Many Waiheke commuters will be pleased to hear that this means Fullers can retire the unloved Jet Raider.
The news is not only good for Waiheke but also for national and international visitors who will be able to make the journey to our fabulous island quicker and in greater comfort than ever.
Fullers’ significant investment comes as ATEED (Auckland Council’s economic development arm) has said it views Waiheke as a strategic asset in its Visitor Plan. Waiheke is being heavily promoted by ATEED as visitor destination in New Zealand and overseas. This is great news for local businesses, jobs and economic growth.The island will go ahead in leaps and bounds despite the efforts of the few backward looking Luddites on the Waiheke Local Board.
Here is the Fullers media release giving more details.
$16 million investment sees Fullers speed up Waiheke service
A $16 million investment from Fullers will mean two additional, faster 34 metre passenger ferries and increased frequency on the popular Waiheke to Auckland route in what is New Zealand’s largest commercial vessel contract ever awarded.
Fullers, who boast more than 25 years of investment in maritime transport and operate as part of the InMotion group of transport assets, provide the most reliable and comprehensive timetable for the Waiheke crossing with peak commuter services starting at Auckland from 5:35am and the last late night service departing Waiheke at 12:30am.
The new 360-passenger vessels, delivered by Wanganui-based boatbuilders Q-West, mean that Fullers can further commit to consistency of vessel, higher frequency and a travelling speed of 26 knots delivering a superior journey for the 20 daily Auckland - Waiheke services.
The move responds to the estimated 1,000 daily commuters on the popular route as well as increased patronage via local and international tourism growth in Auckland now estimated at 3 million annually.
Fullers CEO Doug Hudson says the builds are the next evolution of the Fullers fleet as it heavily invests in more reliable travel for both locals and visitors.
“Moving to standardised vessels on this route provides the consistency of travel time and service levels that commuters want, which ultimately leads to a better experience for every passenger,” Hudson says.
According to research conducted as part of the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development’s (ATEED) Auckland Visitor Plan 2021, visiting the Harbour and Gulf islands and sampling Auckland’s food and wine are the two top priorities for international and domestic visitors to Auckland - both key appeals of Waiheke Island.
The aspiration for Auckland is to expand the tourism economy to reach $7.23 billion by 2021. In line with this, the report outlines that it is integral for the private sector to contribute approximately $2.3 billion towards this growth.
Jason Hill, ATEED Manager Tourism, says Waiheke is one of the region’s top draw cards and further investment in new infrastructure will help support the growing number of people visiting the island.
“We’re expecting the coming summer will be another record breaking season for Waiheke and it’s great to see Fullers commitment to meeting demand with substantial new investment in quality product,” he says.
The ferries will signal the retirement of the ‘overflow vessel’ Jet Raider within the year and the eventual replacement of the 28-year old Quickcat vessel.
Delivered in stages, the first vessel will be launched in October 2016 with the other planned to be christened April 2017.
Modelled on the Te Kotuku design (also built by Q-West and launched in September 2014) that features electronic engines and improved emission control technologies, the two new aluminium catamarans have been modified further based on both staff and passenger feedback with an additional 80 seats, an extra scenic viewing platform and increased designated cabin baggage through a change to the superstructure configuration.
Hudson confirms it was very important to the company, and particularly the shareholder, that the vessels were constructed locally thereby providing a much needed boost to the regional economy.
“Q-West is known for its innovative and quality builds, and with such a large contract we were determined to ensure the local market benefitted from the investment. We knew that the team at Q-West could deliver on what is a maritime milestone for us.”
Q-West’s managing director and President of the NZ Marine Industry Association Myles Fothergill is equally pleased.
“We will be employing 20 additional staff to work on the construction of the two vessels along with our core team who managed the Te Kotuku. We are delighted to be working with Fullers on these exciting projects and it is fantastic to have such a high calibre company recognising local capability and buying New Zealand made.”
As a commitment to beginning the adventure from the moment passengers step onto its vessels, this month Fullers are trialling a food and beverage overhaul, consulting with customers on the sample menus that include a number of Waiheke-sourced additions, before refining the final mainstays of the route fare. Later, a ticketing and website upgrade is planned.
The company believes these upgrades will be welcomed as commuters, day-trippers and holiday-makers alike have already responded well to the complimentary WIFI and USB ports that help them stay connected throughout the journey.