Planned fees rise fear for rail and steam society

A proposed rise in rail safety regulatory fees would stretch the Oamaru Steam and Rail Society’s budget  close to breaking point, its general manager says.

The NZ Transport Agency’s rail safety regulator funding review, announced last month, is out for public consultation and proposes a change to fees and levies set out in 2008.The review’s executive summary said  a decade ago fees were  set  below what was  needed

to break even and they had not moved since.

The NZTA earned about $1.2 million  in third-party fees and levies each year, well below the average $2.4 million a year  required to fund the safety regulation system, the review said.  In July 2017, the NZTA board wrote off a deficit of $5 million, accrued since 2008.

An annual income of $4.15 million was needed "to ensure the regulator becomes a more effective regulator, recovers its current deficit and reaches break-even by 2023-24", it said.

Oamaru Steam and Rail Society general manager Harry Andrew said the small incorporated society  paid safety regulation fees of $375 a year, which would rise to about $1000 under the proposal.

In addition, a charge of $120 an hour to investigate incidents, such as accidents at level crossings, was also proposed.

"It would just about break us. Potentially, it could because of the cost. We are a small incorporated society and we work on a very limited budget. We can just accept an increase, but it needs to be a fixed increase so we can budget for it.

"We would bear the brunt of that cost, through no fault of our own."

At present, regulations require all rail licence holders, including the Oamaru Steam and Rail Society, to pay an annual licence fee calculated from a base rate plus an amount based on freight revenue, passengers numbers and track length.

Consultation closes at the end of the month.

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