Thursday, June 3, 2010

Parliament's Transport Select Committee recommendation

Last year C4FFF presented a petition to parliament regarding the Waiheke to Auckland ferry service.
Now Parliament's Transport Select Committee has recommended that the House take note of the report:

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has considered Petition 2008/24 of Cathy Urquhart, Brent McDonald, and Shirin Brown, requesting that “the House of Representatives note that 941 people have signed a petition calling for the following:
· A mechanism of accountability to be put in place so that Fullers cannot raise our ferry and bus fares without consulting ARTA or the governing transport authority and the community of Waiheke
· Regulation or fair competition on the Fullers ferry route
· Affordable and sustainable public transport for Waiheke for the future.”

A mechanism of accountability
The ferry service provided by Fullers between downtown Auckland and Waiheke Island is registered with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) as a commercial public transport service as required under the Passenger Transport Management Act 2009. A registered service under the Act must provide to regional councils information on routes, timetables, and fares. Fullers must formally notify ARTA of any variation to any aspect of its services, including its fares.
ARTA said that it has limited grounds for denying a fare variation on a commercial service, such as that operated by Fullers. It could do so only if the service in question unduly affected a contracted public transport service in Auckland, or was in breach of a control placed on it by ARTA. ARTA said that, as there are no contracted public transport services to Waiheke Island, these reasons did not apply in this case. Fullers’ management meets representatives of the Waiheke Island community monthly, through its Ferry Users Group. The rationale for any fare change is discussed with this group.

Regulation or fair competition
Other ferry operators have provided competition on the Waiheke route in the past. Under ARTA’s Ferry Development Plan all infrastructure is required to be in public ownership to allow open access to wharves, subject to budget and commercial constraints such as lease arrangements. Auckland City Council owns all of the Waiheke ferry wharf infrastructure, which would therefore be open to access by other operators, but Fullers owns the pontoons where its ferries dock at the downtown Auckland and Devonport wharves.

Affordable and sustainable public transport
ARTA said that it subsidises the Waiheke bus service at about $410,000 per year; and it considers that Waiheke fares are especially low, far lower than they should be for the level of public transport service provided. The New Zealand Transport Agency suggests that since the current service provided by Fullers has existed for some years it appears to be sustainable. If the commercial operator notified ARTA that the service was to be discontinued, ARTA would need to consider whether a new commercial operator could register a service, or whether a contracted service was viable. ARTA has no plans at present to contract a service to Waiheke, and explained that the commercial service provided by Fullers offers a good service that appears to meet the primary needs of the market. However, ARTA said it could review its position if this were to change.

We are satisfied with the explanations we have received regarding this petition, and have no other matters to bring to the attention of the House.

Committee procedure
The petition was referred to the committee on 2 July 2009. The committee invited and received submissions from the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Fullers Group, and the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares.

Committee members
David Bennett (Chairperson)
Dr Jackie Blue
Carol Beaumont
Darien Fenton
Hon Tau Henare
Gareth Hughes (from 17 February 2010)
Moana Mackey
Allan Peachey
Michael Woodhouse

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