Doctors warn Wellington’s transport plans harm our health, climate and budgets Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Media release from OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council

At today's hearings on Wellington's draft Regional Land Transport Plan 2015, Dr Russell Tregonning, Executive Board member of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, called for an urgent health check of the Wellington region's latest Land Transport Plan. 

Dr Tregonning, a senior lecturer at Wellington's School of Medicine, commended the plan's aims for a transport system that is "resilient, reliable and easy to use" and "seeks to grow public transport patronage". However, he warned that the plan "could not achieve these aims by ignoring both climate damage from our fossil fuel use and our growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and other ill-health from inactivity caused by over-reliance on private transport".

The multi-billion dollar taxpayer and ratepayer-funded plan concentrates 94 percent of its spending on new roads thus discouraging active and public transport. 

"The plan is heading in the wrong direction at a time when New Zealand must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Dr Tregonning says.

"More than a billion dollars for Roads of National Significance in Wellington city is better invested in all-electric public transport - with light rail back on the agenda.

"This region urgently needs a high-quality network of frequent, high-capacity public transport and safe attractive cycle-ways and footpaths. We need to play our part in stabilising climate changes by moving towards a zero emissions transport system - not locking ourselves into old-style transport that attracts cars, creates congestion, and damages our health and our future.

"We know that around half of New Zealanders do not get enough regular exercise, and we know that two-thirds of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight. The health gains from regular exercise like walking to work (which includes that involved in public transport), as well as cycling are well-proven.

"OraTaiao calls for an immediate health impact assessment of this draft regional transport plan, which analyses the plan's impact on climate change and health equity. We need a plan that works for this century, not the tired old thinking of the past."