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Wellington’s transport plans harm health, climate & budgets

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council
www.orataiao.org.nz
MEDIA RELEASE, 10 March 2015

Doctors warn Wellington’s transport plans harm our health, climate and budgets

At today’s hearings on Wellington’s draft Regional Land Transport Plan 2015, Dr Russell Tregonning, Executive Board member of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, called for an urgent health check of the Wellington region’s latest Land Transport Plan.

Dr Tregonning, a senior lecturer at Wellington’s School of Medicine, commended the plan’s aims for a transport system that is “resilient, reliable and easy to use” and “seeks to grow public transport patronage”. However, he warned that the plan “could not achieve these aims by ignoring both climate damage from our fossil fuel use and our growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and other ill-health from inactivity caused by over-reliance on private transport”.

The multi-billion dollar taxpayer and ratepayer-funded plan concentrates 94 percent of its spending on new roads thus discouraging active and public transport.

“The plan is heading in the wrong direction at a time when New Zealand must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Dr Tregonning says.

“More than a billion dollars for Roads of National Significance in Wellington city is better invested in all-electric public transport – with light rail back on the agenda.

“This region urgently needs a high-quality network of frequent, high-capacity public transport and safe attractive cycle-ways and footpaths. We need to play our part in stabilising climate changes by moving towards a zero emissions transport system – not locking ourselves into old-style transport that attracts cars, creates congestion, and damages our health and our future.

“We know that around half of New Zealanders do not get enough regular exercise, and we know that two-thirds of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight. The health gains from regular exercise like walking to work (which includes that involved in public transport), as well as cycling are well-proven.

“OraTaiao calls for an immediate health impact assessment of this draft regional transport plan, which analyses the plan’s impact on climate change and health equity. We need a plan that works for this century, not the tired old thinking of the past.”

ENDS

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council comprises senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

Notes to editors:
Background

Wellington Regional Transport Committee’s Hearings Subcommittee
The Hearings Subcommittee was established by the Wellington Regional Transport Committee and comprises Councillor Swain (Greater Wellington Regional Council), Mayor Staples (South Wairarapa District Council), Mayor Guppy (Upper Hutt City Council), Mayor Leggett (Porirua City Council), Councillor Foster (Wellington City Council), and Ms Bleakley (NZ Transport Agency). Written submissions closed on 20 February and the Subcommittee is hearing oral presentations from 9-10 March 2015. The draft Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 can be found here: http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Regional-transport/RLTP-2015/RLTP-2014-Accessible-2.pdf

Health costs of physical inactivity
Physical inactivity is costing our economy around one percent of GDP including impacts on workplace productivity and individual well-being. Globally, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of premature death. In 2010 alone, twenty-one premature deaths were attributed to physical inactivity in Wellington and costs of $141 million. For each 1% reduction in motor vehicle distance, there is a corresponding 1.4-1.8% reduction in the incidence of road vehicle crashes.
http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/About-GW-the-region/News-and-media-releases/Physical-inactivity-costs-report.pdf

Investment returns from cycling infrastructure
New Zealand modelling (using Auckland data but the author has stated this is also applicable to Wellington) shows that transforming roads using best practice arterial and local street interventions is cost-effective, returning tens of dollars in benefits for every dollar spent. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307250/

Climate change and health
Climate change and related environmental changes create many risks to health which are recognised by health experts and leading health organisations all around the world. New Zealanders will face serious health threats, especially those people who already experience poorer health. However well planned action to address climate change can reduce these threats, and can also improve health and save money in the health sector. Bennett H, Jones R, Keating G, Woodward A, Hales S, Metcalfe S. Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action. N Z Med J. 2014 Nov 28; 127(1406):16-31. https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2014/vol-127-no-1406/6366

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