The Otago Regional Council is jeopardising its eligibility
for national funding for public bus services in Dunedin.
Photo by Craig Baxter.
National funding for Otago public bus services may be
withheld because the Otago Regional Council is forging ahead
with an unapproved tender process.
Despite being warned by the New Zealand Transport Agency
(NZTA) funding could be denied, the council has called for
public bus service tenders using standards contrary to those
approved by the national agency.
In late December, NZTA planning and investment general
manager Dave Brash wrote to ORC chief executive Peter
Bodeker, notifying the council of the NZTA's intention to
withhold funding in accordance with the Land Transport
Mr Brash said the NZTA had approved more than $12 million of
taxpayers' money to support public transport services in
Otago, mostly in Dunedin, over the next three years.
He said the NZTA was committed to getting the best possible
return on its investment for Dunedin by improving the
effectiveness of bus services and providing good travel
choices. But the ORC's self-imposed standards for bus-service
providers and its associated tender process was potentially a
waste of money, Mr Brash said.
Therefore, the NZTA would not support it.
''The NZTA has worked closely with council staff for several
months to help them make improvements and develop an approach
to procuring public transport services that will ensure that
every dollar invested will deliver good results for
ratepayers, taxpayers and bus passengers in the city. Despite
our best efforts, the council has decided to continue with a
process that, in my view, will not do this,'' he said.
Mr Bodeker said when contacted yesterday the council was
still proceeding with that tender process, which would end
He declined to comment further before tenders closed.
The council was ''well aware'' of the need for public
transport and the fact many people relied on it, and staff
were working on maintaining services, he said. NZTA regional
director (southern) Jim Harland said yesterday matters raised
in Mr Brash's letter were under discussion with the council
and it was not appropriate to comment further.
The ORC adopted its new regional public transport plan last
year, including a requirement for commercial bus operators to
replace buses after 15 years of service and to comply with
''Euro 4'' or equivalent emission standards.
National standards, imposed by the NZTA, were for buses to be
no older than 19 years and meet the lesser ''Euro 2''
Before adopting its plan, the ORC applied to the NZTA for a
variation from national procurement rules, allowing its
higher standards to be imposed.
The application was declined.
''The NZTA is concerned that the ORC's proposals could lead
to higher bus fares and less competition ... In addition,
there is no evidence that the ORC's proposals would lead to
any increase in bus patronage or to any significant reduction
in emissions,'' NZTA planning and investment manager
(Southern-Dunedin) Bruce Richards said in December.
The last bus tender round was about two years ago and
existing contracts will expire at the end of June.
Citibus director Kayne Baas and Ritchies Otago regional
manager Malcolm Budd declined to comment yesterday.