This morning, young Aucklanders descended on Freyberg Place in Central Auckland, where some were dressed up as slaves and chained to a car, to express how much the lives of Aucklanders are oppressed by car dependency and the short-sighted policies responsible for it.
“Today’s demonstration aimed to raise awareness about the car-centric policies and planning that are the cause of many economic, social, and environmental problems in Auckland,” said the group’s spokesperson Ryan Mearns.
“With so much priority given to driving, Aucklanders have little freedom to make better transport choices, leaving people slaves to our congested roads and the volatility of fuel prices.”
The demonstration was organised by Generation Zero, a youth organisation formed in 2011 to catalyse action on climate change in New Zealand.
Generation Zero’s 50:50 campaign is calling for a rebalancing of the Government’s transport budget to give a fairer share of the funding for “smart transport choices”, which would help reduce New Zealand’s oil dependence and carbon emissions.
At present, every dollar invested in new infrastructure for rail, buses, walking and cycling will be dwarfed by 30 dollars spent on new state highways.
“We’re suggesting that spending ratio should be moving toward 50:50,” said Mr Mearns.
“Balanced investment would be a huge leap towards a better transport system where we are free to get around without cars. As young people, that’s the kind of transport future we want to inherit.”
Mr Mearns said that there is overwhelming support in Auckland for investment to provide smart transport choices, citing for example surveys that show over 60% of Aucklanders support the City Rail Link.
“In the past we thought of cars as our ticket to freedom, without realizing all the catches that make our lives difficult. Aucklanders have wised up, and now it’s time that central government policies and spending priorities caught up.”
Transport is becoming an interesting, if somewhat unexpected, battleground between different generations I feel. The ‘old guard’, typified by Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee, have only ever driven everywhere and can’t really understand what everyone else is going on about. Younger generations seem to understand that the car’s promise of freedom is only true to an extent and – if taken to the extreme – can end up being more of a trap than we had thought.
Thankfully, I feel that we’re on the right side of history and people will look back at Joyce & Brownlee as being the last of the old dinosaurs.