by Russell Tregonning
Wellington public transport planners apparently don’t rate community health. The words ‘health’ and ‘climate’ are not mentioned, even once, in the regional council’s public transport spine study. The study should be revised to include a health impact assessment.
Transport-derived greenhouse gases cause climate change. More extreme weather, increased diarrhoea, insect-carried disease, allergies and skin cancers threaten us right now. Rising and acidifying oceans, poverty, climate refugees and international conflict will likely follow.
Air pollution from exhausts cause ill-health.
The planners intend to use diesel for the bus options initially and phase out Wellington’s iconic electric trolleys. But inhaled diesel contains tiny particles (soot) and poisonous gases. These can cause lung and heart diseases and some cancers.
Traffic accidents and lack of physical exercise are major health and financial burdens. Insufficient exercise is estimated in the Regional Council’s own study to cost 0.8% of GDP across New Zealand. Active transport (walking and cycling) help with the big killers (cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers), and addresses the obesity epidemic, depression and bone and joint diseases. Regular exercise is facilitated by public transport.
The Regional Council predicts that there will be increases in greenhouse gas emissions from cars, due to the new roads of national significance. New motorway building causes ‘traffic induction’, which, in time, fails to ease peak hour congestion. Car transport is encouraged, the roads become congested again, and even worse, public transport suffers. Also, car useage in Wellington is going down. Roads of national significance are not only climate and health-hostile, they are unnecessary.
This flawed study must be stopped now, to allow the profound health impacts to be examined by public health specialists. Only by so doing will it get full and proper public buy-in.
Russell Tregonning is a Wellington Orthopaedic Surgeon.