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Frustrated Waiheke ferry users call for change to bring service under local authority

By Amy Williams of rnz.co.nz

An online petition calling for the Minister of Transport to bring Waiheke Island's ferry services under local authorities clocked up more than 800 signatures overnight.

Fullers' Waiheke and Devonport's ferry services are the only parts of the city's public transport network that sit outside Auckland Transport's oversight.

Auckland Councillor Chris Darby launched the petition on Change.org yesterday, following commuters' ongoing frustration at the poor performance of the Waiheke Island and Devonport passenger ferry services.

"Somebody said to me, 'You'll be lucky to get 1000,' but I said, 'I think I'll probably head towards 20,000 on this one.' That will be a good signal not just to the minister but also a signal to Fullers," Mr Darby said.

He said Waiheke Local Board chairperson Cath Handley had told him something needed to be done about the ferry service.

"She has said to me that her community has had enough and we've got to take this action.

"This petition is actually giving the invitation to Devonport folk and Waiheke folk to also convey their concern directly to the minister."

Fullers is holding a meeting at 1.30pm today for people frustrated by the recent disruption of its Waiheke service.

The company earlier said the forum would include "a panel of critical Auckland leaders and Waiheke stakeholders" and would be chaired by former Waitakere mayor Sir Bob Harvey.

Auckland Transport, mayor Phil Goff and two councillors including Mr Darby have formally requested Fullers' services be brought under local authorities' oversight.

Mr Darby said the ferries were a lifeline for many commuters who felt powerless to improve the service. He and Mr Goff met with Fullers' chief executive Mike Horne last week.

"I said look we could go through a long process here, or [Fullers] could put your hand up and say things have changed and we're willing to have the removal of that exempt status and we'll play ball.

"I have to say Mr Horne didn't decline my offer, he nodded like he was thinking about it."

Last month, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he would examine the Waiheke service as part of his wider review of the country's public transport systems.

Mr Twyford said it was unclear why the service was given an exemption when it was introduced by former National Transport Minister Steven Joyce in 2011.

Source: rnz.co.nz