No Mention of Aotea in 10-Year Transport Plan

Great Barrier Island is literally off the map when it comes to Auckland Transport’s 10-year plan. Photo / AT

Great Barrier Island (Aotea) has been conspicuously excluded from the latest Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) out of Auckland Transport.

The RLTP, a 10-year investment strategy for Auckland’s transport network, fails to mention Aotea even once in its 105 pages. In fact, in a map of the city’s transport network that includes Waiheke, Aotea is literally left off the map.

Local Board Chair Izzy Fordham expressed her dissatisfaction, saying, “Yep, most infuriating when Aotea doesn’t appear on maps when we are part of the region!”

“We often have to pull departments up about that.”, she said.

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Fordham elaborated on the challenges of including Aotea in such plans, stating, “The RLTP is what it says – a Regional Land Transport Plan so it’s tricky for us to fit into it as we have no public transport, footpaths, or speed management.” she said.

“Our services to the island are supplied by private companies, which receive no subsidies from either Auckland Council or Central Government. In fact, the plan is very isthmus/urban oriented.” she said.

Lack of Investment in Aotea’s Transport

The RLTP mentions a $60 million investment in Auckland’s new fleet of electric ferries, with the government covering 75% of the cost, but there is no mention of infrastructure or transport improvements for Great Barrier Island.

The latest omission comes after the Tryphena Ferry Terminal on Aotea faced a temporary closure due to safety concerns raised by private ferry operator SeaLink, who said it was “at risk of collapse.” Auckland Transport maintains the wharf.

Aucklanders have until 17 June 2024 to provide feedback on the draft RLTP. Public events to discuss the plan are scheduled in 20 places across Auckland, including Waiheke, but none are planned for Aotea. The RLTP, reviewed every 3 to 6 years, proposes a $63 billion investment over the next decade, focusing on renewals, maintenance, and public transport services.

Conceptual image of Auckland Transport’s new electric ferries, set to manage inner Hauraki Gulf routes from 2026. Photo / AT

Great Barrier Island, like Waiheke, is exempt from certain service provisions under section 150 of the Land Transport Management Act 2003 (LTMA). This means Auckland Transport only manages the wharves around Aotea, not the ferry services. Some SeaLink ferry services to Great Barrier Island cost up to $600 for a single vehicle and driver, and up to $900 for a family of four, one way.

If the exemption was dropped, it would force SeaLink’s service quality and pricing to align with other services on the Auckland Transport network.

Past Efforts for Subsidized Transport

In 2022, a report commissioned by the Labour government examined whether Waiheke’s exempt status should be removed. The report labeled the exemption an ‘anomaly’ but warned that integrating Waiheke into the Public Transport network would incur costs for the taxpayer. It said it would drop transport costs to and from the island, leading to increased visitor traffic, potentially frustrating residents.

No such investigation has been conducted for Great Barrier Island, but Fordham says local government has been lobbying for a review for years.

“Over many years, the Local Board, and Community Board’s prior, have advocated and worked with our respective MPs (I can think of Judith Tizard, Nikki Kaye, and Chlöe Swarbrick), all of whom have lobbied for the island, endeavouring to gain some sort of subsidy, but to no avail.” she said.

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Barrier Drainage

Despite the lack of mention in the long term plan, Auckland Transport maintains roads, wharves, and airfields on the island and collaborates with the local board on upcoming work programs, Fordham said.

Aotea / Great Barrier Local Board has made a “Dark Sky Proclamation” on behalf of the island to mark International Dark Sky Week.
Local Board Chair Izzy Fordham (right) says the local board has argued for public transport support for years. Photo / Auckland Council

“They workshop with the board on a monthly basis with regards to their upcoming work programmes and this information can be found in the board’s monthly Business Agenda,” she added.

Barrier Trails Waiheke in Ferry Perks

Senior citizens with NZ First’s SuperGold card can travel to and from Waiheke for free, benefiting around 20 percent of all travelers.

In July 2022, Auckland Transport (AT) and Fullers360 inked a 12-year Quality Partnership Agreement (QPA) amid increasing customer complaints.

The QPA rolled out the AT HOP Waiheke Monthly Pass for frequent users, bringing fares in line with other outer harbour ferry services.

Neither the Gold Card or HOP system are integrated with SeaLink’s service to Great Barrier Island.

Fordham encouraged island residents to participate in the RLTP review process, even if the island wasn’t mentioned in the city’s long-term plan.

“Despite there being next to nothing in there for Aotea, it is still worth submitting to.” she said.

“The board will be putting in a submission which we will be working on in the next week or two and then presenting later in June.” Fordham added.

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