10 Jun 2019

Hundreds of Waiheke Islanders attend meeting to protest ferry service

10:48 am on 10 June 2019

Furious Waiheke locals say they're sick of expensive ferry fares and cancelled or delayed services and have told the ferry company Fullers they want change immediately.

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Harriet Crampton (left) and other Waiheke Island residents. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Hundreds of people, including representatives from Auckland Transport and Fullers, packed the Morra Community Hall on the island yesterday afternoon for a public meeting about the services.

As ferry staff welcomed people in, angry residents held placards outside that read 'Fullers holds island to ransom and Auckland Transport doesn't care'.

One of them, Harriet Crampton, said sky high prices and unreliable services in winter have caused some locals to leave.

"I just figured out that over the 23 years I've lived here, I've spent $70,000 on ferries, there's no subsidy, the ferries are exempt from the council subsidy," she said.

"People think that we're all rich living here but actually we moved here because we couldn't afford to live in central Auckland at the time."

Last month there were 43 delayed services and 18 cancelled services - four of those was because staff were sick.

Ms Crampton said that was not good enough when the ferry is their only option for transport.

"The ferry is becoming increasingly unreliable, late or break downs," she said.

"People get left on the shore even when the boat isn't full because they haven't got enough staff on the boat for capacity. Only a week or so ago, 100 people were left in Auckland and there's no other way you can get home."

Waiheke residents met over the perceived shortcomings of the Fullers service at a public meeting at Morra Community Hall today.

Waiheke residents met over the perceived shortcomings of the Fullers service at a public meeting at Morra Community Hall yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

The Fullers services to and from Waiheke and Devonport are exempt from Auckland Transport's Public Transport Operating Model.

This means the company can base its services on profitability rather than the needs of public transport users.

Auckland councillor Chris Darby launched a petition at the weekend, calling for an end to the exemption - something also backed by Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.

But residents were clear they wanted to know whether that would actually make a difference.

"There's majority support here for the exemption to be lifted," one woman said.

"Can you give us an undertaking now that you will work with the relevant agencies to provide us with a safe, accessible public transport system that's reliable?"

It is a question that still has to be answered.

Fullers chief executive Mike Horne

Mike Horne said he hopes to have another public meeting at Waiheke in two months. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

The chief executive of Fullers, Mike Horne, said the company is open to discussions about the exemption being lifted.

But he said there would be a lot of detail to work through first.

"There are no guarantees what Auckland Transport would actually be running at the end of that, so do they have enough boats? How many ferry services would they run? And the big one for that is what is it actually going to cost the Auckland community and the taxpayer to do that because at the moment it's not funded or subsidised at all," he said.

Other problems residents raised at the meeting included commuters missing out on seats because tourists got theirs first.

Mr Horne said he will now go back to the Fullers board and work through the issues raised at yesterday's meeting.

He is hoping to have another public meeting at Waiheke in two months and will also be talking to Devonport residents about their concerns.

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