Peninsula bus service proposal worries residents

Otago Peninsula residents oppose cutting bus services between Harwood and Harington Point, a survey shows.

In December, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) began a review of two bus contracts that were due to expire.

As a result, the council proposed removing the leg between Harwood and Harington Point for bus services, and looking at other options for services to and from Harwood due to the excessive cost of running the service.

An ORC spokesman said the peninsula service was the most expensive to run in the city, being subsidised by about $279 per person. This compared with about $4 to $6 per user on other routes.

The ORC conducted a survey of residents in December and received 90 responses. Of these, 87% wanted the service retained.

Some respondents said they had no idea how to improve the service, others expected fares to be reduced to encourage use, and a few said buses were a social service that should be provided by ratepayers.

Many respondents indicated a need for the service because of low income, not having a vehicle or being too young to drive.

Revised proposals would probably be released next month, the spokesman said.

In a submission to the ORC, Otago Peninsula Community Board chairwoman Christine Garey raised concerns about the timing of public consultation.

Although the ORC had reassured the board services would only be ''discontinued in its present form'', the initial description of the proposal created concern in the community that the service would be removed entirely.

This needed to be taken on board for future reviews, she said.

Many people living in the area did not drive and would be stuck if there was no service.

She believed more passengers would use the bus if there was a targeted timetable, as many residents drove to Portobello and parked there to catch a bus.

The board supported extending the service to Taiaroa Head as this would bring in visitors without transport and help staff working there.

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