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.