Monday, February 4, 2013

Fullers' Supergold card subsidy is $1.5m a year

From the NZ Herald:
"A regional breakdown of the costs released under the Official Information Act shows $10.7 million was spent on seniors travelling on Auckland ferries, buses and rail. That included the maximum amount of just over $1.5 million to Fullers for seniors travelling on the Waiheke Ferry - funding which was capped in 2010 after blowing out to $2 million a year."
 $1.5m is about 7% of the national Supergold card budget.
"The Waiheke ferry cap, adjusted for inflation each year, meant Fullers has received no subsidies for some of its Gold Card passengers. Fullers Group chief executive Douglas Hudson said the cap usually ran out between four to eight weeks before the next subsidy round each year, and the company absorbed the full cost of the free fares for that time. "It does cost Fullers to carry those SuperGold cardholders once the cap has been reached," he said."
That is a nice attempt at spinning themselves into the victim position. One could view instead the $1.5m as an annual bulkfunding exercise to transport 65-plussers (and hangers-on) to Waiheke.
"However, we are comfortable with the degree of 'free' service we provide because we believe that overall, the advent of free ferry fares for SuperGold cardholders has been beneficial for the Waiheke economy."
The economic benefit has certainly accrued to Fullers but the wider impact on the island is disputable: many are day trippers who bring their sandwiches and tea flasks, sit on Onetangi beach for the day and make sure they're back home for tea. I haven't heard any Waiheke business being overrun by oldies, like Fullers (and its buses and tours) are.

In general terms, the Supergold card has been a boon to those fortunate enough to get their hands on one (and to the NZ First Party, which introduced it), but just imagine what that $10.7m transport subsidy could contribute to lowering the fares for everybody and thus make public transport a more attractive alternative and impact in a significant way on the city traffic problems.

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