Plans to set up a ferry service in the Western Bay of Plenty have been canned because of the "eye watering" cost.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council commissioned a feasibility study of a ferry service for Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, which showed significant cost barriers to a service.
The cost of a ferry ticket from Ōmokoroa to Tauranga could be $404 if patronage was low, a study by MRCagney showed.
A decision to defer plans until the council's next long term plan in 2027 was made at a Public Transport Committee meeting on Tuesday 14 November.
Council transport principal advisor Bron Healey told the meeting the ferry service would require "significant capital investment" for what is essentially a "single origin destination" mode of transport.
The study looked at three routes and three levels of service: minimum, basic and high quality.
A minimum service would run during weekday peak commuter hours. A basic service would run seven days a week for 12 hours, with half hourly departures. While a high quality service would be a seven day a week operation for 16 hours a day, with departures every 20 minutes.
The routes were Ōmokoroa to Tauranga, Mount Maunganui to Tauranga and Ōmokoroa to Mount Maunganui then Tauranga.
The ferry service would cost anywhere from $4.5m to $87m to set up, depending on the service level. It would cost from $600,000 to $3.7m to run annually, from a minimum to high quality service.
The study also looked at patronage estimates with 5 percent, 20 percent, or an "aspirational" 50 percent of travellers using a ferry. These estimates were used to evaluate the fares needed to make each service feasible.
Based on 5 percent of travellers using the Ōmokoroa to Tauranga service, fares would range from $93 to $404 per passenger trip depending on the service.
MRCagney said 50 percent of travellers would need to use the ferry for it to be viable.
Healey said it would be better to focus on public bus transport in the short to medium term.
"The option of ferry services should be preserved the future."
Western Bay of Plenty mayor James Denyer asked how long it would take to get a minimum service operating.
Council Transport Planning Manager Oliver Haycock said it would depend on when the required infrastructure could be put in place but he imagined it would be at least three years.
Denyer said previous trials hadn't required any infrastructure and had worked "quite well'.
The Wednesday Challenge ran a trial ferry service between Ōmokoroa, Tauranga and the Mount on Wednesdays for six weeks last year.
Haycock said what was proposed was a much larger service than the trials.
Tauranga City Council commissioner Stephen Selwood said his council remained interested in a ferry service, particularly from the Mount to Tauranga.
"When you look at the numbers that are required to enable that to occur they are scary and frankly both uneconomic and unaffordable."
Denyer agreed, saying the costs were "eye watering" but he was concerned by the long lead time needed to get a ferry service running.
He wanted the committee to keep its options open and monitor the congestion on State Highway 2, with the potential of implementing a minimum ferry service if peak commute times "deteriorated significantly".
Denyer moved an amendment to include implementing the service sooner if soonerSH2 congestion deteriorated.
Earlier in the year, commute times from Ōmokoroa to Tauranga were up to two hours, said Denyer.
He felt if the congestion was bad, good patronage could be achieved on a ferry service.
Regional council Ken Shirley disagreed with the amendment.
He lived in Ōmokoroa and agreed the two hour commutes was a "crazy situation" but the traffic had improved and his trip that morning took 25 minutes.
"We're struggling to make the buses work. If we can't make the buses work … how on earth are we going to afford a ferry service?"
He said there was nothing to stop a ferry service starting earlier than 2027 under the current recommendations.
Denyer's amendement was lost and the committee deferred any further investigations into Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty ferry services until the development of 2027 long terms plans and the 2027-30 National Land Transport Programme.
How much would a ferry service cost?
A minimum ferry service from Ōmokoroa to Tauranga would cost an estimated $4.5m to buy and refit three vessels, plus $714,000 annually to run, the study showed.
A basic service would cost $46.5m with annual operating costs of $1.6m. A high-quality service was expected to cost $76.5m to establish and $3.1m a year to operate.
The proposed ferry route from Mount Maunganui to Tauranga would cost $9m to set up and $600,000 a year to run for a minimum service. A basic service would cost $32m and $1.1m annually while a high-quality service would cost about $56m and $1.9m a year.
The Ōmokoroa to Mount Maunganui to Tauranga service offered a minimum spend of at least $13m and $1.1m a year to operate. A basic service would cost $57.5m and another $1.9m a year to operate. A high-quality service between all three centres was expected to cost $87.5m and another $3.7m a year to operate.
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