Election 2023: National's tax plan includes cancelling Government public transport discounts

The National Party is proposing to cancel a Government public transport programme, which would effectively double fares for some people.

In National's newly announced tax plan, the party identified a number of programmes that it would end, allowing it to reprioritise the money spent on them to pay for the proposed tax relief.

Buried in the party's policy document is a line reading: "National will end funding for Labour’s 'Community Connect' programme of additional public transport subsidies in Budget 2023, which was badly designed and difficult to implement nationwide".

Budget 2022 set aside $98m over four years for half-price fares for Community Services Card holders, while Budget 2023 allocated an additional $327m over four years so more people can benefit. These discounts began in July.

The Budget 2023 actions included free fares for children aged under 13 and half-price fares for people under 25.

Asked by Newshub why the party was scrapping the programme, National finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said: "We want to see students and others continue to get discounted fares, as has long been the case".

"There is not good evidence that this is a major barrier to public transport use. We prefer to give people the money direct into their bank accounts so they can make choices about what they spend it on."

Some local authorities, like Auckland Transport, already offer tertiary student concessions on buses, trains and ferries. 

National said some regional councils have struggled to screen passengers for their age, "meaning the rollout of the policy has not proceeded as planned". 

Greater Wellington was unable to activate the discounts by July as it had to wait for a new digital registration portal to be built. 

In the meantime, it's continued to offer half-price fares to all public transport passengers. Half-price fares were already in place at the time as a result of a cost of living initiative introduced by the Government early last year. 

But this will end on September 1, when only those select groups will continue to receive discounted fares. 

Greens co-leader James Shaw on Wednesday said there was "inherent cruelty baked into National's plan" including wanting to "double the price of public transport for people on low incomes or with a disability to help pay for tax cuts that benefit high income people the most".

National has been touting its overall tax relief package as offering up to $250 more per fortnight for an average-income family with children while a household without children would get about $100 per fortnight. 

That would be the result of National changing income tax brackets, introducing the FamilyBoost childcare tax credit, increasing Working for Families tax credits and expanding the Independent Earner Tax Credit.