Next Monday it will be a year since the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax was introduced. This 10 cent per litre charge (plus GST) is critical in supporting delivery of the $28 billion ATAP transport programme.

Projects funded by the Regional Fuel Tax are listed in the table below:

One important aspect to remember about the Regional Fuel Tax is that even though the charge itself raises about $1.5 billion over the next decade, this extra funding actually supports $4.2 billion of projects because it also unlock more funding from NZTA and from development contributions.

Last week Auckland Council got an update on how things have progressed over the past year – although the reporting only covers up until March 31 this year. This update highlights that during the 9 month period from July last year through to March this year just over $117 million from the Regional Fuel Tax was collected, but interestingly only $68.5 million was spent – leaving reserves of just under $50 million. It’s inevitable that expenditure might take a while to get going, but the scale of this gap does highlight that Auckland Transport needs to get on with delivering projects funded by the fuel tax.

More detail later in the presentation suggests that one reason for the slower spend might be difficulties of accessing NZTA subsidy, which was assumed by ATAP.

The difficulties with NZTA funding processes have been well documented, including recently on interest.co.nz. This needs to be sorted out promptly.

So where has the Regional Fuel Tax money gone in the past nine months?

Overall, the $68.5 million of Regional Fuel Tax spend has attracted some (interestingly it appears not full 50/50) subsidy from NZTA, meaning a total of $101 million of expenditure enabled by the fuel tax has occurred over the past nine months. The main areas of this seem to be on the AMETI Eastern Busway, Road Safety and Road Corridor Improvements. Somewhat surprisingly there’s no spend at all on active transport from the fuel tax, reflecting the horrifically slow progress Auckland Transport is making on walking and cycling improvements generally.

The other thing that stands out to me is how we are seeing a pretty tiny proportion of the $4.27 billion “enabled by the Regional Fuel Tax” programme actually occurring in the first year. As I said it’s understandable that Auckland Transport would take a bit of time to “ramp up”, but we really do need them to get on with it. It will be interesting to keep an eye on these progress updates, as I think Aucklanders will be pretty impatient to see results from the extra money they’re paying towards improving the transport system.

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56 comments

  1. Some of the funding is going towards new signs on rural roads. 56 of them in the 3.9 km between my house and the top end of the road. More arrows than the battle of Agincourt.
    Not one of them says “stick to your own side of the road through the blind bends” or “get off your effing phone while you are driving “

    1. There is a windy road up a hill near my house with a cliff face on the left. I have given up riding my bike up there because a proportion of drivers attempt to pass on the blind corners and then when there is oncoming traffic (frequently), try to jam it back into lane putting me literally between a rock and a hard place. Needless to say this is extremely dangerous/terrifying. The worst 10-20% of drivers are [email protected]%&ing idiots. What are government and local authorities going to to about this to protect vulnerable road and footpath users?

      1. There is a road like that near where I live, and someone (presumably the Council or NZTA) has stuck orange plastic poles down the centreline to force people to stay in line. There used to be regular crashes there on the corners – not so much now. Sometimes the plastic poles get driven over but they are easily replaced. Seems to work and it is low cost. Maybe lobby your council to get them to do the same?

        1. Good idea. But Simon should also document how long it takes, and how much of his and the public’s time, how much of the local board and councillors’ time, and how much of the officials’ time… It’ll be enormous, for a safety improvement that should be standard.

          We waste so much money, including the safety and active mode budget but also the time and money of many people not paid by the programmes , simply because the budget is so small it has to be eked out and justified and lobbied for.

          If we don’t get a complete transformation of how all of this works, the only ethical response of Aucklanders, who feel the moral obligation to keep our own people safe, will be to install such poles themselves and dare the authorities to remove them.

  2. I know the tax only covers fuel used on roads – and planes do not use roads – but a significant amount of discussion about roads and PT in Auckland (and Wellington) seems to involve getting people efficiently to and from airports. So it seems logical to cover aviation fuel too to help cover the costs of these transport links. If I take the bus to Wellington from Auckland my fare presumably includes tax on the bus diesel for the whole trip if they fill up in Auckland even though most of the trip wont be on Auckland regional roads.

  3. I absolutely agree with your last paragraph.

    For any aspiring opposition MPs or councillors, the lack of visible improvement to PT or alternatives to cars, vs spending the tax on some mindlessly large traffic platforms that take your front bumper out at 20 km/hr, (and it’s that easy to market the removal of that tax), in main arterials such as Edmonton Rd in Henderson will make this tax a very easy target to dispose of. Remember to, there are basically no traffic flow improvement on the radar for areas like West Auckland and that area needs them badly.

