Call for council to own ferry

A Stewart Island businessman says the commercialisation of the island's ferry is separating the...
A Stewart Island businessman says the commercialisation of the island's ferry is separating the community. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
The commercialisation of Stewart Island’s ferry is hindering the only "life-link" between the island and the mainland, says a Stewart Island businessman.

Last week, Rakiura Adventure Ltd and New Zealand Fish Ltd owner Manfred Herzhoff presented a proposal to the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board meeting calling for ownership of the Real Journeys Stewart Island Ferry to be handed over to the community and Southland District Council.

"The ferry is the life-link for transport for the island, and therefore shouldn’t be run as a pure commercial enterprise by a private company.

"In my opinion, it’s a service that should be controlled by the Stewart Island and Bluff communities."

General gaps in affordability and a lack of regular services for islanders and workers were the two main reasons he was calling for change, he said.

He argued while the distance by ferry between Auckland and Waiheke Island was about the same as that between Bluff and Stewart Island, the cost to travel was a lot higher for those living and working on Stewart Island.

According to current Sealink fares, it would cost about $45 return for an adult from Auckland to Waiheke, while the Real Journeys Stewart Island ferry cost about $180 return for an adult from Bluff to Stewart Island.

"Waiheke residents get for their transport up to 50% to 60% discount, while Stewart Islanders are lucky to get a 20% discount," Mr Herzhoff said.

The Bluff and Stewart Island communities were being "separated by a ferry", despite the fact "half of the Bluff population" had links to the island, he said.

He said locals and their business ventures were being "pushed aside" by big companies who did not care about them.

Stewart Island/Rakiura ward councillor Bruce Ford said the community board would seek advice as to what moves "could and should" be made following the proposal.

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris said the company had not yet been approached about the community wanting to run the ferry.

"Some of our regular commuters have told us they would like two return sailings every day."

At present there are two return sailings Thursday to Sunday and one return sailing Monday to Wednesday.

Mr Norris said additional sailings were added if there was enough demand.

Stewart Island-based pupils and students travelled for free for sporting and other school events or to attend boarding school.

Real Journeys actually offered a 40% discount for Stewart Island residents and a 30% discount for ratepayers.

The proposal would be discussed further at the community board’s meeting on October 12.

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