- By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter
funded by New Zealand on Air
Auckland Transport (AT) says ferry fares are just not covering the cost to operate and hints at raising the price.
At the AT board meeting on October 31, an update on ferry services prompted board members to raise eyebrows about some ferry runs having over $30 subsidised for passengers.
The report said longer routes, like Gulf Harbour or Pine Harbour, required more funding.
The Gulf Harbour run charges users $11.60 while the cost per passenger is $41.16.
Only one route, the Devonport route, has a greater return from fares.
AT’s report acknowledged the issue would need to be addressed in the future either through increased funding or increasing fare costs to passengers.
The news comes after a tumultuous time for ferry services with the Gulf Harbour and Half Moon Bay ferry significantly reducing their services while crew are trained.
AT executive general manager Stacey van der Putten said Auckland’s ferry services were not financially sustainable.
“The net cost per passenger has increased tremendously – it’s quite a complicated mode with a complicated history,” van der Putten said
Acting chair Wayne Donnelly put question marks over Auckland’s ferry services entirely.
“I think the subsidy has tripled – one of the hard questions we need to ask; is this the start of a journey or the end of a journey?” Donnelly asked.
Van der Putten responded the costs had changed tenfold but ferry services had proved necessary.
“We are part of a city and we need a good ferry network,” van der Putter said.
Cr Chris Darby said the tolerance levels for ferry users were low and he was expecting things to “spark” if they hadn’t already.
“The poor state of our wharf infrastructure – we have actually got a big investment coming in the renewal of wharf infrastructure,” Darby said.
Cr Andy Baker asked if the operator, Fullers360, was acting in good faith or if they were dropping their responsibilities in favour of tourism dollars.
“Local boards up there are pleading for us to do hard work out there,” Baker said; wondering if AT was ‘flexing its muscle’.
Van der Putten confirmed Fullers had cut back on tourism services.
The ominous update came after calls earlier in the day from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board to restore the Gulf Harbour ferry.
Local board member Alexis Poppelbaum told the AT board that communities were relying on the Gulf Harbour ferry run.
“We would like to see a reliable operator on that very, very popular service,” Poppelbaum said.
The board had left before the ferry update was given.
The local board has called for Fullers ferry contract to be relinquished in meetings prior and the AT board appears to have that option on its mind as well.
A report summarising Fullers’ contract was attached to the meeting’s agenda including options to terminate the contract.
Staff said the board was interested in contractual levers regarding Fullers’ performance.