Less talk and more political action needed to solve road congestion in NZ
Wellington (5 November 2019): Bold policy changes in the form of congestion pricing, which charges drivers higher road
user rates at peak times in overcrowded routes, can solve New Zealand’s shocking congestion problems, says a new report
from The New Zealand Initiative.
The Price is Right: The road to a better transport system provides compelling evidence that without proper road user pricing, congestion will continue to increase in our urban
centres. Government forecasts shows New Zealand’s total vehicle kilometres travelled might increase by as much as 66% by
“Introducing congestion charges can encourage commuters to find trip alternatives, such as other travel times, routes
and transport modes. That would reduce the overuse of road services at peak times,” says report author Dr Patrick
“In return, to avoid congestion charges becoming ‘just another tax’, commuters should expect the government to commit to
a revenue-neutral system – where every net dollar raised through congestion charges would be offset by, say, a dollar
less through property rate collection or lower fuel prices.
“Variable peak and off-peak rates are already part of our daily lives, from electricity bills and cinema tickets to
hotel rates and public transport fares. Why should it be any different with car use?
“In a sense, we are already paying for congestion through hours wasted idling in commutes every week. Instead of
Soviet-style rationing of road space by widespread queuing, congestion charges would harness the power of markets to
solve our daily, and costly, road bottlenecks,” says Dr Carvalho.
Congestion pricing is not a new concept, with close to 100 years of academic research backing it, and plenty of
international case studies validating it. In New Zealand, politicians across the spectrum are in favour of congestion
charges, and both the Tax Working Group and the Productivity Commission have proposed congestion charges as an efficient
way to modify behaviour and improve environmental quality.
International research also shows that the majority of road users are better off with the implementation of congestion
charges, with lower socioeconomic groups usually benefitting the most. Tellingly, follow-up surveys demonstrate that the
initial public scepticism is significantly reduced after the implementation of congestion charges. As congestion on the
roads reduces, commuters become more receptive of proper pricing for road use.
New Zealand is well-placed to implement a comprehensive, world-class road pricing system. As an island economy with a
unitary government, we do not face the same regulatory hurdles as, for example, the US or the European Union.
A copy of The Price is Right: The road to a better transport system, and a report summary are attached at the bottom of this page.
About The New Zealand Initiative
The New Zealand Initiative is an evidence-based think tank and research institute contributing to public policy
Supported by the nation’s leading visionaries, business leaders and political thinkers, we are committed to making New
Zealand a better country for all its citizens with a world-class education system, affordable housing, a healthy
environment, sound public finances and a stable currency.
to Insights, our weekly newsletter