A tidy sum of $756,000 went straight to Fullers' bottom line as it was achieved and received without any increase in costs for the company: hardly any extra staff or sailing had to be put on the Waiheke run (and it showed in the groaning boats over the summer).
The Herald reports:
Excursions to the island by an average of just over 200 pensioners a day accounted for almost a quarter of the Government's contribution to free off-peak travel on trains, buses and ferries throughout the Auckland region. [...] Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares spokeswoman Cathy Urquhart, who obtained the Government subsidy breakdown from the transport authority, says she is not begrudging senior citizens and war pensioners the freedom of her island.Fullers responded with the usual bleating of other rising costs and the purchase of two inappropriate vessels from Tasmania which can't do the Waiheke run when the wind is blowing. But no response of the hypocrisy of using diesel hikes to increase fares and then denying a fare discount when diesel prices are at 2 year lows.
"That's absolutely fine, seeing them all over the island," she said yesterday. "But at the same time we've got young people having to move off the island because they can't afford the fares. Fullers is pocketing a huge benefit from the Super Gold card scheme and the falling diesel prices, but haven't yet passed on those savings in a fair and transparent way."
Dr Urquhart's group campaigned fiercely against increases in ferry fares in October after Fullers blamed hefty fuel and maintenance cost rises. Although Fullers has since reduced one fare and also partly rescinded increases on other routes, the group has continued to press for more cuts as diesel prices have kept falling.
It issued a table yesterday claiming that the monthly Waiheke fare was now 23 per cent higher in terms of how much diesel it could buy than an average level since mid-2005.
The drop in patronage that "has now been stemmed" was due to the gouging the company indulged in last year. Ferries were the only public transport mode that lost customers last year. It's not rocket science to find out why.
So now Fullers pockets are lined with our tax dollars, plus monopoly fares. Congratulations, Brian Souter, you bought a money printing press.