By Emily Norman
University students travelling from Wairarapa to Wellington are having to fork out more than a hundred dollars each week in travel expenses, with at least one student resorting to hitch-hiking to get to class from Wairarapa.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council have been challenged to lower the cost of tertiary student fares — a talking point that will be discussed at a full regional council meeting on March 2.
The challenge was raised by the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) who are asking the council to consider a half price fare for tertiary students across all Wellington public transport.
Lana Dunlop, from Carterton is studying a Bachelor of Commerce and travels to Victoria University of Wellington’s Pipitea campus for classes four or five days a week.
“The cost of public transport for me to travel to uni is just under $150 per week,” she said.
“I am having to forego days off and anything besides necessities, such as rent and food, in order to afford public transport.”
The 19-year-old former Kuranui student has a part time job which helps her get by, but said if the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) created a discounted tertiary student fare, she would have more time to focus on her studies — and maybe even allow herself a day off.
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association president Rory Lenihan-Ikin said while students like Lana had found a way to pay the $600 a month to get to class, others in the Wairarapa region may not have the resources to do so.
“We’ve even heard of one student from that area who hitch-hikes into Wellington to attend lectures,” he said.
Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples said GWRC “supported the discount in principle”, but she thought the tertiary providers should chip in to cover the subsidy.
“This was a decision that had been made previously by GWRC, but they had asked for contributions from the tertiary providers as well,” Mrs Staples said.
“To supply a discount, we have to take the money off ratepayers.
“Council doesn’t have a money tree that it can just say, right let’s put some money into this – it has to take money from somewhere and put it into student fares, and I don’t think it should fall on the regional ratepayers.
“If the tertiary providers were happy to put in a subsidy and come to the party as well then I would support that.”
Mrs Staples said she “fully appreciated” that students did not have a lot of spare money.
“We desperately want people to be well-educated, so if the tertiary providers are happy to come on board, then I think it would be something I would support.”
Full price train fares from Masterton Station to Wellington are $18 one-way or $144 for a 10-trip ticket.