Little social research on rural access to transport in rural communities has been carried out in New Zealand. With assistance from the NZ Transport Agency, the researchers addressed this issue and the social effects of poor access. Census and national travel survey data provided a picture of access to private and public transport, travel patterns and socio-economic characteristics of residents in areas with different levels of transport access. Two rural community case studies were conducted to document the social issues and impacts of poor access to transport, and to identify local attempts to solve transport problems. Options for addressing poor access to transport and its effects were explored with government and private sector transport specialists.
Access to private motor vehicles was found to be nearly universal among New Zealand rural households. However, some communities and sections of the rural population suffer from significant transport-related disadvantage. Two main types of strategy for mitigating the impacts are presented: a) those that set out to improve access to services, goods, activities and opportunities rural people need, and b) strategies that seek to change the context in which disadvantage is experienced. The authors propose the use of accessibility planning and anticipatory social impact assessment in rural services and district planning, along with more assistance to local communities to develop their own solutions to transport problems.