Cycling to Southland – Prelude

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)

9 Comments Posted

  1. More power to you.. I recently saw a news item on the Bullet trains in Japan, moving the people around their 4 islands at around 250-300 kph. It would be great to see Aotearoa take up this challenge to MORE ROADS & MORE CARS & oh yes, Planes..
    Good onya Julie-Anne


  2. Good on you Julie Anne, hope you get a tail wind for the Waikouaiti to Waihola leg, we’ve got some big hills around here!

  3. I really don’t want to put a damper on your plans, Julie Anne, but the calm, dry conditions which have defined the Southland summer have taken a little battering over the past two days. We’ve had rain (hooray!) and wind (boo!) but looking at the weather forecast, those look to be temporary events and a return to hot, dry and calm is predicted. It’ll mean the landscape you are cycling through will be green and freshly washed, and the tent-sites at Mataura, springy rather than crispy.
    Enjoy your ride!

  4. It’s not at all perfect, but the Green MPs do use our own money to offset the emissions of all our flights, and we use the best programmes possible. I know many of us opt to bus, cycle, walk or carpool to minimize taxi use, which saves taxpayers money as well as being better for the environment. I have bicycles in both Auckland and Wellington, and they’re my primary mode of transport because they’re fast, cheap, and highly enjoyable (and make me more productive since I spend less time at the gym). But as I said, the key to climate friendly transport is infrastructure and policy change. Until we provide better options, we can’t expect people to change their modes of travel.

  5. “I see your flights as an MP falling in my footprint, not yours. My taxes buy the flights, after all.”
    You’ll be pleased then, that Julie Anne is providing benefit to everyone through taking those flights, rather than using public money just for her own gain.
    Best to send one elected representative than for us all to go, ‘footprint’ wise.
    Eh, Martin!

  6. The point of this trip isn’t to be morally superior β€” as an MP and a person who loves to explore the world, I have a big carbon footprint due to air travel.

    I see your flights as an MP falling in my footprint, not yours. My taxes buy the flights, after all.

    It would be nice if government did cost less carbon, of course. My wife estimated 0.8T per Auckland resident in the 2010-11 year, which would need to drop significantly before we have a hope of reaching globally sustainable figures like 1.2T/person/year overall.

    About of third of that figure comes from road construction, so there’s another reason to build fewer roads.

  7. Julie Anne’s cycling from Christchurch to Mataura, and you ask her how she’s getting home, Raymond?
    Jeeze man, are you running for Curmudgeon of the Year, or what?
    You’ve got my vote.

  8. Pity your geography is not as good as your green credentials
    Hint, Timaru comes before Oamaru [frog: Fixed.]
    And speaking of green credentials, how are you going to go home?

  9. Fantastic!!!
    For what it’s worth, you have my total respect (and admiration).
    May the wind always be at your back and the tacks scattered some other road.
    See you there πŸ™‚

Comments are closed.