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Kate Hawkesby: Fullers' Waiheke ferry a useless service

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 5 September 2019, 9:45AM
Hundreds of people queue at Devonport Ferry Terminal last month waiting on delayed Fullers vessels.

COMMENT:

There are lots of places around the country that'll argue their local public transport doesn't function as it should - Wellington and its ongoing bus dramas springs to mind.

But a permanently punished area is Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki gulf.

It's a captive market in the hands of a monopoly - ferry operator Fullers360.

Those ferries are the only boats on and off that island, which is home to about 10,000 people, many of whom commute.

Problem is, they're often left stranded on either side on the wharf, due to broken down ferries, unscheduled timetable changes, or overcrowded ferries. The fares are outrageously expensive too - and the locals are fed up.

They're a feisty bunch, extremely active politically - they vote in local body elections in huge numbers - they're extremely vested in what happens to and for them. They've been fighting Fullers forever - and not getting anywhere.

Hope was at hand when the Government showed an element of interest in their plight a couple of months back and said they'd "look at" whether they'd put Fullers under the control of Auckland Transport (currently Fullers is exempt from such supervision).

Because a useless service is serving no one.

So public meetings were held, media turned up, the Mayor sounded exercised. 
But nothing's happened. The service is still crap. Not just on Waiheke, but for Devonport too.

So how is it Fullers management can keep fronting these public meetings, talk the talk, say they're listening, say they're working on it - and yet continue to do nothing?

And where is the champion of public transport Julie Anne Genter? Why isn't she stepping in (as she is so wont to do) and sorting this out? Is it because it's too far away from Wellington for her to be interested?

Where are the Auckland mayoral candidates then, or the Mayor himself?

Remember these Waiheke people are big local body voters. Sorting the ferries is a guaranteed vote winner.

Where is the champion of the SuperGold Card Winston Peters? A lot of the residents have one of those and would dearly love to use it on the ferry, but that would require the service to actually work.

So a captive market of voters, active participants in local issues, are being completely ignored and held to ransom by a greedy monopoly. Why? How is this still allowed to happen? And why should they have to wait so long for it to get sorted?

If we truly want people to use public transport in this country, then why on earth aren't we holding the people offering it to account? Why is it still so useless?

There's another public meeting being held this weekend, let's hope there's some action out of it, instead of just more talk.

Because at this rate, Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter's dream of us all using public transport to get around is going exactly nowhere.

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