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Fed up with ferry price hikes

JEROME GAVELLE
Last updated 12:00 29/09/2010
Matiatia

FARED UNFAIR: Members of the Fullerswatch group protesting about the new ferry price increase at Matiatia wharf.

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Upcoming ferry fare price hikes have struck a nerve with some commuters.

Fullers has announced new fares which take into account the October GST rise of 2.5 percent and increased operating costs.

Members of the Fullerswatch group were protesting last Friday morning at Matiatia wharf against the increases which are due to take place on October 1.

Tertiary students using 10-trip concession tickets will be the hardest hit, with an 11 percent raise from $72 to $80, while commuters on monthly passes and 40 ride tickets see their ticket prices go up by five percent.

Tertiary pass commuter Rachel Bogen is a fulltime university student working two jobs to cover her fares to and from Auckland.

"Between rising education costs and travel costs and rents we'll all be soon dropping out of university to get fulltime jobs just so we can live."

Fellow tertiary pass commuter Sharon Webster says that she works hard in order to pay for her ferry ticket on top of studying fulltime and this price rise just makes her life harder.

"I can't believe it. That is so unfair. Why are tertiary students facing an 11 percent increase on ferry tickets when GST is only going up 2.5 percent?

"I was expecting a small price rise but this feels like Fullers is once again exploiting local people with minimal ability to pay but whose future depends on being able to commute," she says.

Susi Newborn, who uses a monthly pass to commute, thinks it is time that Waiheke took matters into its own hands and introduced some competition into the market by purchasing its own vessel.

"Why should commuters and travellers be at the beck and call of a company whose transportation charges per kilometre are among the highest in the world, even higher than aviation costs?" she says.

"We endured over a month of cramped conditions when Quickcat and Superflyte were not available and the ongoing smell of sewage reminds me of some inter-island ferries I have travelled on in developing nations. We deserve better."

Fullers says the non-GST rises will be between 0.4 and 2.5 percent for most one way and return fares while multi-trip tickets face non-GST increases ranging from 0.4 to 3.3 percent.

The exception is the tertiary 10-trip pass which is being increased by 8.7 percent.

The company says it will make the fare "more closely aligned with the level of discount offered on tertiary fares in the public transport sector."

Fullers Group chief executive Douglas Hudson says: "It is an unfortunate commercial reality that the price of ferry fares needs to reflect rising operational costs.

"Fares need to take into account the higher GST rate and Fullers is now reluctantly faced with having to further increase Waiheke Island fare revenue by at least 2.2 percent to balance the rising costs involved with operating these services."

The company cites an 18 percent rise in the cost of fuel since March 2009, a six percent increase in labour costs in the last two years, increasing vessel maintenance costs and the introduction of the government's emissions trading scheme as factors contributing to the fare increases.

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But Fullerswatch group member Hans Versluys disagrees.

"The oil price is currently at exactly the same level in US dollars as 12 months ago and with the Kiwi dollar buying more US dollars in the recent past, local diesel must be actually cheaper."

Anyone interested in joining the Fullerswatch campaign can register on its Facebook page.

- Waiheke Marketplace

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