27 May 2019

Fullers Waiheke service to be examined after complaints

6:35 pm on 27 May 2019

The Transport Minister will examine the Fullers Waiheke ferry service as part of his wider review of the country's public transport systems.

A Fullers ferry docked at the Auckland Ferry Terminal before leaving for Waiheke

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Frustrated Waiheke Island residents have raised complaints about what they describe as an "ill-mannered" service and its management. Some are even worried physical fights could break out if problems aren't addressed.

Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua lives on Waiheke island with his wife Linda, who is a frequent user of the ferry service.

Commuters feel like Fullers takes them for granted as customers and often tourists are prioritised over locals, he said.

Reverend Strickson-Pua said frustrations are set to boil over.

"There's been a whole series of excuses about the incompetence and the ill-mannered running of the time tables.

"Just that whole frustration getting to a point where you know, I'm concerned that there could be some physical fisticuffs given the frustration and nature of this ongoing problem."

Reverend Strickson-Pua's wife has often born the brunt of the problems, being left behind because ferries are full.

"Getting there on time as requested and then finding out she's not allowed on the boat, then finding out she's got to wait for another boat, or getting on the boat and then being asked if they wouldn't mind vacating the boat and catching the next one."

Chairperson of the Waiheke local board Cath Handley has heard from other residents who have similar concerns.

The problem had been on and off for some time, she said.

"They've been particularly dreadful for the last few weeks, since Fullers went to what is called the 'winter timetable' and switches to hourly ferries, except off peak times, instead of half-hourly."

For those living on the Island, the ferry service was critical, she said.

"If public transport caves in anywhere in the country, people revert to their cars, their friends, the buses, the trains, whatever. So we have no other options to get to work, to medical appointments, to get to hospital, to get to court and similarly to get home."

Cathy Handley, as well as local MP Nikki Kaye, met with the chief executive of Fullers ferries Mike Horne for more than two hours this afternoon to address the complaints.

After the meeting, Mr Thorne said it was a constructive meeting that focussed on the long-term issues.

"We also discussed immediate actions, such as wharf management, that will help alleviate the concerns of some of our Waiheke commuters."

Auckland Councillor Chris Darby has also stepped into tackle the problem. He said he had raised the issue with Transport Minister, Phil Twyford.

He said: "He has now signalled a willingness to review what's called the Public Transport Operating Model by which ferry services and other public transport services are procured, and in the coming week I just want to make sure that the Minister is prepared to examine the exempt status of these two ferry services in that review."

In a statement, Phil Twyford said it was unclear why the service was given an exemption when it was introduced by former National transport minister Steven Joyce in 2011.

He said the appropriateness of Waiheke Fullers service exemption would be considered as part of the full review of the Public Transport Operating Model.