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March 25, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Fairer Fares: Students for ‘Em at Forum

A call for Wellington City Councillors to get on board the Fairer Fares for Tertiary Students campaign hit a speed bump at a discussion forum last week.

Local Councillors, MPs, and tertiary education representatives attended the Young Labour-led ‘Tertiary fares, are they fair?’ forum at Hutt City Baptist Church last Thursday. Wellington Council Public Transport Committee deputy Chairman Peter Glensor answered some tough questions from the more than 60 people—mainly public transport-using students—who attended.

Glensor said that more than 75 per cent of the Council’s budget is spent on public transport, and an in-depth analysis of how fares are organised must happen before any decision on fee-cuts for tertiary students would be made. “The Council is currently looking at the possibility of a new basis for charging fares, monthly discounts on the train or giving particular groups cheaper fares,” he said.

He also suggested extending the current student discount for high school students to tertiary students aged 19, 20 or 21, but only to full-time students. “Our statistics show that students take 3.5 million trips a year on Wellington public transport, and if we made a $1 discount on every one of those trips, it would cost the council $3.5 million,” he said. Labour Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard said that although it was tempting to cut fares on the basis of age, there were many mature students who would miss out on cheaper public transport.

Mr Mallard also said the Government needed to change the policy setting towards public transport, to make cheaper fares a priority rather than billion-dollar motorways. Both Labour MP Chris Hipkins and Green MP Holly Walker were in favour of the fairer fares scheme.

They raised the possibilities of producing ten-trip tickets for students or providing free public transport for students with the cost shared by universities, local government and the Ministry of Transport. Both MPs also revealed it was “pretty weird” being at the forum held in the church—formerly a movie theatre—where they each had their first dates.

The founder of the Tertiary Education and Price Petition simon hills argued that the reality was that existing student rates don’t apply to the majority of people who are students. The Weltec Students’ Association and the Wellington and Hutt City Youth Councils also made presentations at the forum, all in favor of cheaper fares for students.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt and Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer Rick Zwaan presented on behalf of Massey and Victoria University students’ Associations, and the Fairer Fares for Tertiary Students campaign.

McCourt said that it was easy for Mr Glensor to assume that most part-time students are earning civil servants’ wages, but the reality was that many students are not full-time because they cannot afford the costs—such as public transport— associated with study. They also argued that fares needed to be cheaper for students to make Wellington a place where students want to live, and that as students are a “captive market” for public transport, cheaper fares are needed for equity.

McCourt also says that momentum for the campaign is growing, with five Greater Wellington councillors supporting the campaign, and plans to promote cheaper fares to the remaining eight councillors and communities around Wellington.

The Fairer Fares campaign will be officially launched on April 10.

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