Petition calls for Government to provide free public transport for more New Zealanders

A petition is calling on the Government to provide free public transport for an increased number of New Zealanders. 

The petition on Our Action Station is asking the Minister of Transport, Michael Wood, to implement free public transport for community service cardholders, full-and-part-time tertiary students and under-25s nationwide.

"We want to see this fully funded by central government in Budget 2022 and free fares beginning in 2023," said Ryan Hooper-Smith, spokesperson for the Free Fares campaign. 

"We also acknowledge the need for this government to reduce fares for all other passengers and to increase the reach, frequency and quality of services in underserved areas."

The petition has so far received just under 13,000 signatures since it started about four months ago.

It says the high prices of public transport are forcing some people to travel by car, which is causing congestion and harmful carbon emissions.

"The case has never been stronger. New Zealand needs to take bold actions to reduce emissions and improve equity," Hooper-Smith said

"We also need to address rising living costs and pandemic pressures that are pushing people into poverty. Free fares is a solution. Now is the moment!"

The petition by Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity will be delivered to Wood in a handover outside Wellington's Catherdral at 12pm on Thursday. 

"Students are already under enough financial stress ... having free public transport would take the stress of renting close to the city and would allow students to commute to/from classes and uni/school without having to worry about running out of money on their hop card,"  Auckland tertiary student Nina Harding said.

"Free fares go a long way in creating a more equal society," Marion Lienert said. 

"There are too many cars on the road and free fares will reduce the traffic. We also need to consider the health of our environment and climate change in reduction of emissions."

It comes as New Zealand experiences a cost of living crisis with Kiwis spending, on average, an extra $4000 to $5000 in the past 12 months on basics such as food, rent and fuel. The majority of the increase is fuel, with an extra $678 a year at the pump on average.

Hooper-Smith said one reason New Zealanders should consider public transport is the rising fuel prices. 

At the start of February, a quick scan of 91 petrol prices on price-tracking app Gaspy in Wellington showed prices surpassing $2.80 a litre. 

For 95, it's closing in on $3, with Z Miramar and Z Broadway both charging $2.99 a litre. In Auckland, which has a 10 cent regional fuel tax, premium petrol is getting as high as $3.07.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday, the Government will cut 25 cents a litre off fuel and road user charges for three months and halve the price of public transport for the same amount of time to help ease the financial pressure at the petrol pump.