A decision on the government review of the Waiheke ferry service’s exemption from the public transport operating network is a step closer as the final reports come in.
In a letter to Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who had earlier asked for an update on the review in parliament, Transport Minister David Parker says as this is the first investigation of its type Waka Kotahi have sought extensive legal advice, which included the recommendation to get additional consultant’s reports to supplement the first, which was released to the public earlier this year.
“Waka Kotahi expected to receive final reports from consultants in the first week of September 2023, to assist Waka Kotahi reach a position on whether the Land Transport Management Act criteria have been met.”
If the agency decides criteria have been met, it will formally request the Minister of Transport issue an ‘Order in Council’ to remove the exemption. The minister will then choose to act on it or not. Chlöe says it’s a small step forward, after a decade of frustratingly slow progress. But thanks to the dogged efforts of Waiheke community groups, the local board, herself and her predecessor Nikki Kaye, and even Auckland Transport to keep the pressure on, the end is almost in sight. Chlöe says the evidence is “crystal clear” the exemption needs to be removed. “[And] We now have, in black and white, that we can expect an end to the merry-go-round of consulting.”
Former Transport Minister Michael Wood started the process in July last year, and 12 months later Waka Kotahi released a consultants’ report that had been submitted in November 2022. The report, by consultant Barry Kidd, concludes there is a “strong case” for the government to remove the controversial exemption of our ferry route from the public transport network since the original rationale for it has “proven flawed”.
• Paul Mitchell
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