Waka Kotahi’s publication today of a report commissioned as part of its review into the exempt status of the Waiheke Island ferry service falls short of providing the Island’s community and ferry operators the transparency and certainty required to determine an optimal operating model for the future. Fullers360 and Waiheke Island residents continue to wait for the transport agency’s overdue conclusion of its full review which started over a year ago.
Waka Kotahi makes clear the report titled The Review of the Exempt Status of Fullers360 Waiheke Ferry Service prepared for Waka Kotahi by Barry Kidd, does not represent the agency’s view, that the report fails to meet the test in the Land Transport Management Act 2003 as to require fares on the Waiheke Island ferry service to be regulated, that it contains a number of errors in its assessment, and that the agency received legal advice to appoint and complete an additional review with alternative consultants.
Fullers360 respects Waka Kotahi’s Official Information Act obligations, but now encourages the agency to publish a full and complete recommendation to the Minister of Transport as a matter of urgency. As a commercial business providing services across the Auckland ferry network, any further delay in making its recommendation to the Minister of Transport is detrimental to the Fullers360 business and the communities it serves.
Fullers360 Chief Executive Officer, Mike Horne, says that while Fullers360 believes a continuation of an exemption for the Waiheke Island ferry service offers the best option for Auckland rate payers, and Waiheke Island’s future development, in the end the regulatory model under which the service is operated is a matter for the Government that needed to be concluded.
“Fullers360 continues to advocate for further subsidies with the Government and Auckland Transport, for the specific benefit of the Waiheke Island community to support public transport equivalent fares for Waiheke Island residents and commuters on this exempt service route,” says Mr Horne.
“The notion that the exempt status of the Waiheke Island service prevents the Government subsidising fares is not accurate, noting that subsidies already apply on exempt integral routes. There are no barriers for the Government to further subsidise or fund ferry fares for residents on an exempt service such as the Waiheke Island route, on which approximately 20% of Waiheke residents already access free ferry travel. As a commercial business, we would require funding to provide passengers with reduced fares, without which the service would not be commercially viable.
“We have continued to demonstrate our ongoing willingness to cooperate with central and local government to create certainty for the future of the Waiheke Island ferry service. However, Waka Kotahi now needs to complete their investigation and present a recommendation to the Minister of Transport with urgency,” says Mr Horne.
Fullers360 commissioned a report by PwC in 2019 to independently assess its Waiheke Island ferry service fares, which showed the fares were fair and reasonable. A further comprehensive review of Waiheke ferry fares commissioned by Auckland Transport in 2019 and 2020 and undertaken independently by Deloitte, found Fullers360 offers significant flexibility by providing a range of products and has some of the lowest prices on a distance basis. In addition, Fullers360 has made a $30 million loss over the last three years due to several factors including the impacts of Covid-19 and unprecedented weather events, while continuing to provide essential services continuously to the island.
Earlier this week, we understand the Commerce Commission provided advice to a complainant that, on the information before the Commission, Fullers360 has not engaged in anti-competitive conduct, has not prevented competition, has not breached the Commerce Act and will not be investigated further in respect of the particular complaint made.
“We continue to work with Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport to complete this further review and remain committed to serving the Waiheke Island community. We share their frustrations, noting that during this period of uncertainty we continue to provide comprehensive services, invest in people and in assets and advocate for positive change. Like all stakeholders, we await the Government’s decision so we can plan for the future and move forward together,” adds Mr Horne.
Chloe Ogilvie, Head of Communications
021 292 0252