Is it just a conincidence that road user charges went up on the day the Government is congratulating itself on buying back the railways and putting Jim Bolger, the man who presided over the “failed policies of the 90s” in charge of it?
Trucking companies are furious after the increase was announced on Monday night and came into effect yesterday.
Road Transport Forum New Zealand chief executive Tony Friedlander said the group, which represents about 80% of the country’s commercial road transport operators, last year sought assurances from Transport Minister Annette King that operators would be notified of increased charges.
The forum received written confirmation members would be informed of changes.
“It is not just the increase. It’s that it came without notice having received assurances. On top of the highest fuel prices in history, increases to the accident compensation levy and wage interest costs, it will do extreme damage to industry.
“Members have said they will have to pass costs as soon as they can.
Producers, processors and consumers are already suffering from steep rises in fuel prices. The increased tax on diesel powered vheicles and others weighing more than 3.5 tonnes increases the cost of business and living.
The increase was announced in a statement posted on the Government’s website on Monday night. No media statements were issued.
“The timing of this increase and the way it has been done mean the minister could not have done more damage to our industry if she had deliberately tried,” Mr Friedlander said.
“She should not underestimate how angry our members and the industry are.”
Mr Friedlander said the increase would inevitably mean higher costs for businesses and higher prices in supermarkets.
However, Ms King said the impact would be “relatively insignificant” and she did not expect any noticeable effect on consumer prices.
Is Labour trying to self-destruct or are Ministers so out of touch they don’t understand the financial strain businesses and households are facing? When your budget is already overstretched you notice every cent.
Ms King said the increases were introduced to defray costs of the national land transport programme. Under the programme, $2.7 billion was allocated for transport activities in 2008-09. This included about $791 million for state highway construction, $325 million for passenger transport services and infrastructure and $273 million for road policing.
“Without all road users paying their fair share, this level of investment cannot continue to be sustained,” she said.
Does any of that passenger transport component include the trains and ferries her Government just bought? Does it matter that in the provinces we don’t have passenger trains and only cities have buses?
Charges for a 44-tonne truck and trailer unit which travelled 100,000km a year would increase to about $56,000, about $4000 more for operators, Mr Friedlander said.
Road user charges for transport operators in New Zealand were already 200% higher than those paid by Australian businesses using comparable trucks, he said.
Another day, another tax increase, another reason why living or doing business in Australia becomes more attractive.
Bus and Coach Association chief executive Raewyn Bleakley said members were “shocked and angry”. The “highest level of feedback” about the charges had been from tourism operators, she said. “Tourist operators negotiate rates for services months in advance, and this increase will leave them screaming. This will be noticeable in places like Queenstown.”
You can’t take a train or ferry to Queenstown. But this wouldn’t have anything at all to do with the fact that the Government spent $690m buying the railways, would it?
[Update: have just found a comment on Keeping Stock from getstaffed raising this issue]