The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) will vote next week on whether to review fares on public transport and consider a tertiary student discount – and Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) is urging them to vote yes.
Students have lobbied the regional council for years to see a tertiary student discount introduced, VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin says.
“If they continue to deny the need for a tertiary student discount, they will be denying thousands of students the access to a higher education because of the mounting costs which many New Zealanders will not be able to afford – including those already living within the Greater Wellington region.”
“Young people wanting to pursue higher education should not be looked at as freeloaders but they do need help to be able to afford living and studying in the capital,” he says.
There were countless stories from throughout the Wellington region of students forking out hundreds of dollars a week just to get to and from classes.
And with a student housing shortage looming in central Wellington , the logical solution would be encourage students to live further out – but that won’t be any more affordable if the GWRC doesn’t look at its fare structures for tertiary students, Lenihan-Ikin says.
“If this continues, students will look outside of Wellington to complete their studies and the capital will lose thousands of young, creative minds from their future workforce.”
The GWRC will vote on whether to approve a fare review at their full council meeting on March 2.
Out of the 14 Greater Wellington Regional councillors, the majority are eligible for the SuperGold card which entitles them to free transport around the region.
Which is why it’s difficult to take councillors’ arguments seriously about a discounted fare for tertiary students being somehow unfair to other users, Lenihan-Ikin says.
“And these are people who are paid salaries by the ratepayers,” he says.
“We acknowledge the SuperGold scheme is funded through the central government, but it is a good example of how discount schemes can increase patronage and make the region more accessible for everyone.”
“If public transport was made more affordable, more students would likely use it more regularly – rather than only when it’s unsafe or impractical to walk or bike between home and campus,” Lenihan-Ikin says.
As part of the Fairer Fares campaign, VUWSA is asking for a 50% discount for tertiary students on all Wellington buses and trains.
They will be making a presentation to the GWRC at their council meeting on Wednesday, February 22.