Waka Kotahi are consulting on changes to their regulatory fees such as driver licencing and registration fees, a fairly dry topic at the best of times, but one aspect that did catch my attention is some of the language they have used in explaining it. This from Radio NZ.
The Transport Agency is proposing to collect 40 percent more in regulatory revenues, up from $185 million now to $264m annually from late next year.
“The most common fees would go up as costs to provide the services continue to increase,” the agency said.
However, there would be a rebalancing because private motorists had been subsidising the commercial sector, the director of Land Transport Kane Patena said.
“Not everyone has been paying their fair share,” he said.
“Some people have been paying more than the cost for us to regulate, and other people have been paying less, or nothing at all.”
Costs had to fall on people who created risks in land transport, or who benefited from it.
The first overhaul of regulatory charges in almost 20 years proposes driver licensing fees go down – the fee for resits would be dropped entirely – but car registration administration fees would go up between $4 and $12.
The cost to renew a licence would be cut almost in half to $31, but admin fees for road user charges would almost triple when done online to $12.
Road industry costs would rise two percent overall, and the impact on wider industry would be inflation of 0.2 percent, Waka Kotahi estimates.
The slew of changes are open to eight weeks’ consultation, then depend on government sign-off.
Inquiries three years ago found the regulatory system was broken – for instance, it failed to properly audit the truck fleet for cracks and unsafe designs – and underfunded.
The annual funding in 2018 of $165m was “the price of failure”, Patena said, plus, the system was unbalanced.
“Individuals have been paying more than what they should and we have used some of that revenue to subsidise regulatory activities in other parts of the sector.
“That’s why we think it needs to change.”
A third of Waka Kotahi’s 150 regulatory products for the commercial sector were not even priced, while most of the common existing fees had not been adjusted for inflation for years, the agency said.
The language is particularly notable given the how often the trucking industry oppose transport funds being used for non-road projects and sometimes even safety measures by calling it ‘highway robbery‘.
As for the actual fee changes and the proposed overall increase in revenue that Waka Kotahi are seeking, it’s hard to see how even that truly covers the costs imposed on our transport system. For example, the Ministry of Transport estimate the social cost of crashes on our roads at around $4.9 billion annually – and that was last updated a few years ago.
Improving driver training is often cited by some commentators as a reason for our high rate of deaths and serious injuries. Instead of lowering fees for things like licencing and registration, what about keeping existing fees the same and investing more into improving driver skills?
Meanwhile our regulations and vehicle standards remain behind many countries and cities. As an example London have regulated significant changes to the design of urban trucks to make them safer when they’re around more vulnerable road users with changes such as having the drivers cab lower to the ground, large glass side doors, sensor systems and side-underrun protection.
Is it too much to ask to update our regulations as well as our regulatory system?