Confused about the RFT?

Cartoon by Holly Rees, showing  farmer frustrations paying a tax for using equipment on their farms.

What’s that you say? What is the RFT? It’s a clever little tactic – taking a title with the word “tax” in it, and turning it into a sexy little abbreviation. RFT stands for Regional Fuel Tax, and a tanker load of confusion.

I undertook a quick stake out at a local petrol station last week. ‘Had you heard of the Regional Fuel Tax’ I asked? And do you agree with it? Responses were extremely vague. Some had heard of it, but didn’t know it was about to hit the pump, and not surprisingly, few really knew what it was for.
Fiona of Waiuku had vaguely heard of it. Kurt from Waiuku travels about 200 kms per week and wondered if the tax applied to diesel. Rob from Pukekohe had heard of the tax saying, “If it helps give us better infrastructure, then someone’s got to pay for it, so OK.” Talking to more local folk brought comments such as “the ones making the rules aren’t affected are they – we’re all paying for their gas and company cars through our rates and taxes!” and, “I wonder if Tuakau and Mercer petrol stations will raise their prices too, even though they’re not in the area…”
Official docs state that the purpose of a regional fuel tax is to ‘provide additional funds to a region to pay for transport projects that would not otherwise be funded.’ Auckland Council voted in the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax on May 31, it became law on June 26 and it hit our pockets on 1 July. More than 14,000 people provided written feedback to Council regarding the introduction of the tax, with 50 per cent not in support and 42 per cent in support. It’s interesting to note, that more than 30 per cent of Auckland’s councillors voted no for the introduction of the fuel tax, and its speedy implementation has caused concern among many.
The tax applies to both petrol and diesel (sorry Kurt) and adds 11.5 cents per litre (including GST) to your bill at the pump. So if you’re filling an average 50 litre car up twice a week with petrol, that means around another $550 per year will be slipping through your fingers (based on recent petrol prices). Ouch! I approached Z last week to see if they’d had any increase in demand at the pump leading up to the introduction of the tax. They replied, “we have not seen any spike in volumes to date. It’s still possible there could be some increase in customers or the amount of fuel sold on Friday and Saturday, so we are ensuring that our service stations have plenty of fuel in stock, just in case.”
Cruising past several petrol stations on Thursday night showed both Caltex Glenbrook and GAS Waiuku selling 91 at 209.9c per litre, Z Waiuku at 201.9c, and Gull at 195.7c. I grabbed a quick fill up at Gull and was back on Sunday to see what the new pump prices were.
Joining the ranks of the confused, are the many growers in our area. Why should rural vehicles and machinery that are largely used ‘behind the gate,’ be subject to a tax collected for supporting transport projects? They can get some of it back, eventually, but according to Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman, it’s a complicated and costly process to get a rebate. “This tax is designed to improve Auckland’s transport system, and therefore must exclude vehicles not used on those roads. We do not want a rebate system, we want a proper exemption. We do not believe growers should have to pay the tax in the first place and lose this money for a full three months before they can claim it back. It is ridiculous double handling.”
Hira Bhana & Co are one of the many grower businesses in the Franklin area. Having been growing for over 60 years, they advised that they agree with Horticulture NZ’s view, and are perplexed and disappointed with the tax application/rebate process they are now faced with.
Talk to anyone on the street and most would agree that the current transport situation in Auckland is out of control. Too many vehicles on our roads, not enough capacity for those vehicles, unreliable, infrequent and expensive public transport, and more population growth on its way, all combine to create a mess. Something needs to be done and funding that “something” is an issue.
Bill Cashmore, Franklin Ward Councillor and Deputy Mayor is promising progress for the Franklin area, stating, “the $430 million per year additional transport spend enabled by the RFT will benefit all of Franklin as the projects are delivered, whether they are Mill Road, extra electric trains, funding for growth areas, improvements to rural roads, safety programs such as new roundabouts, and so forth.”
Whether the fuel tax is the promised holy grail to our transport woes remains to be seen, and many sharp eyes will be watching. For now, this comment from a local probably sums it up best, “we’ll have a grumble, but then we’ll just suck it up and carry on.” Yup.
Pictured left: Gull Waiuku’s prices had increased by 10c per litre for 91 unleaded between Thursday 28/6/18 to Sunday 1/7/18. The new price of 205.7 placed it 15c per litre cheaper than the other main petrol stations in Waiuku. So shopping around may be a good idea.
Since you’re here… we have a small favour to ask. More and more people want the Post than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Post’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. With investigative reporting, we often don't know at the beginning how a story will unfold and how long it might take to uncover. This can mean it is costly – particularly as we often face legal threats that attempt to stop our reporting. But we remain committed to raising important questions and exposing wrongdoing. And we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as NZ$5, you can support the Post – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support The Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *