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Plan for transport windfall a lost opportunity

10 August 2005

Labour plan for transport windfall a lost opportunity


The Green Party is criticising as "a lost opportunity" the Government's plan to spend almost $400 million of new transport funding on big, new roading projects.

"With the roads in our major cities already grinding to a halt, it is disappointing that Labour has decided against putting this big money into getting more people out of their cars and on to public transport," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"This is a lost opportunity. Handed a windfall to spend on transport, Labour has squandered it on big roading projects that will do nothing to mitigate Auckland's congestion problems. It would have made much more sense to spend this money on starting the development of a state-of-the-art electric rail system.

"Priority should have been given to the completion of the core rail network in the Auckland region, providing the equivalent of an eight lane highway from the South of Auckland to the West."

If in a position to do so after the election, the Greens would attempt to renegotiate how the $500 million transport windfall was being spent, Ms Fitzsimons said.

"We're opposed to how Labour has decided to spend this money, and will be trying to change their mind after the election. Unfortunately, Labour seems to have been panicked by the pro-roading hysteria whipped up by National.

"It's regrettable that National seems to be setting the transport election agenda. National is pledging to kill public transport by spending all petrol tax on roads, yet Labour appears to be veering towards to this extremist agenda rather than standing up to it.

"The basic flaw of building more roads is that it encourages more cars and undermines public transport, starving rail and bus networks of funding.

"With oil prices hitting an historic high of US$64 a barrel, and the cost of filling up your tank becoming unaffordable for many Kiwis, a cars-first approach to transport funding is simply short-sighted.

"With climate change and the end of cheap oil starting to bite, the only rational response is to invest heavily in public transport projects, which will make it cheaper and more convenient for people to get around by train and ferry and bus."

Ms Fitzsimons said the Greens' supported safety improvements to the Waikato Expressway, but said they should be funded out of existing budgets instead of capacity-building projects.

"The Greens' priorities for road funding are safety and increasing efficiency of the existing network, rather than big increases in capacity."

ENDS

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