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Published: 2012-09-11 00:00:00

Regional bus fares are likely to increase for the first time in more than two years, with a proposal for five per cent annual rises backed by Waikato Regional Council’s finance and audit committee today.

The committee’s recommendation will be considered by the council at its meeting later this month, and if endorsed the annual fare increases will occur from 1 January 2013.

For passengers in Hamilton, the percentage increase will result in a rise of 10 cents for a child fare and between 10 and 20 cents for an adult.

Fares will rise by between 5 and 30 cents for children and 10 and 40 cents for adults on the council’s rural services, which include Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Huntly, Raglan, Paeroa/Morrinsville and Taupo.

The council’s transport operations programme manager Edwin Swaris said that throughout New Zealand, public transport was operating in an extremely constrained funding environment.

“As a region, we are being asked to do more with less,” he said.

Approximately 70 per cent of the cost of running the region’s public transport service comes from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and ratepayers. The remaining 30 per cent is recouped through fares.

But the Government has capped funding for the next three years and told the council it expects the amount of money recovered from fares to increase to 40 per cent by 2017.

“A programme of regular, incremental increases will help us meet our farebox recovery targets in a prudent and sustainable way. This is in line with the public transport plan and council’s recently adopted long term plan.

“Since the last fare increase in October 2010, the cost of fuel and wages has increased, yet our fares haven’t gone up to keep pace with increasing costs,” he said.

A fare increase for the Raglan service at the start of this year helped pay for the extension of the route travelled by the ‘school assist’ bus.

Councillor Paula Southgate said the incremental approach to fare rises will have less of an impact on bus users and is preferable to a big jump at once. “Even with the increase, our fares represent really good value to the passenger.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any choice about whether or not to increase fares. We can’t seek more ratepayer funding. We still have to work toward the 40 per cent farebox recovery target and the only way we can achieve that is through the fare paying passenger.

“People who own cars will be aware that all the costs of owning a car have gone up – public transport is subject to the same pressures,” Cr Southgate said.