Commuter ferry could set sail in Tauranga

3:09 pm on 28 May 2024
Ferry interior - artist's impression - LDR only

An artist's concept of the interior of the ferry. Photo: LDR / Peter Bourke

A ferry service between Mount Maunganui and Tauranga could be on the way in 2025.

Auckland water taxi company Hauraki Express is prepared to build two ferries for the service if local councils will subsidise the fares.

It would begin as a two-year trial with the goal of becoming a permanent service that could expand to include new routes in time, said Hauraki Express director Peter Bourke.

The ferries would run from Salisbury Wharf in downtown Mount Maunganui to Tauranga city centre.

Tauranga City Council agreed to fund half of the costs of a ferry trial for passengers and bikes at a meeting last week.

But their agreement is contingent on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council paying the other half.

The maximum cost for each council would be $1.4 million over the two years.

Bourke said the fare would cost around $6 and the trip between Tauranga and Mount Maunganui would take around 17 minutes each way.

The fully enclosed ferries would have seating for 30 people and space for 15 bikes.

Bourke's daughter Amy, who lives in Tauranga, saw an opportunity for their family business after looking at previous studies, he said.

Amy and Peter Bourke - LDR use only

Amy and Peter Bourke of Hauraki Express hope to run a ferry service in Tauranga. Photo: LDR / Sun Live / Alisha Evans

A November 2023 feasibility report by the regional council said there would be significant cost barriers with ferry operations.

The cost to the regional council if it were to buy and refit three vessel would have been $4.5 million with an annual running cost of $700,000.

This could have made the fare for a single trip $404 on one of the proposed routes if patronage was low.

Hauraki Express was willing to take on the operational costs and build the ferries if councils were willing to subsidise the fares, Bourke said.

"We've fully analysed the feasibility of a simple, small and economical ferry service."

The smaller vessels would be cheaper to run but still cater for the demand, he said.

They would also need the support of the community if the trial was to be a success.

"We'll take the risk, but give us your support."

Special projects manager Amy Bourke said she and her young family faced daily challenges of congestion.

"We see this as an innovative solution. It's looking at a problem a little bit differently."

The ferry would facilitate mode-shift getting people using alternative modes of transport from cars, she said.

"We want to make Tauranga a harbour city, rather than a port city."

Tauranga Harbour - LDR only

A ferry trip between Tauranga and Mount Maunganui could take 17 minutes. Photo: LDR / SunLive / John Borren

Peter Bourke said many people saw the harbour as something they had to drive around to get to their destination.

"We want to turn that into an opportunity rather than a hindrance."

At the city council meeting, commissioner Stephen Selwood said it was a great opportunity to test the market for a ferry service through a public private partnership.

Commission chair Anne Tolley said the councils had been talking about getting ferries back into the harbour for three to four years.

The investment from both councils wasn't huge and a two-year trial was sufficient to see if it would work, she said.

"I think we should literally get on with it, it would be a pretty popular decision for us to make."

The regional council will decide whether to fund their half at a meeting in early June.

If the councils agree to subsidise fares, Peter Bourke said they aim to have the service running by Easter 2025.

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