Students Call For Half-price Fares To Be Extended And Tertiary Students To Be Included In Community Connect
The presidents of six students’ associations across the country have sent an open letter to the Minister of Transport David Parker calling on him to extend half-price fares and include students in the Community Connect scheme.
Students have not been considered in the development of Community Connect, student Presidents write in the open letter. Community Connect only captures half of students in the under-25 discount. And of students 25 and over, only approximately 8% have a Community Services Card.
This leaves a significant gap. Students over the age of 25 without a Community Service Card will miss out on half-price fares. Students are calling on half-price fares to be extended for everyone while the Minister includes students in Community Connect so no student misses out on half-price fares.
The open letter says accessing the half-price fares through Community Service Cards is an inadequate way to capture students. Despite most students being eligible for a Community Service Card, only students who receive an allowance automatically get one. The number of students who have a Community Service Card is approximately the same as the number of students that receive student allowance (12%).
“Students are unlikely to know that they qualify for a Community Service Card, and getting one is an invasive and complicated process.” Says Hana Pilkinton-Ching, Campaigns Officer for the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association.
“The application form is sixteen pages long and requires at least two forms of government issued ID, not recognising student ID. This and many other aspects of the application process present a significant barrier for students. It is no wonder that so few students have a Community Services Card.” Says Pilkinton-Ching.
“It has been disappointing to see every opportunity to support students over the last five years passed up in the name of political expediency, from housing to income support to tertiary funding and now to transport.” Says Elliot Wier, Otago regional councillor and Otago University postgraduate student.
“The community connect program is a big win for climate action, transport equity, and encouraging mode shift for those who could benefit from it most. It is also clearly designed to cover many students, but there's simply no reason not to extend it to explicitly cover all students.”
“All students should be eligible whether they are full-time or part-time, whether they are 19 years old or 31 years old, and whether they are willing to put themselves through the painful process of getting a community services card or not. I have gone through that process myself, and I wouldn't want to do it again (and again every year) to get myself half-price buses, nor should any student have to.” Says Wier.
Universities New Zealand have also thrown their support behind free public transport for students as part of the Free Fares campaign. Chris Whelan, CE of UNZ says “We are seeing a steady worsening in student wellbeing and mental health and, to a significant extent, this arises from increased financial pressures on students.”
“We also know that the majority of our students are concerned about climate change and their carbon footprint. An increasing proportion need to work while studying and they are looking for sustainable ways to get to and from workplaces and their places of learning.”
“Finally, we know that our students are learning the behaviours that will remain with them over the rest of their lives. The more we can encourage them into sustainable modes of transportation the better.” Says Whelan.
Ellen Dixon, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, says “It is essential for the planet and the future of tertiary education in this nation that the Minister listens to the requests of student leaders from across the motu, and builds an equitable transport system for all."