Press release: C4FFF Disputes Findings of the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee
A report from the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee, which responds to the Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares petition (presented 2 July 2009) for an affordable and sustainable public transport system for Waiheke Island, has been criticised by C4FFF as failing to deal properly with the issues raised by the group, and the nearly 1000 people who signed it.
The original petition, signed by 941 people, was referred to the committee on 2 July 2009. The committee also invited and received submissions from the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and Fullers Groups.
C4FFF said that report was 'disappointing', and that the real concern had not been addressed – that, given the fact there is no alternative route to the city, there is still no recognition of the need to regulate the fare structure and consult with the community board and users. "We are requesting a statutory mechanism of consultation, and this has not been addressed."
"The current situation still means that they can hike the price at any time. This will affect an already cash-strapped population that finds the cost of travel to the city a huge burden. And let's not forget we are a 7 decile area – the wealthy are a minority here, and any increase in fares has a huge impact on the lives of residents. By way of comparison, Half Moon Bay is a decile 1 area and is subsidised. Where is the logic in that?’
C4FFF also disputed ARTA's conclusion that the bus fares were "far lower than they should be". It is very hard not be cynical when we need to take the word of government bodies on the true costs of services (rubbish springs to mind). We provided figures on the comparative costs of ferries and that it would be great to see the comparative costs of buses in Auckland and Waiheke, rather than an emotive statement that it costs a lot!, particularly as the buses are key to Waiheke's tourist infrastructure.
C4FFF had worked out an approximate comparison as follows: "A $410,000 a year subsidy is just over $1,000 a day for a service that covers an area the size of most of mainland Auckland City. For example, a ticket from Britomart to Sandringham (22min ride) is comparable to Matiatia to Onetangi, and costs $3.30 compared to $4.10 on Waiheke."
Many buses were currently travelling at capacity with Gold Card users, with locals often standing – but increased revenue for the bus company hasn’t resulted in any improvements in the service for locals in terms of frequency or access to remote areas.
C4FFF also believes the committee did not address the implications of Fullers' ownership of the pontoons where its ferries dock at the downtown Auckland and Devonport wharves. These are placed on the only access to the dock, which means, in effect, Fullers can deny use to other potential providers. The pontoons should be classified as "infrastructure" and should be under public jurisdiction, even if they have been paid for by the ferry company.
C4FFF saw the petition to the Transport Committee as a success as it made people aware that fare prices are arbitrary and over-inflated, and encouraged the community to question the cost of travel into the CBD and how fares are set. It is up to all ferry users to continue to remain vigilant in order to protest further price hikes.