An overwhelming majority of diesel users found buying up large amounts of discounted road-user-charges (RUCs) have likely failed the honesty test set up to deter people from rorting the scheme in the first place.
Numbers released to Newsroom by the transport minister reveal 1028 large purchases were identified in the past three months through spot checks by the transport agency, Waka Kotahi, and 73 percent of them have been verified as likely excessive.
As of July 18, just 21 large RUC distance licence holders have reversed their purchase after being contacted by Waka Kotahi.
Letters have been sent to the purchasers of all 757 large licences thought to have exceeded the number of RUC units they’re entitled to.
The scheme was set up so that purchasers would only buy the number of units they’d typically use over a three-month period.
Cabinet made a swift decision in March to give relief at the petrol pump as the war in Ukraine sent fuel prices skyrocketing.
While the excise duty cut of 25 cents a litre for an initial three months kicked in immediately for petrol, diesel users waited three weeks to be told how an equivalent discount would work for RUCs.
The result was a 36 percent discount set between late April and late July after legislation had to be passed to stop any over-purchasing.
“While there will always be those who try to take advantage of the system, I am confident that this is a relatively small number of potentially excessive purchases, when compared with the overall number of RUC purchases.”
– Michael Wood, Transport Minister
The RUC discount was complex for Government officials and Waka Kotahi to navigate due to it cutting across 85 different vehicle classes, which led to a delay in implementing it.
At the time Transport Minister Michael Wood said RUC purchasers would need to complete an online declaration form stating they were only buying what they needed for that period, and Waka Kotahi would undertake spot checks on large or suspicious purchases.
The discount, which also includes half-price public transport, has since been extended – first on Budget Day in May and then again last month through until January as inflation continues to soar.
Wood told Newsroom on Monday the public can have confidence that Waka Kotahi is closely monitoring large purchases and following up where it is thought the licence is excessive.
“While there will always be those who try to take advantage of the system, I am confident that this is a relatively small number of potentially excessive purchases, when compared with the overall number of RUC purchases,” he said.
The two extensions to the policy have come at a cost, with more than $1 billion set to be spent by January – the initial discount in March was $350m followed by $235m in May.
Wood told Newsroom he didn’t expect the excessive purchases identified to have a “significant impact on the overall cost of the scheme”.