GUEST BLOG: Damon Rusden – Petrol Tax Hysteria: Why we shouldn’t be upset


National is preparing to become the Champion of Highways, slaying the dreaded dragon of public transport, rural roads and road safety with their weapon of choice being petitions.

It’s not rocket science as to why we need to transition from single user vehicles to public transport; in many cities it is utilising the space we have and accommodating for massive population growth. With year on year records of deaths on NZ roads, safety measures are a no-brainer.  And a promise to develop regional roads are both a political promise and necessary for connectivity in areas normally marginalised.

There’s also the environmental incentive to shake up transport funding; Westpac has just realised a report claiming that reducing our carbon emissions could save us $30 billion by 2050, or pay much more and suffer drastic changes if we don’t act now. Single use vehicles constitute around 20% of emissions, and more highways only enable more traffic and freight such as trucks which then cause quick erosion of the highway in a vicious cycle.

For many years state highways have been used as a political football to marginalise rail and alternative transport. Increasing funding for rail, public transport and regional roading simply evens the playing field. And there are good arguments that because rail and roads are funded so differently (road is the Land Transport Fund and rail is from the Consolidation Fund) there has been a purposeful and structural deficit in rail that creates the illusion of being ‘uneconomic’. Since when is bringing diversity and equity back to transport funding been a bad thing? Never put your eggs in one basket.

The differences in funding is why there is a need to cross-subsidise the Land Transport Fund into the rail space, even if it incurs the ire of the non-political board. It may be a dead rat for those paying road user charges and petrol levies to finance rail but it also means less roads being used, repaired or built. We need a similar analysis when deciding funding for either road or rail. They are both necessary for transport, but roads are currently subsidised far more. When discussing public investment, there should be an integration of all land transport that has the best societal return.

This does not mean the government has abandoned roads. There will be a 42% increase for local road improvements, a 96% increase for regional projects and 17% for highway maintenance. That’s still a win for roads.

What frustrates me the most is the faux uproar National is creating. There will be an excise levy on petrol of around 10c a litre. Ok that sucks for many people, even thought I personally don’t mind it. We need to ween ourselves off petrol, and hitting the wallet works. But side-swiping everyone with a petrol levy is exactly what National did (alright, they only increase it by 9c) for their Roads of National Significance. Hypocrisy at its finest, and cynical of National to think people would forget.

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Every political party is allowed their constituency, their “issue” (or Trojan Horse) which they can campaign on. Good for them. But when National comes out swinging about how $5 billion was taken from their roading projects to help build Auckland build light rail, they’re misleading to say the least.

The Transport Agency has said that money from road projects cannot be transferred into the Consolidation Fund, where the money for rail comes from. So that claim is not true.
Phil Twyford (Transport Minister) has also said that the promised roads National campaigned on will be looked at individually to judge their merit. And here’s the kicker – very few of the roads National promised had actually been costed. They’re outraged over potential roads that were only election promises.

If National is going to be the Champion of Highways they should learn the attributes of Champions – integrity and honesty.


Damon Rusden is a chef, journalist and law student with an avid belief in civic education and accountability. He was also a Green Party candidate. 


  1. Good analogy Damon,

    Rail is the only way forward now; – since oil is now on the decline.

    Then we will see climate change is about to cause more massive floods and erosion as being imminent.

    So these changes will cut our transport options.

    As you say correctly “don’t back just one horse.”

      • @ AGUSSS?
        You calling @ CLEANGREEN a noob?
        A noob???
        “a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity, especially computing or the use of the Internet.”
        Why would you write that? You don’t know @ CLEANGREEN? And I think @ CLEANGREEN expresses himself very well.
        I think you may be confusing TDB with KiwiBlog or whaleoil where silly little illiterates go to get stiffies taking pot shots at great people.
        Go there now. Off you go.

        To hasten your departure;



    • “Rail is the only way forward now; – since oil is now on the decline.”

      “As you say correctly “don’t back just one horse.” ”

      Hmmm…. something doesn’t add up there…


  2. Integrity and honesty have always been foreign concepts to National and we shouldn’t expect that situation to change anytime soon.

  3. Whats happening with all the cash from all the canned regional motorways and the big new fuel taxes? that’s a hell of a lot of money – billions going to… where? Auckland bike lanes and light rail?

  4. The problem is, they are not really planning on having a 1st world public transport system and even if they were it is going to take years to build. Meanwhile people have to travel in that time.

    Even if NZ do put on public transport services, often they are infrequent and not at the levels of other cities, aka every 20 minutes from city to city in Europe, every 5 minutes with underground services and it all interconnecting across the country.

    In NZ most people are forced to have a car because there is no network of public transport options available, and they are now being told to use public transport options that are not even built yet.

    Interconnected transport is not even being planned for.

