Last week I caught up with Byron Oosthuizen, the student behind the change.org petition for tertiary discounts on buses in Wellington. At the time of writing, the petition is at a staggering 3000+ signatures, three times more than Byron expected. I think it’s awesome to see so much support for tertiary bus fares. I also think it’s really frustrating that discounted tertiary bus fares haven’t happened already.
From reading your comments on the petition, there was a growing sense of desperation for tertiary bus fares. Some of you told the story of barely being able to afford rent and food each week, let alone the $25.00+ to get to university which you already pay so much for.
At VUWSA, we’ve been campaigning for tertiary bus fares since the last local body elections in 2013. There’s been some headway. In 2014 the Greater Wellington Regional Council voted for a 25% tertiary discount, provided that the City Council and tertiary institutions helped to fund it. There have been some roadblocks along the way, which is pretty disappointing. If we were truly valued as residents in Wellington, then tertiary bus fares would be a priority. From what it looks like, we’re not.
At the Newtown Festival and Out in the Park over the last two weekends, we passed around a blackboard and asked you to write what a student-friendly city means to you. An overwhelming majority of you (unprompted!) wrote down student bus fares as your definition of a student-friendly city. I think that really shows that if Wellington actually valued students, they would make this a reality.
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The key question is what’s the next step in making tertiary bus fares a reality? My view is that it’s about telling more and more people the story of student hardship. This year alone, issues have been raised around the cost and quality of student flats, as well as the size of student loan debt ($15 billion, no joke). The lack of tertiary bus fares is yet another aspect of ongoing student hardship. Over the next few months VUWSA will be ramping up its campaign for student-friendly policies in the local body elections. I hope you stand with us and tell your stories. Let’s make this year about a Wellington that values students.