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Big improvements needed in ferry services

Today I held a meeting with the Chief Executive of Fullers Group and the Chair of the local board for Waiheke Cath Handley, where we raised issues of poor service, including massive queues, delayed sailings, reduced sailings and some boats leaving half full, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye says.

“Ms Handley and I have had a constructive meeting with Fullers where they acknowledged some issues relating to their services. In the short term they will improve staff resources for wharf management and look at prioritising people who are elderly or frail. But we also need to look at ferry statistics, user experiences and complaints to improve services in the future.

“There needs to be big changes in the way we manage our ferry system. Waiheke and Great Barrier are isolated islands and there can be significant social and economic impacts on people when things go wrong.

“There is a case for change to the status of exempt routes which cover Waiheke and Great Barrier Island. We either need to remove the exemption from the Public Transport Operating Model, which would impact Fullers commercially, or come up with an alternative to ensure greater guarantees around the quality of what are essential services to the islands.

“We need to ensure the redevelopment of the downtown ferry terminal is progressed in a timely manner and that there is fair access to ferry berths. One issue is the lack of competition in the ferry market, with previous companies dropping out of the market citing issues with accessing ferry berths as hindering their ability to deliver services and compete.

“It is important that phase two of the terminal redevelopment ensures Waiheke and Devonport are properly prioritised in terms of their volume of trips.

“Another issue is integrated ticketing. Auckland Council are progressing integrated ticketing for Auckland, however reports that Waiheke could be exempt from this is concerning. It will mean islanders and tourists will miss out on seamless services, but also discounts on public transport.

“We can no longer afford to have a relaxed approach. The tensions raised by commuters are real and will continue unless we can get real movement on these issues to guarantee greater oversight and continuity of services.

“Waiheke Island is home to around 9500 people and is a popular tourist destination. Aucklanders need to have confidence in a ferry system that is on track to expand from 6 million trips to 9 million trips by 2025.

“I want to acknowledge Cath Handley, Chair of the Waiheke Local Board, for her work in raising these issues.

“Waiheke is a world class destination but is receiving a substandard service. Ferries are an important part of Auckland’s future, but there needs to be change to ensure continuity and decent oversight of the service, fair access to improved infrastructure and improved integrated ticketing.”

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