People living in small towns in Thames-Coromandel District are entitled to and need public transport just as much as their city counterparts. Funding subsidies for public transport are available for both towns and cities. Many locals (many of whom are ratepayers) are just as transport disadvantaged as their city peers. It is unfair and doesn’t make a lot of sense that locals are missing out on an essential core public service. The mindset of past Councils that only cities should have public transport, is outdated and should change.
The transport disadvantaged do not drive a car, or have someone to drive them, have no access to public transport, and to the Gold Card free travel subsidies. There are some excellent services run by local charities and the DHB for transport to health services. But many residents, including ratepayers, cannot access other essential social services, go shopping, belong to clubs, and visit friends because they are transport disadvantaged. Many are essentially trapped in their own homes, and unable to fully participate in their communities.
The Land Transport legislation specifically requires both Regional Council and TCDC to look after the interests of the transport disadvantaged. WRC’s Public Transport Plan aims to – “Improve rural access within rural towns, ………. and “ improve accessibility for transport disadvantaged groups – older people and youth in particular – to key social services”
Also, by law, public transport is a core service for all Councils, including TCDC, putting public transport on the same priority footing as water, sewage and libraries.
What is lacking is the political will to provide public transport. Our Council eagerly seeks the Government subsidy for roads. But somehow it has been taboo for local politicians to take up public transport subsidies which enable everyone in the community to enjoy the benefits of that infrastructure. This is hard to fathom when only 31.5% of the cost of providing public transport in the Waikato comes from council rates – (the rest coming from the Government Subsidy and fares), compared to 50% of the share spent on local roads.
Thames with its elongated layout is an ideal place to start a public transport trial. The Community Board and Council should consult the public, prepare a business case and submission to WRC and ask for a trial service in its Regional Public Transport Plan. Local WRC representative Dal Minogue is willing to assist with information sharing – a great start.
How about a loop service with initially a 12 seater van (perhaps with wheelchair/scooter access?) running from the CBD to Parawai, Tararu and back?
Timetabling and routeing would have to be worked out, but a frequency of every 30 – 45 minutes during business hours Mondays to Saturdays seems doable.
Total Mobility is another Government subsidised service run by the Regional Council which could be taken up by local towns. This provides a door to door service 24/7 for people with disabilities to access all manner of social services.
Public Transport is not a privilege reserved only for city dwellers. People in Thames, Whitianga and Whangamata are entitled to and deserve these same core services equally as much as their city counterparts.