Opposition leader Simon Bridges claimed this week that the Ardern-Peters Government has played a cruel joke on low income New Zealanders, trumpeting a 75 cent an hour increase in the minimum wage only to propose a hike of up to 25¢ a litre on fuel just days later.
In an official statement the National leader said: “This Government has talked about supporting low income New Zealanders but its extraordinary proposal to make motorists pay up to an extra $15 at the petrol pump every time they fill their car up will hit them right in the back pocket.
“The confirmed Auckland regional fuel tax and the proposed ‘Winston Peters Regional New Zealand Fuel Tax’ will have a real impact.”
Bridges claimed that those on the new minimum wage will have to work more than 20 hours just to get ahead - once the additional cost of keeping their car running is taken into account.
“And with the extra costs incurred by businesses as a result of wage and fuel price rises likely to be passed on to consumers it’s bad news all round for NZ households.
“What makes this more appalling is just months ago the Government announced an inquiry into petrol prices saying New Zealanders were paying too much at the pump.”
Bridges said that in contrast, Easter Weekend is when National’s 2017 Budget would have made workers on the minimum wage $500 a year better off thanks to tax threshold changes.
“Given the Government is now considering imposing a raft of new taxes New Zealanders will rightly be starting to question how they and their families can get ahead.
It reeks, he said, of a Government with no plan, no idea how to grow an economy, no clue how to support businesses and no awareness of the impacts its bad decisions are having.
Bridges said the previous National government received advice on increasing fuel taxes but decided not to because it could pay for its roading plans within existing Budget allocations.
The Labour-led Government released its draft 10-year transport plan on Tuesday, including cutting more than $5 billion from state highway upgrades and channelling the money into public transport such as light rail, urban cycleways and safety improvements on urban and regional roads.
Big ticket items include about $4 billion over the next five years for the beginning stages of light rail in Auckland - a Labour election promises.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newstalk ZB’s Mie Hosking that the plan to raise petrol excise by between 9-12¢ a litre did not breach her pre-election promise of “no new taxes” in her first term.
She told Hosking that Tuesday's Government Policy Statement on land transport was a routine review that happened every three years and did not propose new taxes.
Newstalk ZB recalled that Ardern promised before the election last September that any tax changes arising out of the Labour Party's proposed tax review would not take effect until after the 2020 election.