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Ōamaru public transport trial up for discussion in draft plan, ORC says

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Ashley Smyth

27 March 2024, 3:12 AM

Ōamaru public transport trial up for discussion in draft plan, ORC saysOtago Regional Council wants public input into its Long Term Plan. Image: supplied

A public transport trial for Ōamaru is one of the proposed changes for the Otago Regional Council’s Long-Term Plan.

The ORC is seeking public input on a number of proposals for rating changes which will affect every property in Otago for the next 10 years, chairperson Gretchen Robertson says.

“The Long Term Plan is the cornerstone for setting the direction of key work programmes and it’s imperative all ratepayers have their say on these proposals. We really need people to get involved and contribute to this vitally important plan,” she said.

The potential changes include how the council rates properties, including those with targeted rates, public transport in Dunedin and Queenstown, trials of regional public transport, flood protection and drainage schemes, river and catchment management, harbour safety, freshwater farm plans, wilding pine control and environmental projects.

“We’re very conscious of people’s concerns in this challenging economic environment, where councils across the country are considering increasing rates,” Gretchen said.

Because of that, she urges people to have their say now and tell ORC what their preferences and priorities are for the decade ahead.

Council transport manager Lorraine Cheyne said public consultation on the possibility of regional public transport for a number of places including Ōamaru, will take place through the Long Term Plan discussions.

“This provides the public the opportunity to provide feedback on their willingness to support a public transport investment. 

“Subject to the response that council receives, we will then work with and seek feed-back from the local council and community on the design of the service/s,” she said.

Design considerations include the route, the location of stops, frequency of services and running times over the day/week.

The frequency and service running times affect the overall cost of any option, so are shaped by the initial consultation through the Long Term Plan, Lorraine said.

Input from respective district councils is essential and the earliest it is thought trials could start, is July 2025.

All trials are reliant on the ORC receiving 51% co-investment from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“Our Long Term Plan plans were made and approved by council before the current Coalition Government set out its transport investment policies in the new Government Policy Statement (GPS), March 2024. 

“The new GPS has a lower priority for public transport investment which carries some risk for new public transport trials anywhere in the country,” she said.

The regularity and timetable of the regional routes will depend on the type of service and availability of funding.

During the next 10 years it is proposed to spend $315 million in Dunedin and close to $194 million in Queenstown, so funds from both targeted rates and Waka Kotahi NZTA are required, Gretchen said.

ORC wants to build on services in both areas in an effort to reduce congestion and carbon emissions - this includes upgrading the bus fleet to electric.

The decision to look into trialling public transport beyond Dunedin and Queenstown has been made due to public demand.

Along with Ōamaru, services will be trialled in Wanaka - both funded from a targeted rate - while Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell to Queenstown, and Balclutha to Dunedin, including the airport - will all be funded from the general rate.

“We want to strike a balance between improving public transport and keeping costs manageable,” she said.

ORC is holding seven drop-in sessions for ratepayers across the region next month between April 10 and 18. Ōamaru sessions are being held on Thursday, April 11 at the Early Settlers Hall at 12-2pm, and 4-7pm.

Moeraki ORC councillor Kevin Malcolm can also be contacted at [email protected] or on 027 838 3003.

There are online and postal options available for public input and Gretchen is urging ratepayers to contact their council representatives directly.

“Ratepayers shouldn’t be put off from giving feedback or making submissions given the large scope of changes, as they can choose areas of particular interest to them,” she said.

Following public feedback, which can be provided from today (March 28) until April 26, final decisions on the plan are scheduled to be made at the council’s meeting in June.

Proposed rate changes

Ten different rates are being considered for changes so rates can be “more fairly applied”, to have a more workable, transparent, and understandable process, Gretchen said.

“The changes won’t impact on the current level of services we’re providing, it’s about how the work programmes are funded and who pays for them,” she said.

There is a “significant focus” on public transport, large-scale environmental project funding and how rates are calculated.

“The calculation changes will be different for everyone, depending on where in Otago people live. That can be complex, so we have created a rates estimator to use.”

Consultation is open online at the ORC website. To see what the ORC rates could potentially be on your property for the 2024-25 year, under the new Long Term Plan, visit the Online rates calculator.

Hard copies of the Long Term Plan are available directly from ORC offices and public libraries, and written submissions can be posted or dropped off to: ORC, Level 2, 144 Rattray Street, Dunedin 9016, ORC, Alta House, Level 1, Terrace Junction, 1092 Frankton Road, Queenstown.