Consumers seem likely to pay more for goods after
the Government yesterday increased road user charges with
little notice - a move some transport operators labelled "the
Higher charges will affect diesel-powered vehicles, and those
weighing more than 3.5 tonnes.
Trucking companies are furious after the increase was
announced on Monday night and came into effect yesterday.
Road Transport Forum New Zealand chief executive Tony
Friedlander said the group, which represents about 80% of the
country's commercial road transport operators, last year
sought assurances from Transport Minister Annette King that
operators would be notified of increased charges.
The forum received written confirmation members would be
informed of changes.
"It is not just the increase. It's that it came without
notice having received assurances.
"On top of the highest fuel prices in history, increases to
the accident compensation levy and wage interest costs, it
will do extreme damage to industry.
"Members have said they will have to pass costs as soon as
This will be felt in provincial areas and cities like Dunedin
which are very dependent on road transport," he said.
The increase was announced in a statement posted on the
Government's website on Monday night.
No media statements were issued.
"The timing of this increase and the way it has been done
mean the minister could not have done more damage to our
industry if she had deliberately tried," Mr Friedlander said.
"She should not underestimate how angry our members and the
Mr Friedlander said the increase would inevitably mean higher
costs for businesses and higher prices in supermarkets.
However, Ms King said the impact would be "relatively
insignificant" and she did not expect any noticeable effect
on consumer prices.
Ms King said the increases were introduced to defray costs of
the national land transport programme.
Under the programme, $2.7 billion was allocated for transport
activities in 2008-09.
This included about $791 million for state highway
construction, $325 million for passenger transport services
and infrastructure and $273 million for road policing.
"Without all road users paying their fair share, this level
of investment cannot continue to be sustained," she said.
Charges for a 44-tonne truck and trailer unit which travelled
100,000km a year would increase to about $56,000, about $4000
more for operators, Mr Friedlander said.
Road user charges for transport operators in New Zealand were
already 200% higher than those paid by Australian businesses
using comparable trucks, he said.
Bus and Coach Association chief executive Raewyn Bleakley
said members were "shocked and angry".
The "highest level of feedback" about the charges had been
from tourism operators, she said.
"Tourist operators negotiate rates for services months in
advance, and this increase will leave them screaming. This
will be noticeable in places like Queenstown."
According to figures compiled by the association, operators
of an 11-tonne school bus which travelled 17,000km annually
would now pay about $250 more in road user charges.
A 10-tonne city bus which travelled 90,000km each year would
incur an extra $1021 in charges a year.
Operators of a tour coach weighing 18 tonnes which travelled
70,000km each year would pay an extra $1330 and a 17-tonne
long distance vehicle travelling 200,000km each year would
incur $3730 in extra costs.