Kia ora Minister
Congratulations on your new role and wishing you every success as we move towards a sustainable climate-friendly future.
Walking has many benefits that will help us on this journey, including:
Strong economic benefits, as demonstrated in the recent business case for walking from Auckland Council.
Health benefits from walking are well known for heart, bones and joints, and to prevent diseases such as cancers and stroke. It has been estimated that for every 10,000 steps taken $3.62 in health benefits are achieved (2015)
Regular physical activity is important for us all to manage a healthy weight and keep energy levels high to start the school or work day providing a productivity bonus
Perhaps more importantly walking has strong benefits for mental health getting people out in the community to help combat isolation and treat depression
Walking is available to all as the cheapest and always available means to get around, with higher numbers of poor, elderly and Maori reliant on walking
And walking plays a role in mitigating climate change impacts as the lowest carbon footprint travel option.
Successful public transport provides an equitable and important means of travel but is reliant on good walking provision, and extends the walking journey at the start and end of trips. Walking is important for every trip no matter how you travel.
In 2008 thanks to a Labour Government, we had the first New Zealand Walking and Cycling Strategy in place, the Govt3 programme with a focus on government agency travel planning, school travel planning, financially supported advocacy for both walking and cycling modes, and regular contact with MoT and NZTA. While cycling continued to be supported, walking has languished in the meantime. Unlike the truck, car and bicycle lobby there has been no paid advocacy for walking. We look forward to some future support for national, local and social media advocacy to promote walking. This will help connect communities, build resilience, combat loneliness, improve accessibility and safety especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
Living Streets Aotearoa has a simple four point plan to turn this around and kick start action to promote walking, this is:
Fund walking and pedestrian infrastructure through the National Land Transport Plan and provide a funding assistance rate (FAR) to local authorities to maintain and develop pedestrian facilities at the same rate as local roads.
Make mandatory national standards for pedestrian service and infrastructure so that a consistent standard is achieved nationally that will improve accessibility (NZ Pedestrian Planning and Design Guide, RTS 14 NZS 4001:2001 )
Require 30 km hour speed zones around all schools and shopping areas to improve safety and make those busy places nicer.
Reverse the decline in children walking to school with a safe routes to school programme.
NZTA needs to be refocused to get the priorities right for the multi-modal changes needed in transport. This will mean changes to the Government Policy Statement of Transport and the Board membership. For instance a policy change required is to ensure all State Highway bridges have safe walking access across them, especially near rural schools.
Your new government is well positioned to make the top priority mode of the sustainable transport hierarchy the showpiece for transport policy, this would be a world leading initiative. Walking is not only indispensable for all everyday journeys, New Zealand also has stunning recreational and rural walking with huge potential for sensitive sustainable development. Te Araroa’s 3,000 kilometre walk from Bluff to Cape Reinga through many small rural towns, shows what can be achieved with little funding. Te Araroa walkers often spend money in towns that mainstream initiatives don’t reach. Imagine what could be done if government supported walking on this epic trail.
We acknowledge there are other important stakeholders in the walking space including local authorities, district health boards, disability advocacy groups, and many recreational walking groups and urge you to include them. However, Living Streets Aotearoa is the only New Zealand organisation with an unflinching focus on the first and most democratic mode of transport - walking. We maintain strong international connections to keep up to date with global trends and research.
We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss how we can assist you progress this important work programme.
President, Living Streets Aotearoa
About Living Streets
Living Streets Aotearoa is New Zealand’s national walking and pedestrian organisation, providing a positive voice for people on foot and working to promote walking friendly planning and development around the country. Our vision is “More people choosing to walk more often and enjoying public places”.
The objectives of Living Streets Aotearoa are:
to promote walking as a healthy, environmentally-friendly and universal means of transport and recreation
to promote the social and economic benefits of pedestrian-friendly communities
to work for improved access and conditions for walkers, pedestrians and runners including walking surfaces, traffic flows, speed and safety
to advocate for greater representation of pedestrian concerns in national, regional and urban land use and transport planning.
Our national executive team are:
Andy Smith President, Auckland
Ellen Blake Vice President, Wellington
Meg Christie Christchurch
Gay Richards Auckland
Celia Wade-Brown Wairarapa
Chris Teo-Sherrell Palmerston North
For more information, please see: www.livingstreets.org.nz