Julie Anne Genter regrets using the phrase "car fascists" in a Twitter thread following the Government's Wellington transport announcement.
Genter, the Associate Transport Minister, engaged in a discussion on Twitter with a user who questioned the $6.4 billion Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) package's proposed walking and cycling upgrades.
"More cyclists and an aging population? Sort our public transport here first before focusing on cycle lanes. People will not ditch their cars," the Twitter user wrote.
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Genter replied saying her family uses "bikes and a cargo trike with electric assistance and as we take up less room on the roads that way and take less space for parking, you should support our desire to do so safely".
The conversation heated up from there, with the Twitter user arguing that Genter should then support his desire to "drive a gas guzzling V8 tank around".
The pair then argued about who should pay for road infrastructure and cycling upgrades, with the Twitter user suggesting cyclists should be "contributing to their infrastructure on an equivalent user basis".
Genter replied: "People on bikes cost WAY less than people in cars. My point is that each additional person on a bike is way less costly & more beneficial to the efficiency of the road network than an additional car."
The Twitter user told Genter the Government's plan "does very little to address the core problems" with Wellington's transport network, and said the focus should be on changing "what people want".
Genter replied: "We don't need to change what people want. We need a few car fascists to stop opposing infrastructure that gives more people the option to walk, cycle or scoot safely if they wish."
She added: "It's just a sad irony that the very infrastructure you oppose (along with much better frequent public transport) is by far the most cost effective way to improve the reliability of car journeys on the existing network of roads."
'Fascism' is defined as a form of radical, right-wing authoritarianism characterised by forcible suppression of opposing views. It's been used to describe Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany style of leadership.
Genter said on Friday her use of the phrase "car fascists" wasn't "the greatest choice of words", telling NZME she was trying to advocate for people to have more choice of how to get around Wellington city.
National MP Dan Bidois labelled Genter's use of the phrase a "disgrace". He said on Twitter: "Perhaps she should walk the talk and show some leadership over the SkyPath debacle rather than criticise others."
He was referring to delays to building the SkyPath walkway and cycleway along Auckland's Harbour Bridge which the Government said in August last year it would fund and build, but didn't give a completion date.