Greater Wellington urges government to back regional ownership of transport assets
Greater Wellington is urging significant change to the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) to bring transport assets under the control of regional councils to create greater certainty in delivering quality public transport services.
“We strongly hold that, for regional councils to be truly strategic in planning and providing world-class public transport, we need to have stronger control of critical infrastructure such as buses, depots and charging infrastructure,” says Greater Wellington chair Cr Daran Ponter.
“We are asking for the ability to own or control our assets to ensure we have this option available to us when we make investment decisions.
“Owning, or at least controlling, these assets is key to minimising the risks to delivering public transport, which have been plainly evident in the Wellington region as a combination of industrial action and driver shortages has hampered service provision. We are looking for a strong signal from the Government that it will back regional council ownership and allow the sector to re-set public transport.
”We want to strengthen our communities’ confidence and pride in our public transport, which will only come with us re-setting some of the underlying frameworks and we want to work closely with the Government on a funding model that will lead to that outcome.”
According to Greater Wellington’s submission, a change to ownership of public transport assets would provide a range of benefits.
“Ownership or at least control of the assets will strengthen our role in providing public transport, allowing us to move from the side lines on significant issues such as employee terms and conditions and workforce planning. It will bring us influence and the ability to play a stronger role in ensuring continuity of service delivery,” says Greater Wellington’s chair of the Transport Committee, Cr Roger Blakeley.
Cr Blakeley also noted that Greater Wellington considers public ownership of the bus fleet, either directly or through a Council Controlled Organisation (CCO), could provide benefits such as greater flexibility and agility in distributing the bus fleet to meet demand.
“This arrangement would enable us to take a more strategic and financially beneficial approach to procuring and financing fleet purchases, and in so doing, reducing private profit margins on acquisition. It would also provide security and continuity of fleet availability in our region.
“Greater Wellington has put considerable thought into the current funding and financing model in place in our region. We don’t believe the current model is making best use of public finances. It also places all financial risk onto councils, with few associated financial benefits.
“A model based on more active ownership by councils of key public transport infrastructure would better balance the risk profile for the public good. The overall outcome would be a stronger, more reliable and more resilient fleet and service,” says Cr. Blakeley.