Ferry passenger numbers finally released


More than 278,800 people caught ferries to or from Waiheke in December but wharf tax figures continue to fall.
Waiheke Local Board chairperson Paul Walden is pleased that Auckland Transport has made a step towards releasing information about passenger numbers but says the tax figures still “make no sense”.
An Auckland Transport report says 278,876 passengers caught ferries to and from the island last December and 272,427 caught Waiheke ferries in January.
However, wharf tax collected by Auckland Transport is reported to have been $1,711,000 in 2008, but only $1,352,000 in 2015.
The figures suggest that in 2015 Auckland Transport spent $1,672,000 on operating wharves in the Hauraki Gulf, and capital works cost an extra $522,000.
This would mean that wharf tax collected by the Auckland Council organisation is $842,000 short of covering the expenses of running and maintaining the wharves.
However, Mr Walden finds it “incomprehensible” that all of the wharf tax is being used for wharf maintenance.
He says three times as many ferries are running now as in 2008 so Auckland Transport’s figures on the wharf tax collected are puzzling.
“There needs to be transparency and this needs to be fully accounted for. It’s a lot of money and it’s important to our community,” he says.

The local board has continually requested wharf tax information over recent years but Auckland Transport has been reluctant to release the information, claiming that it is “commercially sensitive”.
“This is a tax, it’s public, there’s no commercial sensitivity,” says Mr Walden.

The wharf tax is collected at Matiatia and Kennedy Point wharves and is intended to be used for infrastructure at Matiatia, such as wharf maintenance and car parking, he says.
Wharf tax has been used to re-build wharves at Great Barrier and Rangitoto, but Auckland Transport has claimed it has no money for parking improvements at Matiatia, says Mr Walden.
Under the old Auckland City Council, the wharf tax is believed to have been 70 cents per passenger, but Auckland Transport will not disclose details about the current tax.
The wharf at Matiatia was paid for at the time it was built, so the tax that is collected now could be used to benefit island residents, he says.
Auckland Transport refused requests for further information, saying that questions from Gulf News would be processed under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. • Rose Davis

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