coming with a host of potentially unfair elements itself). I’m hopeful the Regional Fuel Tax will proceed, as otherwise it will be impossible to make major progress on improving transport in Auckland.