Confusion reigns after Labour passed its Regional Fuel Tax (RFT) law yesterday, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.
"This tax comes into force in Auckland on Sunday, yet there is no system in place for off-road ‘behind the farm gate’ vehicles and machinery used by the 441 fruit and vegetable growers in Auckland that we represent," Chapman says. "Growers should not have to pay the RFT for vehicles and machinery that are supposed to be excluded from this tax, yet on Sunday they will have to. We are talking about considerable numbers of vehicles and machinery used to produce healthy food for New Zealanders, both in Auckland and beyond.
"Having paid this tax that doesn’t apply to off-road use, because there is no exemption process, they will then have to go through a complicated and costly process to get a rebate on that tax. This is just not logical. The Government has spent seven figures developing a rebate system without ever talking to future users, or considering that they shouldn’t have to pay the tax in the first place.
"It makes no sense, nor is it fair, that this money will sit in a government bank account earning interest for at least three months, when it has been unreasonably collected before possibly being eligible for rebate. This tax is designed to improve Auckland’s transport system, and therefore must exclude vehicles not used on those roads. Food production also uses a lot of diesel-fuelled machinery that gets captured by this tax unnecessarily.
"This process has been so rushed to meet Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s announced 1 July deadline, that we feel that we have not been listened to and the full democratic process has been unnecessarily truncated - to the point Labour suggested the committee stage of the Bill did not even need to be debated, in the interests of time.
"This will affect growers’ businesses and costs considerably, to the point of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Those costs will be passed on to consumers, making healthy food more expensive at a time when many households are already struggling.
"We are not at all consoled by New Zealand First’s Shane Jones’ comments in the third reading debate of this Bill yesterday:
"That's why we thoroughly endorse what the Minister said during the second stage when the House considered this bill. He is bringing forward, in short order, a body of work that will enable the inefficiencies and the areas that have to be refined in terms of a broad rebate system. It will deal not only to the challenges of implementing this particular impost, but also the entirety of the country.
So I say to the potato-growers, onion-growers, not only will I look forward to defending your elite soils, destroyed by Nick Smith under the last regime, but there will be an efficient process to ensure that people who feel that too much of the fuel that they're purchasing with this impost they cannot claim back through a robust rebate system. So the bill does deal with that, and the Minister is going to go on to make further announcements." - From Hansard.
"This will not happen by Sunday," Chapman says. "We are very disappointed in this process. We can only hope that the ‘inefficiencies and the areas that have to be refined in terms of a broad rebate system’ will be dealt with using the same speed that was used to force this ill-conceived Bill into law.
"We do not want a rebate system, we want 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, cost, and extra jobs for the public service to have to pay a tax and then claim it back. There is no logic, efficiency, or fairness in that."