Wellington Scoop

Freezing, discounting, or (next year?) increasing bus fares

by Lindsay Shelton
What are we to make of Mayor Justin Lester’s announcement that the regional council is discussing “potentially student discounts” for public transport? The mayor has also welcomed “a package of discounts for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.” But the regional council hasn’t yet made any such announcement.

Justin Lester’s comments are included in an effusive press release about the regional council’s draft annual plan for 2017/2018 which he says includes a fourth year of no increases in bus fares.

But on the same day the regional council’s announcement of its annual plan made no mention of any of the topics which are so pleasing to the mayor. Chris Laidlaw had a different focus. He talked about a rates increase of 5.5 per cent (ugh), and named four priorities for 2017/18:

· Investing in resilient regional infrastructure
· Making sure we can cope in emergencies
· Growing public transport patronage
· Keeping our environment clean

Search the regional council website, and you won’t find any link to the subject of freezing bus fares which the mayor announced. In fact, you won’t find any mention of the draft annual plan for 2017/2018, though consultation is starting on the 16th. “We want people to have their say,” says Chris Laidlaw. Difficult to engage, when there’s nothing yet to see.

There is, however, a draft consultation document which is well-hidden on the website, identified only as an “appendix” which was discussed at last week’s meeting. This document – not yet made public – will be the basis of the consultation which Chris Laidlaw is encouraging. It does include mention of the continuing freeze on public transport fares and says the council is

“now signalling our intention to bring in the package of fare initiatives in 2018/19 to align with the new bus contracts and the extension of Snapper as an interim bus ticketing system. The fare initiatives will be based on a review of the fare policies outlined in the Regional Public Transport Plan, and include off-peak discounts, transfer discounts, changes to one fare boundary and standardisation of fare rules.”

It’s clear that the discounts welcomed by the mayor are not to be expected for another year. And as for the possibility of student discounts (again, not this year) the regional council has yet to decide if they are affordable:

We also intend to consider whether a fare discount for tertiary students is affordable. Fare changes will form part of a comprehensive package of improvements to how public transport is delivered to our customers, including new bus networks, new bus operating contracts, new bus vehicles and new ticketing systems. We will have to also consider how the package of fare changes is funded and this may require some fare increases at that time.

Which reads as a fairly clear pointer to an increase in bus fares next year, at the same time as the new contracts take effect.


  1. Chris Laidlaw, 7. March 2017, 15:50

    It’s nice to see someone looking intensively at where GWRC Is at on public transport fares. The situation is that we have decided to hold all fares until the comprehensive fares, services and ticketing package is introduced next year. There is no subterfuge. The consultation document makes it quite plain that student fares will be considered in this context but our position on an additional concession for students over and above the off-peak reduction of 25percent already signalled will depend on two factors: first, the outcome of the bus tender this year which will show us how much we will be able to save; and second, on the willingness of the tertiary institutions and local councils, including In particular the WCC, are willing to contribute . Watch this space.
    Chris Laidlaw

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 9. March 2017, 7:29

    Surely it has dawned by now that “consultation” means a chat behind closed doors between the Mayor or Chair and the odd officer then hoping that the hard-working media fails to delve into what is actually happening. ‘Fess up, Justin! ‘Fess up, Chris!

  3. Chris Laidlaw, 17. March 2017, 12:37

    Concerned Wellingtonian doesn’t seem to get the point that the regional council is prepared to support a student discount but needs its partners, the city council and the tertiary institutions – as they do elsewhere in NZ – to come to the party. This is hardly a behind closed doors deal. Quite the reverse.

  4. Victor Davie, 19. March 2017, 7:41

    GWRC chairman Chris Laidlaw mentions his priority for 2017 & 2018 is “keeping our environment clean”. His council’s determination to replace all trolley buses with toxic carcinogenic belching diesels, many of which will come from Auckland’s ageing fleet, is irresponsible. Mr Laidlaw still has the opportunity to use his leadership skills and reverse this unfortunate decision. Wellington City Council, sole owners of the trolley bus infrastructure, must act quickly and not allow the demise of our 100% environmentally friendly trolley bus fleet.

  5. Keith Flinders, 19. March 2017, 16:30

    Not forgetting any discount given will need to be made up by rates increases, in respect of GWRC and WCC contributions. Increased patronage will assist offset the cost only if buses are run to suit the passenger needs, but these are not the changes we have in store mid 2018. Changes proposed will see people going back to cars, rather than needing up to three different buses where now they need one.

    Single pension after tax goes up $5 a week from next month, so $260 a year. GWRC and WCC rates increases alone on an average Wellington property will take 50% of this increase. Doesn’t leave enough for all the other increases, power, phone, food, medical, dental, etc.. In spite of what Statistics NZ figures report, inflation is much higher than around 1% in respect of household expenditure.

  6. Ben, 19. March 2017, 18:11

    One thing is for sure. Noise levels in the city are going to increase considerably if the current diesel buses are anything to go by.
    I live in the inner city and we never hear the trolley buses, but the noise of several buses idling at the bus stop and traffic lights is considerable and really annoying. I suspect there will be a lot of complaints once the quiet trolley buses are replaced by noisy and polluting diesel buses. It is madness and a step backwards. Not a good way to incourage inner city living.