Critics slam Labour truck proposal

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 09:32 16/04/2014

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Labour's proposal to ban trucks from fast lanes and make it cheaper to own some vehicles has received a mixed reaction.

Labour has promised to drop the need for New Zealand's 600,000 light trailer and caravan owners to register their vehicles, at a cost of $35 a year each, and to cut the planned increase in road user charges for motor homes.

They would also stop heavy trucks - which have a speed limit of 90kmh - from driving in the fast lane on three and four lane motorways, to avoid holding motorists up.

"There's nothing Kiwis like more than getting on the road and going on holiday. But on public holidays like Easter and Anzac Weekend fun can quickly turn to frustration when the family realises the rego for the caravan has expired or there's a big truck hogging the fast lane," Labour leader David Cunliffe said.

Cancelling the need to register light trailers and caravans would cost the Government about $17 million a year and the motorhomes proposal about $5m a year. Labour deputy leader David Parker said the policies were not major issues but addressed something people felt frustrated by.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee ridiculed the proposals as "poorly thought through" and a "joke".

They would mean less money was spent on maintaining and upgrading the country's roads.

"When you cut a levy from somewhere you have to pay for it from somewhere else, and this policy asks some motorists to subsidise others who choose to use trailers and caravans."

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley dubbed the fast-lane truck ban "dangerous and impractical".

"Mr Cunliffe's proposal would make it illegal for heavy vehicles in such a situation to swing into the right-hand lane to make their turn.

"Devising some sort of exemption to allow for such turns would create an enforcement minefield and also endanger other road users who would expect such vehicles to stay in the left-hand lane."

Some trucks were also faster than others and they needed to be able to pass slower ones.

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said AA supported the non-registration proposal but the idea of banning trucks in the fast lane needed more thought. The tax benefit of the registrations to the Government was very low and while they only cost consumers $35 a year, it was a hassle.

"Most of the time those vehicles are off the road, they're not being used so people don't want to have to license them for 12 months when they're not going to use it."

They also faced a disproportionate fine of $200 if caught using an unregistered trailer.

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The idea was also under consideration by the NZTA, he said.

Motorhome users were also generally retirees on fixed incomes and the road user charges were preventing them from using their homes.

- Fairfax Media

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