Budget 2022 Does Not Go Far Enough To Address Transport Inequity
Budget 2022 was heralded as the “Climate and Wellbeing Budget”, but has missed the mark when it comes to enabling a just transition into a sustainable future. This budget needed to include free public transport for tertiary students, under 25s, community service card holders, and Total Mobility card holders and their support people. It has failed to do so and has not taken the bold steps needed to support our low-income and disadvantaged communities transition into a climate friendly future.
The Government acknowledged in the Emissions Reduction Plan the need to “reduce reliance on cars and support people to walk, cycle and use public transport”, but we have not seen this reflected in Budget 2022. With the cost of living in Aotearoa climbing rapidly, we need targeted free fares now more than ever. This budget has failed to encourage and enable mode-shift away from private vehicle use for low-income communities by not making public transport free for the communities who rely on it the most, but are least likely to be able to afford it.
Transport is the second greatest source of emissions in Aotearoa. Transport emissions have doubled in the past few decades, most of which is from private vehicles. To meet our emissions goals, we need to shift away from our reliance on private vehicles and enable more people onto public transport. That needs to start by supporting those for whom public transport is least affordable. Permanent half price fares for Community Service Card holders is a promising step in the right direction, but more ambitious action is needed to truly tackle the climate crisis in the transport sector.
“This week's climate response has been disappointing. A lot of focus still seems to be on private vehicle use, which will only perpetuate existing problems like congestion and financial inequity. Some of the ideas are heading in the right direction, and making public transport permanently half price for community service card holders is a good start, but the Government does not have the guts to fully follow through and make fares free for the communities who need it as we track towards a sustainable future.” Says Mika Hervel, an organiser for the Free Fares Campaign.
“Transport costs are a huge burden on students. High cost of living and astronomical rents mean there is often little money left for public transport fares. Students suffer financially and mentally due to these pressures, and some of us have to limit the days we attend class in a week because fares are so expensive. This budget, the Government had the opportunity to change that by making fares 100% free for those who need it. They have let us down.” Says Hana Pilkinton-Ching, VUWSA Campaigns Officer
"Permanent half-price public transport fares for Community Service Card holders is a good start, but free fares would make a greater difference in reducing emissions and ensuring everyone has an accessible, low-carbon option to get to where they live, work and play. A single year of free public transport is projected to cost less than 3 months of the Government's cut to fuel tax: free fares is affordable and 100% possible. 13,000 New Zealanders are urging the Government to now take the next step.” Says Adam Currie from Greenpeace.
“The permanent 50% transport discount for Community Service Card holders is a win, but our disabled community needs more. We are deeply disappointed that once again, an increased transport subsidy will be taken away from nearly 80,000 disabled New Zealanders who use the Total Mobility scheme. The current increases to the subsidy through the short-term 50% discount have been transformative for our community. Without continuation of this, transport is unfeasible for much of New Zealand’s least employed and most vulnerable demographic. The current Total Mobility scheme is inequitable and we are saddened to see an opportunity missed to address that inequity.” Says Ari Kerssens from Free Fares To Freedom.
We needed decisive action in this budget to address the climate crisis and tackle transport inequality. This budget makes small steps towards that goal, but ultimately does not go far enough in taking the bold steps needed to address these issues.