Battery powered taxi saves $200 a week

November 28, 2009

The taxi which took us to Wellington airport yesterday was powered by petrol and battery.

The driver said it had plenty of power in the city and on the open road and it saved him about $200 a week on fuel.

With savings like that it won’t be difficult to persuade more people to swap to battery powered vehicles.

But when they do, how will roads be funded?

The petrol they use attracts a tax but, at least for now, electric vehicles aren’t required to pay for road user charges which are levied on diesel vehicles.


If you think city fuel prices are high…

July 9, 2008

… try driving in the provinces.

Poneke  tells us that 91 octane petrol in Wellington has reached 218.9 cents a litre.

In Wanaka it’s 2.269 for 91;  and 2.349 for premium. 

Diesel is 199.9 cents a litre and of course Road User Charges come on top of that.

Ouch.


Labour’s Next Leader

July 8, 2008

Dene Mackenzine looks at the people who could be the next Labour leader:

The contest to replace Prime Minister Helen Clark might be less brutal and more clear cut than previous leadership challenges, depending on the outcome of the election this year.

Less brutal leadership change? Now there’s an oxymoron.

If, as Miss Clark continues to believe, Labour can cobble together a coalition government, then she remains safe and can leave in her own time, having taken Labour to a historic fourth-term win.

But if Labour loses and the election result is close, party sources believe Trade Minister Phil Goff is the principal candidate for the job.

He is seen as a safe replacement who would not shift Labour markedly away from its centre-left position.

Although he is tainted with having been an MP in the Rogernomics era, many of Labour’s supporters are too young to remember Sir Roger Douglas and his ideas in the David Lange-led government.

If a week is a long time in politics, two decades is ancient history.

Police Minister Annette King is seen as the logical deputy leader for Mr Goff, to give the party a gender balance and an Auckland-Wellington split.

Pity about the mess she created in health, the EFA and last week’s Road User Charge debacle. And let’s not forget blaming crime on the full moon and sunny weather.

The last four opinion polls published show National’s support at more than 50% and its lead over Labour at more than 20 points.

If the polls hold up, Labour could lose up to 18 MPs, including electorate members.

Polls usually tighten before an election – although this time Labour might be where National was in 2002.

If the defeat is not too broad, Mr Goff will be challenged by Health Minister David Cunliffe and Labour Minister Trevor Mallard.

Both would bring with them an image problem.

Mr Cunliffe was identified early in his career as a potential leader, but has earned the disdain of some colleagues for his “superior” attitude.

That has mellowed somewhat and as health minister, and also as communications minister, he has shown a preparedness to take a hands-on approach to his portfolios.

But over at Craig Foss we see that those hands haven’t always done the right thing.

However, that’s another story so back to the ODT:

Mr Mallard was demoted for punching National Party MP Tau Henare, but retains strong friendships in the Labour caucus and is deputy finance minister.

As a former chief whip, he knows how to gather the numbers for a close vote.

A decimation of Labour will see other candidates chancing their arm in the belief that it will take Labour six years, or two terms, to win office.

Energy Minister David Parker and Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove will mount challenges.

Neither is particularly popular with colleagues, and Mr Cosgrove will be a fiercer competitor than Mr Parker.

Mr Cosgrove has been a member of the party since he was 14, and is a protege of former prime minister Mike Moore.

Mr Parker is seen more in the mould of former prime minister Sir Wallace (Bill) Rowling, and would offer a leadership style out of step with modern politics.

That’s the one who looked more surprised than anyone else when he won Otago in 2002 and few were surprised when he lost it to Jacqui Dean three years later.

Also in the mix at this level will be Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones, a Maori MP of whom was expected great things.

He is said to be “hugely bright” but pompous and obviously ambitious.

Not a good combination if you’re trying to win a leaderhsip contest.

Clark successors?

•Labour wins: Helen Clark stays as prime minister.

•Labour loses narrowly: Phil Goff takes over early next year.

•Labour loses moderately: Mr Goff, David Cunliffe and Trevor Mallard fight it out.

•Labour thumped: Free for all, with David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Shane Jones fancying their chances.

All very interesting, but the really fascinating point is that this discussion is being had at all. A few months ago leadership change woudn’t have been on anyone’s radar.


Cullen shoots messenger

July 6, 2008

Michael Cullen reckons Tony Friedlander, Road Transport Forum chief executive, organised the truckers’ protest for political reasons.

“There may well have been [a misunderstanding] but I think there’s a great deal of politics about this as well. It’s not an entire coincidence, I’m sure, that the head of the Road Transport [Forum] is a former National Party cabinet minister.”

The Government has denied it misled truckers by agreeing to a month’s notice on RUC increases before raising them overnight earlier this week. Dr Cullen did not accept that truckies were more aggrieved with what they saw as a betrayal by the Government than with the RUC increases themselves.

