Ashburton on road to public transport trial

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Ashburton’s aspirations for public transport will need to be formed for a sales pitch early next year.

The district missed the boat for the coming financial year but there is hope it can prepare a proposal to take to Environment Canterbury for consideration next year.

The district council, in collaboration with Safer Mid Canterbury, commissioned research earlier this year on a possible public transport service for the Ashburton township. The research report was presented to the council last week.

Roading manager Mark Chamberlain presented the report as a way of seeking guidance for “where we go with this next”.

“There is no current funding for it, so if it’s a trial we have to determine what that trial is, what the cost would be and then how it would be funded.”

The report stirred conversations around the cost, funding, and length of any trial, as well as the weight of the research and its statistical significance.

The district council decided to hold a workshop with the researchers who prepared the report, which Mayor Neil Brown said would be the opportunity “to have more discussion and look at pathways forward”.

He then reminded councillors that any option would have to wait until next year for funding.

When Brown presented the district council’s submission to Environment Canterbury’s long-term plan at the end of April it included a request to investigate public transport.

ECan councillors had asked if Ashburton was ready to submit something to consider, but Brown had to reply they were not.

“They were possibly hoping from the councillors that we had something ready for this long-term plan of their’s but it wasn’t so it will have to be their annual plan [next year].

“They are watching what happens with public transport here.”

Councillor Richard Wilson pointed to the ongoing MyWay on-demand bus trial in Timaru that he calculated carries an $11.53 subsidy per passenger. An adult passenger pays $2.50 and under 18s pay $1.50.

“To do it costs a phenomenally large amount of money so we need to think of that as we discuss it.”

Councillor Lynette Lovett was one of the councillors who was cautious of the research and considering the high costs of public transport she felt “more work needs to be done”.

Councillor Carolyn Cameron agreed that it does need review and discussion, but noted “we are not committing to one form of public transport of another, so the costs are totally unknown”.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.