Free Fares NZ Submit Petition Calling For New Government To Keep Public Transport Affordable
Today the Free Fares Campaign presented their 6,650+ strong petition to MPs Julie Anne Genter and Ayesha Verrall, demanding that the new Government retain the current public transport discounts and expand this to 100% free public transport for target groups. Supporters gathered on Parliament Lawn over lunchtime for the petition handover which included speeches from community members and supporting organisations. All political parties with MPs represented in Parliament were invited to attend and share their stance on the petition, however Ayesha Verrall and Julie Anne Genter were the only MPs in attendance. Julie Anne Genter will submit the petition to Parliament this week.
The petition expresses support from across Aotearoa for the current discounts, which are half price public transport fares for under 25’s and Community Service Card holders, free public transport for under 13’s, and half price Total Mobility services. This is further supported by a recent Horizon poll which shows 71% of New Zealanders support maintaining the current discounts, including a majority of New Zealand First and National voters and a plurality of ACT voters.
“In just the last two weeks we have heard countless stories of how public transport discounts have made a difference for people struggling with the cost of living, and how worried these people are about the impacts of any steps to cut these discounts.” Says Free Fares campaign organiser, Henry Lockhart.
Rose, a Community Services Card holder and Total Mobility Card holder from Porirua, says “These discounts have changed my life, helped me to see friends and whānau, and enjoy the life and events Wellington has to offer”. She says “I realised how much I had been staying home, because financially I had to make choices about whether I could afford to go out or just stay at home.”
Merinda, a parent from Masterton, says “I have been able to take my kids to see their grandma in Wellington more frequently, which has meant the world to all of us. Without the discounts it will cost us $60 return from Masterton and we simply can’t afford that more than a few times a year.”
“Being able to take my kids on public transport for free has an enormous impact on my life, as it does for all families who are struggling financially. Keeping the discounts gives us money we desperately need for other things — food, housing, education.” says Merinda.
The petition also highlights the climate benefits associated with affordable public transport. “Public transport discounts are vital for continuing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by reducing barriers to green transport choices. Other benefits include the impacts for community health from reducing traffic congestion and its resulting air pollution, and improved community mobility, especially for children, low-income, and disabled people who may have limited transport choices.” Says campaign spokesperson Henry Lockhart.
Campaign spokesperson Hana Pilkinton-Ching says “We have been overwhelmed by the public's support for affordable public transport. Taking away this vital cost of living and climate policy will not go unnoticed by the public.”
“We urge the Government to listen to the people. Instead of going backwards, we should look for opportunities to make further progress by making fares free for all target groups and half price for everyone else.”