Fletcher in NZ to look at its road charging regime

By: Rob McKay

ATA warns Kiwi system has major flaws must be considered

Fletcher in NZ to look at its road charging regime
Paul Fletcher is looking to learn from the New Zealand charging experience


Australia’s nominal ‘minister for road charging reform’, Paul Fletcher, is in New Zealand to run the rule over how that country treats heavy vehicles.

Federal urban infrastructure minister Fletcher says he is looking for clues and potential pitfalls as the government ramps up the road-charging reform process, as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

"Part of the reform process in Australia includes the development of options to move to independent price regulation for heavy vehicle charges," Fletcher says.

"I expect to release a discussion paper for comment in the first half of 2017.

"In New Zealand revenue generated by the road user charges is set aside in a dedicated land transport fund, to be invested back into the road network by an agency operating at arm's length from government.

"Successive reviews, including Infrastructure Australia's Australian Infrastructure Plan and the Harper Competition Policy Review, have advocated for reform of heavy vehicle user charging in Australia to include elements similar to the New Zealand system."

However, any lessons will be picked over in detail by a skeptical Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

It believes the NZ system contains significant drawbacks and weaknesses and highlights the differences between the countries approaches to such issues.

"The ATA has also looked at the New Zealand road user charging system, thanks to our close relationship with our counterparts in NZ, Road Transport Forum New Zealand," ATA chair Noelene Watson tells ATN.

"I went to their conference in October last year. We also sent a member of our policy team to Wellington to talk to government officials.

"From the ATA’s point of view, the New Zealand system is too complex – one judge in a New Zealand court case described it as labyrinthine – and it also lacks independence.

"The road user charge rate is set by the New Zealand Government, and because they publish their cabinet papers it’s even possible to look at how the last major decision on the charge was made.

"This system would not work here. We need an independent price regulator to stop the overcharging of truck and bus operators.

"The ATA hopes that Minister Fletcher will take the opportunity to talk to his counterparts about the New Zealand operator licensing system as well.

"There are no good arguments for setting up a similar system in Australia."

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