by Gareth Hughes
Over the last 2 days I’ve co-hosting the Smart Transport conference at Parliament with Labour MPs Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern.
We had some thought provoking discussions about the impact of the government’s unbalanced transport spending policies on local government decision making and on our economic outlook. In my speech I said that we could save billions from the Government’s books by cutting wasteful spending on new motorway developments and investing in smart public transport initiatives instead.
Some common themes were how much local government are being hurt by the cuts the Minister has proposed to spending on local roads and maintenance. We also discussed how vulnerable the government’s reckless spending on white elephant motorways is making us to fluctuations and rises in the price of oil.
The second day of the conference was focused on action. We opened the day with a presentation from Stephen Jones, the CEO of Better Transport UK. It was inspiring to hear from the director of a professional NGO which advocates for public transport solutions.
We also had some amazing presentations from twenty transport advocacy groups from around the country which I am hoping to put up online soon. We had groups from Whangarei to Gisborne to Auckland to Wellington working on a huge range of issues such as promoting cycle and walking, stopping motorways, saving rural rail lines and promoting new public transport projects.
We also heard from other groups we could usefully work with such as the public health sector, unions, and disability access groups.
We concluded the conference by resolving to stop National’s Roads of National Significance and encourage investment in smart options like rail and better walking and cycling. A steering group has been established to help with national communication.
Overall it has been a really amazing experience. I’m thrilled that we decided to co-host this conference as I really feel that we are at the birth of a new era in New Zealand transport, in which we move towards making sensible transport funding decisions that put people and the environment, not trucks and cars first.