Transport system changes progress

Gretchen Robertson.
Gretchen Robertson.
Major improvements to the Wakatipu Basin’s public transport network — due to be introduced later this year — are one step closer.

The Otago Regional Council  on Thursday approved  an amendment to the 2014 Otago regional public transport plan  to incorporate proposed changes for the resort.

The changes aim to improve the public transport network by simplifying routes, extending coverage and increasing service frequency.

A total of 529 public submissions were received on the proposal and 21 submitters appeared before the hearings panel — councillors Gretchen Robertson, Andrew Noone and Alexa Forbes — on Monday.

There was significant public support and "real excitement" about the proposed changes, Cr Robertson said.

The service would be subsidised by the NZ Transport Agency, Queenstown Lakes District Council and the ORC — both councils are  consulting on it at present through annual plan processes.

The plan allowed for a flatter fare structure and the proposed fares would mean it would cost the same regardless of the distance travelled, Cr Robertson said.

Also built into the plan was the need for the public transport service to be flexible and responsive to demand.

That was a result of feedback suggesting proposed hours of operation should be extended to reflect the "unique needs" of the Wakatipu community and visitors, particularly those who worked nights or wanted to enjoy the resort after dark.

"The plan allows for further services and frequency to be added with ease if demand indicated a need and prevented the removal of services without appropriate community consultation."

In February Queenstown mayor Jim Boult announced publicly he wanted to see $2 bus fares across the Wakatipu area for multi-trip concession cardholders, along with improvements to routes and timetables.

The funding had not been settled, but at the time Mr Boult said the QLDC’s contribution could be about $500,000 a year,  the regional council’s contribution a similar amount and  the NZTA’s share about $1million.

Cr Robertson said several submitters suggested including a ferry or water taxi in public transport services, which was a "creative idea which warranted further investigation".

Plan boundary maps had been amended to allow for water transport to potentially be included in the network in the future.

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