“We supported Victoria University of Wellington’s Students Association (VUWSA) in their successful campaign for discounted public transport for students in Greater Wellington. We were thrilled when Greater Wellington introduced that 25 percent discount―it made a difference for our students. We are very happy to further this by supporting the nationwide Free Fares campaign now,” says Te Herenga Waka’s sustainability director Andrew Wilks.
The Aotearoa Collective formed in October 2021 from an earlier Pōneke Collective for Public Transport Equity, pushing central government for a nationwide change to public transport fares.
“We enjoyed great support for our Pōneke campaign towards free fares, but we could see that transport poverty and transport emissions needed to be addressed further afield than just Wellington. The momentum gained in Wellington gave us the confidence to make this nationwide,” says VUWSA campaigns officer and Aotearoa Collective coordinator Hana Pilkinton-Ching.
The implementation in March 2022 of half-price fares has significantly increased public transport use across the country. In Budget 2022, central government provided funding to continue half-price fares until 31 August 2022, and permanently for those who hold Community Service cards.
“Making public transport fares free for students, under-25s, Community Service card holders, and Total Mobility Card holders and their carers will significantly address transport poverty,” says Hana. “Budget 2022 saw positive action, but didn’t go far enough.”
The University is aiming to achieve a goal of net zero carbon by 2030 and reducing the environmental costs of transport play a part in this.
“If students can get to campus without the barrier of transport cost, it is good for everyone. It allows students to live in a place that is affordable for them while enabling them to travel to study. And using public transport as a first choice can form a habit of low carbon transport for life,” says Mr Wilks.
The University is joining VUWSA, along with many of Aotearoa’s university student associations, and several city and regional councils, as well as dozens of charities, in supporting this campaign.
“The Free Fares campaign is going to keep pushing until we have free public transport for those who need it most. We’re looking forward to strong emphasis on public transport in local elections, and more local government representatives and universities stepping up to join our call,” says Hana.
“We are happy to see the success of the half-price fares for our community and look forward to a future of fare-free travel for our students,” adds Mr Wilks.