Documents released under the Official Information Act show the New Zealand Transport Agency is looking at tolls for four uncompleted roads nationally – including the yet to be built Tauranga Northern Link.
Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Garry Webber says while he accepts tolling is a tool NZTA could use to speed up the building of state highways, he questions the equity of the approach across New Zealand.
“The Western Bay already has two out the country's three toll roads, the Tauranga Eastern Link, which has been tolled since 2015 and Takitimu Drive, tolled from 2003.
“There's no doubt these roads have brought significant benefit, particularly in terms of efficiency and safety, however it's hard to reconcile the Western Bay sub-region could end up with another toll road while other large scale roading network upgrades and improvements in Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury have been progressed without tolling.”
Garry understands the outcomes of the Tauranga Northern Link tolling investigation are not expected until mid-2018.
“I'm not going to predict the final outcome however I will be reminding central government of the need for equity when it comes to applying road funding tools around the country.
“It's vital the right balance is struck between the benefit of yet another toll road to the residents of the Western Bay sub-region and the additional cost to those same residents, businesses and visitors compared to residents in other areas who do not have toll roads.”
Tauranga MP and former transportation minister Simon Bridges says Tauranga and the Western Bay already has enough toll roads.
“When I was Transport Minister I made clear repeatedly that Tauranga already had enough toll roads in comparison to the rest of New Zealand and so there would not be another. Todd Muller and I as local MPs still strongly believe this.
“More tolls in Tauranga are entirely unfair when next to nowhere else has been tolled.
“We are also concerned about the timeframe to build this important road and the pulling back on National's promise to four lane all the way to Katikati.”
The new coalition government and Transport Minister Phil Twyford need to do the job once, right, and not treat Tauranga as a cash cow in the process, says Simon.
The NZTA says it is looking at all possible options.
"The information provided to the Board indicates the four key projects being considered meet the criteria for tolling as far as can be determined at this stage, and further investigations are needed and business cases developed.
"There are prescriptive requirements under the Land Transport Management Act 2003 before a decision can be made to implement a toll on a road.
"This included extensive public consultation determining the level of community support."
More information can be found on the NZTA website.