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Light at the end of the road-tunnel

Light at the end of the road-tunnel

The Green Party is cautiously optimistic its arguments for sustainable, long-term transport policies are finally beginning to influence the institutional thinking of the nation's transport agencies.

Green Co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons said today's national transport programmes released by Transfund and Transit show both agencies are still stuck in the mental mire of road-building as the single solution to New Zealand's congestion problems, but they also contain some glimmers of hope for a fresh future.

"Until the Greens and Labour began to work on transport together, New Zealand was spending around 95 per cent of government transport funds on roads," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Today, after increased spending for public transport, rail, cycle facilities and travel demand management we're spending 88 per cent of the budget on roads. That's still far too much, but the trend is encouraging.

"However, with air pollution rising, climate change upon us and oil supplies running out, Transfund and Transit no longer have the luxury of being able to take their time to change direction. Transit, in particular, shows no sign of adopting a more integrated approach or even an awareness that road building for congestion relief is a self-defeating approach.

Ms Fitzsimons singled out SH20 in Auckland and the inner-city bypass in Wellington as together wasting over $200 million that is desperately needed for public transport investment. "Transit's own review process showed that both these projects have nil to negligible benefits and cause massive adverse effects," she said. "The money could be better used elsewhere.

Ms Fitzsimons also called on Transfund to be more proactive and local transport planners to be more innovative.

"Funds for travel demand management, rail, and walking and cycling are largely unallocated while major roading projects are being given the go ahead as fast as possible," said ms Fitzsimons. "New motorways make great monuments for petrol-head politicians but they are exactly the wrong sort of investment for a sustainable future."

Ms Fitzsimons also expressed concern that several regions have no proposals for demand management or rail and asked why Transfund has not been more active in seeking these out.

"On the bright side, Whangarei has set an example to the rest of the country with a 100 per cent growth in numbers using public transport, while the number of walking and cycling initiatives throughout New Zealand continues to grow."

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