The golden years

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Lisa Sloan

VIS­UALLY im­paired Bill Pike re­fuses to let the chal­lenges of pub­lic trans­port stop him get­ting around Auck­land.

Mt Al­bert res­i­dent Mr Pike reg­u­larly uses the train with his guide dog Noble.

And thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s Su­perGold card ini­tia­tive, his weekly trips are now free.

“It will en­able peo­ple like my­self, re­gard­less of whether they have a guide dog or not, to get out and go places,” Mr Pike says.

“I will be able to go places I have never been and do things I would never have done be­fore.”

The Su­perGold card pro­vides se­nior cit­i­zens with free pub­lic trans­port dur­ing off-peak hours.

The ser­vices came into ef­fect on Wed­nes­day to co­in­cide with the In­ter­na­tional Day of Older Peo­ple.

It’s avail­able to se­nior cit­i­zens aged 65 or over and peo­ple who re­ceive the New Zealand su­per­an­nu­a­tion or the vet­er­ans pen­sion.

Trans­port ser­vices are free from 9am on week­days and any time on the week­end and pub­lic hol­i­days.

The deal ap­plies to the en­tire rail net­work, ur­ban bus ser­vices and ferry ser­vices to Wai­heke Is­land, Gulf Har­bour and the North Shore.

Grey Power chair­woman of so­cial ser­vices and pub­lic­ity Vi­o­let McCowatt says the scheme will al­low older peo­ple a level of in­de­pen­dence they have never had be­fore.

“Su­per­an­nu­i­tants will have ac­cess to free off­peak travel to hos­pi­tals, friends and fam­ily, and will be able to par­tic­i­pate more fully in com­mu­nity and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in their ar­eas without the travel costs be­ing in­hibitive,” she says.

“Se­niors of­ten rely on buses, trains and fer­ries as their pri­mary means of trans­port, mak­ing af­ford­able lo­cal pub­lic trans­port crit­i­cal to their in­de­pen­dence.”

Age Con­cern New Zealand pres­i­dent Liz Bax­en­dine also wel­comes the ini­tia­tive.

“Free off peak travel will be great for older peo­ple and the ad­di­tional pa­tron­age will be good for pub­lic trans­port,” she says.

“Older peo­ple will save money and be able to par­tic­i­pate in their com­mu­ni­ties more.”

New Zealand Bus gen­eral man­ager for the North­ern Re­gion War­ren Fowler says he is happy to see the ser­vice un­der way.

“We’re ex­cited about wel­com­ing Auck­land’s se­nior cit­i­zens on board,” he says.

“Trav­el­ling by bus is a great way to get around the city and free bus travel will make the city more ac­ces­si­ble for those over 65 years of age or on a vet­eran’s pen­sion.”

Cards will be au­to­mat­i­cally sent to peo­ple re­ceiv­ing gov­ern­ment su­per­an­nu­a­tion or vet­eran’s pen­sions.

Oth­ers can ap­ply by phon­ing 0800-254-565.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Train trav­eller: A gov­ern­ment-funded scheme of­fer­ing free pub­lic trans­port to se­nior cit­i­zens will make it eas­ier for Mt Al­bert res­i­dent Bill Pike and his guide dog Noble to travel around Auck­land.

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