Last week, members of Auckland Council's Environment and Climate Change Committee debated our submission to the Government's green paper on Hīkina te Kohupara Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050.
As you might expect, the debate was diverse. Regardless of our individual perspectives, none of us is under any illusion over the challenges we face to achieve our climate emissions targets.
One suggested tool is to move people to other modes of travel; bikes, trains, buses. I often feel the discussion is missing the obvious point that even when we can provide these alternative options, cars and trucks will still exist in 2050, and our population will continue to grow.
Trucks will still need to drive to and from the quarry to build our region's infrastructure. People with complex travel needs will still need private vehicles, such as parents of young families, carers of seniors, those with a disability and shift workers.
Of course, as technology advances, vehicles will be fuelled differently, be it electric or hydrogen. But, we will likely still need roads until we reach the Jetsons generation.
More often than not, the transport and emissions discussion becomes exceptionally binary: cars vs bikes or active transport. This loses sight of important issues of transport disadvantage and locational disadvantage, the deprivation these issues perpetuate, and the impacts on our South Auckland communities.
Transport disadvantage most commonly refers to those with limited availability of transport and those unable to access available modes of transport. Locational disadvantage is the difficulty in accessing a range of facilities and resources because of your geography.
Both seem to disproportionately affect communities on the periphery of our city, those often already disadvantaged, where it is common to experience social exclusion, lower health standards, less transport safety, and higher unemployment.
According to Ateed's 2018 Prosperity Index, the most prosperous local board areas are Albert-Eden, Devonport-Takapuna, Orākei, Upper Harbour and Waitematā. The boards with the least wealth are all of the south Auckland boards Mangere-Ōtāhuhu, Manurewa, Ōtara-Papatoetoe and Papakura.
If we relate this disparity to the availability (or lack of) transport options, quality of infrastructure, and locational disadvantage across those communities you start to understand how transport poverty can play out in different communities.
Due to the inequitable provision of public transport across the region, as well as the complexities of industry, and low-income communities, the transition to Vision Zero is going to take some time. It will also take further investment into multi-model roading infrastructure.
The South of Auckland desperately needs a transport corridor that allows for a truck lane, bus lane, car lane, cycle lane – they nearly got one after more than 13 years of it being at various stages in the pipeline, only to have it whipped out of their grasp by the Government's decision earlier this month to axe Mill Rd.
The newly scoped investment package in the area includes upgrades to SH1 and rail, and new rail stations. Almost 70 per cent of the total investment from the New Zealand Upgrade Programme is directed towards South Auckland, yet these initiatives fail to address the immediate and future needs of most commuters in the area.
There is a lack of evidence to support decision-making and transport planning that will actually produce equitable outcomes for our diverse communities. The Ministry of Transport released a commissioned research paper on Equity in Auckland's Transport System in December 2020, confirming the void in much-needed data.
Despite the massive changes the Government is committing to in the transport space, it has little to no knowledge or evidence on the transport needs for Māori, older people, low-income people, women, disabled people, LGBTQI+, and ethnic minorities.
Similarly, there is no measure on trips not taken due to people feeling unsafe or due to a lack of accessibility.
If we want to build transport systems with multi-model accessibility, we cannot leave behind a significant part of our population, or ignore the complexities of their unique place in this city and how they travel.
Ultimately, we can't address how we minimise our carbon emissions without applying such an equity lens to our decisions.
The journey to Vision Zero involves all of us, but to get there we must address the very real barriers that exist for so many communities across the region. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work in the south, and mode-shift initiatives alone won't bring us transport equity.
As governors, we must lift up the voices of those currently unheard, those disadvantaged by historical under-investment. We must consider their needs at the centre of these conversations before we repeat past mistakes and invest in infrastructure that benefits only the few.
• Angela Dalton is an Auckland Councillor for the Manurewa-Papakura ward.