Mark Wilson: Paying at the pump

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We are a generous lot down here in the Southern Lakes, especially when it comes to Auckland and the government.

We are a great host and the holiday destination of choice for many from our biggest city, we keep the grass mowed and beer cold for their arrival.

On the country’s behalf we also host millions of overseas visitors and pump bucket loads of GST, and other tourism-associated tax revenue from company taxes and PAYE, back to Wellington to help the government rumble along.

We also pay hefty excise taxes on fuel, in fact tax makes up about half the cost of filling your tank and added to that what AA claims are the highest distributor margins on fuel in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development].

Just to compound things further we live in an isolated part of an isolated country, so it’s little surprise fuelling is an expensive job.

Now excise tax most would argue is a necessarily evil as it funds NZ Transport Agency and its roading network, which most of us use regularly. But as money streams north we are right to ask what comes back?

Historically we have been forced to scrap and fight for every penny, with our council and local MPs constantly working hard to lobby for funding on various transport-related projects, often with limited success.

For example, it took decades to land a two-lane bridge over the Kawarau, which is behind schedule and will no doubt be overwhelmed before we get a second cross-ing.

There are also improvements needed along SH6 for the swathe of large housing developments already underway or planned, which will see the Shotover Bridge reach capacity in the next decade. It will require massive investment from NZTA.

Now those up north want even more from us as a new 12 cent increase has been mooted to cover the cost of increased investment into public transport, road safety and a few million for regional roads, but let’s be honest this is the rest of New Zealand funding Auckland’s new trains, buses and bike lanes.

This isn’t the first time regional NZ has been left feeling like it’s footing the bill for Auckland’s shambolic planning and council ineptness and yet we face many of the same challenges. While there has been increased recog-nition, we still sit behind our larger cousins in the north fighting for their disregarded scraps with other regions.

In fairness Auckland is being hit with an extra regional fuel tax to help cover the costs but even with that the average Aucklander will still pay less for their fuel than we do.

As GST is levied on the total cost of filling up, including all the taxes, we will also pay a high tax on the increases, so it’s really double whammy.

Now I’m a regular visitor to Auckland for work so I might get a bit of value from my kind donation but I can’t see the majority of Southern Lakes residents getting their fair share. Maybe I need to dig up a small segment of tarmac each time and bring it back with me or grab a bus seat or something to give back to our region?

On the plus side, road safety funding has been boosted and might get a few more rumble strips and ‘stay left’ arrows painted on our danger spots, which will be well received, but overall it’s a bit of a kick in the guts.

No doubt we will continue to be frustrated by local roading projects not getting the support they need as we watch from a distance our dollars paying for Aucklanders to get an easier commute.

Mark Wilson is a marketing consultant and National man with a full tank of gas