Monday, April 27, 2009

C4FFF calls for accountability by Fullers

Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares (C4FF) has hit out at recent claims by Fullers CEO Doug Hudson (see Marketplace article, 22 April) that it has not benefited from the SuperGold scheme.

In the Marketplace article, Fullers CEO Doug Hudson claimed, ‘Half the GoldCard passengers are now travelling free instead of paying fares of one type or another’. Dr Urquhart responds, ‘That is ridiculous! Fullers are reimbursed at 75% of the standard fare, $25.18 per return, which is above most concession fares, so clearly they are not losing money – we estimate a profit to their bottom line of 20%” says Dr Urquhart.

Mr Hudson also claimed that current passenger levels are about the same as they were a year ago. Dr Urquhart responds, ‘It’s obvious to anyone using the boats that there has been a huge increase since SuperGold was introduced last year. If that is true – we’d like to see the numbers! The problem is we never see the numbers, because Fullers are not accountable to anyone.’

C4FFF wants Fullers to be held accountable to the community, and to the statutory public transport body (currently ARTA). Campaign spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart says, ‘Our long term future is at stake each time diesel goes up. Our economy is deeply affected by who can afford to commute and live here, and who can afford to visit. Should the future of our ferry link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No!’

In response, the group is launching a petition – Your Future is in Their Hands – at 7am Matiatia Wharf on Friday 1 May, calling for future accountability from the monopoly, now owned by Souter Holdings Ltd. Ferry fares have increased by 46% since 2002, and the cost of living has gone up by 26% in the same period (see attached graph analysis). This has resulted in some low income families and young people being forced off the island.

The group will put up a visual display – including graphs and banners – at the wharf, to graphically illustrate the dwindling purchasing power of the ferry users’ dollar since 2002.

Dr Urquhart adds, ‘The first step for the future is to get a mechanism of accountability in place so that Fullers can’t just put up the fares when they want. There should be dialogue with the community and with ARTA – or the governing transport authority – first. We need to have our say right now about the future affordability of ferries and buses on the island, before it’s too late!’

C4FFF is also co-sponsoring a public meeting to address those issues with the Better Buses Action Group. The meeting will be held at Ostend Memorial Hall on Saturday 16 May. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, Hauraki Gulf Cr Denise Roche, ARTA General Manager Peter Clarke, ARC Leader Mike Lee, CEO of Fullers Doug Hudson have all been invited. The meeting will focus on issues of future accountability and affordability and call for submissions on the draft Public Transport Management Plan, due to be released on May 1.

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