Tasman 'freeloading' on buses

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 17/03/2014
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Nelson City councillors are calling on the Tasman District Council to give more financial support to the Nelson bus service as some of its most popular routes serve both Richmond and Nelson residents.

The bus service cost $535,000 to run over the 2013-14 year - about $224,000 comes from Nelson's car parking revenue, $151,000 from its general rates and $151,000 from the New Zealand Transport Authority, while the Tasman council contributes $10,000 to the Late Late Bus service running between Nelson and Richmond on a Saturday night, but nothing more for other bus routes serving residents in Richmond.

"‘I'm concerned about the lack of response from TDC, the word "freeloader" springs to mind. ‘We've got buses going into Richmond obviously to serve their retail experiences," said councillor Brian McGurk at Nelson's works and infrastructure committee yesterday.

"I find it absolutely incredulous that they're not contributing apart from $10,000 for the late bus," he said.

Councillor Ian Barker agreed.

"It's a huge subsidy by Nelson ratepayers for these commuters from Richmond and that really, really concerns me," he said.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne was not impressed with the "freeloader" label.

"In my view that is rather ill-informed when we take into account how much Tasman is currently contributing to Nelson for projects in Nelson City for both capital and ongoing operational costs," he said.

Nelson council senior asset engineer transport and roading Rhys Palmer told the committee "absolutely we should talk to Tasman District Council" as it was important to "take a more holistic view" of the bus service right across Richmond and Nelson and reduce peak-hour traffic.

Mr Kempthorne said there had been brief informal conversations previously about the bus service, but it would be a good idea for the two councils to discuss the issue again. He said the Tasman council had limited funding the bus service originally because there were issues about "efficacy" and he could not justify it to ratepayers who lived in rural areas and would not use the service.

Nelson council staff will reopen discussions with the Tasman council on increasing the contribution to $30,000.

The discussion over funding was the result of a review undertaken by the Nelson City Council, which found the bus service was "performing very well", but needed some minor changes.

This will include new bus shelters, sealing the berm at some bus stops, and toilet signs at the Nelson terminal as well as early morning and evening trips to the Atawhai, Brook and Victory routes being stopped. More frequent weekend trips on Route 1 between Richmond and Nelson via Stoke and Route 2 to Richmond via Tahunanui.

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Council staff will also try to improve the service for schools, as Nayland College and Nelson College said in the review buses were full to the brim at the start and finish of the school day.

The Late Late Bus service will change once the council's restrictions on bars and pubs comes into play.

Mr McGurk suggested alternative promotions be run to boost the service such as "free bus Tuesdays" instead of "free car parking Tuesdays".

The bus service may also get a boost from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) , which at first declined to contribute extra funding to help upgrade the service in 2012 because "we found that public transport services elsewhere were in greater need of increased investment than Nelson, and subsequently would deliver greater benefits", said NZTA regional planning and investment manager Lyndon Hammond. Instead parking revenue was used for the upgrade.

But the NZTA has said Nelson may be eligible for funding for 2015-18. The council's contribution would still stay the same and extra support from NZTA would go towards improving the service.

The council will discuss more major changes to the service later in the year.

- Nelson

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