Greens say high-speed rail project could help economy recover after COVID-19 pandemic

The Greens are pushing fast intercity rail as the type of climate-friendly, job-creating project that should be prioritised post-COVID-19.

They want significant investment over 10 years to roll out fast, electric passenger services connecting key provincial centres with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Party leader James Shaw says building rail creates more jobs than building motorways and helps tackle climate change at the same time. 

"If this crisis has shown us anything, it's that the systems put in place to govern our lives can be quickly changed for our collective good.

"The Greens understand in Government we can prioritise caring for people and the environment and create an economy that delivers that. This is our key focus when deciding infrastructure projects with our government partners."

Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter, who is also Associate Transport Minister, criticised the previous National-led Government's economic stimulus package following the global financial crisis, which hit early in its first term.

"After the global financial crisis, the National Government’s economic stimulus solution was a $12 billion programme upgrading a relatively small portion of our motorway network.

 "The Greens want a transformational infrastructure stimulus package fit for the 21st century that has economic recovery and climate change front and centre."

The Greens think it would cost $9 billion and take 10 years to build. It would begin with electrification of the existing rail lines and improvements to allow speeds up to 110km/h, followed by better tracks to allow speeds up to 160km/h and bypasses so routes are more direct.

"The large intercity rail project proposed will provide meaningful work whilst driving us towards a sustainable, green, zero carbon future," Shaw said.

The Greens have already won funding for wider footpaths and better cycleways in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen New Zealand in lockdown for almost four weeks and has killed 11 Kiwis.

The pandemic is expected to plunge much of the world into a recession, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930s.