    And how attractive will the taxes removal be to short of money voters is fuel prices cut by 11 cents per litre

    1. Usual story with the West, just pay up and be happy. At least this time it’s not paying for other people to get flash stuff because apparently no one is getting anything 😉

      1. There is a $4 billion rail tunnel under construction at the moment that will take 10 mins off the journey between the west and the CBD, I think you are doing OK.

        1. Unfortunately the “Western Line” doesn’t serve the areas in the North West of Auckland, were we are intensely developing old army land and strawberry fields with no rapid transit so that people in the inner city suburbs don’t have to confront the horrors of density (read: diversity).

        2. So part of West Auckland has missed out, that is very different to all of West Auckland missing out.

        3. Jezza, there a fair bit of West Auckland that is not really served by rail and the PT that is provided, without a bus lane anywhere is a last resort to be blunt.

        4. There is a fair bit of every corner of the city that is not served by rail or decent bus priority. I see no evidence of the west being unusually hard done by.

      2. Looking back over the last 10-20 years my hunch is that west Auckland has received more per capita transport investment (both PT and road) than any other part of Auckland.

        Projects off the top of my head:
        — Western line double-tracking
        — SH18 / SH16 / Waterview
        — NW cycleway
        — Now the CRL

        Yes, some of the greener parts have missed out, but that’s the same for any part of region.

    2. The CRL is the traffic improvement for West Auckland. The tables are just so your kids don’t die trying to cross the road.

      1. There’s ramps that slow vehicles down just fine, AT have them built elsewhere and there’s these blunt instruments.

        The trouble is using wheel chocks as ramps makes it easy to campaign against, slowing traffic but offering exactly zero to improve efficiency from the fuel tax . Politically it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  4. I love the fuel tax. I have used it as an excuse to not mow my lawn as often. I was at every 2 weeks and I have pushed it out to three with the exception of the swale and berm which I try to let get really long on the basis that I am hardly going to mow grass for AT and pay those pricks tax at the same time.

        1. Needing an excuse is lazy too, miffy. Be bold, feel the displeasure, and do it anyway.

          Tell me, should we pleased or worried. Is mowing the lawn when you think about things?

        1. This is my favourite:

          ‘And speaking of gas, the EPA estimates that over 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That’s more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, in the Gulf of Alaska.’

        2. I’m *sure* there’ll be some good information to support my belief that one Council mower doing all the verges at once is more efficient.

          And that if it’s done during school hours, and not in the weekend, the noise will disturb the fewest people.

    1. I approve.

      I now have a lawn for the first time in my life, and I’ve decided to de-prioritise mowing it relative to all other home-related tasks. Should get to it by late spring.

    2. miffy send an account/bill/invoice to Council with your hourly rate and petrol cost and with the hireage of your mower to do their job and see what they do.

  5. It’s nothing to do with a lack of NZTA subsidy. If it was there wouldn’t be $50M left over. Beyond that, the hoops council have to jump through to get funding from NZTA are nothing new and council should be well practised.

  6. How much of that money collected has been used on Active Modes (looks like $0) so far, because the past year has been a bit of a shambles really on one of the easiest areas to make a notable difference.

  7. Just want to point out: even with the Regional Fuel Tax, your petrol in Auckland is still a couple of cents cheaper than it is in Wellington. So please stop whining.

    1. Man I can’t imagine why petrol is cheaper in a market three times the size and with more competition that’s also closer to the refineries. Absolute total mystery.

      1. I don’t think transport costs can explain the difference in prices nationwide, otherwise it wouldn’t be cheaper in Masterton than it is in Wellington.

  8. “The difficulties with NZTA funding processes have been well documented, including recently on interest.co.nz. This needs to be sorted out promptly.”

    Well yes, Matt. But how do ordinary New Zealanders have input to this? That NZTA – our “premier road building agency” – is in charge of translating the climate emergency and safety crisis into a rejigged budget fills me with fear.

    The climate emergency and safety crisis were there when ATAP was written. What’s changed is that AT and Council have acknowledged them fully. Aucklanders wanted action when ATAP was written. What’s changed is that AT and Council have said we’ll get change.

    But NZTA? Apart from individuals and small groups of amazing progressive battlers, the organisation is wedded to what researchers call a “techno-centric planning paradigm.” This just means they’re continuing to f**k up our city with trying to optimise traffic flow, and don’t understand the needs of people, the environment or how safety, land use and transport interact.

    Can we not avert a disastrous announcement of a “balanced” ATAP rejig when we need a radical ATAP rejig?

    1. Is it fair to say NZTA does not fit with the objectives of either this government or most councils?

      And if that is the case it’s a particularly bad hang over from the previous government that needs to be broken up.

      I can say with experience from my small view behind the scenes, that the money poured into Aucklands motorways and the no expense spared attitude to anything to do with them is something NZTA do impressively but it is so narrowly focused on this area that it is no wonder anything not motorway related suffers because of the NZTA.

