Aaargh! On trains and buses to visit my Mum today

Went to visit my Mum today, exchange Christmas presents, and shout her for lunch in Pukekohe. She is 90 years old, and doesn’t feel confident about driving the motorway  anymore, so she can’t get to our family Christmas because there is no public transport available to her on Christmas Day.

So for the last few years, we have had our pre-Christmas catchup, and she has then shared Christmas Day with friends who live locally to her.

Anyway, what a drama getting there today!  I live in West Auckland. My partner and I have one car between us, a decision we made in the interests of ecological sustainability. My partner had to work today and needed the car for that, so that option was out.

To get to Pukekohe by mid-day, I had to negotiate two trains and bus replacements between them, and that meant I had to leave home well before 10am.  Same on the way home, so for just over an hour and a half with my Mum in Pukekohe, I spent almost 5 hours traveling on trains and buses.

Surely the public transport system in Auckland can do better than that.

Speech by Hamilton West Green candidate to Campaign for Better Transport in Hamilton

What follows is my speech as the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand candidate for Hamilton West, delivered at the first public ‘Meet the Candidates’ meeting held in Hamilton NZ by the Campaign for Better Transport.

“Kia Ora, good evening Hamilton.

My name is Max Coyle and I am standing for the Green Party in Hamilton West.

Cars have ripped apart my family, and ripped apart communities. Over three successive years an entire branch of my family was wiped out by car accidents leaving 5 people dead and 2 of my cousins orphaned. The car culture which see’s a car as an aspiration and symbol of wealth in our country today is unhealthy, and also unsustainable. Cars kill and they are inefficient. With the rising cost of fuel and the environmentally destructive methods needed to obtain the black gold, this culture has to end, but that’s not really what I’m here to talk to you about, I’m here to talk about a healthier and more cost-effective and economically beneficial solution, excellent public transport.

Public Transport is about community and you always meet amazing people on trips. On the other hand, motorways are barriers that all too often cut through the heart of communities. Where public transport brings people together, motorways keep people apart.

When my son is older I would like to take him to the beach, or to one of our rivers (once the Greens have made sure they are all cleaned up) and on our trips there I would like to spend time with him, entertain each other and make sure that every moment together counts, I want to be able to look my son in the eye, because the day he was born I realized that those eyes are where I find the most powerful unconditional love in myself I never knew existed. Instead I have to watch the road for fear of killing us all. One of the great things about public transport is that I can actively engage with those I am traveling with, you can not do that in a car traveling at 100km’s an hour.

I often have to travel to Auckland or Wellington and currently that time is wasted. It will be great when I can get my laptop out and connect to the net and get some work done on my journeys. It would not only make me more productive, just imagine how much more productive our whole country could become. Has anyone been to a city overseas where the public transport was effortless? How amazing does it make your trip? I’m sure tourists visiting our 74% pure country would be stoked to have the same experience here.

With amazing public transport which is both cost-effective and comfortable, efficient and timely, well planned and well run, we CAN change the car culture we live in. Being stuck in traffic could become a thing of the past. Every day around Hamilton West I see people driving cars with no passengers. It doesn’t make sense to be lugging a couple of tonnes of metal around by yourself on most trips and it will make even less sense when petrol is $5 a litre.

We must plan for a city of the future Hamilton. We must grasp our opportunity to be an accessible and economically successful city, now and into the future. Which is why I am standing for the political party of the future in the city of the future. My name is Max Coyle and I’m standing as the Green Party candidate for Hamilton West and on November 26th I invite you, to PARTY VOTE GREEN”

I visited the Waitangi Tribunal Library for the first time ever last week. Not to do some research on ‘Wai 262’ though I heard from the receptionist things had been busier there over the past 2 days. My visit was to see something on one of the walls, not in one of the documents, or books on one of the many shelves, well taken care of by a wonderful team of dedicated people.

One of those people was my Uncle, which brings me back to my visit. When I was quite young over the space of 3 years a complete branch of my family was wiped out. 2 Uncles, 2 aunties and 1 baby cousin. The first accident was a drunk driver crossing the centreline and crashing into my Uncle’s car. The other car following my Uncle plowed into the back of his car, causing my Uncles Ford Capri to be crushed betwee the two, I can’t remember whether he died instantly or minutes later. Hamilton West Green Party candidate Max Coyle and his Uncle the late Brett Sinclair

Exactly a year after that, 3 days before my Uncles unveiling, his mother, my Great Aunty Rangi died. The clinical diagnosis was a heart attack, though the rest of the family talked about her dying of grief, even at 14 I was quickly learning how powerful grief was. I believed my relatives, that it was the last year since the death of her beloved son, Brett Sinclair, that had taken too deep a toll. Having seen Rangi 4 months previously for what would be the last time, I remember seeing the shadow of a woman, standing where a once vibrant, warm and welcoming aunty once greeted us with baking and soup and a hug whose absence leaves me cold even today.

Fast forward a year and the family is having another reunion, this time on a happier note and we are preparing for an Uncles wedding. Our grandmothers large house in Gore is full of relatives from all over NZ and all the young cousins/brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews are playing upstairs.

A knock at the door see’s a policeman at the door, cap in hand. he has come as death’s messenger and informs us that My Auntie Lee, Bretts Sister, her husband and their 1 year old son have been killed in a car accident en-route to the wedding after my Uncle fell asleep at the wheel. There two older boys, my cousins, survived the crash, and were never the same again.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time during my speech to tell this story, I wish that I had. National both during the public meeting and through their policies are saying that the numbers just don’t stack up on funding public transport. David Bennett the chairperson on the Transport Working group refused to accept the 11’500 signatures from Waikato people calling for a passenger train to Hamilton. My number is 5, 5 dead, and I wish that number counted for something.