Dear Wellington, we need to talk about driving
Surprise? Household emissions have risen, risen, and we can point the finger at how much we drive. So what can we do?
NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions have barely budged in a decade, StatsNZ reports. The bit you and I can influence most directly – our households’ emissions – are actually getting worse, with households emitting more greenhouse gases per household than before. (The only other places carrying on like this: former Eastern Bloc countries and coal-addicted Australia!)
How is this so? Mostly because… nothing’s changed our patterns of behaviour. Those patterns involve a lot of driving private cars, every week.
Moving (and parking) 2,500 kg of fossil fuel-powered steel to get oneself, an eight-year old, a ten-year old, and a couple of bags from A to B, C, A again. It’s still the most convenient, the seemingly easiest, and definitely the nicest and most appealing of the ways to move those kids, yourself, some bags. Or even just yourself, and a briefcase.
It’s not that we love doing this, nor that we think it’s sensible. People up and down the Wellington region are frustrated by having no other “real, doable” options than grabbing the car keys – the other options they want having been systematically underfunded or just never really built.
And just recently Wellington City people (and others who use the big town) were emphatic about their desire for better transport and urban form – including bold emissions targets, handing their council a big fat mandate for strong leadership.
Yet in the face of this, predictably, many of our leaders (and plenty of loud voices amongst us) seem dedicated to not changing anything meaningful. Exhibit A: the posturing (random motion-moving) around the Let’s Get Wellington Moving votes. The pressure to bring forward the construction of another Mt Victoria tunnel, and let private car traffic use it, before we’ve made proper progress on mass transit alternatives. The call to add another traffic lane(-to-bottleneck) when building the Ngauranga to Petone path. All this, for the private car traffic that councillors know damn well will simply fill up the space again. Ad infinitum. It’s a law of urban physics.
Are we doomed by idiocy?
Deep breaths. We can do stuff!
Of the three partners in Let’s Get Wellington Moving, the single biggest transport investment in Wellington since ages, two partners (Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council) have elected reps.
NZTA does not: it’s government officials, public servants. They’re supposed to execute the government’s Government Policy Statement on Transport – but also at liberty to interpret ambiguities in the LGWM Cabinet Paper more or less as they (and technically the other two parties), see fit.
Goodness only knows how one influences NZTA right now (not messily restructuring and underfunding their staff might have been a good start a few years back, but hey.)) But councillors are different. They are elected and they are there to represent YOU the voter when they make big decisions like what to support and what not to.
So it’s time to start holding would-be and current councillors’ feet to the fire on transport and climate change: how, specifically, they’re helping normal households break free from belching tonnes of greenhouse gas just to do our daily As to Bs. Not hand-waving platitudes, but specifically.
Where to start?
If you’d just like to tell them what you think, there’s always the handy summary of how to sort out transport in Wellington city, “For your handy future reference” here. You could just flick them any bits of that and say “looking forward to hearing how you’re making this happen”.
OR for way more fun, you can get involved with helping inform your fellow citizens! Talk Wellington, along with other public-spirited organisations like Generation Zero and Ora Taiao (NZ Climate and Health Council) are doing election scorecards on key issues so you can see where candidates really stand, through the bluster and slippery language of the pre-election fever.
If you’d like to lend a hand, drop us a line with your preferences – climate, housing, public health, etc etc – we’ll hook you up.