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Auckland Transport (AT) and Fullers360 have today announced a new public-private partnership that will secure long-term investment and commitment to Auckland’s ferry network and will accelerate the decarbonising of Auckland’s ferry fleet.
The agreements signed today signal the beginning of a new era for Auckland’s ferry network where 850,000 customer journeys, more than half of Auckland’s ferry passengers (on the Devonport, Hobsonville Point, Half Moon Bay and Gulf Harbour services), will benefit from the new AT business operating model for delivery of Auckland ferry services. This also signals and enables a significant step-change in public investment in those services in-line with AT and Fullers360’s shared vision for a modern and enhanced future ferry network. 
Auckland Transport Interim Chief Executive Mark Lambert says the renewed partnership between AT and Fullers360 represents a shift in the way AT procures its ferry services.
“Through this successful joint negotiation for a public-private partnership, we’re moving to a model of public ownership of Auckland’s strategic ferry assets with its ferry fleet to be increasingly owned by Aucklanders, for Aucklanders, which is 12 years earlier than previously anticipated as a result of the negotiations” Mr Lambert says.
One key component of the agreements signed today is the full integration of the Devonport to downtown Auckland route into AT’s ferry network, meaning the service will no longer be a privately operated route exempt from New Zealand’s regulatory Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM). Contracts for Fullers360-operated services between downtown Auckland and Hobsonville Point, Half Moon Bay and Gulf Harbour have also been renewed.
The agreements include immediate benefits for the Waiheke Island to downtown Auckland service. A Quality Partnership Agreement (QPA) has been signed between AT and Fullers360, aimed at enhancing the reliability, fare affordability and sustainability of services to and from Waiheke Island.
Agreements to help accelerate the decarbonisation of Auckland’s ferry fleet
The agreements announced today will see Auckland Transport take the ownership and lead the procurement and delivery of five new electric-hybrid ferries, supported by funding enabled through the Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR).
Utilising its knowledge and expertise, Fullers360 will manage the research and development, design and delivery of the new vessels, while the ownership of four existing Auckland ferries will also transfer from Fullers360 to Auckland Transport.
Fullers360 CEO Mike Horne says green ferry transport is the future, with the company’s ongoing partnership with AT helping to accelerate the transition.
“Public private partnerships are one of the many ways we can unlock solutions to the climate change crisis and move towards solutions that deliver a lower carbon transport network for Auckland and New Zealand,” Mr Horne says.
“Following the impact of COVID-19 on our business, solidifying a long-term partnership with AT means that we can continue to invest and pursue other new innovative solutions such as hydrogen powered technology.”
Auckland Transport Group Manager Metro Services Darek Koper says the move to AT procuring the new electric ferries will help increase the pace of Auckland’s transition to an all-electric and electric-hybrid ferry fleet.
“The plug-in hybrid ferries utilising design and innovation developed by Fullers360, Incat Crowther and HamiltonJet are in addition to the two EV Maritime fully electric ferries recently announced, increasing the government and Council investment in new electric or electric-hybrid vessels to seven, which will allow us to significantly reduce our emissions,” Mr Koper says. Q West will be builders for the first of these vessels.
“Passengers travelling on services like the Devonport route will be some of the first to travel on the new electric and plug-in electric-hybrid ferries, which will be comfortable, quiet and will deliver a fantastic experience for our passengers. The new partnership leverages the significant investment made to date by Fullers360 in design and development of new vessels for Auckland.
“The four existing fleet ferries are needed to maintain services while we build and transition to the new electric fleet, requiring investment to refurbish and retrofit with lower emission engines to help ensure that we are reducing our emissions and improving vessel reliability in the immediate term.”
Quality Partnership Agreement to provide greater certainty for Waiheke passengers
Fullers360’s passenger ferry services between downtown Auckland and Waiheke Island will continue to be exempt from contract regulation, but subject to new minimum service levels and extended legal minimum service withdrawal notice period.
Under the QPA, Waiheke residents will also be able to access a new AT HOP adult monthly pass which includes same-zone bus and train connections at either end of the ferry journey. The pass will be priced the same as the equivalent existing Gulf Harbour and Pine Harbour ferry monthly passes, providing a saving of 14% for commuters and will be available in the coming months.
AT’s Mark Lambert says that although Waiheke services will remain outside the regulated Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM), which means continued exemption from a contracted status with AT, there will now be much greater accountability as these services will be measured against AT’s service standards.
“AT recognises that the QPA for the Waiheke service does not involve removing the exempt status. But, as a negotiated outcome, provides immediate interim benefits for service levels, service certainty and fare prices, as we now step through the exemption review process led by government”.
Fullers360 CEO Mike Horne says the agreements have secured the company’s Auckland operations and will help ensure regular, quality services are provided for the Waiheke community.
“We have long signalled our commitment to improving the Waiheke Island service and reaching a value proposition that meets the needs of the island community. Fullers360 invests significantly into Waiheke, which would not be possible under a PTOM model,” Mr Horne says.
“The QPA enables Fullers360 to continue providing enduring and strategic support to the island community through collaboration with local businesses, sponsorships, support for events and initiatives on the Island, and ongoing conservation efforts.”
The new agreements between AT and Fullers360 were signed on 15 July and take effect from 18 July. Waiheke passengers will be able to access the discounted AT HOP adult monthly pass in the coming months, with an exact date to be announced to customers shortly.