The pressure on our local State Highway network was evident over the Easter weekend. Sadly the Government’s subsequent announcement of its transport plan offers little hope of any improvement to this situation.
In its announcement, the Government indicated that it plans to cut $5 billion from the state highway construction programme over the next 10 years. What this means locally is that a planned upgrade to State Highway 1 between Ashburton and Christchurch proposed by National before the last election is highly unlikely to go ahead.
This roading project would have improved safety, created jobs and allowed more efficient transportation of goods and people around our region.
Even more concerning is that local motorists will be stung at the petrol pump with an annual increase in petrol tax each year for the next three years, resulting in a price rise of approximately 9 to 12 cents per litre. For those living in the regions and travelling significant distances each day this will mean a noticeable increase in their costs of transportation.
Struggling working families living in the outer suburbs of Auckland will be even harder hit. This is because Aucklanders will be paying an additional 10 cents per litre under the regional fuel tax legislation the Government introduced recently. These increases also have GST added to them, resulting in a potential total increase of up to 25c per litre.
Of course when fuel prices increase, the cost of transportation rises so prices increase for goods and services. Weekly grocery bills will go up, hurting those who are already struggling to make ends meet.
So if fuel taxes are increasing and funding for regional highways is decreasing, where is all the money going? The Government has indicated that it intends to allocate $4 billion over the next 10 years to “rapid transit” or light rail projects. The Government has stated that it hopes to start building a light rail or tram route from the Auckland CBD to the airport and then wants to expand this system to other areas such as West Auckland.
There has been some talk of a Rolleston to Christchurch rail link, however the reality is that if Auckland’s underground rail system is also to be funded from the $4 billion allocation for rapid transit there is unlikely to be much left over for light rail anywhere else.