As your local MP, it’s my job to let you know just what’s going on behind the scenes in that big beehive-looking building they call the New Zealand parliament. It is also my job to relay to said parliament, and the Wellingtonians in it, just how we are feeling down in here in regional, small-town Oamaru.
Well, I for one am feeling a little dismayed.
As of next week, we will once again be hit in the pockets with yet another fuel price rise at the pumps. The first legislation passed after the so-called “wellbeing Budget” is to legislate for an extra $360million worth of fuel taxes over two years.
Unsurprisingly the coalition did a stellar job at hiding this little tidbit of information from us, pulling a “swifty” and getting it passed under urgency while we were all dissecting and digesting what, if any, “wellness” there was to be found.
From July, people will be paying 3.5c more per litre for fuel, and the road user charges will be increased by an average 5.5%
Let’s not forget the Government already increased petrol excise duty by 3.5c per litre in September last year.
Prices at the pump are at the highest we’ve seen in years.
It’s not just painful at the pumps. The extra fuel costs will bump up the prices of fruit, vegetables and other groceries, along with freight costs on most goods having to travel further down the country, hitting people in the pockets yet again.
It also renders ineffective any of the small increases families and beneficiaries got in the budget and makes a mockery of claims there were to be no increases in tax.
Of all the things the Government could do, increasing the price of fuel through taxes is one of the worst, because it really hits people in rural areas like Oamaru and the wider Waitaki, who must travel to access all their services.
All those trips with the kids to after-school sports and activities and doctors visits will now come at a greater cost, sadly forcing people to think twice before hitting the road.
These increases have a far-reaching effect on the local economy and small businesses throughout the region.
One rural transport company I spoke to said they felt at the mercy of the Government, with road user charges continually increasing, a cost which they are forced to pass on to their clients, Waitaki farmers. They say it’s been a tense 18 months and they are worried things will only get worse with clients questioning the price rises that they are forced to pass on as they simply cannot sustain the increasing costs.
Finally, last week two sets of Oamaru parents had to do the unthinkable – say their final farewells to their children following a devastating crash on the outskirts of town. Two youngsters died in the crash, another was left in a critical condition in Dunedin Hospital. One of the teenagers killed in the crash was a year 12 student at Waitaki Boys’ High School, the 18-year old driver left critically injured a former pupil. It’s fair to say this horrific event has not only torn apart families but has rocked the school community and sent shock waves throughout the wider Waitaki region. My heart goes out to those families who have lost loved ones and hope they may be able to find some peace during these most difficult days.