Greater Wellington calls for post COVID-19 public transport protection

Covid-19 & Health

In a remit to the 2020 Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Annual General Meeting, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, acknowledges the Government’s strong support for public transport during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Greater Wellington is also calling for more protection and certainty around public transport, as part of the Government’s post COVID-19 recovery planning.

Chair of Greater Wellington’s Transport Committee Roger Blakeley says the remit helps set a course for the future of COVID-19 recovery and helps protect public transport as an essential community service.

“In New Zealand, Wellington in particular, recovery of patronage on public transport has been relatively fast compared to overseas but that’s still only a partial recovery. Our experience over the last few weeks, where the threat of COVID-19 has re-emerged, has highlighted the need for ongoing vigilance and that full recovery will take time,” says Cr Blakeley.

The Government through Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) funded the delivery of public transport as an essential service throughout the alert levels on the outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand, including: the shortfall in revenue for bus, ferry and train operations; additional costs that resulted from COVID-19 such as cleaning, stickers and advertising collateral; and the Total Mobility Service subsidy until the end of June.

“Whilst the Government, through Waka Kotahi, had signalled a degree of financial certainty for the current financial year, the last week has started to raise questions on the sustainability of this funding. This remit calls for the Government to continue to work in partnership with councils to ensure the ongoing viability of public transport in the regions, cities, towns and communities across New Zealand,” says Cr Blakeley.

The remit calls on the President of LGNZ to work with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Local Government, develop a joint work programme between the Government and councils on policy to maintain the financial viability of public transport during the recovery phase of COVID-19.

“Put bluntly, if patronage levels fail to rise to pre-Covid-19 levels the financial viability of providing public transport networks will come into question. We’re calling on the government to continue to support Councils to deliver the benefits of public transport to our communities and those that rely on it the most,” adds Cr Blakeley.

Greater Wellington’s remit is one of eleven for discussion at the meeting on Friday 21 August. Remits are voted on in a secret ballot, and once passed become official policy to be actioned by LGNZ.

A full list of the remits can be found here.(external link)