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Should Auckland commuters pay a congestion tax? AA renews call for Government to release research

The Automobile Association has renewed calls for the Government to release its findings into whether a congestion tax would be beneficial for Auckland.

It follows a report released in Australia yesterday by the Grattan Institute which recommended that all major Australian cities adopt a congestion tax during peak hours to ease congestion.

The Ministry of Transport said it's expecting to release its findings next year.

AA principal advisor for infrastructure, Barney Irvine, said a congestion tax "is certainly something that needs to be looked at in Auckland". 

"The rationale behind it, the logic behind it is really strong; it's worked well in a number of cities around the world," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning. "The big question is, would it be right for Auckland?'

"What we really want to see from the Government now is some really solid research to help us understand that question, and the frustrating thing is that a lot of the research has already been done."

Mr Irvine said the "really high-quality" research, set up by a group from the previous government which has continued into the current one, was done "precisely to answer that question". Their final recommendations were due to be released around one year ago, he said, but "we haven’t seen anything".

"This is such an important debate for Auckland. It's really not good enough to let it languish like that," he said. "If the benefits are as good as many people say they would be, well, we need to get moving on it.

"We're wasting time we just don't have."

Mr Irvine said what he has understood from the group's report is that there would be "some really good benefits in terms of decongestion" from a tax.

The group also focused on the tax's impact on "the people who would struggle to pay, or struggle to change their behaviour".

"The reality is that there are quite a number of tools you can come up with to help mitigate those impacts, and that's really important for a scheme like this."

The Grattan Institute report suggests that people who drive into the CBD usually come from higher-income households.

Mr Irvine said, however, that the "bigger issue" with the research's findings is that "the CBD is where there is the best public transport alternative".

"That's why a cordon charge around the CBD, rather than other parts of the network, makes the most sense," he said. "The CBD is where there is the most public transport usage and the public transport access is only going to get better as the city rail link opens and as we look at other public transport options as well."

Mr Irvine said the AA would need to look at the report before making a final decision on whether they would like to see a congestion tax in Auckland.

"We would need to see what the benefit would be, what the cost would be and whether in society-wide terms, this would be the best way to ease our congestion," he said. "We need to see that research." 

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AA principal advisor for infrastructure, Barney Irvine, is calling on the Government to release a report into the issue. Source: Breakfast