The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) plans to submit a proposal to toll the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (Ara Tūhono) within weeks, despite fierce local opposition.
NZTA national manager of system design, Robyn Elston, says the agency is working to submit a proposal to the Minister of Transport in April.
Ms Elston says NZTA’s proposal will take into account feedback from a public consultation on tolling last year, but says the findings from that consultation will not be revealed until after the Minister has made a decision.
She says the level of public support for tolling will be a factor in the Minister’s decision on whether or not to progress with a toll.
Should the Minister support tolling, the proposal will go to Cabinet. Cabinet can then recommend the making of an Order in Council, which gives the Government the legal ability to toll. For the road to be tolled, the Order in Council must be in force no later than the day the road is opened, which is scheduled for mid-May next year.
An NZTA tolling team assessment in March last year found that the motorway was suitable for tolling and advocated that the NZTA board recommend to the Minister of Transport that the road be tolled.
The tolling team found that tolling revenue would result in a meaningful contribution to the cost of the project, that tolling infrastructure could be installed in a cost-effective manner and tolling would not result in traffic volume changes that would unduly impact the wider road network.
But the prospect of tolling received a strongly negative reaction from the Mahurangi community when it was raised last year.
Then One Warkworth chair Chris Murphy said the toll amounted to an additional tax on local people and other parts of the country were not being penalised in the same way.
At a public meeting in Warkworth in August, a chorus of critics said locals were already saddled with paying the Northern Gateway toll through the Johnstones Hill tunnels and a toll would stymie economic growth.
An online survey organised by Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers found 78 per cent of respondents “strongly opposed” tolling.