    Instead what is being planned for is richer people will have all the options who live closer to the centre (buses, underground, cycle ways, walk ways, double garaging at their house) but those further out, will have little to zero options for public transport

    Modern life relies on people going from A to B to C and then back to A. It’s called gig economy. The problem is if in NZ you only have a few public transport services a day further out, it becomes unusable for many people because modern business needs people to travel and many people now have multiple jobs….. those jobs have different hours…. and maybe in different locations. Then people have kids and they need to go places (for example many schools don’t have swimming pools anymore, so you have to start ferrying kids around to learn to swim).

    I don’t disagree that public transport is a great option, but I’m disagreeing that what is here and indeed what is planned is not acceptable or practical option for many people’s needs and so the new government and councils are giving a lot of stick to get out people out of cars, without a viable option for public transport for a lot of people to turn to. There will be a lot of anger and it will effect them.

    • The government is not increasing any “car tax”, but rather the excise on fossil fuels, as well as road user charges. Electric cars are currently not subject to either of these. This will accelerate both the much-needed shift to electric vehicles, as well as a more general move away from single occupant vehicles in general, which are an incredibly inefficient use of the scarce public space in our urban areas, and by extension the 50% ratepayer subsidy that funds all 82,000 kms of NZ’s local road network.

      “…[A]n EV would cost about the equivalent of 30c a litre or about 13.5 per cent of the running cost of an internal combustion engine vehicle when factoring in the proportional reduction as more fuel levies are added.”

  5. Often people use population density to say NZ will be fine to take more people and it will grow our economy. They use Europe as an example, but Europe already has the houses, the high rises and the jobs and the public transport and the sewerage systems in place so they don’t have to borrow billions to put it in. You can also look at the third world, but that comes at a price, pollution and poverty.

    How are people in NZ on minimum wages or no wages at all but passive investors like Peter Thiel, are going to be able to pay that money back?

    Apparently Auckland council debt is rocketing up 2 million dollars per day and I’ve not seen any progress yet on beach closures and transport apart from more delays as they try to build things, but I’m sure the America’s cup will be fine and built speedily. Where there is a will there is a way!

    The government should never have allowed more population growth until they had solved and built the transport, houses and sewerage and waste water needed for the growth in the first place.

    In the US the workers often have to live up to 4 hours a way from their minimum waged job. People working in Silicon Valley for example on minimum wages (aka the bus drivers) actually start living in the buses themselves or in the parks. But they are working (often on subcontracts) for some of the most wealthy businesses in the world.

    The country and the economy may be wealthy, but it’s at the expense of worker exploitation through poor wages.

    I’m concerned that NZ has too much stick for a system that will not work for a lot of people who for various sound reasons can’t use the little transport that is there, and the Labour and Green government are not listening to them or planning for them and essentially in a Wellington/Pt Chev (Jacinda/Genter) bubble.

    Do they realise that it costs nearly $30 for a family of 4 return to go from Pt Chev to the Auckland on the bus when it is only a few KM’s?

    What options are there for a family that lives in Kaukaupakapa in Auckland whose school is far away, whose jobs are far away and not on direct transport links?

    People buy and rent property that is cheaper because it is not on public transport links. Those houses on transport links cost a lot more to buy or rent!

    For those who believe high rises are the way, the body corp for a family apartment can easily set you back over $10,000 a year and it goes up every year around 5% per annum like clockwork, wages just don’t keep up! The apartments are not as affordable as many think when you add in the risk of the body corporates and the amount of leaky buildings being built.

  6. Just to give you an example of how inefficient, costly and time consuming public transport is under AT in Auckland….

    Type in Kaukapakapa to Auckland on AT website, it returns that there is no public transport option.

    If you look at their planning from PT Chev to Auckland central which is only 2 stages and takes around 10 minutes by car it comes back 45 minutes. So instead of 20 minutes to drive there and back you need to allow 1.5 hours.

    When you price it is is $5.50 per person per journey and $3 for a child on a cash fare. So a person will spend $34 return to take a family of 4 and 1.5 hours to go 7.5 km each way.

    Or you could pay $40 for 4 HOP cards and then apply for the student cards (see next post for how to do that)and it will cost you $13.20 and take 1.5 hours for the 7.5km journey each way and you must use the child card every 60 days, you need to allow 72 hours from first resisting the card before the discount will show up.

    So your 2nd option is an out lay will set you back $53.20 or more likely $62 because it takes up to 72 hours to get the child discount to go 14km.

    Don’t forget Auckland ratepayers pay AT approx 50% of the 1.5 billion dollars a year for subsidised transport on top of the outrageous charges and poor service you receive from them.

  7. The process to get your child HOP card. from AT website.

    “3 steps to get your child concession on your AT HOP card

    Buy an AT HOP card.
    Create MyAT account
    Register AT HOP card online.
    How long before it’s active on your card and shows in your online account?

