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Hamilton CNG stoush highlights Govt policy vacuum

17 August 2006

Hamilton CNG stoush highlights Govt policy vacuum

The Hamilton CNG buses stoush is a direct result of the Government's policy vacuum on alternative fuels and public transport, Hamilton-based Green MP Nandor Tanczos says.

Nandor earlier this week met with Cr Dave Macpherson from the Hamilton City Council and Cr Paula Southgate from Environment Waikato to try and find common ground on the CNG bus issue.

"Dave and Paula both told me that this argument would not have happened if there was more guidance and support from central government. Both sides of this debate have shown more leadership, initiative and vision on alternative fuels and public transport than the Government ever did," Nandor says.

"Councillors in both bodies, from across the political spectrum, have made it clear that they want to take action on local pollution, climate change, and peak oil and that they support public transport and alternative fuels. The CNG dispute has simply been over the best way to spend ratepayers' money to achieve these goals.

"The Government in general and Land Transport NZ in particular need to wise up to what is happening locally around the country. As with the trolley buses in Wellington, Hamilton's CNG bus debate has shown that councils wanting to future-proof their communities are being hamstrung by the lack of support from central government."

"My biggest fear was that the city bus fleet's CNG capacity, namely the GoBus refuelling station, would be lost. I now understand that some 12 CNG buses will be retained. This means that the infrastructure will remain intact, making it possible to build numbers up again in future."

Last night the HCC voted not to support Cr Macpherson's proposal to subsidise the latest bus tender round to create a 'level playing field' for CNG and diesel. Then this afternoon EW voted to proceed with the tender as originally designed.

"Hamilton City councillors at their meeting last night said that while they are proud of their recent public transport initiatives, they had to question why it has been left to them to take the lead," Nandor says.

"HCC and EW have already kick-started public transport initiatives in the city, such as the hugely popular Orbiter service, to the tune of several million dollars. Several councillors thought spending another million dollars over the next eight years on the CNG proposal was 'a bridge too far'.

"My challenge to those councillors who said that the money could be spent more effectively on other transport initiatives is to make that money available. Let's see it being spent on environmentally sustainable transport initiatives, rather than disappearing into the general fund."

ENDS

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