Bus concession for disabled next year
Waikato Regional Council has voted to introduce an accessibility concession, providing approved people with free travel on public bus services.
The decision by the strategy and policy committee — applauded by an audience representing the disability community — will go to the full meeting of council next Wednesday for final approval.
Waikato will be the first region in New Zealand to provide a 100 per cent accessibility concession, which will come into effect from mid-2019 when the new bus ticketing system is implemented.
Councillors heard a presentation from young Hamilton woman, Joy Ho, a regular bus user who had asked the council to consider a disability concession in a submission to the Regional Public Transport Plan earlier this year.
She described how buses provide freedom of movement, help her to be more active and get to and from her part-time admin job. She said more than 2500 people had signed a petition supporting her push for a concession.
“The opportunities for people with disabilities are endless,” she told councillors.
Geoff Taylor also spoke in support of the proposal, on behalf of Hamilton city councillors.
Russ Rimmington, Waikato regional councillor and co-chair of the Hamilton Public Transport Joint Committee, said buses enable people with disabilities to live more independently — getting to jobs, medical appointments and social engagements.
“A 100 per cent concession will be a first in this country. As a progressive region, it’s important we help persons with disabilities go about their normal day.”
The cost of the concession will be co-funded by the NZ Transport Agency and ratepayers, and it is estimated it will cost the council up to $75,000 per annum.
During the meeting councillors also endorsed an eligibility criteria for the concession, which will be available to any person of any age if it can be demonstrated they have a physical, intellectual, psychological, sensory or neurological impairment that prevents them from being legally able to drive a private motor vehicle or is such that they will be unable to drive once of a legal driving age.
It will be available to those who have a temporary or permanent impairment that results in a transport disability. A temporary impairment means a person will be unable to drive for a period of six months or more but is expected to recover from the impairment.
Any person included within the Total Mobility Scheme will be eligible for an accessibility concession.
An accessibility concession is only available for use with a registered public transport smartcard.
An application for a permanent or temporary accessibility fare concession must be supported by written verification of eligibility from an approved assessment organisation, and photo identification to be held on file with the regional council.
Renewals will be required. Youth concession business case
Also during the meeting, regional councillors voted to support the development of a business case to use a youth concession to get students onto public buses and off the roads.
Hamilton city councillor Geoff Taylor said during the meeting that the city was grappling with traffic congestion and the morning peak, particularly during school terms.
He said roads were clogged, with a notable improvement during the holidays.
“More roads are not the solution.
“We need to get people onto public transport,” Mr Taylor told regional councillors.
Hamilton City Council had already agreed to a $25,000 contribution for a business case.
Waikato Regional Council agreed to match the amount, subject to 75 per cent of the total cost of the business case being covered by the NZ Transport Agency.
Te Awamutu Bridge Club has finished the year with a bang — and is already looking forward to next year.
The group continued a season of bridge Christmas parties with a day of bridge followed by a Christmas dinner organised by members of the club.
Thirty-eight pairs of keen bridge players from around the region celebrated in style with Te Awamutu president Nick Cantlon directing the event.
Sally Whittaker won the award for the top Te Awamutu player with her partner Kate McFayden from Cambridge.
Special prizes also went to Te Awamutu players Bruce Mandeno and Alison Snell whose result was closest to 50 per cent, and Margaret Smith and Marie Berry who made the greatest percentage rise between the two sessions.
Te Awamutu Bridge Club is taking a break from December 8 until January 31.
It always welcomes new members and has three sessions a week: Tuesday 11am (bring your lunch), Wednesday 7.30pm and Friday 1.15pm. The club meets at 888 Te Rahu Rd.
For more information contact 871 7441 or [email protected]hoo.com
Te Awamutu Bridge Club players Marie Berry (left) and Margaret Smith made the greatest percentage rise between the two sessions. They are pictured with Te Awamutu club president Nick Cantlon.