Free com­mu­nity bus faces axe as costs rise


Porirua may have to axe its free school bus be­cause it’s cost­ing ratepay­ers too much money.

The com­mu­nity bus, which has been on the road since Oc­to­ber, has cost $20,000 to run, and with those costs set to rise, mayor Mike Tana says the coun­cil has to take a long, hard look at whether it’s worth it.

‘‘If it isn’t serving its pur­pose, it might have to go.’’

A free ser­vice for low-decile schools, the bus fer­ries chil­dren to swimming lessons and ed­u­ca­tional trips they might oth­er­wise miss for lack of trans­port.

Porirua City Coun­cil re­ceived a $60,000 grant from New Zealand Com­mu­nity Trust in April 2015, and bought the bus for $42,100.

A $15,000 paint job and $4000 of re­pair work was car­ried out be­fore it en­tered ser­vice.

With only $8000 of fund­ing se­cured, and es­ti­mated an­nual run­ning costs be­tween $49,000 and $65,000, Tana said he was yet to be con­vinced of the ser­vice’s worth.

‘‘If we’re spend­ing money on it, we need to be sure it’s pro­vid­ing a ser­vice that can’t be found else­where.

‘‘[The] pre­vi­ous coun­cil said it would be cost-neu­tral for ratepay­ers, and that’s what this coun­cil is say­ing too.’’

Tana said he had asked for more in­for­ma­tion on the ‘‘cost­ben­e­fit ra­tio’’ of what the ser­vice pro­vided the city’s chil­dren, and he was un­sure whether trans­port to swimming lessons was a good use of the bus. ‘‘The only way we will con­tinue to pay for it is if it’s proven to be an in­valu­able ser­vice to the city.’’

A de­ci­sion would be made when there was more in­for­ma­tion avail­able, he said.

Glen­view School as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal Tu­faina Faraimo said the bus had made a big dif­fer­ence to chil­dren at the school, and she hoped it would con­tinue.

‘‘It’s a way of get­ting kids out of their area and let­ting them see other things. It’s good to not to have to ask fam­i­lies for more money.’’

Porirua City Coun­cil man­ager city part­ner­ships Robyn Steel said 13 schools had used the bus since Oc­to­ber, and many had used it more than once.

Es­ti­mated run­ning costs in­cluded driver time, mileage, main­te­nance and re­pairs, and the coun­cil was work­ing on gain­ing fur­ther spon­sor­ship and trust ap­pli­ca­tions, she said.

The bus, named Te Pahi, was bought with a grant.

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