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Free Fares NZ Committed To Achieving Affordable Public Transport Despite Discounts Being Axed

The Free Fares Campaign is disappointed to see the removal of the hard-won public transport discounts for children and young people in the Government's announcement today.

A poll from November 2023 shows that the majority of New Zealanders wanted the public transport discounts to be kept, including a majority of National and NZ First voters and a plurality of Act voters. Last week, the Free Fares campaign submitted a petition with close to 7000 signatures calling for the discounts to be kept. The campaign, backed by a coalition of 100 organisations, will continue to push for fares to be reduced to address cost of living and climate.

“Getting rid of the discounts is out of step with public opinion and will increase the cost of living for young New Zealanders and families.” Says Mika Hervel, Free Fares organiser and spokesperson. “The removal of public transport fare discounts in the mini budget represents a step backwards for Aotearoa.”

“We need to take bold action to reduce our transport emissions, and investing in public transport is a key way to do that. The discounts helped make public transport an attractive and affordable option for people, which we need to reduce car use. Removing them is regressive for our climate.” Says VUWSA Engagement Vice President and Free Fares organiser Hana Pilkinton-Ching.

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Research and stories from public transport users highlights the importance of these discounts for young people struggling with the cost of living.

A tertiary student from Auckland says “It is important to me that fares stay affordable, as without these discounted fares, I have to budget heavily which means cutting back on other expenses such as groceries. I know from my peers and community that I am not the only person in this situation and therefore it is critical that fares remain low and affordable, especially to those who need this service.”

“Transport is a significant budgetary stressor for young people and their families.” Says Antonio Salamat, Free Fares researcher. “11.6% of 15-25 year olds and 25.8% of families with children have insufficient income to meet daily needs. Unaffordable transport exacerbates these financial pressures, reduces young people’s opportunities to succeed and imposes costs on society in the long run.”

“I work voluntarily as a tertiary Chaplain and am also a retired GP, so I regularly hear how important these subsidies are for young people, those on low incomes, and with chronic health needs.” Says Mary Hutchinson. “[Affordable public transport] improves basic quality of life to access education in the case of young people, essential services such as doctor’s appointments and buying groceries, picking up medications, and similar, for everyone.”

“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.” Says Merinda, a parent from Masterton. “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.”

Merinda’s message to the new Government is “I know you care about putting more money into the pockets of Kiwi families. Keeping the current discounts is one of the simplest and easiest ways you can do that. If you remove them, you will be doing the opposite — taking money from us that we can’t afford to give.”

“Reducing public transport fares is a vital way to address transport inequity, reduce emissions, and ease cost of living pressures on struggling New Zealanders.” Says Pilkinton-Ching. “These benefits are lost with the removal of these discounts, but we will continue to fight for Free Fares for the groups that need it.”

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