Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Beyond Rail Electrification- Free Transport for all





About ten activists from Climaction went to the Auckland Green Party meeting on Rail Electification on Monday 2nd Apirl. Our leaflet for Free and Frequent Public transport went down a storm, with many of the audience complimenting us on our work so far. There were about 400 people there, two thirds were older, with quite a lot of core Auckland City Green supporters. But a big meeting by any standards.

The first speaker was Cameron Pitches from the Campaign for Better Transport. He spoke about the success that campaign had in opening the Onehunga rail line, after an excellent video presentation comparing Perth's electric rail system to Auckland's transoprt chaos. Good, witty speaker, to the point, and received a huge round of applause.

Joel Cayford, Mike Lee and Jeanette Fitzsimmons also spoke. Their speeches were slighlty longer in duration!!! Mike Lee made a point about how radical ideas are first ignored, then ridiculed, then violently opposed, before they are then accepted as common sense. Hold that thought...

After the speeches, there came the time for questions. Daph Lawless was first off the block, eloquently explaining Climaction's support for rail electrification and more rail lines nationally, but saying that this needed to be complimented by frequent busses on the roads too, and that ALL public transport should be nationalised and fare free. Before she was rudely clipped off, she put the question to the panel. How many of them would support free and frequent public transport, and the renationalisation of public transport in Auckland. This got the cat amongst the pigeons straight off.

Mike Lee, Chairman of Auckland Regional Council, brought out the heavy artillery. Ignoring Climaction's existence, he made a veiled attack on the Residents Action Movement. Ridiculing demands for free public transport by saying that it would have to be funded by HUGE RATES INCREASES, which he would presumably (violently?) oppose.

Roger Fowler for RAM corrected some Mike Lee's distortions later on, and put the question again to Jeanette Fitzsimmons, who was the first signatory of the Free and Frequent Public Transport petition when it was launched at the Al Gore call out. Jeanette was more concillatory than Mike Lee, saying that although she supported free public transport in principle, she thought that we needed to work on the frequency and reliabilty first.

One of the major problems that went un answered was just how many people will benifit from the exisiting rail lines in Auckland. It is obvious that they serve only a very limited corridor at present. The shooting down of both Climaction and RAM's proposals on free and frequent busses means that large areas of Auckland would not be served in any sustainable way.

Mike Lee looks set to fight the proposal, by saying that it can only be funded by HUGE RATES increases. As such, part of Climaction's arguments must now move onto the big question- WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

It should come from taxes on the multinationals and big business, as well as
the transfer of Central government funding from the Motorway lobby, as anindication of a serious commitment to make New Zealand Carbon Neutral in reality rather than rhetoric. (Central government funding was available for the Stadium when the political will was there.) Climaction definetly does not support rates increases for the ordinary working people of Auckland.

As the meeting broke up, we got Climaction leaflets into the hands of everyone we had missed coming in earlier. We had a good, solid intervention in the debate along with RAM, and did our profile good. We were seen to be a little more radical than what the Greens were proposing, whcih is no bad thing. A lot of people came up to the stall to thank us for the work we were doing, and we got some good new contacts.

Solidarity
Joe

2 comments:

peeb said...

Some thoughts on how to meet the cost of free public transport from "across the ditch" hereand here. Maybe we can make this a global campaign?

Peter Boyle
Socialist Alliance Australia

damon said...

Are you guys really convinced that the tory councillors who supported RAM's free bus policy at the November Climaction protest were sincere?