NZTA says buses better with ORC

The New Zealand Transport Agency has called for the Otago Regional Council to hold on to Dunedin's bus system for the next two years.

NZTA Southern-Dunedin planning and investment manager Bruce Richards said the ORC was ''very good'' at running the bus system, and had a good relationship with the agency and operators.

The Dunedin City Council, on the other hand, had a ''relative naivete'' when it came to public transport.

The call came as the DCC voted on Thursday evening to discuss with the ORC ''the DCC's preference to defer any final transfer for up to three years''.

The changes in the timing of any handover of the system followed an ORC offer to transfer control from July 1 next year.

In May, city councillors voted 11-4 to support the transfer, in principle, but this week baulked at the idea of doing so while the ORC was in the middle of the draft regional public transport plan.

The plan would include faster and more direct routes away from smaller residential streets, and a central-city hub for a system set to cost more than $100 million over the next decade.

During that debate, Mr Richards, who attended the council meeting, told councillors he ''would really like the ORC to see this [plan] through''.

Yesterday, he said the ORC and the agency had worked with ''very good collaboration'' for at least 18 months.

''We're very, very pleased with progress.''

The ORC had gained the agency's confidence in the way it had embraced changes in legislation, and operating models.

''We know the ORC has excellent operating systems, they're very good at public transport administration, and we've got very positive feedback from operators.''

Its relationship with the agency and the Dunedin City Council was good.

''Given all that, we think it would be most advantageous that they see this through till the plan is in place, adopted, and the contracts resolved.''

Submissions on the draft plan close on August 22, hearings are planned from September 8, and the council expects to adopt a final draft in October.

But Mr Richards said there were ''contract anniversaries'' for the bus operators on July 1 2015, and July 1, 2016. It was until mid-2016 the NZTA wanted the ORC to hold on to administration of the system. If the DCC was still keen to take over administration, it would ''get a done deal''.

''They don't have to learn on the fly and take significant risks with their relative naivete, compared to the ORC's experience.''

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead agreed it would not be sensible to change governance during ''significant changes''.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull had contacted him late last night to explain what the DCC had decided. He understood the council still planned to follow through to take over the network.


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