Palmerston North, wider Manawatū councillors support free bus fares campaign


Palmerston North politicians are backing a campaign to subsidise travel on buses for young and low-income people. (File photo)

David Unwin/Stuff

Palmerston North politicians are backing a campaign to subsidise travel on buses for young and low-income people. (File photo)

A suggestion to support a campaign wanting free buses for low-income and young people has become a bat for Palmerston North’s mayor to once again beat the drum about his distaste for party politics in the council chamber.

Mayor Grant Smith​ voted against supporting the campaign on Wednesday, with his major issue being the matter going through Green Party-aligned councillors instead of his office or council staff.

The Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity​, an alliance of dozens of groups, launched a campaign in November to make public transport free for under-25s, tertiary students and Community Services card-holders.

They want the Government to subsidise the cost, noting transport creates 21 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

READ MORE:
* Campaign for free fares aims to get more young people, tertiary students using public transport
* Palmerston North CET Arena grandstand roof plans nudged forward
* Local government parties on, but is it the ratepayers left with the hangover?

Dunedin City, Kāpiti Coast, Wellington City and Porirua City councils have thrown their support behind the campaign.

Palmerston North City Council voted to add its name to the list at a finance and audit committee on Wednesday, with only Leonie Hapeta​ and the city’s mayor Grant Smith​ voting against.

Smith’s main gripe was how the campaign ended up on the agenda.

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith took issue with how the decision to back the campaign ended up on the agenda.

David Unwin/Stuff

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith took issue with how the decision to back the campaign ended up on the agenda.

He wanted to know why councillor Brent Barrett​, who runs on a Green Party ticket, brought it as a motion instead of it coming via communication with him or council officers.

He also noted another Greens-ticket councillor, Renee Dingwall​, seconded the motion.

“I understand the political backing.”

Smith has regularly taken swipes at political parties backing council candidates, raising concerns of party-backed councillors not having autonomy to vote without “getting manifestos from Wellington”.

The council has a range of party-aligned councillors, ranging from some who ran on Labour tickets at the last election to those with leadership positions with National’s Palmerston North committee.

He said on Wednesday the “activist-type campaign” used a “side door” to bring the motion to council.

“They haven’t come through the right channel by writing to the mayor or chief executive.”

He also took issue with the lack of information on how much free fares would cost.

Barrett said there were usually gaps in communication when grassroots campaigns approached councils.

He took issue with Smith’s language, using political allegiances to discredit ideas, was “particularly difficult to accept” when being a councillor was a political job.

Councillors Renee Dingwall and Brent Barrett were targeted for their Green Party alignment on an issue other councillors called a “no-brainer” and not political.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Councillors Renee Dingwall and Brent Barrett were targeted for their Green Party alignment on an issue other councillors called a “no-brainer” and not political.

Multiple councillors noted there was no cost to the council if did lend support to the campaign, with Vaughan Dennison​ pointing out a broad range of organisations, including churches, unions and councils, backed it.

Councillor Susan Baty​ said reports from five years ago showed low-income households could not afford public transport in the city, preventing them from getting to work and other activities.

“I don’t see it as political.”

Councillor Karen Naylor​ said supporting the campaign was a “no-brainer”, as it would get younger people in the habit of catching public transport.

“I struggle to understand why anyone would oppose it.”

Horizons Regional Council also threw its support behind the campaign on Tuesday.

Councillor Sam Ferguson​ said it would cost the taxpayer money to fund, but people should also look at the economic, social and environmental benefits.

More people on buses meant lower carbon emissions, while better public transport meant people may not need to replace vehicles, with that money going back into the economy in other ways, he said.

Councillor David Cotton​ said he hoped backing the campaign would not come back to bite the council if the Government backed free fares, but then only funded half and expected councils to pick up the rest.



Source link

Related Articles

Responses

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *