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Students, Public Transport Advocates Oppose Removal Of Youth Discounts With Public Panel On First Day Of Increased Fares

Public transport fares are doubling for many today as the Government removes half-price fares for under-25s and free fares for under-13s. This morning the Free Fares campaign and Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association held a panel at Pipitea Campus next to the Wellington Railway Station, with 30+ members of the public attending. Attendees ranged from school students to pensioners who already receive government-discounted fares through the SuperGold Card scheme, all concerned about the removal of these youth discounts.

Some attendees of this morning’s panel gathered outside the event. (Photo credit: Emma Maguire)

The following panellists shared discussed the impacts of increased public transport costs on cost of living and climate:

  • Mika Hervel, university student and organiser for the Free Fares campaign
  • Harris Puanaki Devon, tumuaki/president for Te Mana Ākonga, the national Māori Students’ Association
  • Jamin Fountain, 14 year old school student and Schools Strike 4 Climate organiser
  • MP Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokesperson for transport
  • Greater Wellington Regional Councilor Yadana Saw

Representatives from other political parties were invited, however only MP Julie Anne Genter attended.

Jamin Fountain highlighted how fare increase adds up to a significant burden for families and young people. For example, it will cost a Wellington family an extra $30 a week to transport two children under 13 to school every day if travelling two zones. The overall cost increase varies across the country due to differences in the pre-existing discounts provided by local councils.

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Multiple panellists highlighted the impact that increasing transport costs have on access to education and poverty alleviation. Sarita Divis, Executive Officer from the Child Poverty Action Group backs this up, saying that, “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.”

“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.” Mika Hervel commented, “The removal of these discounts when many students and young people are already stretched for funds is really rough. I 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.” Hervel also highlighted that the increased transport costs for himself and many other students and low income earners far outweigh any savings made from tax cuts.

Harris Puanaki Devon added, “He waka eke noa tātou, our boat moves together. Unfortunately, due to the removal of half price fares for under-25s, our waka is not moving anywhere fast. The removal of the transport subsidy is failing rangatahi Māori. From our rangatahi in highschool who travel to their jobs to support their whānau, to our rangatahi in tertiary who travel to class to support their communities. Education is a public good. Transport is a public good. Disadvantaging rangatahi through systematic barriers is not a public good.”

Despite clear disappointment at the youth discounts being removed, the Free Fares campaign organisers stressed the “silver lining” that Community Connect discounts are being kept by the Government. “This shows that it is worth continuing to advocate for Free Fares for the groups that need it, because public transport discounts do have such broad public support that the government can’t ignore this.”

Under the Community Connect scheme many students and low income earners are eligible for half price fares through having a Community Service Card, however they will need to go through an application process to receive a CSC if they don’t already have one.

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