Councillors puzzled by offer rebuff

Some Palmerston North city councillors are scratching their heads about why the regional council turned them down on a two-year-old offer to team up on transport.

Horizons Regional Council is in phase one of its review of Palmerston North's urban bus service.

This year's "first principles" review is taking a back-to-basics look at the best possible configuration of city services, routes and timetables if they were developed from scratch.

At the city council's planning and policy committee yesterday councillors queried why an old offer by the city council to create a joint working party was not accepted.

As part of its 2011 submission, the city council suggested it team up with Horizons to form a joint working party of elected members to create a more collaborative, coherent approach - the same suggestion is included in the city council's submission on this year's review.

Head of strategy and policy Neil Miller told councillors there had been talk with Horizons, but the answer to their question was not known.

"We've received responses but not an agreement to the wider, more- strategic engagement."

Horizons transport manager Anne Redgrave said the response to the 2011 submission was focused on highlighting the good working relationship Horizons had with the city council.

Reasons for the proposed working party partnership being turned down were not given.

Instead, Ms Redgrave said Horizons had plans for a wider working group that would consist of key stakeholders including Massey University, UCOL, various public transport operators and major employers in the city.

In this year's review, Horizons has asked the city council to take part in the working group, which would be tasked with making decisions and presenting to the public.

Ms Redgrave said the city council has a representative on Horizons' passenger transport committee, councillor Bruce Wilson, and was often consulted on transport strategy.

Cr Ross Linklater said clarity was needed regarding finances, additional services and the NZ Transport Agency's role with subsidies.

"Horizons is increasing its rate for public transport, which in turn the city ratepayers are paying for, but the NZTA is not matching it," he said.

Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell asked what had happened to the rates received so far, about $180,000, for the past two years.

The city council's submission calls for more bus services running more often, buses running earlier and later, enhancing services to Linton, Aokautere, Longburn, Ashhurst and elsewhere, and considering other changes like a free workplace commuter service funded by employers.

Phase two of Horizons' review of Palmerston North's urban bus service is about consultation and phase three is decision-making.

In May, the regional council said that fare levels and structures were in a list of considerations not included in the review.

Manawatu Standard