Thursday, June 29, 2023

Robert MacCulloch: On Penlink Tolls

Transport Minister Parker is Right to want them; National is wrong to scrap them

Regards Auckland's new Penlink road, upon which construction has begun, making access to the Whangaparoa peninsula easier, it was reported yesterday that, "Transport Minister David Parker has no plans to review the decision of former Transport Minister Michael Wood, who ignored official advice to not toll the new road & went ahead with charges for motorists". Well that's because the official advice was a load of hogwash. Wood & Parker got it right.

Meanwhile, consistent with the atrocious economic advice that National keep getting across a swathe of economic issues, the media report that, "National is promising a review of the O Mahurangi Penlink road north of Auckland if it wins this year’s election, saying it will look to scrap tolls and extend it from two to four lanes".

Is the National Party incapable of coming up with a principled approach to anything when it comes to economics? Our infrastructure is falling apart and economists around the world nearly entirely support user pays in the form of tolls to help fund new projects. Even far-left socialists in France support toll roads & France is packed full of them. American is packed full of them. When left & right-wing countries both share the same policy on an issue then one suspects that maybe its not about partisan politics - its about doing the right thing. If tolls are not used then the funds must come out of general taxation and what is the National Party's policy on tax? It wants to cut taxes.

We flew out to NZ the world's leading urban economist, Ed Glaeser, at huge cost, to talk to the movers & shakers 10 years ago to explain how to fix our infrastructure - Stuff ran the headline, "Road tolls are the best option for funding the development of Auckland's $12 billion transport program, two economic experts say .. 'I am not intrinsically opposed to providing more highways, but I am intrinsically opposed to providing more highways that are paid for by the general taxpayer, not the drivers themselves,' said Glaeser, who has spent years examining what makes cities successful".

The University of Auckland put on a Deans Distinguished Lecture that I organized. David Parker attended that event 10 years ago when he was relatively unknown and in Opposition. Good on him - he obviously got a lot of the event - as the benefits of tolls were discussed. It's just a shame that the National Party continues its anti-intellectual tradition that sees it shun the advice of the best economists in the world.


Professor Robert MacCulloch holds the Matthew S. Abel Chair of Macroeconomics at Auckland University. He has previously worked at the Reserve Bank, Oxford University, and the London School of Economics. He runs the blog Down to Earth Kiwi from where this article was sourced.


Robert Arthur said...

Untolled roads such as that proposed run totally counter to the idea of concentrating cities and reducing CO2 production. But the tolls have to be more than token. One wonders just how closely National follow world views or consider the propoganda fed to and the thought processes of the common voter, including the many very young. Blanket proposing of the opposite to everything Labour may not be the way to success.

Anonymous said...

User pays, what could be wrong with that?