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Council calls for transport equity

Greater Wellington Regional Council is calling for greater transport equity as the central government pushes to decarbonise private vehicles.

In a draft submission to the government’s draft long-term electric vehicle charging strategy, Transport Committee chair Thomas Nash and Climate Committee chair Penny Gaylor raised concerns that the strategy does not respond to growing transport inequity.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, the strategy includes a range of initiatives – including targets to provide charging stations every 150 to 200 kilometres on main highways, a public charger for every 20 to 40 electric vehicles in urban areas, and public charging at community facilities in all towns with 2000 or more people.

“We encourage the ministry to include actions within the strategy to include more innovative ways to provide wider access to electric vehicles, rather than purely relying on organic uptake through private ownership,” Nash and Gaylor said.

The duo said the high purchase cost of an electric vehicle [between $40,000 and upwards of $80,000] makes the possibility of owning an electric vehicle a “pipe dream” for many median and lower-income earners in New Zealand.

It is likely that attempts to incentivise the uptake of electric vehicles will result in increased inequity within the transport system, Nash and Gaylor said.

“Those who can afford electric vehicles are able to make use of subsidies and other incentives, while many people on lower incomes, who are statistically more likely to live further from their places of work and have more fixed hours, are forced to continue to rely on older, less reliable ICE [powered by gasoline] vehicles.”

Nash and Gaylor said GRWC broadly supports the strategy because it aligns with the strategic objectives of the Greater Wellington draft Regional Policy Statement [RPS] and the Regional Land Transport Plan, because there is an existing directive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, reduce the use and consumption of non-renewable transport fuels, and seek efficient use of existing transport network infrastructure.

The RPS aims to maximise a mode shift from private vehicles and support the uptake of low and zero-carbon transport modes, which includes electric vehicles.

“The RPS direction is, however, broader than electric vehicle charging facilities and places emphasis on transport infrastructure and urban development, demonstrating efforts to minimise reliance on private vehicles and maximise the use of public and active transport modes,” Nash and Gaylor said.

Although electric vehicles are an important tool towards decarbonising transport, they noted, the Wellington region has also planned a wide range of approaches to decrease reliance on private vehicles and reduce carbon emissions.

One measure is providing a high-quality, reliable, emissions free public transport network and prioritising infrastructure to support users to feel safe when walking or cycling.

“With finite transport budgets already under increasing pressure, the role and significance of a strategy such as ‘Charging our Future’ must be realistically prioritised against the many other projects and activities currently underway that are contributing towards reducing emissions.”

Nash and Gaylor said it is the council’s view that – in order to be effective – the entity established to implement the strategy will need to bring together a diverse set of powers and responsibilities that currently sit under multiple different ministries.

The Transport Committee is due to discuss and approve the submission at today’s meeting.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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