Media release

Public transport breakthrough for the Wakatipu

Thursday 23 February 2017

A much needed radical shift in public transport for the Wakatipu Basin’s residents and visitors became a step closer today.

The Otago Regional and Queenstown Lakes District Council’s together with NZTA are working together to propose the significant improvement to public transport for the area.

Both ORC Chairman Stephen Woodhead and QLDC Mayor Jim Boult agree the need for an inexpensive, reliable and frequent public transport system in the Wakatipu Basin. The proposal took a significant step forward today with the Otago Regional Council agreeing to consult on including the project in it Regional Passenger Transport Plan. Both Councils will consult the proposal through respective Annual Plans.

It is hoped that the changes, which were strongly advocated for by Mayor Boult on behalf of QLDC, will see a charge of two dollar bus fares across the Wakatipu for those using a multi-trip concession card, along with amendments to updated routes and timetables.

Mayor Boult sees today’s decision by the ORC as a significant step towards providing a public transport system that will be a viable alternative to private cars and help ease traffic congestion in the basin. Simpler fare structures should also make it easier for residents and tourists to hop on the bus.

“We’ve essentially asked for the ability to subsidise public transport to such a degree that we can offer an affordable flat fee for transport across the Wakatipu.

Chairman Woodhead said “the overall aim is to provide a public transport service that meets the community’s needs. Improved route structure, significantly reduced fares and increased frequency are the core principles and these will form the basis of our conversation with the community.”

Both the ORC and QLDC will need to formally adopt the proposals and consult on them, with a view to introducing a new fare and timetable later in the year.

Mayor Boult said “we’re hoping to see significant improvements to current system and we’re highly optimistic this will make a huge difference to how people travel around Queenstown.”

“QLDC have made it very clear to the ORC that we are willing to come to the table to help fund this improved system. Fully subsidised public transport is not without cost but we can’t afford the alternative.”

“Tough reality check - wherever possible we have to move away from a dependence on private cars. Public transport is essential to ensuring our transport network doesn’t come to a grinding halt.

QLDC will consult proposed cost to ratepayers through the Annual Plan process in April. Some of the cost offset will come from an increase in parking fees. “If you continue to make parking too affordable, why would anyone opt for public transport. On the flipside it’s only fitting that parking subsidise better transport options.”

“We’re aiming for a genuinely improved and affordable service that eases both the pressure on our pockets and our environment.”