People with disabilities who rely on the Total Mobility scheme for transport could be among the biggest losers of proposed NZ Transport Agency changes to funding assistance rates.
The scheme caters for people with disabilities who find it difficult to use public transport, providing vouchers to help pay for taxis.
More than 7000 people regularly use the service in the Horizons Regional Council area, and nearly 11,000 have used Total Mobility vouchers at some time in the past eight years.
Horizons manager for transport services Anne Redgrave said the changes could cost the regional council as much as $277,000 for passenger services overall, with almost half of that coming from the hoist scheme whereby NZTA pays $10 each time a wheelchair user travels on a vehicle fitted with a hoist.
In the past six months more than 11,000 trips had been made using the hoists, at a cost of $111,000.
Mrs Redgrave said the payment had been introduced in 2007 to compensate operators for the costs of providing wheelchair hoist vehicles.
She said commitments made to the scheme should continue.
"We believe a binding commitment was made."
Horowhenua-based regional councillor Lindsay Burnell, who is also a MidCentral District Health Board member, said the cuts would be ridiculous.
"This scheme was developed to keep people mobile, and to keep them at home, which is what the government through the health system is trying to do."
He said Total Mobility should be dealt with separately from other aspects of regional, district and city council roading programmes.
The changes would put the specialised mobility scheme on the same footing as maintenance of rural roads.
Proposed cuts to NZTA contributions to those activities are already being hotly resisted by local authorities.
Ms Redgrave said she was also concerned that road safety education would be seen as a soft target, where cuts would be made to make up for shortfalls in other transport activities.
The council is waiting until after a local government transport summit tomorrow to finalise its submission on the NZTA proposals.
- Manawatu Standard
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