Council retains free fares for children

School pupils flock to the No77 bus to Mosgiel. Fares are changing for some young people. PHOTO:...
School pupils flock to the No77 bus to Mosgiel. Fares are changing for some young people. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Children aged under 13 will not be charged for bus trips in Dunedin and Queenstown, but the brakes have been applied to subsidised fares for other young people.

The Otago Regional Council was faced with the question of what to do about a government subsidy scheme coming to an end in May.

The scheme had included underwriting half-priced fares for young adults aged 13-24.

Retaining everything might have cost the council as much as $500,000 a year.

Keeping the subsidy for adults aged 19-24 could have cost it $400,000.

At a meeting last week, councillors first voted against restoring fares to pre-scheme levels, followed by another motion that failed — keeping fares at their subsidised levels until July.

In the end, a middle course was pursued, at an estimated cost of $42,000.

Otago Regional Council chairwoman Gretchen Robertson after the meeting said she was pleased free fares had been retained for children under 13.

"Otago has seen a 68% increase in bus patronage since 2021-22, with a 113% increase in Queenstown and 60% in Dunedin," she said.

"This shows that there is a real demand for our public transport service, and we wanted to continue this momentum by making it as accessible and affordable as possible for some of our youngest bus passengers."

During the meeting, Cr Michael Laws challenged the basis on which the council might step in for the benefit of adults aged 19-24.

He asked what was special about them and suggested the council risked being discriminatory against other adults.

Critic Te Ārohi reported Cr Laws was particularly dismissive of a law student who had argued for continuation of half-price fares, inviting her to "cry me a river".

"Dunedin ratepayers are already subsidising public bus transport when 90% of them don’t use it and don’t want to, and good on them.

"To ask them to subsidise it even more — and deliver you a tangible financial gain — seems like sponging to me."

Cr Elliot Weir during the meeting said they resented notions about "coddling" youth.

Cr Robertson said the Otago region’s low flat fare offered some of the cheapest bus travel in the country.

She encouraged bus passengers to register their Bee Cards to make sure they were getting cheaper fares.

"Please remember that in all cases, fare concessions are only available with a registered Bee Card.

"Those aged 5-plus who tag on and off with an unregistered Bee Card will pay $2 per bus trip from 1 May."


Fare structure from May

■Fares for children under 13: Free.
■Fares for youth 13-18: Dunedin $1.20, Queenstown $1.50 per one-way trip.
■Fares for adults 19+: Dunedin and Queenstown, $2 per one-way trip.
■No change to the free off-peak concessions for SuperGold card holders ($2 
during peak times with a registered Bee Card, free fares off peak).
■No change for Community Services Card holders (half-price fares with a 
registered Bee Card).
■Cash fares for those aged 13+: $3 Dunedin, $4 Queenstown, $10 Queenstown