Visitors congestion exterior Wellington’s Mt Victoria tunnel. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Wellington’s Native Authorities leaders have not discovered a buddy within the new Transport Minister for his or her ambitions to introduce congestion charging within the metropolis.
However Michael Wooden is pushing forward with contemplating the transfer for Auckland, which Higher Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) chairman Daran Ponter sees as a place to begin.
The pair met late final yr for about half an hour.
Ponter instructed the Herald after the assembly: “It is a breath of contemporary air to have a Minister who’s proactively partaking with Native Authorities.”
That is a not so delicate dig at former Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
Between the bustastrophe and Ponter’s open criticism of Let’s Get Wellington Transferring in the course of the Julie Anne Genter secret letter debacle, the pair did not benefit from the warmest of relationships.
Whereas the seeds have been sown for a brand new begin, Wooden’s place on introducing congestion charging in Wellington has not shifted from Twyford’s.
Wooden instructed the Herald he deliberate on writing to the Transport and Infrastructure Choose Committee to ask it to carry an inquiry into congestion charging in Auckland.
“From the worldwide proof, congestion charging could be a great tool to assist unclog cities”, he stated.
Wooden stated, in the mean time, the Authorities was solely contemplating the transfer in Auckland.
But when an inquiry was held, different cities may like to interact with the choose committee to higher perceive the problem, he stated.
That is off the again of The Congestion Query venture.
Officers from six authorities companies, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have been working to establish tips on how to get individuals shifting extra effectively in Auckland.
A technical report checked out 26 choices and located congestion pricing would deliver vital advantages for all Aucklanders, together with extra dependable journey instances throughout town, elevated enterprise productiveness, improved air high quality and decrease car emissions.
Ponter stated he understood Auckland was the Authorities’s first precedence.
“We have to start out someplace”, he stated.
“We’re more than pleased for the Authorities to roll out some of these instruments in Auckland first, on the premise that Auckland is a helpful trial area for the remainder of us and if it really works in Auckland, then we are able to elevate and shift.”
The Ministry of Transport’s briefing to the incoming Transport Minister famous the curiosity from Wellington councils in congestion charging and, extra broadly, from giant metro councils to make use of it as a income.
“Nevertheless, its use as a device to gather income has limitations, particularly as the first goal of congestion charging is to cut back visitors”, the doc stated.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster campaigned on congestion charging.
He is extra inquisitive about it instead income device to charges, whereas Ponter is targeted on mode shift.
However Foster was caught on the hop within the first months of his mayoralty, discovering the Authorities had quietly dominated out congestion charging for Wellington throughout Let’s Get Wellington Transferring (LGWM) negotiations he wasn’t part of.
The brand new mayor claimed the primary he’d heard of it was when the Herald approached him for remark in response to the Authorities’s place.
Foster stated on the time that taking away the choice of congestion charging in Wellington can be a “literal roadblock”.
Twyford responded by saying individuals wanted real transport selections earlier than congestion pricing may very well be thought of.
These selections will ultimately materialise as a part of the LGWM plan that features mass speedy transit, a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, and higher strolling and biking.
However they will be years within the making and delivered by a venture that has turn into considerably of a wistful joke.
LGWM at present appears to be like extra like a stalled automotive.
The price strain of the $6.4 billion venture is of accelerating concern within the Native Authorities sphere.
Wellington Metropolis Council’s (WCC) briefing to the incoming Transport Minister stated the LGWM programme was unaffordable in its present type with out new funding instruments.
The doc stated the council wished to speak to the Minister urgently about LGWM’s supply and governance fashions, general affordability, and potential new
funding instruments to “determine whether or not any modifications are required to make sure success.”
However a current official data request revealed Foster had not obtained any recommendation, stories, or exchanged correspondence relating to monetary commitments to LGWM between March and October 2020.
New instruments for the council and the broader sector, equivalent to congestion pricing and parking levies, had been listed within the briefing as extra long run dialogue subjects.
GWRC’s briefing to the incoming Transport Minister additionally warned of “diminished native affordability”.
Central Authorities pays 60 per cent of LGWM, with councils left to foot the invoice for the remainder, by way of a 1 per cent charges enhance every year for twelve years.
GWRC stated it remained dedicated to funding its share, however famous Native Authorities’s skill to pay has been considerably impacted by Covid-19.
“Higher Wellington and WCC face vital monetary strain as a result of decreased non-rates income and elevated prices. On the identical time, extremely constrained financial circumstances imply that our communities are a lot much less capable of afford charges will increase.”
The council known as on the Authorities to make accessible a wider vary of funding instruments, together with congestion charging, a regional gasoline tax, and GST.
Final time period Jacinda Ardern additionally dominated out any new regional gasoline taxes whereas she was Prime Minister.
However Foster and Ponter seem like taking no for a solution.