ACT calls for scrapping marine fuel road tax

File photo.

The ACT Party has called for road taxes to be scrapped from recreational boat-users marine fuel, with Transport spokesperson Simon Court launching a petition this week at the Auckland boat show.

“Kiwi boaties are currently paying 83 cents per litre in taxes, most of that revenue goes into the National Land Transport Fund,” says Court.

“In Auckland it’s even more at 95 cents. The problem is most of this fund goes towards road and rail projects.”

Court says the ACT party believes that Kiwi boaties deserve a fair go.

“They should have access to a simple web-based system to submit receipts and claim back the petrol tax used in boats, jet-skis and other watercraft,” says Court.

“Unclaimed funds will be used to ensure all existing water-safety programmes continue to be funded.

Currently around 0.1 per cent of the $5 billion in road user charges goes to Maritime New Zealand, says Court.

“Maritime NZ then provides grants of approximately $880,000 to various councils, and water sports organisations such as Waka Ama and Paddle Boarding NZ.”

He says these grants are a token contribution compared with the petrol taxes paid by marine users.

“Other off-road users, including the commercial fishing, agriculture and construction sectors, are eligible for a refund, but recreational boaties miss out,” says Court.

“We’re launching our petition at the Auckland boat show and we welcome all New Zealanders who believe in fairness in our tax system to sign our petition here.”

In a March 2020 fuel tax review by the Ministry of Transport, an entitlement for fuel used in recreational boats was considered.

The review states that funding is provided for search and rescue and recreational boating activities instead of a refund entitlement and that “part of the reason for not providing an entitlement for fuel used in recreational boats is that funding is instead provided to services that benefit recreational boaties.”

The review also states that “an estimate is made of the amount of fuel excise duty paid by users of recreational boats and no more than that amount is used to fund search and rescue and recreational boating safety activities”.

This arrangement was put in place due to the practical and administrative difficulties in providing refunds to users of recreational boats.

The review stats that “it was established on the basis that the recreational boating community would value a robust search and rescue system and that the delivery of recreational boating safety activities was a priority”.

The fuel tax review also highlighted a risk of fraud due to a potential lack of records as there are no registration, certification, or recordkeeping requirements for recreational boats.

In a 2014 report prepared by Iain Matheson for Maritime New Zealand and the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum titled “2014 Review of the New Zealand Pleasure Boat Safety Strategy’, Iain reports that it was estimated in 2007 that there were 350,000 pleasure boats in NZ.

“The estimate rose to 450,000 in 2009 and has now reached around 900,000, with more than half being kayaks or canoes (which are not powered by fuel) or powerboats less than six metres in length. In a separate 2014 study, the marine industry estimated there were 509,360 recreational boats (excluding 5,495 moored commercial ships),” writes Iain in the 2014 report.

Another way to provide a rough indication of the number of powered recreational boats would be to consider the number of registered boat trailers.  The 2020 fuel tax review reported that the Motor Vehicle Register, administered by Waka Kotahi, showed 133,619 registered boat trailers in 2012, and 156,701 in 2018, which is well below the estimate for all types and sizes of powered craft from other studies.

Recreational boats are not required to be registered unless going overseas and are not required to have a maritime document issued by Maritime New Zealand.

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