National | Māori

Bus fare subsidy to end for children and young people

Families across New Zealand are set to feel the pinch of the current cost of living crisis even more, with government subsidies for public transport set to end next week.

The government‘s axing of free public transport for children and half-priced fares for young people under 25 will affect thousands of youth who rely on these services, especially Māori students studying tertiary who have migrated from their rural communities to the big city.

The cost of the subsidies was projected to be $327 million over four years.

Rihipeti-Paehau Forbes, a student at Auckland University, says rural students who rely on these concessions will be among the most affected.

“A lot of our rangatahi Māori are coming from outside of Auckland, so there are extra costs with accommodation, whether they’re in halls, or renting, they’re away from whānau, they’re away from their community and so they will be affected.”

However, Community Connect concessions on most buses, trains, and ferries in Auckland are set to continue, along with some pre-existing discounts by local councils.

Leanne Otene, Manukura National President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, says the measure seems punitive on the government’s part and goes against the push for children to attend school.

“It’s certainly a barrier and when they are focused on, and very vocal on, the fact that we need to get every child to school,. Attendance has been a priority.”

“So this particular policy does not make sense.”

The subsidies were part of the previous Labour-led government’s attempts to quell the rising cost of living as inflation climbed over seven per cent, and the subsidy axing was announced in National’s pre-election campaign commitments.

For Auckland University students like Johelene-Hana Toroa-Taare, the axing will affect their ability to get to class.

“Hōhā haere ngā tauira katoa, i te ekenga o ēnei utu mō ēnei tūmomo āhuatanga pērā i te eke pahi me te eke tereina hoki.”

“Students are annoyed by the increase in the cost of travelling on buses and trains.”

“Ki te kāwanatanga hou, kia whai whakaaro koutou mo mātou e rata ana ki tērā taumata. I te mea ka eke tēnei utu, ka eke te uauatanga o te taumata e rata ana.”

“To the new government, they need to think about those of us who are trying to reach our goals. Because if the cost increases, our ability to reach our goals will be harder.”