Environment Waikato has decided to retain responsibility for passenger transport services, a core regional council function.
Chairman Jenni Vernon said the council’s decision at yesterday’s monthly meeting in Hamilton was the best deal for ratepayers and users of the region’s transport network.
“The decision is entirely consistent with government policies and direction which envisage co-ordinated and integrated transport systems and services across entire regions,” she said.
The council meeting was attended by a delegation of Hamilton City councillors and the city’s mayor. Their attendance followed the city council’s application through the Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) process to take over responsibility for passenger transport in the region.
In response to the city council’s request, Environment Waikato commissioned a review to provide options for the provision of passenger transport in Hamilton city and the wider region.
After consideration of the report and listening to Hamilton city’s comments, the regional council voted to keep responsibility for regional passenger transport operations, which includes bus services, total mobility services, and registration of commercially operated transport services, such as taxis.
“Environment Waikato has statutory responsibility for regional land transport planning and contracting passenger services, a role it has held for 17 years,” Cr Vernon said.
“Over this time, the organization has developed specialist expertise in the area of transport planning and service delivery and built strong relationships with the major funder, Land Transport New Zealand.
“In the past 18 months, for example, we have secured additional funding of more than $3 million for new bus services in Hamilton and also Mangakino, Tokoroa and Taupo.”
Cr Vernon said the regional council had responsibility to act in the interests of all 12 local authorities in the Waikato region, including the largest, Hamilton City Council.
“We also have to plan for where the growth is occurring in our region – Thames-Coromandel, Taupo and on the margins of Hamilton – and also how we connect with our neighbouring growth hotspots of Auckland and Tauranga.”
Chairman Jenni Vernon said regional councillors considered the status quo provided the best solution for planning and delivering passenger transport services for the Waikato region.
The regional council is responsible for developing the Regional Land Transport Strategy and is well place to understand and align different transport modes that benefit the whole region, irrespective of city or district boundaries.
“The passenger transport needs of individual communities, including Hamilton, will best be served through an integrated transport strategy,” Cr Vernon said.
She said Environment Waikato and Hamilton City Council had a successful and productive partnership which has seen the introduction of new bus services and the passenger numbers topping two million for the first time earlier this year.
“The events strategy we have developed for managing passenger transport around special events, such as Balloons over Waikato Night Glow, rugby games, and the upcoming world rowing champs and the V8 Supercars, demonstrates how we work collaboratively and effectively with Hamilton City.
“The responsibility for planning and implementation of passenger transport will remain within Environment Waikato. Our operational service delivery is based in Hamilton City premises. Officers of the two councils work very well together and we are committed to this continuing.
“We strongly believe reducing congestion and encouraging sustainable growth through providing an effective efficient passenger transport system can be a shared vision.”
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