The news that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), which if you haven't been keeping up is the result of Labour merging Transit NZ with its funder Land Transport NZ (because the then government was tired of one government agency holding another accountable), has not prosecuted a single toll evader on the Northern Gateway toll road is not surprising.
Quite simply NZTA has not a smidgeon of experience in running toll roads as there have been no state highway toll roads (the Tauranga ones have been council owned) since the Auckland Harbour Bridge. On top of that, the decision to toll a road once called ALPURT B2 and before that the Orewa Bypass, was very political, as Transit NZ wanted to prove it was competent as a tolling authority under the Land Transport Management Act - a child of the Labour, United Future and the Greens during the last government's second term.
The rate of evasion at 4% of trips is good by international standards, but reports such as those in the NZ Herald today undermine this significantly. I know about good practice with toll roads, I have designed business rules for them, and one of those is to pursue repeat recividist non-payers with prosecution. You see, in effect, non payment is trespass.
All of the net toll revenue is used to service and repay debt used to pay half the cost of the road (the rest has been funded through fuel tax and road user charges, so motorists effectively half pay for the road without the toll). If there was a private owner, you can be sure that it would pursue prosecution and seek court costs from motorists who continue to not pay.
Moreover, a private owner would likely run the tolling operation more efficiently than the government. The reported NZ$0.75 transaction cost is rather high by international standards, it should be around a third less. Why is it high? For starters it is being run by a long established government bureaucracy called the Transport Registry Centre. Sure it does the best job it can, but it is not commercially driven, so is unlikely to be able to be as efficient as foreign counterparts. Secondly, the sheer volume of transactions is pitifully low. Thirdly, without the experience it is unable to adopt best practice easily or automatically. Finally, unless it goes offshore it cannot get decent professional advice on these things, given the lack of experience in the country at all.
So why not sell the Northern Gateway? There is an alternative route after all, the original highway through Orewa (and even SH16 off to the west). It would showcase how no one should fear privately owned highways. Given many French and most Japanese motorways are privately owned, it shouldn't be a big deal, but the New Zealand left is rabidly irrational about such things.
Indeed, selling it ought to pay off the debt and some and it might mean the Tauranga Eastern Motorway is run better (that should be privately funded as well). It might also mean the NZ Herald writes no more editorials that have involved the complete absence of research or journalism on the topic. Given the NZ Herald somehow links this to regional fuel tax, when Labour approved tolls on the road in the first place, shows once again how incredibly shallow and nearly useless the media can be.