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The time for Green ideas on transport is now

30 June 2005

The time for Green ideas on transport is now

New Zealand needs to embrace a new vision on transport, says Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, reacting to the National Land Transport Programme, released this afternoon.

"Thanks to the Greens working with Labour, there is now a much greater investment in public transport and other alternatives to roading," Ms Fitzsimons said. "However, we can and must do more to get our transport systems on a more sustainable footing.

"Spending on public transport has risen to $240 million, an increase of over 350 percent since 2000. The proportion of the transport budget going into public transport and other alternatives to roading has almost trebled, from 5.5 percent in 2000 to 15.2 percent now.

"But the Government's stance on transport is still weighted far too heavily towards environmentally destructive and counterproductive road construction. Roading still receives more than 80 percent of the transport budget. This is far too much, when you consider that encouraging car use just creates more congestion, more global warming, and more rapid use of petrol, a quickly depleting resource."

"On top of this, state highways get 100 percent government funding, while public transport systems only get around half with local ratepayers left to come up with the rest," she said. "This means state highways get pushed through while weary ratepayers decide whether to come up with the top-up money to get a public transport project off the ground. This outdated funding system needs reforming."

Ms Fitzsimons said concentrating on building more roads, promoted by National and pursued by Labour, was dangerous, short-term thinking.

"Oil prices are rising inexorably, touching US$60 a barrel, yet we are still building roads like there is no tomorrow. Far more money needs to be diverted into expanding public transport, rail and coastal shipping so people and business have viable alternatives as the end of cheap oil beckons and the costs of climate change start to bite. Rail is being especially neglected - the $20 million a year the Government has earmarked for maintenance of the rail track represents just 6 percent of what it spends on state highways.

"This year, our nation will spend more on building new roads than on maintaining current ones. This begs the question of how the Government plans to maintain all these new roads in the future. And given that we have known since the 1930s that building more roads encourages more car use, we must ask what is the point of big new urban roads when they're no fix for gridlock."

The Greens are looking at ways to level the funding playing field between roading and alternative transport options, Ms Fitzsimons said.

"There is over $300m of this year's $1.7 billion unallocated. The Green Party wants this money used to catch up on investment in public transport, rail, walking and cycling and travel demand management.'

ENDS

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