Julie Anne Genter

Cycling to Southland – Prelude

by Julie Anne Genter

Gareth’s already blogged about the Keep The Coal in the Hole summer festival, and I’m excited to be attending.

As the new transport spokesperson, I decided to take a bit of time during the summer holiday to travel to the festival in the most climate-friendly means possible. I’ll be leaving by ferry from Wellington on Saturday morning, catching the train to Christchurch, and then embarking on a 550km journey by bicycle on Sunday 15 January.

The point of this trip isn’t to be morally superior — as an MP and a person who loves to explore the world, I have a big carbon footprint due to air travel. But I believe that we must work and live within the flawed system we’ve got and try to improve it. That doesn’t mean giving up travel altogether. We make changes where we can. The most crucial thing is to advocate for infrastructure and policy changes that will make it possible and practical for people to travel by means that are better for the climate, for their health, and for the economy.

For some decades the green movement has emphasised personal action, which is an important part of responding to climate change. But what is becoming ever clearer is that massive change is needed at an infrastructure level to enable people to make changes to their lifestyle. This is especially true in transport.

Local and central government policy and funding has made it much cheaper, easier and more convenient to travel by personal car around our towns and cities, and to travel around the country by plane as our passenger rail services have languished. Meanwhile, it has become much less convenient, less safe, sometimes more expensive, and sometimes impossible to travel by train, bus, or on foot or by bicycle.

Ironically, councils and government agencies will sometimes urge people to get out of their cars — whether to combat congestion, obesity or climate change — as though it was the fault of individuals that our infrastructure makes it much harder to travel by means other than a car or plane.

We don’t always have the luxury to travel by foot or cycle, especially long distances. My hope is that I can use this trip to draw attention to the opportunities we have to make it easier for New Zealanders to travel in ways that are better for the climate and our health, and to share some of the pleasure of traveling slowly over land and water.

Here’s my draft itinerary. I’ll be blogging the journey each day. Let me know if I’m coming your way and you’d like to meet up or cycle some of the way with me!

Jan 14th: Wellington to Christchurch on ferry and train
Jan 15th: Chch to Ashburton 85km
Jan 16th: to Timaru 80km
Jan 17th: to Oamaru 80km
Jan 18th: to Waikouaiti (outside Dunedin) 80-100km
Jan 19th: to Waihola (or Balclutha)via Dunedin 40-80km
Jan 20th: to Gore 80-110km

Jan 21 – 22 Coal in the Hole festival in Mataura

Total journey approx. 550km by bicycle
Over 1000 km total ferry+train+bicycle

Next post: Cycling to Southland – Day 1 (the easy part)

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Julie Anne Genter on Thu, January 12th, 2012   

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