As of Thursday June 26, the Greater Wellington Regional City Council (GWRCC) unanimously approved the recommendations to provide a 25 per cent discount for all public transportation users during off-peak travel times. This will be implemented in 2018.


On top of this proposal, students called for a further 25% concession for students during peak travel times. As a result, the council agreed to consider this additional discount provided there will be substantial financial contributions from the Wellington tertiary institutions and the Wellington City Council (WCC).


What a student says:


Massey Property Development and Management student James Owen said cheaper fares for students was a “bloody good idea” that would help students living or choosing to live in the Wellington area in more ways than one.


The lack of student support was indicative of a wider problem where students were hugely disadvantaged by living in the “expensive capital”, he said.


“If you do the maths, living in Wellys is probably a stupid idea for students. There are so many additional costs and hurdles in comparison to living in student-friendly cities.


“If you are trying to live on an income of less than $300 a week (including studylink and working part time) there’s really no room for those costs.


“Everyone in power should be providing incentives for students coming to the city – they would be stupid not to give a 25 per cent discount, which, at the end of the day, is not that much given the scheme of things.”


It seemed inequitable that students in most other parts of the country, Palmerston North for example, had cheaper fares and not Wellington.


The fact that Wellington had a greater cost of living in contrast to Dunedin or Palmerston North, added insult to injury, he said.


He was paying $180 per week on rent, not including the price of internet or electricity, where his friends in Dunedin were paying $130 all up.


While his Dunedin counterparts did not need to pay money for public transportation because of the close proximity of the main centre and the university to student housing, Owen was paying “above and beyond” in transportation costs even though the student allowance, in his case student loan living costs was “more or less the same for both cities.”


If he decided not to use Wellington’s “below par” cycle infrastructure to save costs – he could be spending up to $70 a week on.


“I would bike but the lanes in the city are too narrow. The buses are too fast. I don’t want to die tbh [to be honest].”


Owen could not survive in the windy capital without working more than 10 hours a week extra and have to “beg, steal or borrow” from his parents.


Furthermore, because of the high demand for work in the CBD, throughout his second year of study he was forced to work out in Lower Hutt.


On top of his $3.50 fares from his Newtown flat to the train station, he could be paying a further $5.50 to get out to the Hutt, totalling a further $18 a week to his living costs.


It didn’t seem to be realistic or indicative of the professional life to have to work 10 hours a week on top of a full time course.


“I’ve probs never been so stressed out in all of my life. Here’s hoping it will give me a kick up the butt to make my first million by the time I’m 30.”


Where to from here?


Upper Hutt councillor and GWRCC transport portfolio holder Peter Swain said the GWRCC was now to meet with the WCC, tertiary providers to see whether they would be interested and how much they were willing to contribute.


The question then the council needed to grapple with was what would happen in the event the WCC and tertiary institutions decided not to contribute, he said.


But, suppose they did, any final GWRCC decisions were “still a long way off”.


Massey University Communications Director James Gardiner said the university was very interested in the proposal and supportive of the economic, environmental and safety benefits of public transport.


“We would been keen to participate in any discussions about this and will be seeking our students’ views on whether it is something they would use and benefit from.”


The transport situations at each of the Massey campuses were quite different, he said.


Albany offered free car parking to staff and students because it had the space to do so, but the cost of transport, whether private or public, was borne by the user.


At Manawatu, which did offer free car parking until about a decade ago, Massey currently charged students, staff and casual visitors for car parking either in allocated car parks around the campus, the general car park in Orchard Road, or the metered spaces around the campus.


At the same time the charges were introduced the free buses were offered.


These were available to staff and students of Massey University and the polytechnic.


It was a joint initiative between the institutes, the NZ Transport Agency and the Horizons (Manawatu-Whanganui) Regional Council.


Massey’s contribution was met from the revenue generated from parking charges.


The same initiative could not be implemented in the Wellington campus because there was very limited parking available and it was charged for, Gardiner said.


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