  9. Mill Rd.
    Budget $2 million
    Actual $8 million
    Variance $7 million

    So AT spent $7 million more on this than was budgeted. That doesn’t happen as a whoopsie. That happens by design. That happens because people were working on it, because they were under instruction to do so. And weren’t moved into jobs that needed people working there – like on safety and active projects – again, because the Executive Team didn’t tell them to switch to work on those projects.

    My question is, what did Council do about it?

    1. Heidi
      as you know Auckland is a member of C40 cities and here is their goal
      “Deadline 2020
      Deadline 2020 is a commitment from the world’s leading cities to urgently pursue high ambition climate action, demonstrating how we can deliver on the Paris Agreement. Now is the time to act! ”

      Where can that be pointed to in Auckland? I can name three projects in Auckland that point to contrary action: developing car parks in Takapuna,Western Springs and redeveloping in Remuera.

      Is there a risk Auckland will be asked to leave?

      1. No it’s ok though, Auckland will show an update of how great we’re doing with pictures of the pink path or Quay st cycleway with flowering Pohutukawa’s. Remember, we’re so clean and green.

        1. On that theme, I would love to know where the 91% figure for being satisfied with their public transport service came from. Were there complimentary lines of coke for the surveyees? Shadowy men in pinstripe suits with violin cases loitering menacingly in the background?

          I mean stop it right now AT, job done, who needs a fuel tax with these kinds of results, ….I mean propaganda!

          Perlease……..

      2. Looking at the cities in the C40 I doubt Auckland would be the only one failing on those criteria. If they kick enough out they could have it so the C40 actually has 40 cities, it’s currently got 94.

        1. Jeeza
          as of September last year 27 cities had reached peak carbon.
          Barcelona, Basel, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Warsaw, Washington D.C.

          I will make an OIA request to see when Auckland expects to reach peak carbon. I will also ask what Council is doing apart from planting trees.

        1. I have just seen on TV1 that household emissions have increased by 19% recently. Miffy, this is obviously a larger job than anticipated and it would seem prudent to send two or three next time.

  10. It bothered me that the colours of the North/South/East/West/Central dots in those first tables don’t match the colours of the train lines.

  11. The contrast in prices is quite interesting. The fuel tax is what, 10c per litre? But there’s a 30c per litre difference between 91 petrol in Auckland and 91 petrol in Hamilton. This is because Waitomo Fuel sell throughout the Waikato, and are slowly moving south, with a plan to go North Island-wide. They are very cheap – much cheaper than Gull.

    There’s a huge sign up on the Bombay hills advertising Waitomo Fuel. I would suggest any and all Aucklanders coming back into Auckland from south will be filling up before they cross the border.

    Waitomo Fuel are making a killing out of the tax, I’ve never seen a new fuel retailer take off as fast as these guys.

    The bottom line is that the price of fuel has gone up in Auckland, but down outside Auckland, relatively to the median price. So you could argue that the tax has incentivised driving outside Auckland. It will likely also speed up the pre-existing trend of more and more Auckland industries relocating to Hamilton.

    1. Yes it’s cheap there at Hikuai, the junction where you either go to Tairua or Pauanui as well, cheaper than futher north even I think according to locals IIRC.

    2. “But there’s a 30c per litre difference between 91 petrol in Auckland and 91 petrol in Hamilton.”

      No there isn’t. You’re deliberately comparing an expensive station in Auckland to the cheapest stations in the Waikato. The difference between an average suburban station in Auckland and one in the Waikato is 10-15 cents at the very most.

  12. Still no money for a pedestrian safety project in the city centre – the cook street pedestrian crossing and bike lanes languish unfunded still.

    Victoria Street cycleway completely missing in action

    K’rd improvements short of funding

    Market Place bike lanes missing

    No money for missing footpaths, no money for footpath renewals. In the city centre.

    Wellesley Bus improvements to be dragged out over a decade

    Light rail missing in action

    Great north road cycleway languishing

    No plans for Ponsonby road

    No plans for Newton Road

    No plans for Symonds street

    No plans for Parnell road

    No plans for Broadway

    No plans for Kyhber Pass

    No plans for Mt Eden Road, Dom Road, Sandringham road

    All coming “soon”, honest.

    Climate Emergency indeed.

    1. I naively thought part of the funding for the light rail policy initiative would be from the fuel tax, (the two appeared to go hand in hand or should have if there was planning), to at least get it underway quickly (or at all).

      Wrong on that count!

    2. The perils of moving to an area which has been left behind by the council.

      Case in point, the residential areas in the city centre. It cannot be overstated how bleedingly obvious this is. The contrast with eg. Wynyard Quarter is staggering.

      1. My comments to Council Project Office were “we have gold plated where everyone visits, and dogshit where everyone lives”

        Lots of money for shiny projects. We need a champion of the boring.

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