Environment Waikato has signaled its intention to retain responsibility for passenger transport services in the region.
Chairman Jenni Vernon said the regional council favoured the status quo following a workshop today at which councillors considered a report discussing options for the provision of passenger transport in Hamilton city and the wider region.
Environment Waikato commissioned the report in August in response to a request from Hamilton City Council to transfer responsibility for regional passenger transport to the city council.
Passenger transport functions include bus services, total mobility services, and registration of commercially operated transport services, such as taxis. About 80 per cent of the region’s bus services are provided in Hamilton.
Cr Vernon said the regional council had discussed the three options presented in the report by consultants MWH.
These included retaining all aspects of the regional transport functions, transferring the city passenger transport operations to Hamilton City Council, or transferring all regional passenger transport operations to the city council.
“Environment Waikato’s responsibility is to have a model that provides the best passenger transport services for the Waikato region within the funding available,” Cr Vernon said.
“We would have to be confident that any change to the status quo would deliver better outcomes for our major stakeholders – the people of the region and the government, which funds about a third of the cost of services.
“The government, through Land Transport New Zealand, has made it clear it is looking for co-ordination and integration around transport planning, service delivery and funding applications.
“In addition we have a responsibility to act in the interests of the 12 local authorities in the Waikato region, not just a single council, and also to work closely with our regional neighbours in Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Manawatu-Wanganui.”
Cr Vernon said maintaining the status quo would ensure core transport competency was kept in one organisation, avoiding duplication and the potential for additional ratepayer expense.
“Environment Waikato has 17 years’ experience in planning and providing passenger transport services. Over this time the organisation has built strong relationships with the major funders and these must be retained for the benefit of the entire region.”
Cr Vernon said she understood Hamilton city’s desire to take over passenger transport functions.
“Transport is Hamilton city’s number one priority and while the Regional Land Transport Strategy identifies that congestion in the city will remain a focus, it’s important to note cross-boundary rural services and total mobility services throughout the region will also become increasingly important.”
She said the report identified that Hamilton residents had a number of transport choices, with passenger transport often being a convenient way of getting from “A to B”. For rural residents, however, passenger transport might be their only way of accessing health and other essential services.
Cr Vernon said Environment Waikato and Hamilton City Council had fostered a productive and successful partnership over many years.
“The events strategy we have developed for managing passenger transport around special events, such as Balloons over Waikato Night Glow, rugby games, and the upcoming world rowing champs and the V8 supercars, demonstrates how we work collaboratively and effectively with Hamilton City.
“It’s our intention to continue to work with the city to further improve passenger transport services to the residents of Hamilton and the wider region.”
The regional council will consider the report and formalise its decision at its meeting next week.