“Clearly, there’s going to be a great deal of resentment around [the RUC increase], that’s absolutely understandable, but the fact that people have chosen to take a particular form of protest . . . I don’t think is entirely unrelated and I don’t think it was entirely unplanned at the senior levels of the Road Transport [Forum] either.

“I’m sure they would have had some expectation there could have been a RUC increase on 1 July, I’m sure they would’ve known it was under consideration by Cabinet.”

Perhaps they should have been mind readers?

Mr Friedlander, a National MP for 12 years up until 1987, hit back at Dr Cullen last night, saying his former political ties were no secret.

“But I’ve been in this role and in this industry for 15 years,” Mr Friedlander said. “I’ve worked for Labour ministers during that time, both in Government and when they were in opposition and I believe I’ve done that totally impartially.

“Dr Cullen really ought to recognise this protest action was spontaneous – it was organised in two and a half days. I’m pleased that he has such a high opinion of me that he thinks I’m capable of getting approximately 4,500 protesting truck drivers out across New Zealand and that I’m capable of swinging public opinion behind our industry in the way that has been demonstrated.

Mr Friedlander denied the trucking industry knew the Government was considering increasing the charges, saying it “came out of left field”.

Literally – but in spite of what Cullen thinks the truckers’ protest didn’t come out of right field; and the public support certainly didn’t have any party-political origins either. The protest merely provided that mythical silent majority with an opportunity to express itself.

Adam Smith gives his view on Cullen’s tactics here.


Trainwreck Back To The Future

July 4, 2008

The best advice I had from a racing driver was to look where you’re going because you’ll go where you’re looking.  Jim Hopkins  proves the lesson doesn’t just apply to the road:

We like looking back. We love the rear-vision mirror. It’s our true compass.

That’s why we’ve just bought all those trains, lock, stock and funnel – for $640 million or a billion, depending on who you believe.

And, apparently, all us good old, rear-vision Kiwis are positively chuffed we’ve got the trains back. We think it’s great that Michael Cullen’s the new Thin Controller.

No matter that we didn’t need to buy 100 per cent of Toll when 51 per cent would’ve been perfectly fine.

No matter that we’re now obliged to spend $300,000,000 on new kit. No matter that any increase in rail traffic will, paradoxically, increase the demand for better roads – to truck goods from the hinterland to the track.

Because we’re back where we were. And yesterday is such a cosy place.

Meanwhile, Kupe and Cook are in India, talking to the Tata motor company, which is busily developing a French-invented compressed-air engine that will replace the gas-guzzlers we’ve got in our cars and trucks.

And that’s just one of the innovations under way in places where people look forward.

Mark my words. Within a decade, the world’s roads will be teeming with vehicles running on air, hydrogen, fuel cells, electricity and, who knows, maybe even that weird stuff you find in your belly button when you’ve forgotten to wash it for a while.

The combination of a ubiquitous infrastructure and a propulsive revolution will make trains even quainter than they are now. And no amount of sticking up RUCs to screw the transport scrum on the very day you become Brutish Rail will change that.

If you haven’t read this yet, it’s probably because your paper’s late and that’s probably because the roads are jammed with angry truckers who’ve probably decided they’ve had enough because they probably think our great leap backwards has gone off the rails.

And we’ll all be casualties of the train wreck that results from this reckless ride back to the future on 19th century technology, fuelled by 20th century ideology and funded by 21st century tax payers.


Fuel Tax Better Than Road User Charges?

July 3, 2008

Petrol is more expensive than diesel because the former has a fuel tax levied on it and the latter doesn’t. But diesel powered vehicles pay Road User Charges instead.

The chair of the Road Transport Forum, Steve Doughty told Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night that he’d be keen on an investigation to determine if fuel tax might be better than RUCs.

My initial reaction to this is positive. RUCs are based on distance, the further you go the more you pay. That sounds fair enough until you work out that vehicles which travel further efficiently pay more than those which travel a shorter distance inefficiently.

Fuel taxes, are consumption taxes so the more you use the more you pay and there is a financial incentive to use it efficiently.

Doughty reckons that the administration on RUCs costs around $100 million a year. That sounds high but there must be a lot of paper work involved with all the vehicles each with individual RUCs which need to be purchased and processed.  It would be simpler and cheaper to pay fuel tax at the pump as we do for petrol.

Changing from RUCs to fuel tax might be more expensive for people with diesel powered cars who drive short distances. But it would definitely be easier and, by reducing the adminsitration,  possibly cheaper for every vehicle covering long distances.

It would also relieve traffic police of the task of checking RUCs are up to date and writing tickets if they’re not 🙂


Govt Buys Rail – Road User Charges Rise

July 2, 2008

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]


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