Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman is calling the regional fuel tax ‘unfair’ on Auckland farmers and growers and would like toll roads as an alternative.
The regional fuel tax bill is currently being put through Parliament, with a second reading in June, but will likely include a rebate system for fuel used off-road.
Both Federated Farmers and Mr Chapman say with one rebate system already in place, another would become complex and costly.
“It’s unnecessary to tax fuel for vehicles that will barely, if at all, use the roads,” Mr Chapman says.
“A large vegetable growing operation, for example, could have 100 tractors, so even with a rebate system it’s not fair, because of the administration costs to manage it.”
Ahuroa farmer Nicky Berger says that a rebate system would definitely cost farmers.
“Any extra administration just means less time being spent actually out on the farm where the money is made,” Ms Berger says.
“Because the buyer sets the cost of beef and lamb and not us, we would also wear any additional administration expenses ourselves.”
Mr Chapman has proposed more toll roads as the most accurate way to charge those using the infrastructure. This would avoid any extra costs for off-road fuel users.
“Two thirds of travel done by trucks that fill up in Auckland is outside of the region, and a lot of trucks travelling through the area fill up in places like Hamilton. An Auckland regional fuel tax just doesn’t make sense.”
But Transport Minister Phil Twyford says that Auckland Council approached the Government specifically about a fuel tax as they felt it fairer than tolling certain roads.
Mr Chapman is also concerned that trucking companies may increase their charges because of the tax.
Because the buyer covers delivery costs, this would make getting produce to Auckland more expensive putting farmers in the regions at a disadvantage.
Although, Mr Twyford says in the long-term, the tax will benefit truck companies and, therefore, farmers.
“Any marginal increase is likely to be offset by the additional deliveries distributors will be able to do because of reduced congestion,” Mr Twyford says.
However, Ms Berger says because farmers don’t pay for delivery they are unlikely to reap any benefits if roads become more efficient.