It's now an accepted fact, by the overwhelming majority of scientists and governments across the world, that we are facing an imminent climate crisis that gravely threatens our future health, wellbeing and prosperity.
Few people now deny that the climate is changing, for the worse. It is also a fact that the world is way off-track in making plans for necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid this crisis.
The governments of the world are set to meet to confront the urgent change required, but ultimately that change will need to be made by all of us.
In Aotearoa New Zealand transport accounts for nearly half of our energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and for each family their petrol or diesel car use is likely to be their single biggest contributor to their carbon footprint.
Car trips of less than two kilometres make up nearly a third of trips across New Zealand, with an average of 12 such trips per household per week.
If every Hastings household alone switched their car for a climate-friendly mode of transport for two trips every week (a two-kilometre average), we could save around 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
That's huge! Waka Kotahi is working with public transport providers on a plan to decarbonise the public transport fleet, which will further reduce the tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Getting more people out of cars in Hawke's Bay is something we take really seriously. We know the alternatives we've got aren't making the cut, and we're looking at how we can change it.
We want more people using our buses, riding their bikes, or walking from A to B. But when it comes down to it, we're all busy and our cars are convenient.
The Regional Council has been investigating a range of innovative ways to get people out of cars and onto public and active transport to reduce emissions, decrease congestion, and make our air healthier.
Buses are the main tool we've got, and they're a great asset. It's better for our environment with less cars on the road, and helps us get to our climate change goal of having a carbon-neutral Hawke's Bay by 2050. Plus, riding the bus is better for our pockets, it's cheap at only $2 a trip between Hastings and Napier.
Our bus service is working for essential workers at our hospital. In 2020/2021 there were 12,700 trips made by DHB workers, nearly double since 2017/2018. This shows us that, with support from employers and commitment from workers, using buses to get to and from work can meet people's needs. We want to work with our community to see this positive change happen across our urban areas.
But it's not all good. Last year there were over 580,000 bus trips across Napier and Hastings, a decrease from 670,000 four years ago.
We know that these numbers could be so much better, which is why we're looking at changing it with a trial of on-demand public transport, starting in Hastings next year.
We're working in partnership with Waka Kotahi and have committed to this trial which we think could be a gamechanger, with close to $600,000 for the trial. If it's successful we've committed $6.8 million over 10 years in our Long Term Plan.
On-demand public transport is an Uber-style public transport service that's flexible, responsive to people's needs and a bit different. A fixed timetable service will be replaced by a service that better meets people's changing needs.
In addition, we want to talk with you, the community. We want to do a review of our passenger transport system this year. We want to know what's working well, where we could do better, and hear from our community about what they want to see. We welcome any and all ideas about how we can meet our future transport challenges.
To lead our transport work we recently hired one of the region's public transport experts, former Nimon's Bus general manager Katie Nimon. She brings a wealth of experience to support and deliver the region's vision of an accessible and sustainable transport network.
At the Regional Council, we work to enhance our environment, together with our community. This is an important conversation that we need to keep having. We can't do this on our own and we look forward to talking more with you soon.
Katrina Brunton is Group Manager Policy & Regulation, Hawke's Bay Regional Council