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Cutting Youth Public Transport Discounts Will Worsen Cost Of Living And Climate Crisis - Free Fares NZ

Children under 13 are currently entitled to free public transport across Aotearoa, and young people under 25 to half price fares. The government plans to scrap these discounts from the 1st of May, much to the dismay of kiwis doing it tough.

Young people already have limited transport options. Making public transport less affordable will make it harder for young people to participate in their communities, including getting to work, school, and seeing their friends and whānau. This additional cost for young people and their whānau will be particularly harsh for whānau struggling with the cost of living crisis and rising unemployment.

“As a student, I rely heavily on public transport to access education and get around. Removing the discounts doubles my transport costs, which is a big blow for my weekly budget. The removal of these discounts when many students and young people are already stretched for funds is really rough.” Says Mika Hervel, an organiser for the Free Fares campaign. “I just can’t fathom how there isn’t enough money to support people to use public transport, yet the government is exploring expensive car-centric infrastructure projects like a tunnel under Wellington.”

Sarita Divis, Executive Officer from the Child Poverty Action Group says, “Research shows that education is a way out of poverty. As the country looks to improve school attendance, policies such as free and half price public transport are a tool to support children and young people accessing education and training.”

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Henry Lockhart, a Wellington-based High School teacher says “Many of the school students I’ve worked with use public transport to get to school. I am worried that public transport costs will become one more contributing factor to non-attendance and put additional strain on whānau doing it tough.”

“In the latest child poverty statistics 1 in 8 children experience material hardship in New Zealand. Affordable public transport allows us to address some of the costs related to hardship and for the families and children affected they enable better life outcomes, better health, more choices and to be better able to contribute to society. The government's Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy vision is that New Zealand be the best place in the world for children and young people. Regardless of who we are, or what part of Aotearoa we come from, we want communities where caring for and raising children is seen as important, where the wellbeing of those children is seen as critical and where we thrive together.” says Davis.

Free Fares NZ is also concerned about the long-term climate impacts of this cut. Public transport are much lower than private vehicle emissions, and public transport discounts lead to reduced car use in favour of public transport. Removing fare subsidies has the potential to decrease patronage and lead to worse transport emissions.

“We need to pull every lever to respond to the climate crisis, and fare subsidies are a proven way to up public transport use.” Says Hana Pilkinton-Ching, VUWSA Vice-President and Free Fares spokesperson. “Transport is our second largest source of emissions in Aotearoa, and the subsidies for young people help normalise public transport as a way to get around, setting us up for a climate friendly transport system in the future. Cutting these discounts is a step backwards for our climate response.”

Free Fares and VUWSA are hosting a panel event about the removal of the youth discounts at Rutherford House (VUW Pipitea Campus), on Wednesday 1st May at 10am. Media and the general public are encouraged to attend to hear about the impacts of these cuts on different communities. More information is available at this link:

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