Auckland congestion charge: Parliamentary inquiry to explore what happens next

Auckland congestion charge: Parliamentary inquiry to explore what happens next

Stuff

A congestion charge of up to $3.50 has been suggested by officials for the Auckland CBD.

The future of a proposed congestion charging scheme for Auckland will go to an inquiry conducted by a parliamentary select committee.

A joint government-Auckland Council group on Monday said drivers could be charged $3.50 for entering the CBD in peak hours, by 2025, with further plans to roll the boundary out region-wide at a later date.

Auckland news: in case you missed it

The minister of transport Michael Wood and Grant Robertson, the minister of both finance and infrastructure, have both been guarded about the government’s enthusiasm for the idea.

“The step we are taking at this stage is to try to develop some greater public understanding and input into this process,” said Wood.

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“Once it is properly convened, I’ll be asking the select committee to hold an inquiry into this issue, so we can further this discussion,” he said.

The officials’ report said without congestion charging to shift enough people out of peak travel in cars, or out of cars altogether, congestion would worsen despite billions of dollars of new infrastructure.

Robertson said the government would take time to work through the report.

“What’s important to me is that if we are doing things to reduce congestion – like congestion charging – we have got to be confident about our public transport system,” he said.

Finance minister Grant Robertson (left) transport minister Michael Wood, and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Finance minister Grant Robertson (left) transport minister Michael Wood, and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

“It’s absolutely vital that if you were even thinking of going down that path, that it is an equitable path.”

A select committee inquiry can run for six months and has the ability to commission reports and call witnesses to appear before it.

“We have got projects before us right now, that will be as important as anything else in reduction [of] congestion,” said Robertson.

The minister’s comments were made after attending a ceremony in which the tunnel boring machine for the $4.5 billion City Rail Link project, was named after the late Dame Whina Cooper.

Peak hour traffic trying to leave Auckland’s city centre.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Peak hour traffic trying to leave Auckland’s city centre.

Congestion charging has been backed by Green Party MP and transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter, who is deputy chair of the transport and infrastructure select committee.

“The Green Party is supportive, and believes the government should be driving this forward, especially if there are mitigations in place to ensure it doesn’t disproportionately penalise low-income households,” Genter told Stuff.

Green MP Julie-Anne Genter is deputy chair of the Transport and Infrastructure select committee

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Green MP Julie-Anne Genter is deputy chair of the Transport and Infrastructure select committee

“Replacing the regional fuel tax with a congestion charge would do that because it is disproportionately high income people who drive into the city centre,” she said.

“We are disappointed the report didn’t focus more on the impact on greenhouse gas emissions, I suspect congestion charging could make a big diff[erence].”

The proposed scheme would start in the city centre in 2025, but by 2028 embrace strategic routes across Auckland including the south and west.

Map of proposed Auckland congestion charging scheme

MOT/Supplied

Proposed coverage of a congestion charging scheme for Auckland, unveiled in December 2020

Stuff asked the ministers whether a 2025 start was realistic.

“That’s what the report itself suggests, which is that if we were to go in this direction it would be tied to the completion of major transport projects [such as CRL] and that people have real options,” Wood said.

Auckland Council’s planning committee on Thursday approved continued work by officials, with a particular emphasis on how public engagement might be conducted.

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