22 Dec 2016

Future of Auckland long-distance bus terminal unclear

12:30 pm on 22 December 2016

Uncertainty surrounds the future of long-distance coach services through Auckland, with complex negotiations under way about the CBD bus station.

The city's transport agency has been negotiating with coach operators over an alternative to the existing coach station built on the side of Sky City casino complex.

The terminal, on Hobson St, is part of the Sky City complex.

The terminal, on Hobson St, is part of the Sky City complex. Photo: 123RF

The bus operators are unhappy at suggestions from Auckland Transport that they relocate to a new transport hub being built at Manukau, 22km south of the city centre.

Auckland Transport said it has no alternative downtown locations to offer, should Sky City seek and succeed in removing the planning requirement that it house the bus station.

The bus operators have hired a lobbyist, as a complicated mix of plans and players manoeuvre around the issue.

"I don't really understand it, because there's no rationale for it," said Tony O'Brien, advisor to Intercity, Mana, Naked Bus and the Bus and Coach Association.

"It's a surprising move that would affect 500,000 passengers, more than half of whom as visitors to Auckland," he said.

Sky City site

Sky City had to build the current bus station on the Hobson Street side of its complex as a condition of the resource consent to construct the hotel and casino development in 1996.

The company is now building the National Convention Centre on the other side of the road, and in the past has said it favoured removing the bus station.

Sky City told RNZ that while it doesn't believe the current location is the best one for a bus station, it is not leading any move to have it relocated.

The company would need to seek a change to its existing resource consent, and has not sought one.

Council agency Auckland Transport responded to the company's earlier views by starting talks with long-distance bus operators on a Plan B, but said it could not offer a downtown alternative.

One option it has proposed to operators is that they shift their hub to Manukau where a new local bus and train interchange is being built and which will have spare capacity for a couple of years.

An Auckland Transport spokesperson said operators might still be able to pick up and drop off in the downtown area, but no extended parking or ticketing space would be offered.

Separately, operators such as Mana and Naked Bus might have to move from their current kerbside location on Quay Street, opposite the Ferry Buildings.

Neither Auckland Transport nor Auckland Council was able to provide management to be interviewed, and written statements leave unclear who is driving the possible change, or why.

A council statement said only that it was in discussion with parties including the Bus and Coach Association of New Zealand on the future of the bus terminal at SkyCity and was encouraging them to look for alternative options for a terminal within the CBD.

If a viable option was found and operators were willing to purchase the land, Auckland Transport would be happy to work with them on a proposal, it said.