    After registering your AT HOP card, your child discount concession will be available after it has been processed (usually within 24 hours, but can take up to 72 hours), and will show up in your online account only after you tag on. Tag on within 60 days otherwise the concession discount will expire, if that happens, contact us and we can reload it.

    Remember, until the concession is applied to the card, adult fares will be charged.

    Step 1: Buy a card

    If you don’t have an AT HOP card then first buy a card. You need the card number to be able to register the card.

    Step 2: Create MyAT account

    If you are creating your own MyAT account then follow steps for creating a MyAT account and registering the card for yourself.

    For parents or caregivers, first decide how you want to manage your child’s AT HOP card, as there are two options for how you can setup the MyAT account:

    Option 1: Create the account on behalf of your child, which allows them to eventually take over the management of their card and account.

    This requires a unique email address for each person’s own MyAT account, as you are unable to re-use the email address for another AT HOP account.
    If you are managing cards on behalf of multiple people, then creating a MyAT account for each person and logging to each account to manage the cards, may be time consuming.
    Option 2: Use your own MyAT account, login and create linked accounts for managing cards for more than one person

    You need to register your own AT HOP card to your MyAT account first before registering cards and linked accounts for additional people.
    You cannot register cards that have already been registered to another AT HOP account.
    If in the future the person you are managing this card for wants to manage their own card, they will have to create their own MyAT account and buy a new card to register. Please note, you cannot transfer AT HOP money between accounts.
    Create a MyAT online account

    Step 3: Register the AT HOP card

    Login to MyAT and register your AT HOP card.

    If you are under 16 years of age, a child concession will be applied automatically when you register the AT HOP card with the the correct date of birth.

    It may take 24-72 hours after registration for the child concession to be applied.
    If you do not tag on within 60 days, the child concession will expire. If this happens, please call us and we will reactivate it for you.
    Once you’ve tagged on and the concession is loaded to your AT HOP card, it will show as ‘child’ on your AT HOP card in your online account.
    You don’t have to do anything until your 16th birthday.”

  8. I’m not so worried about the fuel tax, I’m more worried that the money will be squandered.

    Kaukapakapa, Helensville, Wellsford and Warkworth are all part of the Auckland Super city. – Maybe nobody told AT or Auckland council or government.

    And to the South, as far as Pukekohe and Waiuku are part of Auckland Super city.

    Therefore they should all be serviced with decent public transport and the money spent on those areas suppling it from any Fuel Taxes collected from Auckland as they are now considered part of Auckland. But it’s not at all clear if they will get anything because they are talking about cycle and walking tracks around central Auckland.

    The supercity ratepayers pay for 54% of the AT budget currently 1.324 billion dollars per year.

    My points are, instead of trying to collect more taxes as a solution, maybe government should first put a stick as well as magnifying glass to AT and Auckland council and the transport agencies instead of all their customers and ask what the F they are doing with all our money as well as their outrageous fees for their poor services.

    It’s not just the money the government needs to create public transport, they need someone to implement something that is practical and satisfactory and fair and for everyone who lives in the city and/or country – not just the chosen few.

    It does not sound like AT or our government transport agencies with their record so far.

  9. As for the Nats, everything they touch turns to shit. Aucklanders would be wise to steer clear of anyhing they have to offer. They failed to find answers in 9 years, why should they be taken seriously now?

  10. Whichever way Aucklanders look at it, their choices are limited. Pay to increase public transport. Or do nothing and traffic gridlock eventually brings the city to a standstill. This is why we lrft Auckland. The city is slowly being strangled by cars.

  11. A traitor and his sycophants.
    This might seem a little off-topic. But not really.

    Calling all Farmers ! ?

    Does it not make you wonder what Little Farmer billy’s doing standing in a flash, expensive tunnel running under a city that shouldn’t be there with two creatures of equal repugnancy?
    Does it not beg the question: Why is a Southland Farmer in Auckland spending your money on a fancy hole in the ground so as his Auckland 1%er wanker Bro’s can drive their Ferrari’s to the AP?

    Do you know where Tapanui is?
    It’s a tiny little south east Otago town.
    It’s also slap dab in the middle of some of the most fertile and visually beautiful countryside in NZ.
    The largest building, by far, is the now long retired BNZ building. It’s lying empty down a side street and would have been built at around the turn of the 19th century at great cost.
    It stands there as mute testimony to our country’s wealth generated there, and that’s something that’s not changed.
    So,little bill. Dear little double dipping Dipton billy. What the fuck are you doing standing in a tunnel with two other pairs of polished shoes?

    Calling all farmers!

    You’re being head fucked by a traitor. You’re being held to ransom by Blue Liars. You’re being swindled and deceived and now that your brightest children have long since fledged from the nest, your communities are only left with the terminally stupid who eagerly wait to be abused.
    When you get scraped off your homelands by vast foreign debt pimped by your lovely National Party mates you will not be able to say I didn’t warn you.

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