Petrol taxes are up another 4 cents per litre this week. This is Labour’s third tax hike in 18 months and another is promised next July. Taxes and levies now make up over half the cost of fuel.
This tax hike does not just hit families when they fuel up the family car. Road user charges have also been hiked again by an equivalent amount. This flows through to household costs for everything from vegetables, bread and milk to the cost of the plumber.
Labour has added insult to injury with these fuel tax hikes by slashing the funding for roading. I could not believe transport minister Phil Twyford telling the Transport Select Committee last week that “New Zealand has invested too much in roading infrastructure over the past 30 years”. National proudly funded and built highway bypasses in Richmond, Stoke and Ruby Bay as well as major projects upgrading the Spooners and Hope Saddles over this period. I am aghast that Labour now thinks these projects were mistakes. I hold the opposite view that we should have invested more given the growth in population, tourists and export freight.
The budget for state highway upgrades is being reduced by 70% under the Coalition Government from $1400 million to $400 million per year. We are seeing the effects of this locally with the $5 million resurfacing programme on Whakatu and Atawhai Drives to reduce noise being cancelled. We’ve also seen programmed upgrades on the Whangamoa Hill and through Motueka township deferred. The Nelson and Tasman councils are understandably upset as locals are now being asked to pay over $100 million a year in fuel taxes and road user charges but getting a fraction back for our region’s transport needs.
Labour’s anti road rhetoric is compounded by motorists being called “Car Fascists” by Green Party Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter. Cars will remain for the foreseeable future the dominant means of transport albeit many more, like mine, will be electric.
The problem of getting people and goods in and out of Nelson continues to deteriorate. Labour was quick to overturn National’s commitment of $135 million dollars to get the Southern Link built but has done nothing to address the problem. Traffic monitoring and safety data shows congestion is getting worse and accidents more frequent. We are yet to see any progress on the promise to investigate alternatives cited by Labour like a tunnel through the Port Hills, moving Port Nelson to Rabbit Island or adding new lanes onto existing roads. They know these are pipe dreams and unrealistic.
The escalating road toll makes investment in our roads even more important. Drivers take unnecessary risks when frustrated on congested roads and intersections. The safety data on new stretches of highway like the Ruby Bay bypass and other major highway upgrades built by National clearly demonstrate that they save lives.
Angry Nelsonians have described these latest fuel taxes to me as “Highway Robbery”. It is an apt description. We are paying more for less.