Dunedin city councillors have voted to support in principle
a transfer of public transport governance from the ORC to
the DCC, subject to a detailed report into the transfer.
Photo from ODT files.
The Dunedin City Council wants access to more than $1
million held by the Otago Regional Council for the city's
public transport network, as part of any transfer of
responsibility for the service.
The move came as some councillors at yesterday's 2014-15
annual plan deliberations warned taking over the network
could cost ''millions'' and drive up rates over time.
That did not stop councillors voting 11-4 to support in
principle a transfer of public transport governance and
planning responsibilities from the ORC to the DCC.
The move was subject to a more detailed report into the
transfer, expected later this year, and would also require
further council deliberations and public consultation.
Most councillors also agreed yesterday the $300,000 cost of
studying the transfer should be covered by the Dunedin
Transport Reserve fund held by the ORC.
The money was collected by the ORC through a targeted rate
for public transport initiatives in Dunedin, including the
introduction of electronic ticketing in the city.
It was expected to be worth about $1.1 million by the time
any transfer occurred, prompting some councillors to suggest
it should be used by the city council to cover the cost of
preparing for any change.
And, after a marathon three-hour debate, it was decided Mayor
Dave Cull and council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose would
approach the regional council about the issue.
Dr Bidrose told the meeting the transfer of the ORC's funds
would depend on whether it was considered a legal use of the
If it was, the DCC's request could be considered favourably,
Dr Bidrose expected.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull was among those to support more work
on the governance transfer, saying the council should take
responsibility for guiding the city through issues of energy
depletion, rising prices and other challenges.
Public transport would be important in any response and the
city council needed the ability to co-ordinate public
transport planning with other areas of interest, he said.
''I think that's our responsibility as a city council.''
Deputy mayor Chris Staynes also supported the move, but said
the council should be upfront about the likely cost to
ratepayers of taking over, and improving, public transport.
''There will be a need to increase rates. I don't think
there's any doubt about that.
''You don't get better for nothing.''
Cr John Bezett opposed the move, saying he was ''not
convinced'' the DCC would run the network any better than the
regional council, which was already making improvements.
There would also be political pressure on the city council to
improve the service, at extra cost, beginning with demands
for a new central city bus hub costing ''millions'', he
''There will be huge expectations from the public for us to
get the system up to maybe silver or gold-plated, and that
will cost money.''
There was also the ''real'' risk from declining patronage, as
more people switched to cycling or other transport options in
future, which could lower council revenue, he said.
Instead, a joint ORC-DCC committee - tried without success in
the past - should be reinstated to make improvements, he
Cr Thomson also questioned the ''conceit'' behind assumptions
the DCC could do a better job than the regional council.
He would not support the move, despite seeing some potential
benefits, saying the decision was akin to choosing from
''tripe or tofu''.
''You know, either way you go, it's going to taste
unpleasant,'' he said.
Cr Vandervis said any transfer would come at the wrong time
for the council.
''I believe it opens the door for a raft of spending that we
simply cannot afford, much as I would like to ... we have too
much on our plate at the moment to seriously get into this.''
However, other councillors supported the move, including Cr
Aaron Hawkins, who said an effective and affordable bus
service ''shouldn't be considered a luxury item in a
Cr Kate Wilson supported a detailed investigation of options,
after years of public calls for the city council to improve a
public transport network it was not responsible for.
Cr David Benson-Pope did, as well, after criticising the
standard of the city's existing bus fleet, but warned the
council could face ''all sorts of difficulty and cost''.
Cr Neville Peat backed the move with the caveat that access
to the ORC's funding needed to be pursued ''as strongly as we
Dr Bidrose would meet ORC representatives as early as today
to discuss access to the regional council's funds.
Meanwhile, a ''due diligence'' study of options and potential
fishhooks would begin, with staff to report back to
councillors later this year, council infrastructure and
services general manager Tony Avery said.
Councillors would then vote on whether to proceed, triggering
public consultation if successful later this year, before any
change was finalised.
Dr Bidrose would also discuss with the ORC the possibility of
forming a joint working party to oversee development of the
regional public transport plan, councillors decided.