Soaring fuel prices hurt Rodney poor, say residents

In just its first month of operation the regional fuel tax has raised $13.2 million for improved transport infrastructure.

But some Mahurangi residents are concerned the steep rise in fuel prices is too tough for those on low incomes.

The tax was introduced on July 1 and increased the price of fuel by 11.5 cents per litre. It aims to raise $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Dome Valley safety improvements and the Matakana link road are priority projects for the money.

But the regional fuel tax, along with a national fuel tax, ACC levies and rising global oil prices, have seen fuel prices soar.

On top of all that, Rodney residents are also required to pay a targeted rate of $150 annually for transport improvements.

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell says when all the taxes are taken together, it’s too much.

“The rising fuel prices are a huge concern for me. They’re impacting on people already, particularly those on a low income or superannuation,” he says.

“I was speaking at Wentworth School the other week, which is private, and even there the first issue students raised with me was the price of fuel.

“This country is already one of the most taxed in the OECD, and this government keeps putting more on.

“The targeted rate was a good idea, but with the other costs on top, it’s asking too much from Rodney residents.”

Warkworth Construction owner Kyle Brown says his team are feeling the pinch from the added costs.

“I’ve got eight apprentices who have to drive across the region and can’t use public transport because they need to carry their tools with them,” Kyle says.

“It’s frustrating because we price up a job, which might require 25 deliveries. Then the fuel price goes up and that extra cost all comes out of the builder’s pocket.”

Warkworth/Wellsford Budget Service coordinator Jo Walker says that most of the people she deals with use a car sparingly, but it’s an issue for those who don’t.

“An extra five or 10 dollars each week can really affect some people. That extra expense usually comes out of the food bill,” Jo says.

But Homebuilders coordinator Quentin Jukes says the projects the tax funds are necessary and recently upgraded public transport services will help those who are adversely affected.

“We need to look at the bigger picture here. Even though the transition may be challenging at times, we’re heading in the right direction with transport,” he says.

Labour MP Marja Lubeck says while the tax does put pressure on people, the government has counterbalanced that with its Families Package and wage rises.

“Wages have gone up 3 per cent in the last year, twice the rate of inflation, and our package has delivered an extra $75 to 384,000 families each week,” Ms Lubeck says.

“All fuel taxes pay for vital projects. Without them, there would be no funding for road infrastructure.

“Without these projects, there will be a huge loss of productivity that will cost more in the long run.”

She hopes the Commerce Amendment Bill currently before Parliament will help level prices out as it will allow the Commerce Commission to gain access to pricing information from petrol companies. See ‘Fury over fuel’.