Figures out today show a sharp decline in passenger numbers on Fullers Waiheke ferry service. This is bad news for Waiheke. It could lead to higher journey costs or reduced services.
Although Waiheke ferries are run as commercial services without subsidies from Auckland Transport, Mr Lee said wharf taxes collected from them declined to $1.172 million last year, from $1.56 million in 2010.
Undoubtedly the return cost of a trip is a big factor in reducing the number of journeys and therefore the decline in wharf tax revenue.
This is bad news for Waiheke. Because Fullers is a commercial operator less people on ferries will likely mean either reduced services or increased prices or both.
This could force commuters to think about moving to the city where city centre living is being actively encouraged through the Auckland Plan. I know from discussions with ferry bosses last year that, despite appearances, patronage of the Waiheke service has been static for some years. The company is now a net funder of the Gold Card i.e. it has to subsidise the service as more baby boomers reach the magic age of 65. Consequently, the Gold Card makes Waiheke more attractive to retirees. This is reflected in the latest Census figures which show a continuing trend towards an aging population.
However it will come as good news for the Waiheke Local Board. They want to stop advocating for tourism and actively discourage visitors from coming to the island. It looks like they are getting their wish. The trouble is the only people who will be able to afford living here will be older, retired professionals who can cope with high property prices and increasingly high rates.
Without visitors the island economy will die and so will the need for services. A Local Board, especially one that has set goals that fail to meet the vision of the Auckland Plan, might well become redundant. Maybe that’s a good thing.