It is great that the Harbour Bridge pedestrian and cycle crossing looks like it will happen. At last! Good on you Leigh Hopper, you go guy! However, the question remains, who should pay? It seems a toll of up to $5 each way will pay for it. In tough economic times, this seems the only way and makes a certain sense. It is user pays, which is the way things should be, one can argue at least.
Yet, it all seems bizarre to me. On the one hand, there is a huge movement toward ecological sustainability in our times. We are desperate to get people out of cars and other fossil fuel-using vehicles, into public transport and other means of transport like bikes and walking. Then there is the cry that we are getting fat, we are overweight or obese. We are called to get off our couches, put the chips, chocolate and remotes down, and get onto our feet and bikes and get moving. This will save millions right, as obesity is a huge cause of medical issues which clog up our hospitals.
The crossing is a brilliant way of making progress toward both these goals – reducing fossil fuel production and people lose weight. What a great idea to have a crossing. Heaps of people will now be able to walk and bike to work.
But then who should pay? Those who want to use the bridge, or the city? Here's a few ideas:
How about getting those who use vehicles to pay? Put a cent on every litre of gas purchased in the Auckland region, or even in those in central Auckland and the Shore within a twenty kilometre radius. Slap some tolls on people who want to drive into the centre of the city as they do in other cities like London. This would pay for a whole range of such things. Or how about divert a little health budget toward it, as it will potentially improve our health? Or how about some tourism dollars, as it will be a glorious tourist attraction as people get to walk the bridge in one of the world's most beautiful harbours. This will form part of the cycle-way I have heard. Well, tourists will be coming to use it won't they? Add a dollar to airport tax for foreign visitors. I remember walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge a year or five ago, it was glorious. It would have been worth paying a dollar arriving in Australia for this. Or put small tax on every big packet of chips, or on every bar of chocolate. Or hit the fast food restaurants with a levy on every burger, packet of fries, pizzas etc sold.
Don't get me wrong, it s a GREAT idea – sensational, wonderful, overdue, and all that. But, come on, make those who should pay pay?