The Government is currently subsidising Fullers and Sealink, by refunding them part of the cost of providing free travel for SuperGold Card holders. The new entrant, Explore, is not receiving such a payment. It provides a service to over-65s free of charge, on the reasonable expectation that the Government would treat all competitors in the same way. FUG has told Government that the current situation is anti-competitive.
The same call was made by Winston Peters, the architect of the SuperGold Card scheme. Mr Peters held a rally in Auckland today, attended by people from Waiheke.
Our thanks to Bev, who produced these signs.
From The Herald:
Mr Goodfellow [from Explore] said his ferries carried “thousands” of card holders each month and the company argued it was not providing a new service but a variation of an existing one.
That view is shared by the Waiheke Ferry Users Group and its chairman, Daniel Silva, who says the Government’s refusal to pay a subsidy to all operators in the same market is “inherently anti-competitive.”
“This is purely a situation of the Government reimbursing one competitor but not another, creating an uneven playing field.”
Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said he recently met with Explore Group and explained the moratorium on new services entering the SuperGold Card free off-peak transport scheme.
The moratorium was implemented in 2010, to ensure the costs of the SuperGold Card free off-peak public transport scheme did not get out of hand.
“Moratorium guidelines define a major new service as an addition to the existing network that is clearly distinguishable from other services. The Explore Group is offering a new service distinct from the one offered by Fullers.
Let me see. Explore and Fullers both provide regular services between Auckland and Waiheke. The trip takes the same amount of time and costs about the same. I do wonder what makes them “distinct”? Of course, (slaps forehead!) the logos on their boats are in different colours.
Associate Minister Craig Foss is displaying a rare skill: willingness to commit political suicide. It is time for the grown-ups in Cabinet to get involved.
UPDATE: 18/2/15. This topic was the subject of a question in Parliament today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3R4i-zu6nM
UPDATE 2: 23/2/15. Explore Group have now announced the introduction of restrictions on SuperGold Card users from 1 March 2015. They are keeping the facility for Waiheke residents and others when they travel with a full fare-paying passenger, at their cost. Good to see them doing something for the community of Waiheke, in the face of the government’s incomprehensible decision to favour one competitor over the others. Details in http://www.explorewaiheke.co.nz/new-supergold-card-policy